Category Archives: Happiness

Only Child and Senior Loneliness

Only Child's Mom and Dad a few years after they were married

Only Child’s Mom and Dad a few years after they were married

When my father died from brain cancer at 66, life turned all downhill for my mother. She had lost her husband of many years and had to go it alone. This was the mid-1960s so changes for women were just getting started. And although my mother had me, I was a teenager and really not much help for mom’s loneliness and her health, which after Dad’s death went from good to worse than bad.

First, it was her arthritis in her hands and feet, which landed her in the hospital for tests, disfigured her hands (rheumatoid arthritis) and damaged her feet to the point of what resembled wounds. I remember coming home from business school and finding her sitting in the living-room, one foot bandaged and propped up on a footstool. Her two visitors were not friends, but the managers at the insurance company where she had started to work when Dad died. They were not there to offer her support, but to try and convince her to quit her job which she was having difficulty doing. She had gone from typist to proof reader because of her fingers.

Fortunately I was able to get a job as a secretary later that year and help Mom with expenses, including doing the actual grocery shopping. But Mom’s health continued to deteriorate. She also had scleroderma, which gave her puffy cheeks and changed her voice to almost a squeak. She died at age 63. Official cause was a brain aneurysm but really the arthritis killed her. Because of the arthritis she fell off her vanity bench which gave her a never-ending headache. She figured she needed her eyes tested and had booked an appointment for an eye test but never made it as she went into a coma and died in hospital.

I have passed both my parents’ ages of death and have mixed feelings about it.  Although I may have escaped some of the medical conditions of my parents (although I do have arthritis – in my neck and bunions and the like on my feet), I still feel very wary going through the rest of my life. Yes, I have had my own medical issues to deal with, but I’m learning that there are two factors that make life very hard to deal with for a senior – living alone and being poor.

I have covered the being poor before, but living alone to my mind, is not the best scenario for a senior and happiness. Apparently, some studies are showing otherwise. See Loneliness among the elderly  where  surprisingly the majority of lonely seniors are married or living with a partner.  But my many years living alone have proven otherwise. Living alone means not having someone there to help you, to support you, provide companionship, and help you deal with all the crap life shoves at you. I realize that not all duos are good – some are abusive; some provide no support.

However, when I observe my friends who have partners of some sort, I see a plus. Sure, they have problems, health, maybe financial, etc. But they seem more positive, have that support (and some even say that) and are happier – the latter just radiates from them. My take here is if you have a good partner, you can deal with life better.

Partners can mean many things from the traditional marriage, to living common-law, to not living together all the time (i.e., maintaining separate homes for whatever reason – often financial – pension laws you know).

One friend who used to live in my neighbourhood had a long-term relationship with a fellow. Their relationship and its setup worked worked very well for them. Both lived in separate houses – in fact he lived just outside Toronto. But they spent weekends together at her place and travelled together. Sure they argued and had differences of opinions – most couples do. But they were supportive of each other, not only with health issues but house issues. And boy, my friend had a doozie when her mean next door neighbour shovelled snow from his driveway onto her gas meter and the entrance for the gas into her house – the latter was blocked and she got gas fumes in her house. She phoned both her partner and me. Both came over here. He got on the phone to the gas company and organized everything there. I insisted she stay overnight with me, but in the meantime she went back home (outside) to supervise the gas company arriving. Her partner and I had another thing to do for her – get some important legal papers off to Fed Ex before they closed to meet a deadline for her.

True, yours truly had some part in this. But consider the scenario without her partner. And remember I don’t drive.

My friend’s situation does not have a happy ending. Her partner was diagnosed with brain cancer and died shortly afterwards. Yes, she was there with him, but has been alone since then.

I have to deal with the crap in my life alone. My son does help where he can but he has his own life. I also have no brothers or sisters.

So, some statistics be damned, I still say a senior living alone is not the happiest and healthiest. Read 10 Dangers of Seniors Living Alone. And I have only covered the tip of that iceberg.

