The life I once lived

I’ve taken on a few phrases from others and made them my own over the years, ones that put a bunch of thoughts into a phrase or short sentence.  Not that these would bode well as my epitaph or anything like that mind you!  They just seemed to stick with me.  Here’s a biggie from an old supervisor named Jim.  He was a social worker by training and the director of the inpatient geriatric psychiatric unit where I was contracted to work.  When asked how things were going he would often reply:

“Same story, different day.”

Funny thing is that it was largely true.  On the Generations Unit there generally was at least one person every day screaming non-stop, voiding in an inappropriate location, wandering into another patient’s room unannounced, refusing to eat, refusing to get out of bed, or making up a story to convince him and psychiatrist that he/she did not need to be there.  Yes it was a crazy place.  That’s what you get when the nursing homes send their residents whose behavior can no longer be managed in their facility.  It is also where a depressed little old lady or your suicidal Uncle Pete would go for supportive therapies, meds., daily structured activities, and a round of ECT if needed (aka shock therapy!).  The latter actually worked very well for older adults.  The short term memory loss and massive headache was a major drag for awhile, however!

I worked there as an occupational therapist.  My role was to evaluate the functional level of the patient and assist the team in forecasting discharge plans while providing therapeutic activities.  The goal was always to achieve improved mental status, mood, and functioning for discharge to the least restrictive environment.  That might translate to a person returning home instead of assisted living or remaining in a private room in a nursing home instead of a locked dementia unit.  Sometimes the patient’s goals were reached and sometimes not.  Educating the family on the patient’s needs post discharge was also my role:  an important and sometimes delicate process.  I loved all of it.  I got to apply my skills in standardized assessments, grading activities for the best outcome in lower and higher level cognitive groups, patient and family education, and knowledge of community resources that may be of assistance post discharge.  The two latter skills were collaborated with the unit social workers who also loved working with older adults.  We had a great team back then . . .

I’ll never forget the two weeks that c-diff ran rampant through the unit.  C-diff is short for Clostridium difficile:  an infection of the colon causing horrific diarrhea and inflammation.  It’s a bacterial infection I can now diagnose by smell.  O.k. perhaps that’s too much information?  When virtually all of the inpatients become sick it is only a matter of time before the staff contract the infection as well.  There are just too many common areas in a locked unit that too many people end up touching with a contaminated hand after caring for a patient.  The motto those days was, “please pass the yogurt” or something similar!

Ruth was the best during situations like that.  She was older than me and had been a Certified Nursing Assistant for years.  She could get the toughest old bird to take a shower when he was resisting for days then she would turn around and feed a tender soul in the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease bringing out the patient’s long-forgotten smile producing a long-lost twinkle in her eye.  Ruth often told us stories of her pet pot-bellied pig.  Seriously!  The beast weighed a couple hundred pounds but was part of their family, inside the house, potty-trained and behaved like a favorite feline or pup.  I could not imagine it!  Ruth lived in a suburban neighborhood like the rest of us!  Actually more recently while living in a smaller town with Amish homesteads not far away I can now start to imagine it a little better.  It’s still not for me, however!

The life I once lived was in the suburbs of Chicago amongst 8 million other people.  I was married and lived in a townhouse as it was the only affordable option even for two Master-degreed professionals or DINKS:  double income no kids.  We attended a mega church then a smaller Bible church, organized a yearly block party in the court of our neighborhood, and took walks together in regional parks called Forest Preserves.  I enjoyed neighborhood walks and riding my hybrid bicycle (between that designed for road touring and trail riding).  Holidays were spent with family in various cities as everyone was out of State for our Illinois locale.  Sure there were ups and downs with health issues or financial stressors but largely each day of our lives was the “same story, different day.”  When this got to be too much for my former spouse he found a way out and took it.  Hmmmm.  Alternately I found that you don’t really need a way out, per se.  Sometimes the “difference” we are seeking finds us as part of the Lord’s plan for our lives and it comes from within us instead of in the form of persons, places, or things . . .

Flash forward a myriad of moves of my residence, a change in the car I was driving, changing my job four times, transitions to new hair and clothing styles, some weight loss, and eventually moving to Indiana to marry Steve — over 10 years later I rarely say that old phrase anymore.  Oh even if nothing much has changed lately in my health or the circumstances of battling a serious illness, there are always new discoveries meeting me each day.  Things simply cannot be boring when you marry a man with as much energy as Steve!  He keeps me going just keeping up with all of his activities even when he is not home!  First there’s his four adult children and their families, then there’s his hobbies and sports, and his participation in the worship of our Lord Jesus Christ; the latter always brings news related to our church fellowship in addition to an intriguing message from the pages of the Bible.  That’s a lot to keep track of and I love it.  My garden, online jewelry business, and this blog fill in much of the rest of the time not taken with health-related activities.  How could I ask for more when my heart is full?

Sure my life has changed in the last decade or so and I’ll bet it’s the same for you too, Gentle Reader.  Is that o.k. with us?  As for me I would never have asked for the difficulties that have come in recent years that have added more “excitement” and stress than I could ever have imagined.  The crazy thing is that I would also have never known how to ask for the blessings that have come from this particular path either.  I would not want to be without the blessings just to have had an easier life.  I believe that I am exactly within the will of my Heavenly Father, that He has His hand on my life and my heart warmed in the shelter of His mighty wings.  He goes with me, goes before me this moment and the next; there are signs of His wonders sprinkled everywhere in my days.  I am so glad that I am not bored with my life.  Well yes of course there are times I’d like a little less “excitement!”  Yet that’s when I need to rest my cares at His throne of grace, allow Him to carry me like the famous Footprints in the Sand poem so graphically portrays, or wait on the Lord in the quietness of a moment of prayer . . .

I’m going to keep my head up and do like my brother, Mike, always used to say:  “keep moving forward.”  The life I once lived is gone but not forgotten.  Those memories bring gratitude for all that the Lord has placed in my life today:  a story that is never really the same.  In time my Lord will make all things beautiful.  In the meantime though I think it is finally time for me to go to bed!  There is a calmness in my spirit at last.  The sun is coming up and the birds are singing their morning hello just outside my window.  For me it will serve as a happy goodnight lullaby as I snuggle up to my intended beloved who brings me more joy than I could ever imagine.  Real love and more is here now.

Yes, Lord, it will be a good day I think.  :J

footprints-man-beach-morning

 

2 thoughts on “The life I once lived

  1. This post just fed my soul. Simply beautiful and touching… thank you.

    • Aww thank you Amanda. I hope it encourages you as you embark on this next chapter in your life. It all weaves together in the tapestry the Lord ordains in our lives as His children. So sweet in the end. :J

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