Friday, 18 October 2019

Looking back , looking forward

My darling Millie has died. In her last days she could barely make it to the lawn and often poo'd on the flags of the terrace. She deteriorated quite quickly and I finally had to make the decision to call the vet to the house. Lovely Marzena, my Polish cleaner, was here. She too loves dogs and she sat with Millie, cuddling her and scratching her neck while we were waiting for the vet to arrive. I gave her her afternoon feed hours early, which she ate with visible enjoyment in spite of her wobbly legs. Without Marzena I could not have done it; as it was, I cried and cried and was ready to change my mind again.  The vet knows me for the wimp I am and she and her nurse came within the hour. So that’s that.

I’ve not been terribly happy since then, in fact, I’ve not been at ease with myself ever since Beloved died. Millie was the last living link with him, she was my companion, a creature I talked to and petted, who followed me around and gave me a reason to get up in the morning, to go out in all weathers, to feed and water, to keep as happy as she was making me. With all of them gone, Beloved and Millie, before them my parents, the goodwill of one child gone for good and only a loose connection with the other, I am truly alone in any meaningful sense. The house is empty and quiet. I have no family here or in Germany.

So now it’s time to come to terms with the remainder of my life. A peaceful existence is what I am aiming for. This should be my time for being, not doing. No more struggle, no more achievement, no more passion. All passion spent. A time for being only myself, in kindness and forbearance rather than trying to make changes, in my life or  that of anyone else.

Old age brings calm, if we are lucky. With so much experience, a lifetime of ups-and-downs, of miserable times as well as deliriously happy times, of ill-health and good health, much like any other human being, why do I still feel that I must be doing, actively go forward, get involved, be part of movements, experience new horizons?

Tuesday evening I went to a restaurant with a friend who is madly active, who has just spent a week in London as a First-Aider during the Extinction Rebellion demonstrations. Once again I felt ashamed that I seem to have lost all fight, all passion. That I feel disinclined to climb on barricades, take up new studies, a new cause, an all consuming hobby. Soon people are going to suggest that I must be bored at home, that I must lack much needed stimulation, that I ought to go on exciting holidays. Etc.

Basically, if I am truthful, I must say that I am rather lazy now. There is a battle going on inside me, a battle between letting go on the one hand and feeling that I must not be seen to have stepped off the treadmill on the other; that my own little bubble, now much shrunk, is where I would like to live without shame or guilt. Being lazy makes me want for the desire for disappearing into my bubble to win. There are so many things right here at home which please me, books, talking to friends, my garden, modest social occasions, tv and visits to see plays or listen to concerts. Instead I seem to be recycling the same thoughts, the same questions, the same uncertainties, over and over again, without ever coming to a decision. I would be happy and contented if I could come to no more than simply a workable resolution that doesn’t particularly lead anywhere except to an acceptance of the status quo.

My friend Jay called this afternoon to help me with my Application for Settled Status in the UK post Brexit. About time too that I got down to that. Having prevaricated for ages is just another sign of my current state of mind. The Home Office still can’t cope with iPhones; my friend uses Android so she very kindly made the application for me on that. Afterwards we came to chat and I told her about my current lack of motivation. I speculated if I should go and see a therapist to rid me of the feelings of guilt and shame at my idleness. I have an inkling where these feelings come from: years and years of being responsible for the smooth running of my life and that of first, my parents, and then my children. My friend said, fine, now we know why you are feeling useless, but, and this is the big but: whose rules are these? Who says you must be doing, achieving? You are no longer responsible for anyone but yourself. Jay became quite heated. “If you want to sit all day picking your nose, you can.” She is right, of course, but how do you change the conditioning of a lifetime overnight?

This is getting to be a long post, I’d better stop now. No doubt I will be pondering these existential questions for some time yet, like many others have done before me. And many who come after me will do. And also no doubt, I will be rehashing them here. For now writing this down is helping.


  1. well, you don't. you don't change it overnight. it's a transition. one that I am in the process of myself. since we retired from our income making profession at the beginning of 2018 (but not the art I make for my own pleasure) I have sort of been in the same frame of mind. We only have one gallery now and one opportunity a year to sell my work and here I am with lack of interest, nothing new to show from last year though I do have several things in progress but no real interest in putting in the hours to get it finished and mounted or ready to sell. like you I dither back and forth about what I should be doing and what I want to do and mainly what I want to now is not much apparently. and I'm happy with that. now we just have to convince ourselves, realize, that at this point in life, that's OK. as long as we are content, it's OK. I'm done with striving and protesting and making my mark on the world.

