Old Age is not for Sissies

That saying is old and trite, but true. When I was younger I thought old people were funny. I sympathized with their various issues, mostly difficulty in getting around and moaning when they arose from a chair. Little did I realize that was just the tip of the generational iceberg.

When I was a child and a teen, a year seemed like a long time and my energy seemed inexhaustible. When I entered high school, graduation, a mere four years hence, was barely conceivable.

It seems like only yesterday I celebrated my 55th birthday and said farewell to my office job and hello to a new chapter in my life. Even so, I’ve arrived at the point where I’m trying to decide how to celebrate my 72nd birthday. Napping? Getting dressed ad doing something fun with my daughters? Definitely, something fun. I’m not that old yet.

Did I say something about inexhaustible energy? Now I have inexhaustible exhaustion. And, that is just the beginning. Those chili dinners I used to enjoy? Hah! Well, maybe a small bowl – if I stock up on Maalox. Hike all day with one short bathroom break? How about walking a block with five bathroom breaks? Late to bed and early to rise, jump in the shower and head to work? Let’s make that early to bed – late to rise, still in my pajamas, leisurely sipping coffee while reading the newspaper.

All that time in front of the mirror to be sure my hair and make-up are impeccable? Remember those fashionable hair-dos, pillbox hats and little wool or linen suits with matching pumps that were popular in the 60s when we all tried to look like Jackie Kennedy? They’ve been replaced. My once steady hand now applies mascara with a paint brush. I can’t hit the target with anything smaller. Pillbox hates, suits and pumps? Hah! Jeans and a t-shirt are the uniform of the day, completed by a baseball cap and a dirty pair of New Balance walking shoes. That is, if I decide to get dressed.

Then there was yard work, mow the grass, rake the cuttings, weed the flower beds and trim the shrubs. How I step outside and notice a dandelion. Isn’t that bright yellow pretty against the tall, green grass? I say that bending and lifting are best left to younger folks. When I had a family to feel I cooked well-balanced, nutritious, delicious meals. Now there is no one else to feed, so a complete meal consists of eggs and hash browns with a few carrot sticks. And, if that is too much work, a peanut butter-spinach wrap works just as well.

I used to put on a pretty nightgown and brush my hair before retiring for the evening with the love of my life. Now, I jump in bed and cuddle up to my c-pap machine and a good book. There’s a lot to be said for drifting off to a story of someone else’s adventures.

When younger I would go to bed worried about what might happen and how I would cope with the latest emergency. Now, I go to bed and feel grateful that most of my body parts still work in a reasonable facsimile of the way they were designed. Perfection is for young people. Gratitude for a life (mostly) well-lived is for those of us who have been around the block a few times.
Sharon Dillon, January 23, 2018

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The gift of 70

Thoughts to Ponder – February 22, 2016

 “The hardest years in life are those between 10 and 70.”

Helen Hayes*

That is, indeed, good news, something I needed to hear on dark, cold February morning. A few days ago I turned 70, the culmination of a 69 year roller coaster ride. The past several weeks have been a period of reflection, looking at good times and bad and realizing that they were all just experiences that made me who I am today.

While birthdays brought just a continuation of the year before, decades were a little different. For instance, on my 20th birthday I was married, expecting a baby and looking forward to turning 21 so I could vote. By the time my 40th came along my children had all left home. I was single and starting to think about attending college. Then one day I was 60 and life had changed dramatically. I was retired, but still working and living near my daughters, their husbands and almost adult grandchildren.

Now, at 70 a new chapter is beginning. I’m not sure what that means. I’m still working, enjoying play dates with four great-grandsons and still hoping to write the great American novel. While my current job cushions the limitations of Social Security, more importantly it provides valuable social interaction and is FUN.

When I was younger a job was where I survived eight hours a day to feed the children and later myself. Age brings knowledge that I was the source of most of that discontent. I was much too concerned with what others thought of me. What I thought they thought of me is a more accurate statement.

Another thing I’ve learned is that I now have something important to say and I’m saying it in these occasional blogs. I’ve also learned there are times and places to keep my thoughts to myself. I allow my daughters to take care of me in little ways. They go to doctor appointments with me to take notes and ask questions that I forget. They advise me about this and that and check to be sure my refrigerator is full. Rather than considering that nosiness, I look at it as caring that I’m eating properly.

