Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Sandwich Generation: In the Middle of Life... We Enjoy the Softness of the Quilt



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There are times when our lives becomes so compressed and so tight, that we just need a moment to take a big step back. Sometimes, we feel like the fabric, sometimes we feel like the thread, and sometimes we just plain feel batty.

Right now, I am somewhere in between the fabric, the thread and the batty. I have joined the 'sandwich generation.' A term coined to indicate someone who is still raising children, but finds themselves also responsible for caring for their own parents. Most of us go in and out of this role many times in our lives. Other times we get stuck in the middle and stay stuck; whether out of necessity or choice.

My 91 year old mother-in-law fell at 6 a.m. on Monday, either from a fractured pelvis, or fracturing it as she fell. As someone who was already living in constant pain from degenerative arthritis and the erosion of one hip, it seems like the final cruel blow. But life has a way of reducing us to our basic structure, opening us up to our greatest weaknesses and flaws and showing us that as much as we would like to think so, we truly cannot control the outcomes of most situations. What seems like hitting the floor one day, might seem like a place we yearn to reach up to, on another.

We wake up exhausted and overwhelmed and we realize that today, of all days, we need to just "be"......the place of acceptance without judgement, known as "going with the flow." We all know the flow as we quilt and sew. We know it as we paint, or sing, or write or even plant flowers. We enter the space in between the words, between the events, between the hard place and the brick wall. If we fight or resist, the pain and the struggle only intensify. So we learn to sweetly surrender and switch direction with the current. We learn to see the beauty in the water, or the earth, or the flowers or even the colors in the fabric of our quilts. And we learn to go with the flow instead of constantly swimming upstream.

I have watched a strong, positive, and incredibly capable woman, be reduced to someone who can barely move, most certainly not get up, sit up, or even roll over. I had to search my heart for the words to explain why life can get so hard sometimes, how it teaches us to reduce and to simplify, teaches us to go to an inner world, instead of the outer one that we have spent most of our lives in. Our daily tasks change. Our daily needs change. And we find that bit by bit......we change, as well. In the middle of all of the pain and the suffering, we have to find something to look forward to, something to be grateful for, and something to enjoy.

Each day this week, I have driven to a neighboring town to help, to visit and to care for my dear mother-in-law. First to bring her to the ER, then admit her into the hospital and finally, reduced to the care of a nursing home. In one week, I am suddenly caring about one mother-in-law, one aunt by marriage and one aunt and one uncle of my own. A hospital, a mental health ward and two separate nursing homes, all in different towns. My heart, my time, and my life have all changed directions at once.

I have seen more older people in pain and in desperation in one week..... than I have in my entire life. I see them in crisis, in sadness, in states of severe loss and pain. And my own heart is broken open to their suffering. I want to climb under my own quilt. I want to be surrounded by its softness, it protectiveness, its love and its warmth. I examine my feelings, my own loss and even my own pain and then I look through those eyes, that heart, into theirs.

I realize the basic inner truth of each and every single one of us. We have one basic need during our lives and as we approach the ends of our lives. We want to know that we are loved, that we are cared about and most of all we want to know that when we leave this earth plane, someone will miss us, remember us and be grateful for having had us in their lives. It may be a short journey to the end of the path, it might be a long and arduous one. But each of us still has to take it, one painful step after painful step.

So, whether you quilt, you paint, you read or you garden......feel the flow, enter the space between the words, between the heartache and life's challenges. There is one basic need, one basic purpose... in and for.... all of our lives. We want and we need to give and to receive love. Wrap yourself and them in that quilt of love.

Instead of feeling trapped in the middle, compressed and squeezed, I am choosing to do my very best to just feel the softness of the quilt. To feel protected and warmed and comforted.... instead of burdened or overwhelmed by this life's journey. I may not be able to maintain this feeling of balance for very long, but for just now, this day or this moment, I can choose to feel the softness and not the tight pain.

I can be like a cat. I can find somewhere soft within me to surround myself with and be comforted by. I can create my own quilt in my own heart. A quilt to wrap up in and a quilt to share with another.

So this week, I may not be sewing at all.....but I am still quilting. I am quilting with my heart.

8 comments:

  1. This brought tears to my eyes; it is so true. Wrap these special people in love.

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  2. (((HUGS))) What a Wise wonky woman you are - this is the lesson we are to learn, and you have the ability to put it to words. What a gift, you are doubly blessed. Watching loved ones make their slow decline is so painful - I love love love the imagery you share. Thank you.

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  3. A very moving post and it made me think about the needs of my family and how I react. How I give and take love. How I treat myself when things aren't rosy. Thank you.

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  4. Oh my, I certainly do hope you aren't having to take care of all these people by yourself. I hope you have plenty of help. I try to remember during times like these that what they are going through is ten times worse than what I am going through trying to help them.
    {{hugs}}}

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  5. It's good that you find warmth and comfort in this quilt of love. My thoughts are with you during these difficult times for you and the people in your life.

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  6. What beautiful sentiments you've expressed her today. Yes, as Su Bee said, you are very wise. May each of us learn from your words and apply them our own lives, whatever situation is trying to squeeze us from both sides.

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  7. You are so beautifully expressed, in words, the feelings of external forces that tug our hearts and souls in opposite directions against our will and desire to control time and protect those we love the most. I'm sending big hugs of support as you endure these seemingly endless days. I know how much you mean to so many who count on you. I pray that you take care of you, too...

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  8. Beautiful thoughts, beautiful expression. The need for human connectedness is the most basic. How wonderful that you provide that for those struggling folks. I hope you can get a break soon. I'm in similar straits and it's just tough.

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Michele Bilyeu blogs "With Heart and Hands" as she journeys between Douglas, Alaska and Salem, Oregon.