  2. I am terribly sorry to read of Millie's death. Losing links to the past can be very challenging.

    Your feelings of 'I should be doing more' resonate with me. As a result of injury, the last year has seen a decided lack of activity. All the demos and engagements I would have normally attached myself to went ahead without me. I felt sort of like a 'do-nothing' as a result. In my case, the self-criticism wasn't helpful. Jay is right. If you wish to sit around and dig in your nose(!), you can. May you find a balance that is right for you. And good luck with getting your Application for Settled Status in the UK sorted!

    xx Bea

  3. Your friend Jane is right, and you are right, too - one rarely changes over night.
    The older I get myself, the more contact I have with people of my parents' generation, such as (of course) my own parents, O.K.'s parents, elderly neighbours, my parents' friends, my mother-in-law in Yorkshire, and so on. All of them in their mid-to-late 70s and 80s. Each of them handling this time of their lives in a different manner; no two are the same.
    Some of my parents' friends keep moaning and complaining about how much stress they have in their lives, and how difficult they find household chores and gardening. And yet this particular couple I have in mind are wealthy enough to pay a gardener, a cleaner and any other help they want. But they don't; one gets the impression they enjoy their home-made stress and the reason it gives them to complain.
    Then there is my mother-in-law, now 85. She's been a widow for decades, two of her four children have died, and she is not exactly in good health. But she is content with her own company, occasional chats with her neighbour over the hedge, phone calls from friends and family, mostly spending her days reading and talking to her two cats.
    Then there is my Mum, who has never really liked house work (with the exception of cooking and baking). Now that she's been retired for many years, she has come to a point in her life where she mostly does what she enjoys - NOT cleaning, ironing etc. - but knitting, browsing her online forums, organising the volunteers who read at various kindergardens around town.
    Then there's my Dad, who has all but given up. He hardly does anything anymore, and one wonders what is cause and what is effect regarding his health problems. He's almost completely stopped reading and listening to music, both great passions of his when he was younger and fitter. Sometimes the only exercise he gets in a day is walking from his bedroom to the settee, from there to the toilet and back a few times, and maybe to the dining table when my Mum insists he eats "properly".
    Also, there is my 88-year-old neighbour, who last year went to Canada for four weeks, works her garden and house almost entirely herself, does volunteer work once a week with a group that helps single mothers, and is very up-to-date on current affairs.
    Each of them unique, each of them - by what I can tell - happy or at least content.

    I am very sorry Millie died. Like for you, my old cat was my living link to my late husband; when she was gone, I was truly alone in my flat.

    Wishing you all the best, dear Friko, and sorry for the very long comment.

    1. ...sorry ABOUT the very long comment, that should have been. Sorry about that!

  4. How sad Millie died. When my dear hubby died in 2016 I adopted a dog from the shelter and our dear dogs do motivate us to smile, to take walks, etc. My current blog explains how I care a lot less what other people think now that I am a senior. I hope you let go of guilt and discover what gives you joy, I know I enjoy spending time at home and in quiet pursuits, find what you want to do and do that, without pressure to achieve!

  5. Listen to Ellen. Her words are good words.

  6. How am I feeling this deep emotional connection with the dog and the person I have never met in real life? But connection and affection I do feel with you. It helps me how beautifully you express oh, and that you were a bit further ahead of me on the road. It is always a gift to read one of your posts. I would not presume to lecture you. I think we are entitled to just be. I find that the classics that were meaningful when I was young and wondering, are once again friends and comforts. I hope you will find a way to have animal companionship in your life somehow. Bless you my dear friend I've never met in person. Thank you for your honesty. I hope you will feel my sincerity and the authentic caring of we who visit you here. Warm ALOHA ♥️

  7. My condolences on the loss of Millie, Friko.

    "the goodwill of one child gone for good and only a loose connection with the other..."

    Can you make amends?

  8. Friko, those of us who blog and read your blog love to hear your thoughts (whatever they may be). The connection and understanding of those who may only know you through this blog is real... even though most of us will never meet. Even though I have not experienced your loss (of your husband - and now Millie), it must be overwhelming. Knowing others go through it and survive doesn't really help at the moment. I think time alone helps... at least from what I hear and see. But my advice (for what it's worth) is to be good to yourself. But don't stop communicating - whether it's with family or friends (real or cyber). You may need some time to just 'be'... but (if it were me) I would find another pet to share your life with. I can't imagine not having something to love and care about...