Who knows what this decade will bring? From this view point I see many more play dates with the great-grandchildren, continuing to work at a fun job and riding my bicycle around the neighborhood. I don’t have the strength and energy I used to have and I miss them. But their lack has been replaced by a life view that is a little more patient with my shortcomings – and those of others. What other people do is not so important anymore.

How I spend my days is much more important. Did I do something fun today? Did I feel grateful? Did I think kind thoughts of someone? Did I eat something just because it tastes good? Did I take a nap because I wanted to? Did I do something useful?

Spirit,

Thank you for seventy years of learning and more years to enjoy what I’ve learned. Thank you for being patient while I struggled to learn what is important. Thank you for a future to practice what has taken me so long to learn.

And, so it is.

*Hayes, Helen, from Treasury of Women’s Quotations by Carolyn Warner, Prentiss Hall

© by Sharon D. Dillon, February 22, 2016

Sharon D. Dillon, energywriter@cox.net, http://energywriter.me “Laugh your way to peace, love and joy”

Chesapeake Bay Writers, Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop, Southern Humorists, National Society of Newspaper Columnists

Author of “Twins! Oh no!,” one of 14 stories in The Book of Mom: Reflections of Motherhood with Love, Hope and Faith, published by booksyoucantrust.com. Available in print and e-format at Amazon.com.

Thoughts to Ponder – May 5, 2015, Pain and joy

 “Emotional discomfort, when accepted, rises, crests,
and falls in a series of waves. Each wave washes parts
of us away and deposits treasures we never imagined.
No one would call it easy, but the rhythm of emotional
pain that we learn to tolerate is natural, constructive,
and expansive. It’s different from the sting of decay;
the pain leaves you healthier than it found you.”
Martha Beck*

This quote came at the perfect time.

This afternoon I received my Alverno College alumnae magazine. As those publications do, it highlighted outstanding alumnae and their achievements. I’m extremely proud that I graduated from this top-ranked college in only five years at the age of 47 while working full-time. That schedule precluded participating in student events and making close friends, a part of the “normal” college experience. However, my BA degree allowed me to earn promotions that previously would have been out of my reach. Yet reading the magazine, I wondered if they are proud of me. A profound sadness fell over me as I thought they would not be.

A series of life choices led me to attend Alverno at that particular time in my life. I married shortly out of high school, basically to leave home and my hometown. We had some fun, some tough times and three wonderful children. Yet, over the years I determined that this was not what I wanted from life and left the marriage, taking the children with me.

Life as a single mother was hard – and rewarding. Other experiences led me down a path that was often enjoyable, but sometimes miserable. At one point after college, I was working three part-time jobs. All were interesting and great learning experiences, but not where I anticipated I’d be after college.

Then came the day when all my children and sons-in-law were out of the military and had settled lives. I decided to retire at 55 and move to Virginia so I could get to know my adult daughters, their husbands and children while they were still young. This was the best decision of my life. We became friends and I adore my four great-grandsons. If I had waited until 65 to retire, all these loving family members would be strangers. There are times when I think I’m more of a burden than a contributor, but that is my impression to correct.

Since I moved here I’ve had some exciting jobs and some depressing jobs. My jobs now are excellent for retired people, not for career building. At this point in my life I do not want to build a career, I want to experience peace, love and joy and meet interesting people along the way. I have met some dear friends and teachers. I wish we could be closer friends. Whose fault is that? Definitely mine, because I hesitate to reach out to them. Instead I sit at home and wish they would call me.

All this is a long way to say that I’ve experienced every word of Martha Beck’s quote. I know that all she said is true. As I look back on my various experiences I can see the highs, lows, pains and the lessons they presented. Every experience taught me something I needed to learn.

Today’s lesson was to accept all my experiences, even those that seemed to be terrible mistakes. I must accept myself where I am today. It is never too late to begin a new phase, a new adventure. I ask you to hold me to that knowledge and not let me waste my time fretting and moaning.

And, so it is.

© by Sharon D. Dillon, May 5, 2015

*Daily Inspiration, May 5, 2015, from “The Willingness Factor: Learn to Avoid Avoidance” by Martha Beck, Inc.

Sharon D. Dillon, energywriter@cox.net, http://energywriter.me “Laugh your way to peace, love and joy”

Chesapeake Bay Writers, Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop, Southern Humorists, National Society of Newspaper Columnists

Author of one of 14 stories in The Book of Mom: Reflections of Motherhood with Love, Hope and Faith, published by booksyoucantrust.com. Available in print and e-format at Amazon.com