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talking to myself

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My Friend Janet’s Continuing Journey

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My Friend Janet’s Continuing Journey
(now that I am old and gray, O lord forsake me not)
Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted;
but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead
you where you do not want to go."—John 21:18
I have written about Janet (not her real name) quite a few times over the years. Our first meeting was in 1992, so we have been friends for quite a long time. When I call Janet my friend, I don’t mean it in the sense that we share deeply about our inner life, but that I have grown to care for her over the years, and have helped you out a bit. However, many others along with me have also helped her.
I have a good friend Judy, who over the decades that I have known Janet, has helped me to grow in understanding of her, at least as much as I am capable. When I would get frustrated with Janet, my friend Judy would point out certain aspects of her personality that I would at times overlook. Her courage, which she does have a lot of. Her ability to enjoy life even in the midst of great anxiety. Janet has a severe anxiety disorder among other mental issues, yet she is intelligent and resourceful. She has fought a long battle to remain independent. I have watched this as the years pass by with some anxiety about her safety. She lived alone in a long-stay motel, which she wanted. She would not be able to live with anyone else, she would drive them crazy, literally. I think she understood that and was able to live in her room, and it was her home, though I would often tell her I wish she would get a safer place to live. She has lived there, until about 4 weeks ago for 15 years. The motel gave her special rates since she was a long-time guest.
She is now in a nursing home. One day Janet had a fall in her room and she was on the floor for a day and a half before she was found. She had to go to the ER, and because of her condition was placed in a nursing home about 40 miles from here. She lives close to her niece who does the best she can to take care of her but is difficult. Because of Janet’s mental issues, she can be very narcissistic. Being in survival mode can do that to you.
At the present time, she is having some serious issues in adapting to being taken care of. She is probably one of the few were going to a nursing home is the best thing for her. Yet, because she is fighting much of it, it is very difficult for her. So her journey continues as it does with all of us.
Everyone who cares for her, and has tried to help her over the years, is relieved that she is in a facility where she can be bathed, given a haircut, and has a sleep cycle that brings her more in alignment with day and night. Before she went into the nursing home, she was impossible to deal with in some areas, so people who cared for and loved her had to back off.
Janet was one of those people that I feel I needed, along with others, to help. That time is over, but I will try to go and see her with my friend Judy and her husband once a month. We will probably take her out to dinner…..she loves that.
If we live long enough, most of us will have to deal with aging, and there are different ways of dealing with it. faith tells us that we are pilgrims, on a journey, so all that we experience is part of that adventure we call life. There are lots of problems in life, pain, and yes suffering. Yet, there is also a joy, beauty, good food, beloved friends, family, and yes our faith, which can be undervalued by some.
I do believe that Janet will adapt, it will take time. I do not know how I will act when it is my turn to be taken care of in our Infirmary here. I do have certain personality traits that could be troublesome when the filters drop and what I have not been able to find healing for, may come to the surface. I have been told that I am stubborn, perhaps I am. I do know that I can be anxious and it can show itself in anger unless I can tell myself that I have to let go of control. I do know that anger can be healthy, but for me, it could become a 24 hour a day hobby, that would drive others crazy. So I try to deal with it now in the hopes that that discipline will continue in my dotage.
I have hopes for Janet, as I have hopes for everyone. One good thing about aging, is that my inner life is expanding, my love of God deepening, and my desire for prayer is stronger, though I still fight it, why I don’t always know. Yes, I suppose I can be stubborn. So can Janet, but she loves God, and I have no doubt that grace is at work in her life.
Now also, when I am old and grey-headed, O God, forsake me not, until I have proclaimed thine arm
unto this generation, thy might to everyone that is to come.—Psalm 71:18
For almost 50 years as a monk here, I have recited at Vespers Psalm 71 twice a month. From 22 years of age to now my being 70. The Psalm has become much more poignant for me as I age. As my body weakens, and fatigue worsens, and my beard is now grey/white it is no longer about some future time, but now. So each time I read it brings to light that I am a pilgrim and that my trust in God and my rootedness with Christ Jesus by grace is deepening…..I can at times feel the living waters flowing into my heart. That is one reason that I do not want to be younger, being old is hard, but the joy in the Lord deepens, which is priceless.--Br.MD



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