  9. Oh … I am very sad with you about Millie! When my Piwo died, I could not be there, but my daughter in law was there til the end. I also want to say: My mumme is 89 and lives alone. When her lil dog Ivan died, her pastor convinced her to get a lil rescue, and he promised her that he would take him in, should my mumme not be able to take care of herself and/ or the dog anymore. To this day, she is living happily with her lil Dodi. Ich knuddel Dich, friend Friko :) Love, cat.

  10. Dear Friko, I am so sorry for the loss of your Millie. My sweet Miss Tork (feline) has been a real comfort to me since God called my dear husband home. ~ You are still in the fresh stages of grieving the loss of your Beloved and now the loss of Millie adds to that. You've been given some loving advice here about just 'being', and to me it sounds like you are 'content' with the life you are living there right where you are. Let go of the 'shoulds' and become more relaxed in your pleasant lifestyle. It's been almost 7 years for me living on my own, and I do like the peace I have compared to others' hectic lives which wears me out just hearing or reading about it. Love, hugs and prayers for you dear Friko ~ FlowerLady

  11. I am so very sad to hear about Millie.
    Your other thoughts resonated strongly. Very, very strongly.
    I too struggle with the being/doing equation. And berate myself for not doing more.
    I hope you find a way. I hope I find a way.

  12. I am sorry to read of your loss. Hugs to you. Don't berate yourself. You are grieving yet again. Wishing you peace.

  13. I am so sorry to hear of Millie's death. You may feel like retiring from the world for a while, and that is so understandable, but, perhaps selfishly, I hope you keep writing your blog.

  14. I read your post, and then all the comments. Many of them are like family to me, since we communicate through the blogosphere and share the ups and downs of life. I'm so sorry to learn of the loss of Millie. I look forward to hearing how you are doing in a month or two, once the new life situation as settled in. You are a gifted communicator, Friko, so I hope you will continue to grace your blog with new posts now and then.

  15. So very sorry that you have lost Millie...and so very glad that she went quietly at home.
    Take your have been organising and being responsible for others all your life makes it hard to find that you have only yourself to organise. Sounds like freedom, but in fact it is not.
    Being 'on parade' 24/7 means that I cannot volunteer, take on anything which cannot be dropped at a moment's notice, and is deeply frustrating but I have a feeling that when and if I am no longer on parade I shall retire into myself. Without guilt. We shall see - unless I kick the bucket first of course and then goodness only knows what I shall see!

  16. So sorry about Millie. As DJan says, you do communicate with the written word well and I like your honesty and self doubt. I feel a bit frozen in time at the moment, unable to move forward after retirement. It's not that I want to work, but I was so organised when I worked, and on the surface I still am, but it is not how I feel. I should be achieving a lot more at the age of 62, but then I think, why should I? It is not like I haven't had a lifetime of achievements, mostly minor of course.

  17. So difficult to let a companion like Millie go, and I understand and sympathize with your grief. Talking to a therapist about your situation would not hurt and could really be helpful, if she's any good. I would recommend it strongly. You have endured some painful losses and I don't find it surprising that you have trouble summoning up the will to do more with your life than wait it out. And maybe that's fine—but perhaps it would be good to explore your lassitude a bit more. It is a common issue—and no less difficult or relevant for all that—for people, maybe women especially, to feel conflicted about the absence of responsibility or a cause. At a certain age, there are no 'musts' or 'should' but there is often still a deep need to be of use. I'd hazard a guess that only a rare few don't feel this. Give yourself the chance to discuss this with someone who is less likely to just pat your shoulder. An affectionate hug to you, dear U.

  18. Understand you dear Friko, all the wonderful comments I understand, strange I have not felt old until now, do not like that word and call myself the Ancient One
    when in fact recent birthday I turned 85 and I smile. So much has changed and I yearned
    for the old way but not anymore, contentment and acceptance is happening, just do not like the pain of arthritis :) You are right where you should be, experiencing what I have and all
    will be fine, trust me.

  19. there is no sorrow like this sort.
    I am glad to see you are surrounded by Love here in the comments.

  20. Of course I'm sorry that Millie has gone. I no longer experience the grief of Dixie Rose's death as an emotion, but I remember it, and how hard it was at the time. I so much enjoyed having her around, but now my situation is rather like yours: solitary in my home, without family, and a few years left on this earth. Once some time has passed, you may find, as I have, that being without the responsibilities of care-giving is as much a relief as anything, and solitude is quite pleasurable. Believe me -- when I think of evacuating for a hurricane now, the thought of being able to do so without a mother and cat in tow brings a smile.

