Over the weekend we visited my grandma. It’s been a few weeks since my last visit, something I hate to say out loud. How did I let that happen?
We moved grandma into memory care this past summer. It’s a homey place with sweet, gentle staff and a friendly chocolate lab named “Moose” who never fails to greet you at the door.
We sat with grandma in the main family room as we usually do and talked about times past—her years as a teacher in St. Louis Park, her infamous Christmas bread recipe, and aunt Ellen. I always enjoy our conversations. And even though grandma struggles to find the right words and drifts in and out of our present, my mom gracefully leads the conversation in just the right way and listens to grandma’s contributions with the most loving, patient ear. She is so good with her.
Even with frequent family visits, caring staff, and a sweet roommate, there’s no denying how lonely she is. She told us herself. Certainly no one wants to be lonely or hear how lonely a loved one feels. This makes our goodbyes extra hard. Of course, I’m the one who gets to leave and go back to the rest of my family—my husband, baby and life back home.
All of this has me thinking…How am I living my life? How well do I love others? Do my family and friends know this love and feel, deep down, that I genuinely care? How do I carve out time for loved ones while maintaining my own well-being? As the saying goes, one cannot pour from an empty cup. Do I spend too much time in one area of my life than another? Do my everyday choices and habits align with the values of my heart?
The Power of Connection
Loneliness is a very real and scary thing. I’ve felt it at various times in my life—after the loss of a loved one, while dealing with postpartum depression and anxiety, just to name a few. I think we all feel lonely at one point or another, and I wish I had a cure-all for the sorrow and anguish it can cause. What I do know and believe in is the power of connection—by phone call, a quick text, snail mail, or a comforting hug. Little gestures of kindness go so far and cost so little. Well, I guess they do cost us something—a bit of thoughtfulness and time. Unfortunately, the latter is something many of us feel we have so little of these days.
I’ll be the first to admit I struggle to balance motherhood, marriage, friendships, work and my relationships with others. It’s hard. Like, really stinkin’ hard. On any given day, I feel pulled in a million directions. I’m convinced the whole notion of “balanced living” is a myth. Are we ever really balanced? I feel like striving for balance is like striving for perfection; something unattainable to the human race.
What I Can Do
Even though I don’t have this whole balanced living thing figured out (and frankly, never will), I can do something. I can be intentional with my time and the time I spend with others. I can strive to be fully present, really listen, and offer a much-needed hug after a long day or a glass of champagne to celebrate good news.
I can also be mindful of habits that induce my own loneliness (keeping in mind that these habits often affect those around me as well.) Mindless scrolling on Facebook, endless online bargain shopping during the holiday season…seriously, why do I do this to myself and others?
The need for human connection is so great. We need to feel connected to others and others need to feel connected to us.
“Human connection is the most vital aspect of our existence. Without the sweet touch of another being, we are lonely stars in an empty space waiting to shine gloriously.”
Connecting with the Stranger
It’s also important to note that most of the time, loneliness isn’t visible to the naked eye. Lots of people are starving for connection behind their Insta-perfect lives. It’s hard to know who those people are on any given day, which reaffirms the need for simple acts of kindness and connection—at the grocery store, doctor’s office, and McDonald’s drive through. Do we really need to know another to acknowledge them and show we care? Of course not. Random acts of kindness do change lives. It doesn’t matter if the person is a best friend or stranger on the street.
Someone recently told me they didn’t know if they should visit my grandma because she probably wouldn’t remember them. *Cue the tears.* To this, I responded, “Oh please visit if you are able. Even if she doesn’t remember you, it’s so nice to have company–especially the company of someone who genuinely cares.”
Never underestimate your ability to make someone’s day, spread joy or change a life. Caring and connecting with others–best friends or strangers–is priceless work of the heart.