This post is dedicated to Dr. Bob & Nancy. I am forever grateful for the BALANCE you model for me... Thank you for always being approachable, available and lovable. KB
I can see why older folks have a hard time with changes in their routines. Of course, I am referring to the “older folks” I hear about or see who are challenged by varying degrees of dementia related to Alzheimer’s and/or Parkinson’s disease. Any change seems disruptive to their sense of security.
That’s one thing about being in a service industry that builds a history with people. We are privy to observe a client’s physical body progress from walking independently to arriving at our door with care givers who chauffeur and tenderly assist them with their walkers, and eventually, their wheelchairs. Often without anyone noticing, our sweet friends migrate from spontaneity into routine before their time… and we dare to call it “prime!”
One morning last week, I had a small dose of this reality as I got up and began my daily routine. I left the bed and bathroom, turned the grow light on over my violets, smiled and said, “Good morning, how are you?” to my kitty, popped open her can of cat food, put on the coffee, took my morning meds. I settled on the couch for my study and prayer time followed by making my bed, showering and dressing for the day. Hi-ho, hi-ho, off to work I went.
Just the day before, I had returned from an impromptu weekend visit to my daughter’s house. As I unpacked from my trip, I remembered that as great as it was to see them and enjoy my grandson’s laughter, antics, and that special way he said, “Come on, GaGa,” it was equally good to be home and back in my routine again.
I especially enjoyed our dinner time together, all of us around the same table, sharing homemade chicken and dumplings that she had made. Well, all of us except my grandson who took one look and said, “EEE-uoooooooh, grroooooooooooss!” How does an almost 3 year old know “gross?”
We all made fond memories as we chatted over our meal. Our conversation jumped from casual topics to questions about my childhood feelings regarding siblings. My daughter and son-in-law wanted to know, “What had my parents done in their parenting methods that I wished they had done differently?” The fact that they even asked these questions of their family and friends, or of me, delighted my heart. (One learns a lot when you ask questions, but that is the subject of a later post.)
I thought for awhile as we discussed sibling issues and birth order since I was the typical middle child. In response to their parenting question, I shared a memory that had taught me, hopefully, the value of parents who are “approachable,” parents who can be trusted with teenage questions, fears, dreams and ideas about life as only a teen girl might wonder and imagine… parents who are not afraid to foster a dialogue about things that might prove uncomfortable to talk about….parents who are not critical of smart kids who think outside their family’s box…parents who are willing to abandon their schedules, clocks, calendars and “to do” lists and be available to simply listen and “be in the moment.” I am still learning the value of this lesson since I seem to live my life by those same schedules, clocks and appointment calendars!
A parent’s response to “when I grow up, I think I want to be….” can forever impact a kid. I had already won a scholarship to a piano conservatory and was performing and winning talent shows in my local community when I made my declaration. Afternoons after school were filled with homework, but only after an allotted time at the piano. I was practicing as my mother stood at the kitchen stove stirring a pot and preparing for dinner time. I noted from my peripheral view that she never took her eyes from the stove as she spoke “the words.” Yes, it was a time when women’s career choices were limited to becoming teachers, nurses or secretaries, and that day, I made a life decision based upon a mother’s insecurities. Not that there’s anything wrong with education, medicine or administration, but that day, I abandoned my natural, creative musical bent. I also learned the perils of spontaneously sharing my heart.
Now, forty plus years later, I examine the same hands that belonged to the young lady who dared to dream of performing on a concert stage, and though I see the aging hands of a grandmother, I can still finger the scales of “do-re-mi,” and play “chop sticks” and “heart and soul” with gusto. I may forget some little ditty I just heard on the radio, but Für Elise and Moonlight Sonata will always remain in my memory’s repertoire!
Nowadays, my hands tickle the hearts and souls of people whom the Lord chooses. My response to this calling is listening for His Tuning Fork or perhaps the Metronome that helps me hear someone’s heart song. Most people are approachable…only a few are not. I admit there are days when I am unapproachable and “occupied at the kitchen stove.” But a smile and a question work just as well for people as it does for felines. “Good morning! How are you today?” is a simple gesture of kindness, an overture to influence and engage a person’s world. A soul’s answers are far from a routine if I have ears to hear!
I personally am very glad that God Almighty is approachable. I find it comforting to know I can approach Him at any time, for any reason, with any idea, dream, doubt, fear, frustration, disappointment or question I have about life. He wants and invites this communion and I never have to wonder about what He might have done differently in the circumstances of my life. Good is coming from all of it. He is, after all, Abba Father, a “Daddy” whose parenting style from beginning to end is simply LOVE spelled, T-I-M-E…time spent caring for us and pursuing us even when we are unapproachable, unavailable and unlovable.
Now you may be asking, “What does this have to do with routine and spontaneity?” Opposites do attract and isn’t it just like God to give me what I really need to help me achieve balance? Like many naturally “stick in the mud” structured and calculated people, I am a routine lover attracted to the natural adventurous attributes in others, perhaps as much as they are attracted to the stability of my quiet life.
Relationship collaboration at its best is each person knowing his or her natural bent and finding balance. It is at that crossroads where every relationship negotiates a compromise in the battle of wills between routine and spontaneity. A life lived out of balance can be crazy making, exhausting, boring and silent. It’s a balance found only at the centering place where my vertical relationship with a holy God meets ALL my horizontal relationships with mankind to transform ME. For God to change my timid personality, I must exercise and risk peril again!
Balance is “staying in the present moment” between living lives in the memories of one’s past and dreams for the future. I am not alone in the safety and comfort I find in my routine. But self imposed isolation is not the same experience for some older folks who just get “stuck” in their present moments and find themselves fed, dressed, and chauffeured around from place to place.
Next time you see someone living life from their “padded chariot,” take a moment from your busy schedule to approach them. No matter how uncomfortable the exercise is for you, smile and ask, “How are you today?” You may be surprised by their answer, but then again, you learn a lot about a person when you ask questions, and it will definitely make your day far from routine…. They might even sing you their heart song!
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