After celebrating my 58th birthday several years ago, I had to re-evaluate my life. My husband of 36 years died after years of poorly controlled diabetes and its devastating physical effects, including mini strokes, a large stroke and finally heart failure. I took care of him as needed through the ebb and flow of his decline. He died at the age of 58.
My life did a 180 degree turn. After a year by myself I adopted two cats. Life became a little simpler. (Both of my sons were adults and married or in a relationship.) In the process I had to evaluate my life and make plans. I had to be open minded to new ideas and changes in my lifestyle.
I had to “woman up.” I had family and friends who gave moral support and helped me when I needed them. I decided to stay in the house we bought 7 years earlier; a three bedroom house with a yard full of trees that I loved.
I had to trust myself to handle things wisely. My husband always took care of the bills and made major decisions. He knew how to fix things and how to handle car and mechanical problems. So I left those things to him. As he began to weaken he couldn’t do much more than work and rest.
After my husband’s death I had to learn how to pay the bills, how to keep up registration on the car, pay taxes, and all the other bills that came with a house. I had to maintain the routine upkeep of the car and yard; and hire someone to provide maintenance when something broke. I did lookup problems on the internet to see if I could fix them first. (Many times YouTube instructional videos were a big help to me.)
Then a year later another complication popped up. I developed sciatica from two moderately bulging discs in my lower back, to go with the small one in my neck. I also had degenerative disc disease. My hospital would not allow me to work until the doctor’s physical restrictions were lifted. I could easily damage my back while caring for heavy patients or just lifting something over 20 pounds.
My hospital placed me on disability for two years. During the two years I received treatment for my back: physical therapy, two cortisone injections, ice, heat, and rest. All of this with the hopes that I could go back to the career that I had loved. But that was not meant to be. So I retired early.
During those two years I lived in my home thinking I needed to stay there for my family to have a place to get together. My home was a half way point between my two sons’ homes. Finally I put things into perspective and I sold the house and bought a condominium which was much cheaper with no yard care; as well as lower electric and water bills.
Over time and through trial and error my attitude towards myself changed. I realized that I could learn or figure out most of the things that needed to be done. I was smarter and more creative than I ever realized. I could also adapt well to major life changes (after only an initial panic on a few occasions). I actually enjoyed the “challenges” most of the time.
I learned how to look up computer and car problems to understand at least some of what was going on and what needed to be done to fix it. I couldn’t fix the car but I could be knowledgeable enough to ask relatively intelligent questions about car repairs. My brother or a Facebook friend gave me advice when I needed it.
So these are a few major lessons I learned.
1. Stop underestimating yourself, you are smarter than you think!! For so many years I was fearful of making mistakes. Finally I learned that if I use them to teach myself how to do better next time, those mistakes were my instructors. (“I will make mistakes!” was a lesson too!)
2. The past helps shape who you are. The good, the bad and the ugly were the experiences which taught me who I really am: a strong, loving, kindhearted intelligent and loving woman.
3. Learn to embrace changes and “go with the flow” during difficult times, they will teach you about yourself and how to live in an ever changing world.
4. Don’t be hesitant to ask for help from your family and friends, they love you. When I had two surgeries last year, I learned that those who loved me were more than willing and glad to help me when I needed it. To know that love was a wonderful experience.
5. Do your research on subjects you don’t know about; the internet is your friend. Knowledge is power. I learned from the internet how to unclog a toilet when the plunger didn’t work. I learned how to fix my disposal when the motor ran but the round blade didn’t move.
6. Do the best you can with what you have to “do with.” This helped me learn to be creative in problem solving and fixing things too. An unnoticed pecan picker made a hole in my disposal and caused a leak. I remembered in the movie “The Rocketman” the main character fixed his jet pack with chewing gum when it was pierced by a bullet. He chewed some gum and sealed the hole with it. Worked wonderfully and my disposal never leaked again. The gum was still stuck on the outside of it when it finally stopped working two years later!
7. Don’t beat yourself up for making a wrong decision. I made a few mistakes along the way. But you know what? I survived, adapted, and learned how to live in the big world. Also as a friend of mine once told me, “Nobody died.”
When the property sales tax bill came out, I paid it. Imagine my surprise when I got a check refunding me that amount. I didn’t know my mortgage payments included escrow which paid the property tax! I considered it a lucky and good lesson..
8. Listen to your initial gut feeling! Sometimes there is something you learned along the way or you intuitively know that may save your life or your money.
9. Don’t sell yourself short. You have more resources than you know or realize. If you just give up you will never learn anything.
10. Be a good friend and make good friends. Everyone needs support or help.