Thursday, October 04, 2007

Maggie Walters

As a member of the "sandwich" generation, late bloomer Maggie Walters has cared for a seriously ill daughter (who has since recovered beyond anyone's expectations) and an elderly parent.

In her new book Finding the Bloom of the Cactus Generation: Improving the Quality of Life for Seniors, Maggie tells her own true, heartfelt story of working with the elderly in long-term care facilities.

Before I left for Australia, I asked Maggie to do a guest-post describing her journey of self-discovery. Here's what she she sent me:

The main objective of my upbringing, although I tried to ignore it, was to marry a successful man and be able to carry on a coherent conversation with his clients and associates. That was the era. My mother was not a great joiner of groups, so the idea of philanthropic work didn’t even come up. For years I existed as a shadow of my husband, rearing our children and working to help him fulfill himself and his career. Eventually the relationship deteriorated into an alcoholic nightmare (his alcoholism, my nightmare). I escaped with the children, suddenly forced to act for myself. Acting is a good word for the process of re-inventing myself. I had no idea who I was looking for or what I might find. The driving force was my daughters, both bright but one suffering from a life-threatening illness.

Since the new ‘me,’ I have experienced a lot of firsts: first massage, first trip to Asia, first time scuba diving, first time sky diving (almost), first marathon (I finished all 26.2 miles), first Buddhist retreat, first published book, first nursing home (for my mom), the list goes on.

Speaking of my mother, she became the classic burden that all children fear. As an only child, I was in the firing line. I was ill equipped and didn’t know what to do with her except off-load her on someone else. I visited and moved her closer to me, but was appalled at the condition and deterioration of old age. Support during this time of life has become my mission.

My new persona has emerged from these situations. I continue to emerge and I am loving it. I’m on a roll. One project leads to another. Although I had to be pushed, screaming and kicking, into this role, I find a strange sense of peace in spite of being frantically busy. I am actually doing meaningful things and helping others as a result.

I am finding new forms of communication and connection with the universe, the earth and its inhabitants. I listen more and talk less. It all leads to more questions, and the more I find out the less I know.

I wonder: Am I trying to make up for lost time? Do I have to rush around and do lots of things before I become old and decrepit? Am I going to become old and decrepit? One question led to another and finally I realized that there is no way of knowing the answers. I can put my intentions out there, fully expecting them to be fulfilled, but most satisfying of all is to live in the moment--not in the past, not in the future. It takes practice, for me at least. I am a work in progress.

Note: For more information about Maggie and her book, visit Maggie's website at

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