What do you think? I’d like to hear from seniors living alone and seniors with partners. I won’t bite, whatever you say.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

Only Child and her parents in another time and world

Only Child and her parents in another time and world

 

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Filed under Aloneness, Happiness, Health Seniors, Life demands, Living alone, Mom and Dad, Mother dying, Older Women living alone and health, Only child, Seniors and Happiness

Only Child finds a little joy in horrid world

Busy city street - sign of current times

Busy city street – sign of current times

Yesterday a friend and I were talking about the world today, the world we live in. We both agreed that is is a horrid world – too digital, too hurried, extreme weather, the terrorism, etc. I said it all got going into this state when we entered the new millennium and she agreed, with the addition that back in the 70s there was the Vietnam War. I added that back then there wasn’t so much of everything.

I don’t think it is because we are both seniors (albeit at the lower end of the seniors age bracket).

Truth is we are inundated with too much crappy stuff these days.

It is hard to find a little peace, a little joy. But we need to. The only other option seems to be to “get the hell out of Dodge.”

Last night while hurrying along a Toronto street to do some grocery shopping, I realized – hey, the weather in Toronto is warmer than usual for this time of year. No actual winter weather. True we’ve been getting a lot of fog and clouds and rain is coming later this week. I think something my ex said in an email earlier yesterday also was somewhere in my mind. He and his wife live out west and while they are getting a lot of rain he likes it because it is warmer then.

So, I did a momentary mind pause, slowed down my walking, and stopped cursing the Food Basics store for having one cooked ham on sale left (and it was awful looking – too much fat and a small string curled up in it – you know the “ick” factor).

I actually started to enjoy the evening, thinking it wasn’t bad weather-wise, still warmish.

How do you find a little peace and joy in your life?

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Carpe Diem, Cities, Extreme Weather, Family and Friends, Friends, Happiness, Seniors, Sign of the Times, Winter Weather

Only Child advocates living with purpose

Only Child in one area of her purpose in life.

Only Child in one area of her purpose in life.

Studies show that seniors who have a purpose in life are happier and live longer. This information got me thinking: what is a purposeful life and am I living one?

Although the studies focus on older adults, the main theme can be applied to any age. If your life is constantly one of living from problem to problem, deadline to deadline – just going through the motions to get through another day with no thought why, no wonder you’re stressed, angry, depressed (fill in the word that suits you).

I’m not immune, although I do have a purpose in life. I get caught up in all the crap shoved my way each day – from bad weather causing water leaking into the basement, to overload in demands from others, to financial crisis, to health issues, to just plain too much to do.

Wait a minute. And while you  (and I) are at it – grab a minute…or more to re-focus. Why am I scrambling and rushing around doing all this stuff? Does any of it have anything to do with my purpose in life? Do I actually know or have a purpose in life?

Remember, your purpose in life can change with your time in life. When raising kids, that might be your purpose until they grow up and leave the home nest. Then what is your purpose? You may have become a doctor, lawyer, police officer, etc. because of your purpose in life. Maybe you want to help sick children have a better life, help those living below the poverty level with legal issues, or catch criminals – to simplify matters. But are you doing just that? We’ve probably heard about police officers whose marriages can’t survive the strain of police work. One of my family doctors years ago couldn’t take the stress of his life anymore and killed himself. Then there are the parents being driven “crazy” by their kids.

Often the surrounding activities and problems take over the purpose and you become lost in the ensuing chaos. For example, it might not be your kids per se driving you nuts – but all the activities you have to drive them to at all hours of all days. Ask any hockey parent.

To get back to our seniors and those studies, my mother is a prime example of not having a purpose in life because she figured she lost her purpose. From hindsight I can see that Mom’s purpose was twofold – raising me and looking after my dad, particularly after he got cancer (when I was 9) and his other illnesses. Remember this was the late 1950s to mid-1960s. When Dad died (when I was 16), mother lost one of her life purposes and the other one (me) was a teenager. Enough said on the latter although by today’s and even those days’ standards I was a “good girl.” After Dad died, Mom’s arthritis showed up; so did her scleroderma. She had to quit work (which she had returned to when Dad was in the hospital) and I had to hurry and finish my secretarial course and get out in the work world. Mom died at the age of 63 from a brain aneurysm.

