Category Archives: Aging

We Choose Our Lives

Those of you who are parents have undoubtedly said to your pre-teen or teen, “You’ll remember these times as the best times of your life.” We worry that they want to grow up too fast, cutting short many childhood experiences, in quest for the more alluring adult activities. I was one of those kids; perhaps we all were. Eager to get out of high school and get a job, get out of the house, get on with life.

Well, the same holds true for today. Now that I’m “of an age” I’m in no hurry to get older, but am I taking advantage of who and where I am right now? Am I enjoying my life today to the degree that some day I’ll look back and say, “Man, those were some good times.”? Or am I too busy worrying about this and that and making appointments and meeting deadlines and paying the bills to stop and think: “I’ll never be a human again. I’ll never be in this type of material body with its strengths and its difficulties. I’ll never live on such a magnificently beautiful planet like this again. I better literally stop and smell the flowers.” It’s true that I don’t know what lies on the other side of the veil any more than anybody else, but I have my idea about that, just as you have your idea about it. My point is, from every place I find myself in the future–whether it’s next week or a thousand years in the future–I want to be able to look back and say, “I took advantage of everything that was offered to me back then.”

We’ve also probably counseled our children not to burn bridges or close doors on our options, because they don’t know what the future holds. The same holds true for us. We don’t know what doors we’re closing on our future when we act irresponsibly.

There are long ugly stretches of my history that I would just as soon forget, but those are long behind me and that is not the way I choose to live today, or tomorrow, or for the rest of my days. I want to be conscious, aware, engaged, happy with who I am and what I’m doing. I want to be able to look back and know that I was present, not pining for what was, nor spending my days daydreaming about what could be in the future. There’s value in some of that, certainly, but I believe that we will some day have the benefit of perspective on our lives that we currently have on our childrens’ lives.

We’re only here once. Let’s do good works, be kind to one another, and be proud of who we are today.

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Filed under Aging, Death, dreams, Dying, Fun, Goodness, Possibilities, regrets, relationships, Social Consciousness, Spirituality, time, years

Those Waves of Grief

It’s been two years since my mother passed away, and every now and then I am blindsided by onrushing waves of grief that are so intense and severe that they verge on disabling. They don’t last very long, because I refuse to dwell in the guilt that always accompanies grief, but when they happen, they always surprise me.

My mother and I were good when she died. We had a stormy relationship from the very beginning, but by the time she breathed her last, we were good.

Last week I realized that the waves of grief stem from personal reflection and memories of things I wish I could apologize for. I’d like to just call her up and say, “Mom, I’m so sorry I was such a little shit.” But I can’t. She’s gone. And I have to live with the fact that there are years of amends I can no longer make to her. She never demanded or even asked for any kind of apology. She loved me with a parent’s unconditional love and affection, rewriting history in her mind as she grew older until we were all perfect children in her memory.

I have only to trust that I’ll see her again, and if those things are still important in that place where we’ll meet, I’ll have the opportunity to make it all good then.

In the meantime, these waves of grief and guilt are testimony not only to my enduring love for her, but my personal spiritual growth that allows me to reflect and realize these things. Wherever she is, I know she understands.

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Filed under Aging, Death, family, regrets, relationships, Spirituality

Let’s Talk About Dying

No, really. Let’s talk about it. Let’s everybody talk about it.

We’re all going to die sometime, and while I’m not advocating hastening anybody’s death, I think death should be met with as much grace and anticipation as birth, puberty, or any other naturally-occurring event in our lives.

I participate on internet forums where people are spending their families into bankruptcy, making themselves sick beyond comprehension, all in a futile effort to stave off the inevitable. I can understand that when the sick person is a youngster, or a young person with children, but when the victim is elderly, has led a long and fruitful life, why not go gracefully to the other side? Instead of encouraging them to cling tenaciously to the physical body, we should be holding graduation ceremonies for that person and celebrating their contribution to the world.

