Aging Well

What is helpful versus not helpful in times when you feel helpless?

We are in territory where there is no map and emotions run high. What are the wisest ways to respond?

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Getting some space during the COVID lockdown
Liisa Ogburn

I don’t live far from the protesters that frequently cluster the entrance to the Governor’s mansion, wielding a bullhorn. I know they are there because of the helicopters from the news channels. There are always police cars. Since the armed group marched from the Oakwood Cemetery to Blount Street over two weeks ago, there are sometimes more police cars than protesters.

There is not one American who has not been affected by the coronavirus that has now infected around 1.5 Million Americans. Almost 90,000 Americans have died. Because of a number of factors including our state leaders’ foresight, North Carolina accounts for less than one percent of those deaths.

What does one do with all the emotional pressure that naturally builds up? Yes, I know many people who desperately want to see a spouse or parent or close friend sequestered in the hospital, a nursing home or Assisted Living community, which understandably in these times bars all visitors. I know some who are doing their best to care for loved ones with significant dementia or mental illness without the small respites that family or neighbors or a day program provided before the pandemic. I know too many struggling to make ends meet in households that were already living hand-to-mouth before this pandemic. The list could go on (and on and on and on).

My husband, before heading into the hospital to work this morning, recounted a dream in which he was trying to get to one place with our family, but found himself diverted, over and over to another place he didn’t want to be, and suddenly separated from us. I had woken from a similar dream of trying to travel to an ailing loved one, but also deterred in a foreign land with a phone that didn’t work.

There are no maps for this territory that we are in.

And there are plenty of moments when we feel utterly (and understandably) powerless and there will probably, unfortunately, continue to be.

Last weekend, my youngest, in frustration at being on lockdown, pulled out the family tent. “I need some space!” She set it up herself and she and the dogs spent the weekend out in the backyard. It was her (constructive, or perhaps instructive?) way of blowing off steam.

I am not writing to promise that life will, with summer, suddenly get better. I am writing, however, to ask—when all maps are out the window—if there might be more helpful ways to take care of one’s spirit during moments when you feel utterly helpless.


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