I’ve made it past Mom’s death age, but not Dad’s (66)…yet. But I keep trucking on. Why? I have a purpose in life, although many of you may wonder about that from some of my previous postings. But like many others, my purpose gets buried in all the day-to-day crap. Much that I place in “delay” should really go into “delete” and get well, deleted from my life. I “should” delegate more, but what I want to delegate (my business bookkeeping and tax return preparation, weekly housecleaning) I can’t afford. Therefore, I have to “do.” So far doing job trades hasn’t worked out except for one instance currently being done – but that is keeping the trades in one area – writing and writing-related tasks. Any attempts at bartering across different areas haven’t worked. Appliance repair people, plumbers, electricians, want money and usually upfront.

We need to re-look at what we do each day (myself included) and be ruthless about what should go out the window (preferably an open window; can’t afford broken windows). You can’t throws all the hateful jobs out. But maybe they’re only temporary and telling yourself this can help you get through your day. We must also not forget our passion, our purpose in life. Perhaps we can do one little thing each day with our passion. Perhaps inspiring writers bogged down in diapers, toys and car pooling, can write – 10 or 15 minutes only daily – in a journal about how they feel, what is bugging them, etc. And are some of the things you do related to your passion?

You can probably guess what at least a part of my passion is? It is living my life creatively and helping others to do so. That encompasses writing, teaching writing to aspiring writers, and yes even editing (for now), gardening, cooking, and walking…by exploring different places –parks or city areas, etc. – I can create a walking adventure and often get more story ideas. (Couldn’t resist the latter).

I’ve known since age 11 when I came in second in an essay-writing contest what my life’s purpose is. Like many others I got and get distracted. So I have to make myself return to the four D’s in my life – Do, Delay, Delegate, and Delete, so that the Delay stops bursting at its seams and at least the Delete increases and the Do is more what comprises my purpose and passion in life.

What about you?

Meantime, check out the ginger tapestry website and the article “The Three Paths to Purposeful Living at http://www.innertapestry.org/articles/vol-11-3/1021-the-three-paths-to-purposeful-living.html I don’t agree with all the author’s ideas, but I am pleased that he isn’t a sheep follower of the Law of Attraction. Neither am I – and I’m not really a big believer in it either.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

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Filed under Balance, Delay tactics, Delete, Family, Happiness, Law of Attraction, Life Purpose, Mom and Dad, Only child, Passion, Prioritizing, Seniors, Seniors and Happiness, Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child looks (again) at seniors and happiness

Only Child in one of her happiness situations - the garden in summer

Only Child in one of her happiness situations – the garden in summer

Are today’s older adults happy? If so, what makes them happy, or not? The more I googled for information, the more widespread information I found. The one I heard on the radio earlier today (and it doesn’t seem to be online) is the one I’m going to talk about.

According to this one, older adults’ happiness is based on four areas – each one “worth” 25 per cent.  After considering the genetic factor for pre-disposition for happiness or unhappiness, the areas are: environment, debt-free, relationship, passionate about something.

According to that survey, I’m about 50 per cent happy in winter and 60 to 75 per cent from spring to fall. Here’s my breakdown (pun intended):

  1. Environment: This is the variable one. It’s practically 0 in winter because I hate winter – the snow, ice, cold, even the rain, but mostly because I can’t get outside and garden or attend outdoor events without freezing. In the summer it goes to 20 to 25 percent because of the outdoor/gardening factors. The fluctuating 5 per cent is if there are house repairs and the like.
  2. Debt- free: Not me. I live the proverbial “hand-to-mouth” no matter what I do. So far I’ve managed to pay regular bills – including credit cards as payment comes due (except for the line of credit one – it gets the minimum payment and a bit more when I can afford it), even some house repairs (for the biggies I’ve had some help from my ex-husband) and for some unexpected bills. I’ve told my son that my estate will have to pay off my line of credit debt after I’m gone,  but that’s what small life insurance payouts are for. Unless I win the lottery or my book(s) reach best-seller status or no. 3 below happens, that’s the way it is. So this category rates 0 per cent on this happiness scale.
  3. Relationship – also 0 per cent for obvious reasons. After a few years of online dating, in-person singles events, and yes, even the see who is available at groups sharing your interests, I’ve come up with less than slim pickings. This doesn’t mean I’m not interested; I’ve just given up wasting my time looking.
  4. Passionate about something in my life – definitely a full 25 per cent – with my writing, teaching writing, gardening, reading, and a few others, even watching favourite TV programs. I can get transformed out of my misery (albeit temporarily, especially if a telemarketer phones) when doing any of those things.

