For those who follow me regularly, you might have seen me miss a week posting. I was on a visit with my 88-year-old mom, which took up a lot of my mind-space. It was a lovely visit, but it also offered a couple of moments of deep reflection.
Isolation in so many ways
I’ve become even more aware of why I am pushing so hard to have a “tribe”. Visiting with my mom this week has heightened my understanding of social isolation and increased my fear of that being in my future. But her isolation is more than not having a tribe of people and I’ve realized isolation can be more than the physical environment.
I think I’ve always known it, but it was an even more pronounced awareness this week. My mom (and dad when he was living) never really had a tribe. They had us, their kids, but not much of an extended biological-family and very limited extended chosen-family either. Not good nor bad, just how it was. Now, my mom has an extremely limited social network, which COVID has reduced even more. With no kids, I’m very aware of my need for an extended chosen-family in my life.
Cognitive decline has erased so many of my mom’s memories. When you can no longer reminisce and re-savor your experiences, it adds to the feeling of isolation. She struggles with short-term memory as well, so learning a new skill like using a TV Fire-stick is impossible, compounding the isolation.
And her hearing is greatly impaired (and no, she will not get hearing aids), and so her engagement when there are others around is again limited as she often can’t hear what’s being talked about. Lip reading becomes impossible with mask wearing! Sound isolation is one I will make sure I avoid; I got my first baseline-hearing test this year. And, I’m happy that hubby is getting hearing aids to avoid this future issue.
All the research agrees that social isolation is a significant negative factor in healthy longevity. So I will continue to work on creating my tribe. I will also get into “muscle memory” how to use the TV! Yes, I’m incompetent there as I rarely watch it but really do need that skill before I can’t learn a new skill.
What are you doing now to avoid isolation in the future?
While I am no longer dealing with the high level stress of working, I’ve realized I do have a great deal of low-level anxiety. One probably unique to me is the fear of someone close to me dying suddenly. You might be reacting, “What?!” This is a holdover from being with my dad in his last days and wondering if every breath was his last. I realize I feel that fear when my hubby is napping/sleeping … is he still breathing? I definitely felt it with my mom repeatedly this past week, and noticed I also feel that fear every time I call and she doesn’t answer the phone.
And then there is COVID-anxiety (am I doing the right/wrong things to stay safe?), non-belonging anxiety (will I be alone and isolated?), and even expectations-anxiety (am I meeting others expectations? – yes, I’m trying to eliminate this one but it’s still there!) The current social expectation I am feeling is travel planning – everyone seems to be back to flying here and there. My inner voice keeps pushing me to make travel plans (it makes me think of the song “Let’s Do It”, everybody else is doing it!) and then my COVID-anxiety increases!
I guess awareness of the sources of anxiety, even low-level, is a helpful first step in alleviating them!
An Apt Metaphor for Life
Driving back from my mom’s house this week, the interstate highway was completely shut down in northern Florida. I decided to go cross-country back-roads instead of waiting for it to reopen, which ended up being a good idea as the road was completely shut down for 4 hours! However, I was too stressed in not really knowing where I was heading that I failed to appreciate the new area I was driving through. Yes, much of it was brown, dry scrubland, but there was also majestic live oaks with Spanish moss, small towns with delightful antique stores, and miles of pine trees. I realized that the afternoon was unfortunately an apt metaphor for my life – so worried about finding the “right” path that I didn’t enjoy where I was at the moment. I was not enjoying the journey! This has got to change!
So that was my week! How was yours?
Photo credit: me – the sky this evening!