By Loren Hardin –
Michael is a free spirited carpenter, contractor and jack of all trades. With his truck, tools and carpentry skills, Michael could find a job anywhere in the country, and he did. He lived in Florida for several years, where he and two partners flipped houses long before it became popular on HGTV. Michael also had a large clientele of “snow birds”. He maintained their winter homes in Florida when they flew back north during the warm weather months. He had a lucrative business but circumstances and a close friend persuaded Michael to move to Pike County, Ohio. 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 bluegrass and country. He’s been known to frequent the 23 South Flea Market to 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 older brother, who died in an automobile accident one month later. Michael was placed in an orphanage and from there in numerous foster homes, because he refused to stay. He concluded, “I think the authorities just gave up on finding me after I ran away from the last foster home when I was 16. I’ve been fending for myself ever since.”
During one of my visits Michael and I landed on the topic of adjustment. I think you’ll agree Michael is qualified 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 If you don’t change you’ll become outdated.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” by the Bellamy Brothers. Maybe that’s why Michael memorized the lyrics: “He turned 35 last Sunday, in his hair he found some gray. But he still hasn’t changed his lifestyle. He likes it better the old way. He gets out there in the twilight zone sometimes when it just don’t make no sense. He’s an old hippie and he don’t know what to do. Should he hang on to the old, should he grab on to the new? He’s an old hippie, this new life is a bust. He ain’t trying to change nobody. He’s just trying real hard to adjust.”
We’re all “trying real hard to adjust”, aren’t we? And some are trying harder than others. I’m reminded of an epiphany 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 Dave 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. And we learned and accepted that the present and the future aren’t always an extension of the past.
Are you “trying real hard to adjust”? If so, I encourage you to wrap your arms around where you are and take the road ahead. For in Michael’s words, “If you don’t change you’ll become outdated. You have to change to survive.”
“No one puts a piece of un-shrunk cloth on an old garment for the patch pulls away from the garment and the tear is made worse. Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved (Matthew 9: 16-17).
Loren Hardin is a social worker with SOMC-Hospice and can be reached at (740) 357-6091 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can order Loren’s book, “Straight Paths: Insights for living from those who have finished the course” at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.