So there you have it. But the survey/study organizers forgot one big factor here, especially for us older folks – good health. Sure, some of that is genetic and maybe some could come under “environment.” But I think health should be a factor on its own, changing the happiness factors to 20 per cent each.

Comments anyone? What makes you happy or unhappy?

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Debt, Gardening, Gardening health benefits, Happiness, Health, Health Seniors, Hereditary, Money, Only child, Passion, Seniors, Seniors and Happiness, Sharon A. Crawford, Zoomers

Only Child looks at gratitude

Only Child is grateful for her family – with son Martin and his partner Alison

As we Canadians just celebrated our Thanksgiving it is time to look at gratitude – especially its relation to happiness. In the past 10 years a number of studies have linked the two. I’m not impressed with the results.

Look at the title of one study Practicing Gratitude Can Increase Happiness by 25%. That doesn’t even make the halfway mark. This article at http://www.spring.org.uk/2007/09/practicing-gratitude-can-increase.php refers to a study carried out by Dr. Robert A. Emmons in 2003 which is published in his book Thanks. While Dr. Emmons covers all sides of the fence in his studies (gratitude, hassles and everyday occurrences), the bottom line is only 25% upped their happiness scale for expressing gratitude.

In another later study by Dr. Emmons, subjects did a daily practice of writing down what they were grateful for and the gratitude-happiness ratio increased. Another study focused on adults with congenital disorders and adult-onset neuromuscular disorders. The ones that wrote down their gratitude every day slept better, woke up more refreshed, and felt more optimistic. More studies are outlined in this excellent article by Ocean Robbins in The Huffington Post at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ocean-robbins/having-gratitude-_b_1073105.html.

I have no quarrel with the studies, the articles or the books. My point is nobody’s life is perfect and burying the bad while expressing gratitude for the good in your life doesn’t sit well with me. Maybe it’s because of my late Mom’s weird sense of honesty. Maybe it’s my grade six teacher always harping on “I’ll give credit where credit is due” and my silent addition (“and discredit where discredit is due”).

Or maybe it’s because my parents died young – Dad at 66 after almost seven years of cancer off and on and Mom at 63 of a brain aneurysm five months after its cause hit her (she had arthritis and it caused a nasty fall onto the hardwood floor in our apartment). I was 16 when Dad died and 22 when Mom died.

Add in my own long list of ailments (which I won’t bore you with but they number almost as many fingers, including thumbs on my hands). I certainly don’t feel grateful for these health issues, especially as they are all permanent and some interfere with my life. I try to make the best of my situation but that doesn’t make me grateful.

Except for one health problem – migraines –for two reasons I am grateful for migraines – Migraines started me writing in the healthcare field, but my migraines are long gone. That makes a big difference.

I’m not advocating that we skip giving gratitude. I’m just saying we should also acknowledge what we are not grateful for. Doing so gives me motivation to improve my situation where I can but also to acknowledge others suffering which may be worse and perhaps lending a helping hand. For example, if I see someone struggle to get on a bus and they have a cane I will move so they can have a seat close to the door. Or if I see someone with feet or leg problems struggling down the stairs or taking their time, I give them their space and am thankful I can still walk with ease – most days. When my legs or feet “act up,” it’s a different story.

