As kids my grandfather gave us an old riding lawn mower. He had taken the blade off, so for us, it was simply a slow moving go-cart of sorts. Well, as kids would, we wanted it to go faster and attempted a variety of creative ways to make this happen. My uncle, who was just enough older than us was particularly helpful, although sometimes his idea of “fun” pushed my instinctual boundaries for safety.
One day, we decided it might be a good idea to direct the make-shift go-cart down a path into the nearby canyon. As I sat on the seat, still determining if this was a “smart” choice, my uncle was pushing me relentlessly from behind and yelling, “go! go! go!”
As I held one foot squarely on the brake and one foot on the gas, my heart knew it was going to be a blast. The problem was that my mind was not necessarily in agreement. That voice was saying, “No, don’t do it! Are you crazy?”
Have you ever met someone in this situation? They have one foot on the brake and one on the gas. They presumably want to take action toward something that seems like a good idea, but something is holding them back? I know lots of these people and actually, I am one of them from time to time too!
The people in this situation I come across – most often in my work – are people who are finding their aging bodies are not cooperating with their youthful minds. Despite their otherwise youthful self-image, all evidence of their youth is literally falling down around them. Maybe they have had a recent joint replacement or heart procedure, or they are suffering from the long-term effects of an irreversible disease or condition. Of course, then there is the issue of energy, ability, and desire — sometimes things just seem harder than they used to.
In this situation, people are often thinking about moving into a retirement community. Now keep in mind that more often than not, in this scenario anyway, they have typically been encouraged by others to entertain this thought. Loving and concerned friends, family, or neighbors have planted the seed insisting they should at least look at their options.
Overcoming the Urge to Break
Like me and my lawn-mower go-cart, some part of them begins to think this would be a good idea, while the other part of them is insisting, “No way…keep your foot on the brake…this is crazy!”
This indecision can go on for years in some cases. And we all know that indecision causes stress, illness, and emotional upheaval, right? So, why? Why do people have such a hard time making this decision of whether to stay or move?
My observation is that people are caught between two realities. One reality is the one they have created in their own mind about staying, while the other reality is the one created about moving elsewhere. The truth? Well, it most certainly lies somewhere in the middle. In fact, it probably won’t resemble any of the perceived realities created.
Pushing doesn’t help.
I can promise you that when my uncle was pushing my cart toward the canyon while I had my foot planted firmly on the brake, I was going to win the battle at all costs. There was absolutely no possibility of his getting me down into that canyon if I didn’t want to go!
The same is true of those people we love and for whom we want the best when they are pushed to make a move they have not yet decided is in their best interests. In fact, pushing only creates push-back and longterm push-back ultimately leads to resentment.
I have seen it happen on many occasions whereby a person moves to a retirement community because they felt such great pressure from their well-meaning children. The animosity this creates causes a huge chasm, ultimately destroying an otherwise loving or at least civil relationship. Even when the ultimate outcome of the move turns out to be positive, the latent resentment often remains.
We all want to be the captain of our own ship.
Yes, I changed metaphors here, but you get the idea. No one wants to be pushed and we all want to believe that we can set our sail and go the direction we choose in life. It’s just part of our DNA and this does not change with age alone.
I have two points I am trying to make here, so I’ll just cut to the chase.
Point #1 for people feeling pushed:
When you are feeling pushed, say so! Speak up. Interrupt the normal flow of conversation and interaction and simply inform your pushers that you are feeling a pressure to decide and that it is uncomfortable. Tell them you would like to understand their reasons for pushing you and listen with curiosity to what they have to say. Hear them out! Then, share your reasons for riding the brakes. Be clear with them about what your fears, concerns, and questions are so they understand your position as well.
Let’s be clear — this is not about justification of your decision (or indecision), it’s simply about getting on the same page about your decision-making process. By doing so, you are illustrating that your reluctance to move forward with a decision is well-formulated and that you are clear about what needs to occur for you to make a choice. Otherwise, your pushers will think you are simply “stubborn,” or not thinking clearly.
Point #2 is for people doing the pushing:
You already know this, but here it is…Pushing only creates push-back! You may win the battle eventually, but no matter how great the ride (or how right you are), the relationship will ultimately suffer.
You won’t like statement much, but the reality for you is that while you may think you are doing what is best for the other person, you are actually pushing out of a place of selfishness. You may trying to avoid ultimate guilt associated with your perceived future picture of a negative event (i.e. fall, etc.), or you may be trying to ease the burden of caregiving being placed on you due to your loved one’s current level of need (or perceived future need).
Again, to be clear. Your overall intentions are likely good and benevolent. You too are caught between a rock and a hard place. If something doesn’t change, you might be seen as neglectful or uncaring by onlookers, but if you push them into a move, you may be forever know as the devil. It’s sometimes a no-win situation to be sure.
Ultimately, your decision is about whether you can live with the consequences of letting your parent or loved one choose their own fate. Similarly, deciding whether you can deal with the possible negativity caused by pushing until they break.
The good news is that once you stop pushing, they will likely make a decision on their own that aligns more fully with yours than you might have thought. Funny how that works.
Oh, you may be wondering if I ever made my trip down the canyon!
After the initial shock as I removed my foot from the brake, I headed down the path. It didn’t take long to realize that the depth of the grass and sand restricted the ability of the cart to pick up steam. All of the possible fear-ridden scenarios I had created in my mind as we prepared for the journey were for not. I eventually made it to the bottom and we deemed the trip a success.
Recommended reading: If you read this article and identify with either of the parties involved (a.k.a. a pusher or a pushee), you will want to pick up a great little book by David Solie titled, “How to Say it to Seniors: Closing the communication gap with our elders.”
It is very insightful as to why we have such challenges communicating with our adult children and/or aging parents. Additionally, Solie offers a number of talking points for starting conversations about difficult aging related subject matter.
Would you like more guidance related to preparing for a late-in-life move to a retirement community in OKC or elsewhere in Oklahoma?
Call us at 405.708.7010 and let’s chat!