What does waking up to the life we are created to live have to do with falling in love with the elderly?
On first thought, not so much. On second, everything.
Over the past year or so, many new business and life coaches have emerged in response to the global economic crisis and the need to create more opportunities. They engage us with inspirational success stories and provide us with tools to awaken, reconnect with our dreams and build our own thriving lives.
Like Marie Forleo and Brendon Burchard, they are young, radiant, good-looking, successful and powerful. Their energy is contagious, and they are great at articulating what we all want: to live a life that matters in line with what we see as our purpose.
We read their books, watch their videos, and take their courses in eagerness and excitement to start living the life we were made to live.
But sometimes the material we study seems to be incomplete, or is too difficult to understand on our own. We need the assistance of someone who has done it before and who can give us practical examples and personal insights. It's like taking advice from a guide who has already traveled the road we are on -- we find out about shortcuts, pitfalls, and roadblocks that we would have had to discover the hard way if we were traveling solo.
Obsessed with youth, high-energy tactics, and the appeal of instant gratification, we tend to forget the importance and the power of the elderly who, like the experienced guides, can offer us a tremendously valuable perspective.
They have already journeyed through life's many phases -- peaks and valleys, ups and downs.
Sometimes we might get impatient because their lessons are not concise and articulate, and certainly aren't technologically packaged for us to easily consume while multi-tasking. We can't just plop a wise old sage down on a chair next to the elliptical at our gym and have them tell us stories while we work out. Or turn them on while we sit in traffic to catch some more of their advice.
With the elderly it's best to match our pace with theirs, without trying to skim through or fast forward. Their descriptions come with a bunch of footnotes and illustrations. Sometimes we even find ourselves thrown off course by a detour, as we face any unpleasant memories that might have been uncovered.
But when we do stop and listen, or even just hold their hand in ours, their wisdom, truth, and love of life can begin to flow and awaken things that we have long forgotten in ourselves. They can help us to uncover the person we were created to be and re-commit to our purpose.
I've known Jana Larkin for several years. She called me one day and said: "I think I have a story for you. I want to talk about end-of-life caregiving. It's been changing my life." Jana offered to share how falling in love with the elderly was transformative in her life, and how it can be in ours too.
1. Rearranging our schedules to spend time with our aging parents might be hard in the beginning. A lot of us fear even having to rearrange our whole lives to become their caregivers. Sometimes it's not possible to be caregivers for different reasons, but we shouldn't let fear be the reason we don't spend time with those we love.
2. When our routines are shifted, the door is opened for other, deeper changes to occur. Sometimes we realize that we were stuck in the same place for too long, and the change in our regular routine gives us the opportunity to break free of an unnecessary habit or behavior.
3. Facing our parent's mortality we face our own. If we don't run, hide, numb or distract ourselves from the pain that comes with it, it can be a gift -- a chance to examine our business, our priorities and our life's goals.
4. Reaching out to the family, friends and community for assistance builds stronger bonds. As a caregiver, you learn to ask for help from others and gracefully accept when others offer to give you a hand. It becomes an opportunity to learn how to be strong, vulnerable, and sensitive to the needs of others who find themselves in caregiving roles.
5. Sitting in silence with our aging parents makes space for reflection and deep examination of our lives. The intimate connection provides a beautiful opportunity to continue to discover who we are as a person.
Sometimes this process is hard, bringing with it lots of hurt and pain. It reminds us where we started as children, recalls all the bruises and scars of growing up, and sheds light on where we are now. If we are willing to listen with an open heart, we can know what we need to change as we move forward so that at the end of our lives, we can say, "If I had my life to live over, I'd do the same thing again."
The song I wrote about this, If I Had My Life to Live Over, is featured in this episode of Waking Up In America -- weekly multi-platform show with guests and music in which we explore the 'waking up moments' that shift us from discontent to purpose and uncover the essence of who we are meant to be.