Patience and Respect
“Growing old is like being increasingly penalized for a crime you haven’t committed.” Anthony Powell
Evidence for this statement is available in public places everywhere. Have you witnessed adults berating their elderly companions, or displaying their exasperation with them?
Two examples happened this week. “This is what it’s like now. We can’t go there. This is what you are like now. You can’t have that!” a woman barked at her elderly companion who followed her with a walker in a clothing store.
In the waiting room at a doctor’s office it was hard to ignore an adult woman address her mother. “I told you, why do I have to say everything three times? Listen! Listen when I talk to you! You never know what I’m saying anymore!” It seemed as if they were admonishing children- children who did not deserve such treatment!
Disappointment, fear of loss, or sheer frustration can make us act this way. While I consider myself to be a very patient person, I found myself raising my voice more than necessary with my mother who forgot to pack her hearing aids for our 5 day trip together. I believe disappointment drove my behavior- our time together was compromised from the ease I had imagined.
The question became, “Who do I choose to be in relation to my mother? Regardless of how she is behaving? Regardless of what she is able or unable to do?
A breath and 5 seconds are the first aid kit. Five seconds of time can make all the difference between a knee jerk reaction and a neutral or meaningful response.
Interrupting the pattern gets me out of my trance and into the other person’s shoes. It helps me realize things are not going my way- the way I would like it to be, and more importantly, it gives me the opportunity to understand I have a choice. I can choose how to respond.
I choose to respond with respect and patience as much as I can. And mostly because that’s the kind of person I want to be. It’s important to look at what is working, instead of what is lost. We can look with our hearts instead of our eyes as much as possible. We will see more of the positive that way.
Lend some positive thinking to the current situation, no matter how bad it looks. Ask, “What’s the opportunity here for us? For them? When my father- in-law, deep in dementia, barely responded during our visits, we decided that sitting quietly, talking softly, or just holding his hand and smiling in remembrance was the new nature of our visits. We chose to be patient and loving for the benefit of all.
In other words, if we placed a mirror on our loved one’s forehead, how would we see ourselves behaving? It is as much about self-respect as it is about the other person.
“Seeing the sacred in ourselves and in all living things is the solution.” Gloria Steinem