The Other I

June 7, 2022

Learning to Belong

Filed under: Just Stuff — theotheri @ 7:36 pm

Almost 3 weeks ago, I moved into Fox Run, the senior residence where I think I might very well spend the rest of my life. I’m experiencing it as an adjustment the like of which I have never experienced in my 82 years. I’ve moved into new communities, new cultures, new roles more often than most people do, but learning to live here is a brand new challenge.

Both the residents and the staff are very welcoming. But to actually feel that I belong here takes more than feeling welcome. In fact, it takes more than simply getting acquainted with people. It means both making friends, and finding roles which are relative to this community.

In terms of making friends, liking someone or appreciating them doesn’t make them someone I necessarily would call a friend or call on when I’m looking for someone to share personal time with. At this point, I have found one person with whom I might develop a long-term friendship. Right now that feels like a great unearned gift.

Finding a role here is much more of a new experience. In the past, my potential roles were always pretty clearly defined – as a six-year old in grade school, my role was a pupil whose job was to learn to read and write and do arithmetic. When I started high school in an all-girls Catholic boarding school run by nuns, my role as a student was pretty clear to myself and everybody else. Ditto when I entered the convent.

On the other hand, leaving the convent and learning to live in Greenwich Village in New York City was a surprising challenge because I didn’t realize how different my role in society needed to be. It was in the mid-60’s when I wasn’t prepared, as a brand-new ex-nun who had taken vows of obedience for 9 years, for living in the midst of the newly emerging hippie culture. I had to learn that saying NO was as important to me as saying yes – especially to men. I was, however, also a graduate student at the New School for Social Research, which did give me a clear role in relation to university courses and research where I felt both comfortable and more than adequate, and which enabled me to easily slide into the role as a university professor.

And then, of course, I met Peter. Within months we had established a permanent and committed relationship which lasted for 48 years until his death a year and a half ago. My role now is to live forward, to share with others in whatever capacity I can the gifts that have been my good fortune to receive.

How I can do that I am still learning. In part, paradoxically, it will be by being grateful for the help being offered so generously for my own needs, whether they are due to physical or mental aging or to the vast cultural adjustment required after my returning to the States from living abroad for more than three decades.

There are also many different active resident committees here, and I have already attended several groups intent on increasing and appreciating the value of ethnic and cultural diversity. I’ve been asked if I would be willing to participate in a local television program discussing my “very interesting” life, and I have volunteered to lead a discussion about a movie illustrating the difference between disabilities and mental retardation, a confusion that is surprisingly more common than one would expect.

In fact, I think that the elderly are often mistaken for being mentally much slower than we are when we start needing wheel chairs or even when we start walking in bent over positions or using a walking stick.

Street Sign
Street Sign,

3 Comments »

  1. Sounds like you are keeping active and probably helping others.

    Like

    Comment by rayvoith — June 8, 2022 @ 1:13 am | Reply

  2. Life gets busy and for what ever reason you slow done but time goes by quickly. So quick that you aren’t checking favorite Blogs till one raining day you think of one that you really enjoy. And that what happened today. So I thought I wonder how theotheri is doing. So sorry to hear about the death of your dear husband Peter. I’m sure you will be staying active and engaging in wonderful conversations with your new friends. Best of luck to you…DJC

    Like

    Comment by Donna Czajka — July 15, 2022 @ 9:04 pm | Reply

    • Donna, thank you so much for your understanding comment. Speaking of time going by so fast, I couldn’t agree more. I’m still dealing with a whole multiple number of issues – the transfer of funds from England, special exercises after my hip surgery, and above all, meeting and coming to know new friends in this senior home campus. Oh, and dealing with my energy levels which feel like about 50% of what they were. But I do feel hugely fortunate to be in a place where so many people are making me feel welcome. Sort of the way your comment does.

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      Comment by theotheri — July 24, 2022 @ 6:27 pm | Reply


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