    Here's something else that came to mind as I was reading your musings. If our lives are like a cup, and we've spent our years filling that cup, the time eventually comes when nothing more can go in. At that point, it's often enough to begin drinking from that cup, enjoying all the experiences and memories and pleasures it contains.

    I had a mother who was determined to live my life for me, and I finally was able to simply say to her, "Here's the deal. You're perfectly free to live your life, but I'll live mine." I've found that works pretty well for the world in general.

  21. So very sorry about Millie. You are in such transition and grief, please see if you can get some grief counselling, it helped me tremendously. A beloved pet dying opens up all the grief in your life anew.

    I recommend and Ursula LeGuin my daughter gave me : Somewhere Near the End, the last book I think before she died last year. I found it very helpful in coming to terms with being rather than doing.

    Big Hug my friend.


  22. There is so much wisdom and honesty in your posts and the comments that follow. It’s amazing how well you express your feelings.

  23. Your post is heart felt and written with such honesty. I am sorry about your poor Millie. Life certainly has its twists, and turns and it seems we constantly have to reinvent ourselves. You will find your niche. Let your heart heal.

  24. Dear Friko, I am so sorry to hear of Millie's passing. I know you knew it was inevitable and had sen the signs but that doesn't really ease the loss, does it? I'm glad you were with Manzana and your kind vet was able to come to your home. It may be some time before you decide if you can share your home with another dog; perhaps one day, perhaps an older dog who needs love and company. But till then, I know your mornings, your walks, will be very different and that hurts me, that you will be sad.

    Like you, I often feel I must DO. If I don't, then I will simply become a bit of a blob, not interesting or uninvolved. And yet I know I'm allowed to be a little lazy. Let go of some of that. Do what I might like -- time with friends or by myself. I worked hard to have the time, the life to do that and so why self-impose. If you figure out how to work through that one, let me know.

    Like you, there is much in my small world that gives me joy. We share some of those things -- books, friends, and especially plays and concerts. There's much to be said for that. Oh, and you mentioned the possibility of seeing a therapist. I highly recommend it, actually. It needn't be a forever thing, but if you think it would help, often they ask the right questions and "give us permission" (that we should be able to give ourselves but often don't.) If you don't like it, you don't have to continue but always worth a bit of a shot.

    Good luck with your post-Brexit application. I watched BBC all day Saturday and it still seems so up in the air. I hope all is settled soon and that YOU can be settled with it. No matter what, I hope you find what will help you. It's all the harder with the lost you've had in a relatively short period time so I hope you will be very gentle with yourself. I know. It's hard. But it does help.

  25. I am sorry to hear about the loss of your darling Millie. Do not push yourself too hard as you go through another grieving process. Re-read the "about me" section on your sidebar and do those things as much or as little as you like.

  26. I'm so sorry about Millie. I know that was a hard loss.

    I think life brings several periods where you stop and reassess and figure out who you are and how you want to live going forward. That's just where you are right now.

  27. I often employ the Option Method questions when I find guilt or restlessness ruling my feelings. Some of the information on this website feels a little new-agey to me but I've actually worked with a practitioner and the questions do bring a clarity of thought. I like the way you are honest with yourself about the way you feel. We all, after all, live in our own heads. Listen to yours and not someone else's.

  28. We think we are prepared for the death of a loved one but nothing really prepares us for the finality of death -the cessation of a life and finding ourselves catapulted into the next stage of our life alone - take the time you have now been given - there is no time limit on grieving - try not to ask too many questions of yourself - just be - enjoy what you can - be aware of the love given to you by the people in your life -even at the distance of being online it is still real love - know that people care for you and that you make a difference in their lives by providing this forum.

  29. I'm so sorry to hear about Millie. Pets are family and it's devastating to lose them. You write very movingly and I hope you settle into a way of life that brings you joy and comfort. We all go through phases, who knows how you will feel a few months down the line? Just accept your feelings they are yours and no one else's. I wish you every happiness.
    Around My Kitchen Table

  30. I am so sorry to hear that your sweet Millie has died. She will be forever in your is a difficult transition not having a pet. My heart goes out to you. I say do whatever you want and not what other people think you should do:)

  31. Dear Friko - I'm late ... due to life - but there it is. Life can put us in a morass ... as it seems to do to me - or as is usual aging life takes us there. You've been quite philosophical and pragmatic here ... and these thoughts will continue on, and in fact won't go away ... but times will settle and you'll mentally adjust.

