September 29, 2013
Michael is a free spirited carpenter, contractor and jack of all trades. With his truck, tools and carpentry skills he could find a job anywhere in the country, and he did. He traveled the country working his trade. He lived in Florida for several years, where he and two partners bought, remodeled and resold houses for substantial profits. He also had a large clientele of “snow birds.” He maintained their winter homes while they flew back north during the warm weather months. He had a lucrative business but circumstances and a friend persuaded him to move to Pike County, Ohio about a year ago. Shortly afterward, Michael was diagnosed with lung cancer and enrolled in hospice.
Michael loves camping and fishing. I once heard someone say that you’re not a true fisherman unless you can fish all day, never get a bite and still enjoy yourself. I think Michael is a true fisherman. He’s looking forward to unfolding his lawn chair with a cooler on one side and a radio on the other. He loves “all kinds” of music, but especially traditional Blue Grass and Country. He’s been known to frequent the 23 South Flea Market just to pick and jam with the “good ole boys” there.
Michael is no stranger to difficulties. His father died when he was 12 and his mother when he was 14. After his mother’s death, he moved in with his adult brother, who died in an automobile accident one month later. Michael was placed in an orphanage then foster homes, but he refused to stay. He still assumes the authorities must have given up on him, since he’s been fending for himself since age of 16.
During one of my visits Michael and I landed on the topic of adjustment. I think you’ll agree he’s earned the right to speak about the psychology of adjustment.
Michael reflected, “We usually refuse to change until we are faced with a crisis…We don’t want to let go of the past unless we have something else to grab hold of…unless we believe the present or the future will be better…But you can’t live in the past. It’s like the past is on your left and the present is on your right. You have to grab hold of at least a part of something new or you will get spun off of life… If you don’t change you’ll become outdated. You have to change to survive.”
Michael’s life and comments remind me of the song, “An Old Hippie”, which explains why Michael had no difficulty reciting the chorus: “He’s just an old hippie and he don’t know what to do. Should he hold on to the old or grab on to the new? He’s just an old hippie and he don’t know what to do. He’s not try’n to hurt nobody. He’s just try’n real hard to adjust.”
We’re all “try’n real hard to adjust”, aren’t we? And some are try’n harder than others.
I’m reminded of a realization I had while helping care for my father-in-law, Dave. He’d suffered a severe stroke and my mother-in-law, my wife and I, were working furiously to get him back to what he used to be. One day I finally thumbed through the book given to us by the rehab unit several weeks earlier.
The author, a stroke victim herself, wrote, “After a stroke, there’s no going back to what used to be. You have to take the road ahead.”
I experienced an immediate paradigm shift. It was a type of acceptance which freed us to live in the present; to establish new realistic goals with Dave. The past no longer defined our present or future. And we learned and accepted that the future isn’t always an extension of the past.
Are you “try’n real hard to adjust?” If so, I encourage you to wrap your arms around where you are and take the road ahead. And some good news, you don’t have to do it alone.
“The Lord is my strength and song, and He is my salvation…I will praise the Lord…This is the day which the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it… (Excerpts from Psalm 118)