Some people can be grateful for having cancer and I am not slamming them. I think gratitude and well, non-gratitude, are subjective. I also believe in balancing the gratitude/non-gratitude equation. Fair is fair – something else I learned when growing up.

It really doesn’t do to be all Pollyanna. There can lie the route to denial.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Death and Dying, Gratitude, Happiness, Health, Mom and Dad, Mother dying, Only child, Sharon A. Crawford, startling statistics

Only Child clarifies the aloneness issue

Only Child with son, Martin, and two of the Michigan cousins

Got an interesting comment to my post last week (see Comments). While I’ve tried living with other onlies (mostly boarders) and found it didn’t work, reading Jen’s comment helped me clarify what I really mean. The problem isn’t living alone per se, but being alone. There is a difference.

Let me explain by using the example of a friend of mine who used to live down the street. She and her partner didn’t live together but spent weekends together, usually at her house. He was also there sometimes during the week, if only for the evening and helped her a lot with her house. She pulled her own weight as well. She also got to know his three sons from when he was married. (He was separated.) My friend and her partner travelled together throughout the US and Canada. They were considering moving in together after he retired or a few years later after she retired. And if you are wondering why the past tense, no, they didn’t split up. Their relationship lasted seven years; then he died suddenly from brain cancer.

Which again reminds me of one of my ex-boyfriend’s comments (which I’ve also posted before). “Life isn’t fair.” I have a corollary to that, something I’ve learned from what I’ve seen, heard and read and from personal experience.

Whenever someone is experiencing happiness, enjoy it, because it may not last.

The other thing Jen helped me look at was the siblings’ issue. Obviously I don’t have any. But I have cousins  – there are six in one set and seven in another. I know, rather large numbers, but we’re talking Catholic born in the 1950s and 1960s. I have noticed how close they are and how much they help each other with problems. Two examples: when one cousin was building her backyard deck, many of the cousins (including the inlaws) helped her. On a more serious note, when my godfather, father to the six cousins, got to the point where he had to go into a nursing home, they all worked together on this. And when he was living there, they not only spent a lot of time visiting him, they also held sibling discussions on how things were going there. I know because I went with many of them on the visits and two of them discussed their dad’s life at the nursing home, including how he was treated by the staff, when I was out to dinner with them.

This is what I mean by siblings helping each other. They are very close although it does help that all but one live near each other. Some of their kids are changing the geography, but my cousins go out of their way to bring us all together. Last summer when I was visiting one cousin couple, their oldest son, now living in California, was coming up with his girlfriend to visit them. My cousins arranged a family lunch get together (homemade pizza – everyone chose their own topping).

And these cousins go out of their way to help me with my visits to them. I don’t drive, so I take the train where I can to get to their places. But they not only pick me up at the train station, but organize who I stay with (several live in Stratford, Ontario) and one takes me up to their cottage. Last year two of them took me to public gardens (Yes, we are a family of gardeners, except for one couple). And two more cousins from Michigan made a special trip up in their mobile home to visit with us all when I was there.

Before you think my relationship with all my cousins is perfect – we have differing views on religion, how to treat others, and what to do when we personally get too old to manage on our own. But we try to respect our differences. That is probably harder for me than for them.

And of course I have my son and his partner who help with some things.

It’s just the what I call “house crap” and “computer crap” that jumps out at me and often the lack of enough money and time that upsets me. Some things where a partner could share – like with my friend who used to live down the street. If truth be told, I probably would be a “bear” to live with now. And maybe I wasn’t that easy to live with when I was married many years ago.

Perhaps that’s the legacy of growing up an only child.

Cheers.

Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Aloneness, Family and Friends, Family Flak Memoirs, Happiness, Help and Support, Only child, Sharon Crawford, Siblings and friends

Only Child on grabbing happiness in winter

Only Child age 8 but obvsiously not on the skating rink.

If I go back to when I was 8 years old, I see a time when I embraced winter – snow, cold and especially ice. After Mom taught me how to skate on the backyard rink Dad created, she turned me loose in Dieppe Park. I write in my memoir:

I clutch the skate guards, one in each hand, and stagger slowly. I look around and see people – old, young, even some wielding hockey sticks – they’re supposed to be in the hockey rinks. I take a cautious step onto the ice and almost lose my footing; when I point one skate guard out, I find my balance. I put one foot in front of the other, hold both skate guards out and I’m off.

