Thursday, August 17, 2006

Habits of a Lifetime

We all know people that have saved and watched their money for their whole lives in very disciplined ways. They frequently do this so that they will have security in their old age. For some unfortunately, they can't break the habit and aren't able to enjoy the fruits of their discipline. Saving becomes the end as well as the means and they aren't able to spend or enjoy the money they have saved.

There are other lifetime habits, besides saving money, that are sometimes difficult to break. And occasionally maintaining these habits can do more harm than just not spending extra money.

My sister and I just returned from a few days with my mother. She still lives in the house we grew up in and she still takes good care of herself. But she is 92 going on 93 and just about everything is getting harder and harder for her to do.

She has been fiercely independent - and I don't use the word fiercely lightly. She rarely let anyone do anything for her for as long as I can remember. This attitude has stood her in good stead. Certainly since my father died she has had to rely on her own devices and has done it gladly and willingly.

Last February she had an operation - the operation was successful as was her recovery - you'd never know she had spent any time in the hospital. Since then we have organized help for her - someone to help clean the house, someone to help cook, someone to drive her to her appointments, the bank, hairdresser, the supermarket, etc. The support agencies have been terrific.

But here is where that fierce independence gets in the way. Instead of luxuriating in having her every wish catered to, she resists having anyone do anything for her. She refuses offers of help, she postpones shopping trips, etc.

We need to remember why we have developed these lifetime habits. We save money so we will have the security of being able to pay for whatever we may need as we age. But we also save money for the pleasure it can bring us in giving it away or spending it.

In the same way my mother needs to remember why she wanted and/or needed to be independent. She has earned the right to have her needs taken care of so that she can turn her attention to enjoying her long life.

It is unfortunate when we get so bound up in the process of our lifetime habits that we forget to harvest the rewards


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