Some Paths are Better Left Closed

In my prior post, I wrote about the dream and dream re-entry process that left me feeling like we’d found the perfect place for Mom and that the way had been made clear for an easy move. In my dream, the path had been overgrown with clawing, scratchy branches, but I re-entered the dream and cleared the way with my hedge trimmers.

Perhaps some paths are better left closed.

The events of the past few weeks have been exhausting – physically and emotionally. After moving Mom into the new Assisted Living facility last Saturday, we found ourselves rewinding, backtracking and repeating the move in reverse the following Wednesday.

Mom was incredibly disoriented, anxious and depressed in the new place, which was not entirely unexpected. We figured, at age 91, a move like this would be a big adjustment. We assumed that in a week or two she would adapt and get back to her normal self. But with each visit and phone call, things continued to go downhill rather than up.

After three days there, the staff was suggesting Mom would adapt more quickly if we didn’t visit so often. Also, they suggested, she was depressed and we should ask her doctor to prescribe a mild anti-depressant. And the final straw – a bedbug scare that turned out to be a complete fabrication on the part of the facility’s management.

NoBedBugs_123RF_5519282_blogThey had it in for Mom’s collection of teddy bears (100+) from day one. After we got her and her bears moved in, they started making noise about the teddy bears being a bedbug risk. On day 5, they told us they had actually found adult bedbugs in her room. The teddy bears would have to be bagged up immediately, the room sniffed out by a bedbug dog and then fumigated. Mind you, she had these bears in her prior Assisted Living apartment for 7 years and there were no bedbugs there.

They said after the room was cleared and fumigated, we could buy her a few new bears – maybe half a dozen, but no more than that. Mom loves those bears. Each one a gift from someone.  Each one with a story. The bears are her companions. She takes one or two for a ride on her walker when she leaves her room. Mom was already so miserable in the new place, I knew that if we took her bears away she would completely lose it.

My suggestion that if there were indeed bedbugs in the room, they did not come from the teddy bears was met with a condescending, “I understand your feelings, but we must take this very seriously.” I told them that I also take my Mom very seriously and that the bears would be the last straw. I repeated my assertion that there were no bedbugs in her last apartment.

Luckily, we had her old assisted living apartment rented through the end of the month so when the new place said the bears had to go, I told them fine, Mom would leave with them.  We moved her back into her prior apartment that very same day.

TeddyBearsNoBugsThe next day, the new place brought in their bedbug sniffing dog who found NO bedbugs in the room. Surprise, surprise. When I asked them why they told me they had SEEN adult bedbugs the day before, they said, “Oh, it was a carpet beetle. They look very similar.”

We are all exhausted from the double move. And poor Mom has been through the ringer.  The timing of the bedbug crisis was fortuitous. In another day or two, all of Mom’s larger furniture would have been sold or donated and she would have returned to an empty apartment. As my sister pointed out, those teddy bears actually did Mom a great big favor. She is so very happy to be back “home” and will soon forget the stress and unhappiness of the past week. I have discovered that Mom’s happiness for whatever days remain to her is worth far more than the dollars it will take to keep her in the apartment she’s known for 7 years.

As I think once more about the dream and the re-entry process, I am reminding myself that the second part of Robert Moss’ Gatekeeper invocation says, “and may the doors and gates and paths of any who wish to do us or those we love any harm be closed.”

The arbor path in my dream was closed with branches and brambles. I was stubbornly determined to cut my way through – but some paths are better left closed.

Declaring Independence from Grief

Here in the U.S. we celebrate the Fourth of July as Independence Day. It is the day that Congress approved a Declaration of Independence from British rule. It marks the birth of our nation as a free, self-governing entity. The Declaration asserts that everyone has the right to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” and claims that when any form of governance “becomes obstructive to these ends,” it is our right “to alter or to abolish it.”

When grief has reigned as king in our lives for too long, it may be that we, too, need to declare our independence and reclaim our inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness.

Claiming freedom is only the first step. Like this country’s forefathers, we may have to fight to win our freedom. The energy of grief (one form of what don Miguel Ruiz might call “the parasite” or Eckhart Tolle might call “the pain body”) will fight to hold on. It does not want to be vanquished. And there are factions within the psyche, just as there were colonies and individuals in our early nation, who may wish to remain loyal to the current king.

In the case of grief, we may feel that remaining loyal to the pain is the only way to remain loyal to our deceased loved ones. But would we wish for anyone who loves us to be in constant pain? Why would our deceased loved ones ask for such cruel loyalty? We would honor them better by living our lives to the fullest, freeing ourselves from pain and pursuing happiness and joy full steam ahead.

I know this isn’t easy, especially in the early days of grief. There is no timetable or deadline and everyone’s journey will be different. However, for me, there came a day when I recognized that if I ever expected to feel “normal” again, I had to make a conscious choice and effort to reclaim joy. Grief had become a tyrant under whose thumb I languished. I was tired of telling the story of my loss and tired of feeling victimized by it. I was ready to be free. Are you?

Reclaiming the right to feel happiness is an act of power and an act of faith. Declaring independence from grief is not a one-time choice; it is a commitment to consistently choosing life and joy, day by day and minute by minute. It is well worth the fight.

So here, very loosely based on the original Declaration, I propose a Declaration of Independence from Grief:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one person to experience the loss of another who was Deeply Loved, pain and sadness naturally result. And while it behooves us to feel what we feel and to mourn our losses, there comes a time when the Kingdom of Grief becomes a Tyranny best left behind.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that we have a Right to live fully even though our Loved One has passed, that our Loved One would rather be honored with Laughter and Love than with tears, that while Life will always be different now it can still be Joyful and Fulfilling, and that we have the Freedom and the Power to choose Happiness.

We therefore, as self-sovereign individuals, solemnly publish and declare that we have a Right to be free of the Rule and Tyranny of Grief, that we have the Right and the Will to fight for that Freedom, and that we will emerge Victorious and at Peace within ourselves.

Won’t you join me this day in signing the Declaration? By doing so, you will be creating your own personal Independence Day, and that is truly something to celebrate.