It is exhilarating and scary but I am skating around the rectangular rink. No one can call me stupid now. I am gliding and… One of those hockey-wielding teenage boys nearly crashes into me as he takes the corner too fast. I clutch the skate guards and skate on the spot. Then I get my momentum. I can skate.

(Excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2011 Sharon Crawford).

Not anymore. I gave away my skates 20 years ago and just the thoughts of snow, cold and ice are enough to make me wish I could afford to spend winter in a warm climate…almost.

You see, I may regard the beginning of each winter day without much joy – getting up as daylight tries to poke its way out (sunrise 7.51 a.m. – it expands about a minute a week) is not my idea of bright joy. Too cold to go out into the garden and if the sun doesn’t actually show up then, having to turn on a light to see the coffee pot on-switch is pathetic. But once I get a few cups of coffee in me and get dressed, usually I see things in a brighter light. And if the sun actually comes out (as it did just now), my whole atmosphere changes drastically to big smiles.

The health experts and studies show that this lack of light in winter can cause some people to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Because I snap back fast usually (unless one of my eight health problems is acting up or I have too much administrative consumer stuff to deal with) and retain my joy and passion in most of what I do, I don’t believe I have SAD. If you want to read more about SAD, go to Pub Med’s article on Seasonal Affective Disorder at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002499/ You will be surprised as it is not all lack of light.

So, if like me, you sometimes get a smidgeon of winter blahs and your budget won’t let you visit warmer climates, what can you do to get some happiness? First I suggest you do some reading on what exactly happiness is. There are many books and Internet postings on the subject and everyone has his or her own idea. Just Google it. You might want to check out an Ipsos study done on Canadians’ happiness last year. It has some startling, yet not-so-surprising results. According to this study, 18% of Canadians are extremely happy, 43 moderately happy and 39 are what the study calls “downright testy.” The study showed three main factors that tipped the happiness scale: living debt-free, living in a romantic relationship, and having some sort of spirituality. High on the list also was having a passion for something you are doing in your life. (See http://www.creditcards.ca/credit-card-news/author-qa-debt-and-the-happiness-equation-1278.php)

According to that study, I fall somewhere between testy and moderately happy. I have some sort of spirituality (wacky, some people might call it) and I am doing what I have a passion for – writing, teaching writing and editing, gardening (in the summer, although I try with indoor plants in winter), reading, walking, etc. This study has shown me that happiness is a combination of outside factors and inside factors. A psychiatrist once told me that it might not be happiness per se you seek but some form of contentment. The bottom line to me is you have to work with what you’ve got to lift yourself out of the blahs and make some happiness in your life. For each of us that may differ.

Here’s my personal list to start on the road to happiness.

Do something you feel passionate about – daily.

Express your gratitude for what you have – daily.

Go for a walk or get some exercise – what you like, not what others say you “should” do – daily.

Listen to soothing music.

Read a book.

Watch a movie, TV programs you like (but not more than three hours max. a day).

Meditate and take deep breaths.

Solve your problems – one at a time.

Get together/talk to and email friends and family – but watch they don’t take over your time.*

Get enough sleep.*

In the next couple of postings I’ll be blogging about time issues and sleep issues and how they get in the way of our happiness. Meantime, read The Happiness Plan by Sarah Treleaven and
Astrid Van Den Broek http://www.chatelaine.com/en/blog/happiness_plan and books about happiness, such as The Happiness Equation: The Human Nature of Happy People by John Hallward (Price-Patterson, 2011) and The Happiness Project by Gretchen Craft Rubin (HarperCollins Canada, 2009).
How do you deal with the winter blahs?
Cheers.
Sharon Crawford
Only Child Writes

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Filed under Happiness, Ice Skating, Only child memoir, Passion, Seasonal Affective Disorder, Winter blahs