The Circle Game

I heard Joni Mitchell’s “The Circle Game” playing the other day and I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind.  (The song and lyrics links are below.)  It speaks so much to loss and grief.  It’s a poignant song about a young boy growing to manhood and how his hopes and dreams are changed by the losses he encounters going through life.

We’re captive on a carousel of time…

The song’s chorus talks about going round and round, and being captives on a carousel of time.  Isn’t that how grief works?  We never quite get over it.  We just experience one loss after another, some small, some big, but always adding to our load, stuck on a seemingly never ending carousel of time.

We can’t return, we can only look behind from where we came….

And how often does that happen?  We spend too much time in the past, living with painful memories, having trouble moving forward.

Cee and I tell you that we are Certified Grief Recovery Specialists but we haven’t really explained much about the Grief Recovery Method (GRM).  It’s a practical and proven way to break that never ending circle, to get you off the carousel of time.

How can I explain GRM in a nutshell?  We start by giving you a better understanding of loss and the part it’s played in your life.  We talk about how the world deals with grief, and the ineffectiveness of what we refer to as grief myths.  Then we help you chart the losses in your life, so that you can see how they’ve influenced your beliefs, attitudes and behaviors all these years.  We work together to unravel your relationships, one at a time,  that you would like to complete with a person, living or dead.  Your grief generally stems from having unfulfilled hopes, dreams and expectations, and communication with someone that was never voiced.  There are things you still need to say to that person so that you can get some peace.  We help you say them, and bear witness to that.

What does all that accomplish?  It gets us out of the circle game.

(Joni Mitchell is a very talented Canadian singer, songwriter and artist.  She’s been a favorite of mine since high school.  —  Chris)

The Circle Game

by Joni Mitchell, L.A. Express

Yesterday a child came out to wonder
Caught a dragonfly inside a jar
Fearful when the sky was full of thunder
And tearful at the falling of a star

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

Then the child moved ten times round the seasons
Skated over ten clear frozen streams
Words like, when you’re older, must appease him
And promises of someday make his dreams

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

Sixteen springs and sixteen summers gone now
Cartwheels turn to car wheels through the town
And they tell him,
Take your time, it won’t be long now
Till you drag your feet to slow the circles down

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

So the years spin by and now the boy is twenty
Though his dreams have lost some grandeur coming true
There’ll be new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty
Before the last revolving year is through

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return, we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

Songwriters: Joni Mitchell, 1966

The Circle Game lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Crazy Crow Music / Siquomb Music Publishing

Losses in the Aging Process

Our dear friend and mentor, Cari Dawson, graces us once again with her words of wisdom.  We go through tremendous losses as we age, and those seem to accelerate with every passing year.  Since I’m only eight years younger than Cari, I can align quite easily with what she is saying.  And it’s about time someone said it!

I have been a Grief Recovery Specialist for nearly twenty three years. The loss of a grandchild was the catalyst for me, an event that started me on this life-saving work so that I could help others. My loss history is lengthy: I’ve lost parents, a 2-year-old niece and a 25-year-old nephew, a brother, other family members, pets, jobs, lifestyles, husbands, friends, trust, and patients. Now, as I move deeper into my mid-seventies, I am becoming more acutely aware of the losses associated with aging.

The most obvious loss in aging is the fact of limited time on earth. It becomes more real that gravity is chipping away at us. There are subtle and not so subtle clues that we are disappearing. One of my friends talks about the invisibility in this elderly period of life as we are embedded in a culture of youth. “When people talk to me, I don’t feel like they see me.” Others say they don’t recognize the person in their mirror. “Who is that old lady? I don’t feel like what I am seeing.”  Friends complain that their lives are narrowing, that doctor visits are crowding their calendars. Some are losing their joints and other body parts.  They are getting hips and knees replaced, cataracts removed, hearing aids fitted, open heart surgery. Almost all of us have arthritic changes, we lose flexibility and dexterity, we lose cadence when we reach for words that don’t come as easily as they used to. We are generally slowing down. We adapt to the gradual losses, but as I am wont to say hoping to lighten up with dark humor, “None of us is getting out of here alive.”

And we often experience a loss of dignity. I personally encountered such a loss during annual well visits with my Primary Care Physician (PCP).  Although I have managed to reach this point in life with only occasional use of prescription drugs like antibiotics and I remain in excellent physical and mental health, I am a firm believer in preventative care, routine tests and lab work. Twice in the last several years, I have felt humiliated when unsolicited, my PCP’s office performed memory tests involving my retrieving three unrelated words (sunset-chair-banana) said earlier in the visit by the health care provider. Part of this test included a request to draw an image of a clock at 11:00. I was tempted to draw the image digitally rather than as the face of a clock with hands and numbers! At a time in my life when I intentionally enter into contemplative meditation and practice letting go, I felt like I was being graded on my ability to remain linear and dualistic to please government (Medicare) and health care professionals. I doubt if the health care provider understood that I felt like a fungible commodity instead of a human being.

