My mother, Rev. Dr. Jane Claypool, made her transition out of physical form on 10/31/14. I was lucky enough to be with her, so I know it was an instantaneous event – for which I am grateful. However it was very unexpected, as she had just conquered pneumonia once again. After writing her daily gratitude list, she finished up this blog before deciding to go the emergency room. We had been laughing with a friend about Halloween and were having a good morning. She had a new drawing too…..(I will post more of her drawings later). A lovely Celebration of Life memorial service was held on 11/15/14. Please call the Center for Spiritual Living Carlsbad at 760-434-9579 if you would like more information. The website is http://www.CSLCarlsbad.org. All Love To You…. Kate DuVivier
I’ve been spending a lot of time talking about my life because Amanda, one of my dear helpers, asks me many questions. I suppose any life is fascinating when the audience is sixty years younger.
Amanda can’t imagine growing up without TV. She can’t imagine doing the wash before clothes dryers, or heating up food before microwaves. She is fascinated with black and white movies.
Since I am on a diet of happy stories, we often choose old movies. She loves the 1930 screwball comedies we watch in the evening and says they are better because the stories “have more talking.” I agree.
Of course, the very best movies were made in 1939, when I was only six years old, and Hollywood was at its triumphant height. I’ve told her that my three siblings and I went to the movies every Saturday afternoon and paid 12 cents to be admitted but I haven’t been clear on the dates. I started going to the movies alone in the 1940’s after World War Two. The films we saw as children included nasty propaganda pot boilers. I had nightmares about Germans chasing me until I was a woman in her thirties.
Turner Classic Movie channel skips many of those horribly prejudiced flicks. I use my DVR to skip all the war pictures. We all engage in some form of censorship, I suppose.
I imagine Amanda’s idea of my war years in the movie house is filled with Clark Gable tap dancing in a European castle just before World War Two breaks out. Or maybe her favorite is Cary Grant taking prat falls before World War Two breaks out. Then there is Charlie Chaplin impersonating Hitler just before World War Two breaks out.
We know history is unreliable. For starters, it is written by the winners and winners see the picture from their viewpoint.
Our personal histories are also unreliable. We tend to romanticize our memories. When I talk to Amanda about my early years during the Depression, I don’t remember much but I speak as if it were a charming story. My parents become delightful young kids who struggled to keep their four children alive. I say things like, “They kept us together in the midst of the Troubles. They kept us alive!”
That’s true, of course and it is a fact that plenty of men left their wives and children behind to become hoboes. It is also true that some women starved to death and many children were sent to orphanages because their parents couldn’t feed them.
In the current version of my childhood, there is nothing about the humiliation of poverty and nothing of the shame when relatives brought groceries and deposited them on the table without a smile. That was also there but the story of the Depression years skips straight to a happy ending. World War Two broke out and there were plenty of jobs!
When I told this personal history story during my twenties and thirties, my story sounded very tragic. The reasons why my life was so tragic piled up until they took the form of a long, and twisted litany of despair. In those days I believed I was marked for tragedy.
It is true I had a difficult beginning with the early death of my young husband but it was also true that I had sixty or more years ahead of me. I wasn’t doomed to anything. I had plenty of choices along the way. In my twenties, I thought my story was over but it was just beginning.
That’s a common mistake. We tend to see wherever we are as the end of the story even though the story goes on and on. And on Life is always presenting us choices and if we miss the brass ring the first time, we usually get another turn to catch it again.
One of the most delightful discoveries about my current age is the fascinating changes and insights that present themselves. I’ve enjoyed many personal discoveries as I’ve moved along life’s pathway. In fact, I am now at a place where I understand that life is always presenting possibilities.
There is a famous poem by Robert Frost called the The Road Not Taken and it talks about taking the road less traveled. It ends with, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”
It’s a great poem that says you always get more than one chance. If you have the consciousness to attract a choice of true love, you will have another chance later. Same is true of making a fortune. You’ll have more than one big chance.
I missed my chance to be a famous writer in the 1960’s but the chance returned in the 1980’s. The same pattern was also there in my search for true love. Life is a series of wonderful repetitive choices.
My life still offers plenty of choices. Last week, I wrote a blog about my stay in a nursing home. I had a choice to tell it like it was or simply be grateful to be home.
I might have skipped over the whole experience and written about any number of subjects including gratitude, or the power of supportive friendships. That would have an expected road for a retired minister of a Center For Spiritual Living Center.
When I started these blogs, I promised myself I’d be honest, as positive and helpful to readers as possible, and that my essays would be mostly about Science of Mind.
Most of all, I promised myself I’d be honest. All of those choices would have been honest. However, the stay in the nursing home was top of my mind and I was full of energy about how dreadful that place was.
I had some other choices that would have been slightly less honest; I could lie and say everything was wonderful, or I could write about some unrelated subject.
I chose the road less travelled by! I didn’t want to skip the subject because I was still steaming full of energy about my stay so I wrote what I wrote. You can read the blog, Miss Me?, in the archives.
I had other choices. I could have named the place but my understanding is that it is one of the best so the issues were generic. I could have called the nurses lazy but I could see they were trying hard and overworked. As of now, I have received more comments about that blog than any I’ve ever written. They were all in agreement and several were interested in participating or starting a drumming circle. If you get a chance, take a look at the comments since they are truly honest and intelligent.
Looking back on your choices is always interesting. As I look back on the choice I made last week, I can see that I made a good choice and I’m glad I did. Maybe several readers will work on starting or participating in a drumming circle. I do believe that will help clients, their loved ones and nursing homes.
While we can’t always predict the outcome of our choices, an honest, well meaning choice can be effective. And if it doesn’t turn out well, you always have plenty of other choices to follow.
