The old, the young, and the process

When I was in Florida last week, I visited one of my great-aunts, 87, in an assisted living facility. She’s the sister of my late grandmother. In all, there were eleven siblings in their family. Three sisters are still living, including the one I visited.

My great-aunt has alcohol dementia and is unable to live on her own. She’s sober and happy and lives in a gorgeous facility well-equipped with many creature comforts. When I saw her she looked just like I remembered her the last time I saw her, which was probably ten years ago.

She looked beautiful as she sat at a dining room table with three other women. She was excited see my aunt, uncle, cousin, and I, but my aunt warned me that she wouldn’t know who I was. Sometimes she doesn’t even recognize my aunt and it’s unclear of who she knows and what she knows.

But one thing is for sure — she is happy.

When we walked toward her my aunt asked her if she remembered my cousin. She smiled a big smile at my handsome 24-year-old male cousin and said, “No, but I want one!” without skipping a beat. I loved her all over for it because it showed her sharp wit, and it reminded me of something my grandma would have said in her later years.

It’s a simple reminder that old people fantasize about their youth.

***

My daughter, 3, and on the other end likes to start sentences by saying, “When I was a grown up…” and then follow them by saying … “I used to let my kids watch as many shows as they wanted.” And, “When I was a grown up, I used to give my kids lot’s of candy.”

This type of communication struck me after I got back from my trip because it’s a simple reminder that young people fantasize about being a grown up.

***

My great-aunt is living out the life intended for her, and my daughter is beginning the life intended for her. Yet, it’s a funny thing, fantasizing about the opposite ends of the circle of life.

For me, 35, I am having a hard time recognizing the life intended for me. Dealing with my mental health problems has created some question marks in my life as I try to settle into a peaceful place in my heart. The question marks don’t stem from not knowing what I need to do to find peace, they stem from not knowing how to get there.

A friend said to me, “You just have to trust the process,”

Another friend suggested that one way to trust the process is to talk to God. I believe in this method, but I’m not always good at knowing how to talk to God. But I am going to start trying harder and not put too many rules on how I go about that.

It could be through song lyrics or visiting places that give me peace or through nature or through a daily ritual or some other method that I haven’t discovered yet. I just know that there is an empty spot and internal unrest in my heart through this mental/emotional healing process.

I wonder, did I used to fill that empty spot with alcohol? I really wonder. In addition to the medication change, am I having some sort of alcohol withdraw? I don’t crave it or miss it, but I find myself somber and melancholy and introspective and teary-eyed. It actually feels productive, but I also have this fire inside of me dying to ignite an outward firecracker that represents who I am on the inside. To speak my mind and my thoughts and release my buried feelings.

***

Just like I have recognized that my great-aunt is living out the life intended for her, and my daughter is beginning the life intended for her, I have to recognize that I am still discovering the life intended for me.

I am going to try to trust the process and tell myself that my wants and hopes and dreams and wishes are out there, but the next part of my self-discovery comes from letting go. Letting go of thinking that I have the power to control these feelings and assuming that I can predict the outcomes.

I can’t control people’s reactions to what I say or do in this next phase of my life. But emotionally playing-it-safe all the time is boring, and who wants to live a boring life? Not me. I have to feel the feels and keep going.

I have a given ability to express myself through words, but I cannot worry so much about whether it’s “right,” especially when it comes to my writing. I just have to let it flow in tandem with the bigger picture, the picture that I cannot see. That no living, breathing being can see.

I should not put pressure on myself in life or in succeeding as a writer on my own. Or compare myself to others. Or doubt my abilities. Or try to please others. Or get frustrated when my hypergraphia writing (a symptom of bipolar) takes control of me. In fact, maybe I should let it. Not hold back. Speak my mind.

It’s just a scary thing.

What if no one likes it? Or what if I get hurt? Or hurt others?

***

As I strive to get to “this place” in my mind, I still have a lot of work to do mentally. Letting go of the past, making peace with the past, and even exploring the past.

I pray that in doing so, it’ll unlock the door into my future. But I have to go deeper into my heart. The deeper I go, I hope, the more authentic my writing will become. Maybe even some larger messages or lessons or unexplored feelings will spark a new meanings — for me and maybe even common truths for all people.

In my heart, I tell myself that my most productive writing years lie in waiting. I do believe this. I just have to keep muddling through some of my closeted emotions and pain. Coming out of the “mental illness closet” propelled me to this point. Now what?

One thing is clear — the young must trust the old as they grow, the old must trust the young as they fade away, and I must “trust the process” in between.

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