Putting this into perspective, I understand that tests for dementia can be a necessary and good thing, but I wonder if the health care provider considers the context of the patient (other than chronological age) before launching into such tests. For example, the first time this test was administered, I had been in the throes of grief over multiple significant losses (which happens frequently as we grow older) and was experiencing disorientation and detachment from the dualism of this world. I was in no frame of mind to remember three unrelated words and I felt that having to draw a clock with the big hand on 12 and the little hand on 11 was demeaning and counterproductive. In fact, the loss of respect and dignity compounded my losses and my grief. Am I losing my mind too?  My identity?  Am I just some thing to be charted rather than a mature woman with feelings?

On the other hand, there are so many joys of life at this stage!  Balance is the most important aspect of our lives as we age. Although I continue to work—see and counsel clients— and volunteer, it is done with utmost concern for balance and my priorities which facilitate my journey to wholeness:  contemplation, spending time with close friends and family, enjoying my furry friend, reading, and working out at the gym.  I have become more acutely aware of the clock that is ticking away and ironically and interestingly, it has given me more peace of mind and focus knowing what I thought I knew all along: that my time here is running out.

I marvel as I reflect upon a long journey from a small town Ohio Valley high school girl of seventeen whose highest aspiration was to be a secretary and housewife, to multiple and diverse careers and paths, to where I am now in my mid-seventies contentment. I hear the clock ticking like a heartbeat. It’s a good reminder to live in the present, to see the beauty in Life, to taste, touch and feel it, to grieve the inevitable losses and know it is all good.

Cari D. Dawson, MTS, MA, JD, www.transitionscelebrant.com

Cari’s previous post was about grieving the loss of a pet.

Didn’t know before…

I know for me, forgiving myself is one of the hardest things to do.

The definition of forgive is “to stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake”.

My illness has caused a lot of damage in our lives.  We’ve lost our home, cars, jobs, friends, everything… almost.  I wonder at times how I didn’t lose Chris.  Chronic illness effects every part of your world.  I blame myself for all of it and I struggle to forgive myself.

Is it right to blame myself?  Chris says no, because I didn’t do anything to cause my illness.  But it’s hard not to feel responsible. It’s hard for me to forgive me.

I am learning through my training as a Grief Recovery Method Specialist that I was only judging myself for a lack of knowledge and experience in new or different situations, none of which needs forgiveness.  There is nothing for me to forgive because I did nothing wrong.  I didn’t set out to create an “offense, flaw or mistake” as the definition of forgiveness states.

Sometimes we just have to let ourselves off the hook, to let go of the past.  Sometimes things just happen.  It’s no one’s fault.  It just is.

I’m learning to love myself more, and that feels good.  It makes me smile.

Hugs, Cee

email: cee@cee-chris.com

 

 

Loss: Independence

My beautiful, smart and wonderful daughter has a  heart condition.  When I asked for suggestions for this post, she wanted me to talk about loss of independence.  Cee and I know a lot about the subject, as do any of you who have a chronic illness.  It also applies in many ways to those of you who have gone through the death of a loved one, and many other types of losses.  I’ll address it from the angle of chronic illness first, and let all of you chime in.

Chronic illness robs you of your independence.  Period.  You can’t get around it.  In my daughter Nikki’s case, she has to rely on her husband and son to do certain things for her.  She can’t carry too many things, or things that are too heavy, so she needs one of them to go to the store with her, or for her.    She doesn’t travel alone any more, just in case she gets too weak or needs assistance.  She can’t work, so she can’t support herself.  She has to rely on her husband’s income.  She has lost her independence in so many ways.  She can’t go running or get to the gym when she wants.  She can’t go out with the girls, just to relax and catch up with them.  Heart disease as serious as hers controls her life now.

Cee and I know what loss of independence is all about.  After the three times she has almost died, she needed me to do everything for her.  After the coma in 2001, she even needed to be fed because she had lost so much muscle mass.  After each significant bout of Lyme disease, she would lose what little independence she had gained back.  Fortunately, she’s so much better now that she can drive herself around, do her own laundry, and help to clean around the house.  I still support her.  She’s not ready to go back into the work force.  That’s one of the reasons she became certified as a Grief Recovery Specialist.  She’s able to start earning money again while controlling her hours and working conditions.  That, and the fact that she’s darned good at it.

You might not have a condition as severe as Nikki’s, or as complicated as Cee’s has been, but if you have any sort of chronic illness, or a long term illness like cancer can be, you have been forced to give up some of your independence.  It’s just part of the package.

Those of us who are caretakers for someone with a chronic illness also give up our independence.  We have to be more mindful of how we are spending our energy and time, to be there for the person we love.  I’ve given up the hiking and camping Cee and I loved to do together, for example.

A death in the family often results in a loss of independence as one person now becomes the sole bread winner, or surviving parent or caretaker.  It might mean that you have to give up your house or apartment and move in with a family member.

How have you had a loss of independence?

Keep those questions coming!  Feel free to suggest topics!

Lots of virtual hugs,

Chris and Cee