Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Just Another Candle

"Age is a case of mind over matter.  If you don't mind, it doesn't matter."
~ Satchel Paige 

I recently turned 76, and, somewhat surprisingly, the number took my breath away.  It's not that I didn't know it was coming.  I usually look forward to celebrating my birthday for an entire week. I'd been saying for some time that  I was going to be 76.  Yet, when the day came and I said the words, "I'm 76", it suddenly struck me that I'm on the downward slope to 80.  And however, you look at it, 80 is old.

Most of the time I don't feel old.  I don't think of myself as old, unless, until -
  • I know all the words to songs younger folks have never heard of.  Happens all too frequently on The Voice.
  • I catch a glimpse of myself in a store window and wonder who that woman is.
  • Or look unexpectedly in the mirror and see my mother staring back at me.
  • I have to struggle to get up if my butt is lower than my knees.
  • I walk into a room and can't remember why I went there.
  • I see a celebrity from my youth and am shocked at how old they look.
  • I can recognize all the gadgets and appliances on a quiz about golden oldies - skate keys, ice boxes, party lines, even mimeograph machines.
  • I hear myself saying I could be someone's grandmother.
  • I notice that none of the heels in my closet are over 1" high and I dress for comfort rather than style.
  • I refer to someone in their 50's as young.
  • I have to say I'm 1/2 inch shorter on my new driver's license. (At this rate, I'll need a car seat if I make it to 90 and am still driving!
  • The news arrives that the last of my Dad's siblings has died.
  • I watch a contemporary decline.
For the most part, however, I don't mind.  After the initial shock a few days ago, I did celebrate.  All week.  I celebrate that I take no meds.  I can do much of what I did 20 years ago, though I must confess it takes longer.  I love to learn and strive to learn something new every day, deriving more from what I read than I ever did.  I am overcoming my fear of this technology, even have a FB page.  I enjoy people of all ages and particularly enjoy conversations with young people.  Though I may cry more easily, I also laugh more easily.   Though I get angry and fearful, I don't reside there as long as I did when I was young. Though John is ill, we have great medical care.  And we continue to fight the good fight together.  Not bad for 76, if I do say so.

So,I agree with Satchel.  Age is a case of mind over matter.  If you don't mind, it doesn't matter.  The secret is to continue to not mind.  It is after all, just another candle.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Breathing Space

"My desire to be informed is currently in conflict with my desire to not have my head explode or spend all day sobbing in the fetal position."
~  Christine Organ

While I haven't spent a day sobbing in the fetal position, I have been fighting a bug all week - a sure sign that I have been spending  too much time on Facebook, and too much time listening to what is loosely called news these days.  Too much time distressed by the steady stream of innuendos and accusations, and checking to sort the truth from the distortions and outright lies.  Too much time blocking the steady stream of anger and venom spewed from supporters and dissenters alike.   Too much time appalled by the cursing, name-calling, and personal attacks from all quarters. Too much time struggling to maintain some sense of hope that our system of checks and balances with be sufficient to curtail an agenda and its proponents that I find disheartening, to say the least.  Too much time fending off my fear that it may not be.  And that I will be left alone in a world I do not like.

However, if I've learned anything about illness these past few years, it's that it is a great opportunity to reassess and renew.  So, after a brief period of chastising myself for not putting tighter boundaries around this circus, and feeling just a bit sorry for myself, I stepped back and reassessed and renewed.  I watched only mysteries and ice skating on TV (and Family Feud with John), ate my favorite comfort foods, stayed in my nightgown and robe all day, and napped whenever I felt like it.  After all, I am retired.  Finished three novels, reviewed last year's journals and found my way back to a couple hobbies.  Had a few telephone conversations with old friends,  catching myself when we strayed too long into politics.  Even managed to catch up on laundry and create another donation for Catholic Charities.  I did check Facebook daily,  still responded to surveys, added my name to a few petitions, even made a couple calls to my elected representatives.  But I timed myself and put tight boundaries around what I read and what I responded to. 

In the process, I discovered, well, rediscovered that it isn't an either/or choice between staying informed or staying healthy.  It is a matter of choosing how to stay informed so that I can remain healthy, not only physically, but emotionally and mentally. It requires, for me at least, choosing carefully where, when, and how I get accurate information.  It requires boundaries around how much time I spend doing so, and to which voices I listen. It requires that I focus on my priorities - John's health and my health.  It requires periods of rest and recreation, breathing space.

This morning, finally feeling better physically, intent on finishing this post, I checked my e-mail and found a message from a special friend - that friend who though miles away seems to sense just what to say when I most need it.  She shared some words of wisdom from Michael Moore that put my thinking of this past week into crystal clear perspective. 

"This morning I have been pondering a nearly forgotten lesson I learned in high school music. Sometimes in band or choir, music requires players or singers to hold a note longer than they actually can hold a note. In those cases, we were taught to mindfully stagger when we took a breath so the sound appeared uninterrupted. Everyone got to breathe, and the music stayed strong and vibrant. Yesterday, I read an article that suggested the administration's litany of bad executive orders (more expected on LGBTQ next week) is a way of giving us "protest fatigue" - we will literally lose our will to continue the fight in the face of the onslaught of negative action. Let's remember MUSIC. Take a breath. The rest of the chorus will sing. The rest of the band will play. Rejoin so others can breathe. Together, we can sustain a very long, beautiful song for a very, very long time. You don’t have to do it all, but you must add your voice to the song. With special love to all the musicians and music teachers in my life."

Although this is a decidedly political statement, it speaks to me in other ways, for the challenges John and I face together.  I need to remember take a breath now and then.  To let the wonderful chorus around me sustain the note.  It may take awhile, but I will rejoin them when I can.

PS.  A special thanks to everyone who reminded me on my 76th birthday yesterday of just how wonderful my chorus is.  You made my day!!