    It sounds like the right things are happening at the moment ... just very sad about Millie, as for family - that we can never account for. I hope you'll feel easier as the days go by and just relax into being ... the town is lovely - while the countryside stunning ... though in the last few days it seems like you've had a right deluge of the wet stuff: at least you're high.

    With thoughts from down here ... and as always 'time' eases ... take care - cheers Hilary

  32. hallo u., ich war lange nicht mehr hier und überhaupt bin ich nicht mehr viel im internet unterwegs, ausser zu spezifischen recherchen oder buchungen etc. es tut mir leid wegen milly und ich wollte dir sagen, dass ich dein leid sehr gut nachfühlen kann. ich selbst hatte damals meine fast 17 jährige hündin einschläfern lassen, da sie nierenprobleme hatte und eine woche nichts gegessen hatte. danach war ich ausser mir, in einem schockzustand und ich fühlte mich sogar als mörderin. ein kurzes i-gespräch mit einem buddhistischen meister hat mich sehr getröstet. er sagte mir, ich solle anfangen, mir selbst zu verzeihen und dies als gelegenheit nehmen einem anderen heimatlosen hund ein neues zuhause zu schenken. ich hab's gemacht und das hat mich dann auch sozusagen geheilt. inzwischen habe ich 2 hunde, beide sind tierheimhunde, sie sind sehr glücklich und ich mit ihnen.... tiere sind eine bereicherung für das leben, sie sind die treuesten und tollsten freunde! liebe grüsse und alles gute! renée

  33. What a blow. I am so sorry.

    About your thoughts of "shoulds" and being vs. doing - it seems that you understand the battle, and that's half the battle, right? But it's kind of a grueling process anyway. There's very little support for being a homebody these days; people who aren't content with the life you describe (which sounds pretty great to me) can't understand.

    I hope you will find a reason to get up in the morning. There have been many days since my husband died that I did not want to get up, and you may have to experience that, one day at a time, before you work out a satisfying arrangement with yourself. I think the most luxurious thing is to read in bed in the mornings, but some days I don't have the energy for even that.

    I'm glad you are writing and sharing with your readers. I like to read your musings, and I admire your courage.

  34. I am so sad to hear that your dear Millie has died. She was such a loving companion for you and of course you feel very lonely now. You are in a fragile state and need to only do what you wish, be lazy and don’t feel bad about it. It is difficult sometime to fully release the things that seemed crucial in time past, but which are now not really that important.

    As with you, my husband died in October 2018 and his cat, Cody, died last March. It was hard to lose them both. Being in a new city with no friends was also a hardship. I still travel to clear the house in Georgia every month, by myself, and am starting to enjoy that, being busy traveling back and forth. I understand the difficulties we encounter as we age and after we lose our companions, humans and pets. It is a difficult time to go through.

    You write so very well about the state of your mind; all your readers appreciate your posts. They are ready with loving advice and words. I cannot give you advice as I need some myself but can offer my sympathy and understanding, dear friend.

  35. Dear Friko, over 50 years ago, after leaving the convent when I was 30 1/2 years old, I lost all desire to do anything but exist. Drawing breath seemed enough for each day. Anything more--anything involving prioritizing or making decisions--seemed overwhelming. These were tasks of the past. I could no longer handle them.

    I ended up going to a psychiatrist once weekly for two years. I didn't ask for meds and he didn't offer them. We simply talked for 50 minutes. After many visits, he told me that I'd been suppressing my feelings for so long--long before the convent years--that I'd become deep, down angry. I didn't recognize anger in myself. But he saw it, not only in what I shared but what I hesitated to talk about.

    At the end of those two years, I went away to grad school at the University of Minnesota. Before we ended our last appointment, he said to me something like this: "Dee, we have so much psychic energy in us. A given amount for each decade. You are 35 now. And I want you to realize that you have used up in your life and in the convent all the psychic energy you had for your twenties and for your thirties. It's all used up. You have nothing left to go on with. And so, you must be gracious to yourself. Do not ask too much of yourself. Extend to yourself--to your very being--the graciousness you consistently extend to others. Dee, listen: Be Gracious to Yourself."

    And that's what I'm saying to you now Friko: "Be gracious to yourself." I learned that following his advice took great patience. I had to allow myself to be each day whatever my spirit asked of me. I had to cease interrogating myself and finding myself flawed and fractured. Splintered. I had to simply embrace myself each day--literally--and say, "I'm here. It is enough."

    I hold you in deep thought and prayer. Peace.

  36. Oh dear, sincere condolences on the loss of dear sweet is never quite prepared no matter how prepared we believe we will be. Feeling your sorrow, truly. X


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