BEING IN THE ZONE or in the flow, is a concept describing one’s total immersion in a creative process or physical contest. Yet there exists at least one other idea around flow which is more a metaphor of release, and resonates with a message of flowing with seasons and situations. Why fight the changes in the seasons? In a temperate climate spring, becomes summer, becomes fall and then there is winter. Natural changes are inevitable and to resist them is futile. Can one face life’s changes with an intention of flowing along with the moving current and taking whatever actions are needed along the way. Not fighting. Not resisting.
For several years I’ve observed subtle changes in my mother, who is in her 90s, become much more pronounced. I am watching her fight the ebb in her mental and physical vitality. My mother is a survivor of poverty and powerlessness in the Jim Crow South. She migrated from Alabama and eventually parlayed an 8th grade education, into a cosmetology certificate from Lydia Adams Beauty College. She has survived sexual abuse, physical abuse, the murder of a child, and three husbands. She raised two daughters and now she is facing off with aging. By temperament, she is a Klingon, a member of a fictional extraterrestrial warrior race popularized on Star Trek. Klingon’s tolerate no weakness and are honored to die in battle.
Mother’s gait has shortened to a shuffle, and she recently fell. She needs to brace herself before she stands and requires a reset moment before moving forward. However, any efforts to help her to her feet, into and out of cars and through tight spaces meets with a rebuke. I would have less concern about her falling if she would use a cane, but she is not ready, yet. Ask her how she feels and her reply is an emphatic, “Excellent!”
My spiritual beliefs lead me to affirm the Divine by acknowledging that we are all perfect, whole and complete. However, my mother’s perfection, wholeness and completeness has changed.
I recently shared my concerns with a geriatric physician. She looked me in my eyes, smiled broadly, and said, “It’s really hard!” Did she say that? I had hoped she’d say, “Oh it’s easy, once you get the hang of it.” But NO, she acknowledged what I have been denying. Watching my mom aging and losing parts of herself is darn hard.
If I could get mother to face the changes that are raining down on her like a spring shower becoming a thunderstorm. If I could convince her not to fight against the current, but to flow and allow her family to help her. If only I could convince her to use a cane…
There is a covert operation underway to get my mother, who has not seen a doctor in decades, in for a check-up so that her mental and physical health can be assessed. This is exhausting and frightening.
My sister and I have regular conversations during which we strategize about supporting our mother and stepdad as they experience the loss of steam associated with aging. We want to help maintain their quality of life, without diminishing their autonomy. A very tall order.
In our youth we move expectantly forward though a life filled with tomorrows. We are eager for the experiences that lay ahead, and yet, when we arrive at the junction of fewer tomorrows, we cannot turn around and run backwards, against the current that flows, as it always has, in the one direction.
Facing my own mortality and watching other baby-boomers realize that being sandwiched between our children and our parents is challenging, I’m also cognizant that temperamentally I’m my mother’s daughter. I’m constantly questioning myself around my own propensity to fight rather than flow. I am aware that nothing in nature exists in an unchanging state, and yet…
I most definitely intend to have a long, happy and healthy life, but when I check in with my body and look in the mirror, I see and feel changes.
Walking through this valley with my mother is my opportunity to understand how I will respond to becoming much older. How will I express the need of support from my children? Will I be angry at my loss of autonomy? Will I be gracious and accepting? Even as I experience the final leg of my mother’s earthly journey, she is, in her own way, still teaching.
– Susan D. Peters
Susan D. Peters, aka, Ahnydah (ah-NIE-dah) Rahm, brings a wealth of experience gained as an expatriate living in West Africa. Her memoir Sweet Liberia, Lessons from the Coal Pot, received the Black Excellence Award for Non-Fiction from the African American Alliance of Chicago and the Mate E. Palmer award for Non-Fiction from the Illinois Press Women’s Association. Broken Dolls, Susan’s second book, represents her foray into the mystery market and is the first of a series featuring Detective Joi Sommers as its heroine. Her most recent publication is Stolen Rainbow, a short story focused on the post combat recovery of a beautiful marine captain after a devastating combat injury. Her work is featured in three anthologies, Baring It All, the Ins and Outs of Publishing, Signed, Sealed, Delivered … I’m Yours, a contemporary romance anthology, and The Anthology of the Illinois Woman’s Press Association. Buy her books online and at www.SusanDPeters.com.