Am I looking at any difficult choices now?
What do I have to choose?
What do I want to do?
Are my possibilities honest?
Are my possibilities well meaning?
As I’ve aged, I’ve tried to be responsible and consider the needs of my loved ones as well as myself. I’ve done the right things. I have an end of life directive, a will, a power of attorney, and I even left a list of ideas for my memorial service.
I’ve also tried to rely on the words of my doctors and my daughter and not just insist that it’s my way or the highway. I really want to be a rational senior.
All my life I’ve heard about difficult elders and I was determined not to be one. But after my recent time in the nursing home, I saw that my tolerance of unpleasant conditions is definitely very limited.
I’ve always thought of myself as adaptable but I didn’t do too well on my nursing home stay. I hated it and I certainly let myself slip into reacting to conditions rather than being an independent actor. I only give myself a grade of C minus when it comes to managing my reactions to those nursing home conditions.
As one’s powers diminish, life gets more frustrating. Bottle caps resist turning. Names hide in closeted parts of the memory. Technology sprints into new worlds leaving the senior user far behind.
As one’s powers diminish, it is tempting to become more demanding and more childish. We sometimes make foolish choices. If you don’t believe me, read King Lear. For example, a father of one of my friend’s called her at 3 AM and insisted she drive over an hour, in the rain, to his nursing home; because he needed someone to fix the remote on his TV.
I don’t do things like that but I worry about it.
That said – I really hated the skilled nursing facility I was in and I’m afraid I wasn’t very grown up about it. Instead of practicing gratitude, I complained a great deal.
I’m still not finished complaining… My room was disorganized and no one ever put anything back in the same place twice. The nurses were pleasant although they were harried and often confused. They took 20 to 30 minutes to respond to my call. The food was terrible and I didn’t agree with the doctor’s treatment methods. Except for that – I hated the lack of mobility.
This nursing home had good ratings and I’m assured it is better than most. If this is one of the better ones, I don’t even want to think about the others. My two weeks there were extremely irritating. The staff made several mistakes that I caught and that was scary.
Part of my irritation came from being treated as though I were senile, I hate it when people say, “It’s time for our dinner” – worse yet, “our shower.” It is my dinner although you are welcome to it. It wasn’t anyone’s shower because they announced it by saying, “You missed your shower time”.
Sometimes it seemed to me it might be easier if I were senile but I can’t imagine that is a safe choice.
I’d be the first to admit I’m not well suited to being locked up and cared for. I was born to be free. I inherited the blood of the Wild West. My mother once helped her sister pull the plugs and escape a very big city hospital. They just yanked out the IV tubes and went home.
While incarcerated, I contemplated a similar action. I wheeled myself out to the front doors a few times and stared at my options but I couldn’t drive and it was a long way home. I stayed the course and endured the travail while the ghosts of my mother and aunt haunted and taunted me.
I came three days ago, and immediately called my dear friend and mentor, Rev. Marvis Rodrigues. She is a safe for me to complain to because she doesn’t judge and she has her own experiences. In fact, her life story is a testimony to courage and endurance, She was born with a severe anomaly and has suffered many hospitalizations because of a birth defect she never talks or complains about. She is a courageous friend and helps me keep things in perspective.
Rev. Marvis had a successful ministry despite being physically challenged and she is now retired. She told me a delightful story about visiting a friend who was in a nursing home and was just as frustrated as I was. Together, with the approval of the activity director of the nursing home, they devised a wonderful activity to relieve stress and express creativity.
Marvis and her wheelchair bound friend created a drumming circle for the rest of the residents who wanted to participate. Most of them were also using wheelchairs. She, and several church volunteers, donated drums and percussion instruments and the circle met weekly. Everyone got to express themselves while making music based on the rhythm of the heartbeat. What could be more healing? More basic? More fun?
The drumming circle allowed everyone, including the mentally and mobility challenged residents, to express their feelings. According to Rev. Marvis, “The process of pounding on a drum or shaking a rattle or tambourine allowed the residents to release pent up anger and frustration. Plus, they all ended up with a smile on their face. It became a favorite activity the residents looked forward to”
The activity director shared with Rev. Marvis that after a drumming session, the residents returned to their rooms happier, more relaxed, and they took very sound afternoon naps.
Rev. Marvis’s story sounded like a great idea and I decided it might be an activity I could use to clear up some of my negative feelings about the whole experience.
I have been disappointed at my reaction to the frustrations of the nursing skills center. Up until now, I haven’t had any way to release my emotions and move on. Now, I have decided to pursue creating drumming circles. I will begin by talking to some of the people in my Center for Spiritual Living about creating a drumming circle for a nursing home in our area.
If any of you readers are looking for an outreach project for yourself or your church, you might consider setting up a drumming circle in a neighborhood nursing home yourselves.
I think it will be a fairly simple project. Instruments are easy to find in toy shops. Or you can get creative and use metal or wooden spoons, and pots and pans. Very often the activity director of the nursing home will utilize the idea into a drum making activity with their residents using coffee cans. Your friends and church people will probably be happy to help supply the instruments.
Residents enjoy the music concerts provided in the afternoons more than any other activity I’ve seen in nursing homes. Drumming is a very primal form of music making and it seems as if it would be an easy activity to set up.
I want to release the negative aspects of my nursing home experience and move on in my own consciousness. I know that there is always a new choice and a new opportunity and I can release my frustration. I also know I am not alone; a drumming circle could be wonderful for others as well.
Let me know if the idea appeals to you. If you follow through in your own neighborhood, please keep me informed.
How do I release stress?
Does this idea appeal to me?
How might I follow through?