Q. If you were guiding us towards new directions for self-improvement in 2018, what would you suggest? — DIY2018
A. Dear DIY2018,
I’d suggest that we take 2018 as the year to set ourselves free by BE-ing instead of DO-ing. Every year most of us make some sort of resolution to “do” something different, yet there’s no more room on our “To-Do” list. How about we start a “To-Be” list?
I’d suggest beginning a practice of observing ourselves … without judgment. Most of us are our own worst critics … constantly. Whether conscious of it or not, most of us judge ourselves much worse than we judge others. This leaves us playing the role of both the jailed and the jailer, often not realizing that we have the keys to our self-imposed prison bars in our back pocket.
We may not be immediately successful, but as we grow our consciousness around it, we can begin to notice and suspend the pattern of negative self-talk. We can then practice backing out of old negative thought loops as soon as we see them, creating gentleness and forgiveness around them along with conscious redirection. Sometimes it may be helpful to question ourselves by thinking of one of our most beloved people and imagining what we’d tell them if they were judging themselves in the same way.
With consistent practice, we’ll catch ourselves in the act red-handed, eventually realizing that we’ve neutralized the pattern with practice by applying loving attention through conscious intention.
Q. I’ve recently seen my wife through a long and difficult battle with cancer. I’m a lonely elder. What is the appropriate amount of time to wait before dating? — Lonely Elder
A. Dear Lonely Elder,
Caregiving is a hard, and often painful, sacrifice. I honor you for walking that path.
I don’t think there’s necessarily a “right” amount of time to wait before dating, as that’s a personal choice. While we might be cognizant of the feelings of others, especially family, ultimately we have to decide what’s right for ourselves.
We’re capable of holding two opposing thoughts and feelings at the same time. You can both have cherished your wife AND feel relieved that it is now over, while possibly feeling guilty about thinking about dating. Please be gentle with yourself and don’t feel shame for thinking about it. You are human and you have needs.
People move through the grieving and healing processes at different rates. While you may feel that your grieving began as your wife experienced her decline, others may be in a more recent stage of grief that only started on the day she transitioned. If you’re concerned about family members, like children or grandchildren, I’d suggest that you discuss it honestly with them. If you do, please keep in mind that some family members may feel tender and project feelings that you are “wrong” by bringing someone in to “take her place”.
It may be a bit more difficult for some to grasp how you could consider moving on “so soon”. With clear communication, gently remind them that you loved her so much that you cared for her until the very end. This cements your devotion to her. Stating that there can never be a replacement for her also assists in understanding that this isn’t about your deceased wife, but about your needs as a human being for companionship, love, joy and human touch. Filling in the gaps in this way can be helpful to them by seeing that you’re not trying to replace her, but that you need to move forward towards a life that is connected and more fulfilling.
Since you’re in your senior years, I’d emphasize that it’s not like you have an endless amount of time left to sit in waiting until others can feel right about your choices. You can’t live your life for others, as they aren’t the ones who go home to an empty bed.
As a caution, I’ve learned that STD’s are rampant in some senior communities. These elders have been married throughout the “sexual revolution,” and are past childbearing age with no fears of pregnancy. They haven’t kept up with the times, yet they’re enjoying a bit of a frolic without protection. While I’m happy they have the freedom to explore, one needs to engage in an appropriate conversation in advance while being cautious during intimate encounters.
Please know that you have the right to keep this to yourself for awhile. This allows you to test out the waters sorting through your own feelings before discussing it with others.
Alecia Rice integrates higher concepts with wisdom to bring forth balance, perspective and clarity. She’s a personal advisor, speaker, and a gatherer of women. For perspective on personal issues, you’re invited to text questions and comments to 681-321-1109. Discussions continue @AskAlecia on Facebook.