I don’t get it. I really don’t. Except, perhaps, we don’t talk about it enough. My family knows (at least I think they do, I hope they do, I will make sure they do) my wishes about how easily I intend to slip beyond the veil to the other side. I can’t imagine that there is anything to fear there. We’re all going to go there, so why would anybody want to be dragged kicking and screaming, making it an unhappy, miserable event for everybody?

I hear people who have incurable, terminal cancer say: “I’m going to fight this with every ounce of energy left in my body, to my last breath.” And I say: Why? Does the God of your understanding have something horrible in store for you? I doubt it.

I ask you to think carefully about this topic and bring it up around your dinner table. Make certain that you understand how your loved ones feel about their deaths, encourage them to put those feelings in writing so there is no mistake about it, and make some arrangements for yourself while you’re at it. There’s no question that the death of a loved one or family member is an emotional time, and illness is a very stressful time. So that is not the time for these decisions to be made; that is not the time for these discussions to take place.

Watch this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyHLxPlQ_To

Get your mind right and get your earthly affairs in order. Then, when the time comes (and we never know when that will be), things will be easier on everybody.

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Filed under Aging, Death, Dying, Social Consciousness, Spirituality

Investing in friendships

I just got home from a long weekend trip to visit friends I don’t often get to see. We had a great time. I enjoyed the break from my work/school routine, the Oregon winter, and got to see sun, thrilling desert and important people.

On the complicated and frustrating way home (travel can be such a pain in the ass), I realized that investing in friends and family is the most rewarding effort possible. Spending time with each other, even if it’s just watching television side by side, lets our spirits commune. A cup of coffee (or ice water, as the case may be) for an hour at the kitchen breakfast bar is more important than a thousand emails.  I mean I know this. I’ve always known this.

But this trip, for some reason, turned my head around. None of us is getting any younger, and some time I’ll go to Arizona and find that I have one fewer friend to visit. That will be a sincerely bad day. But it will be much less horrible because of the trip I just had–the time I just invested–in wonderful friendships.

So I say this: If there’s someone you want to visit, get on with it. Time’s wasting. Your relationship is languishing. Forget the stock market and invest yourself in the most important, lasting, reality in the universe.

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Filed under Aging, connections, family, Friends, girlfriends, Personalities, Possibilities, relationships, Spirituality, time, Travel

What a summer

I’ve been a practicum student at Serenity Lane this summer, a drug and alcohol treatment facility in town, working with the chaplain as she ministers to the spirits of the patients. What an education that has been! Yikes. I see myself in so many of them — their eyes, their stories, their fears, their shame. I identify and empathize, and yet I know the other side of that misery as well. If only they will stick with it, if only they could glimpse what I know to be true about a clean and sober life…

If only that insecure but talented writer could keep the faith and keep putting the butt in the chair and keep pumping out the words. If only they could glimpse what I know about successes as a writer…

If only that young married couple could stick it out, reach deep and find the reasons they were attracted to each other in the beginning, and rekindle that respect for each other. If only they could glimpse what I know about the sublime pleasure in a long satisfying marriage…

These are the pleasures of age.

I am one of the extraordinarily fortunate ones, and I am grateful every second of every minute. The question now is how to share the knowledge in a meaningful way. Other than walking the talk–which I try to do, and accomplish with varying levels of success–that is the current quest.

But more will be revealed, if I suit up and show up, and that’s what I’m doing.

What a summer.

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Filed under Aging, family, Joy, Marriage, Spirituality, Summer, Writing, years

Heart trouble

My mom’s in the hospital.

She had a heart attack on Saturday night, and today she took a turn for the worse. Looks like a stroke. Might not be; might be an adverse reaction to some medication. But it ain’t pretty.

I always assumed she would die in her sleep. I always assumed I’d get a call and someone would tell me that she passed away some time during the night. I never thought I would see her like this.

I don’t know if she will die because of this incident, but she will never be the same, and she won’t be returning to her usual independent lifestyle.

But right now, where all signs point toward a stroke, to see her lying in bed, pale, comotose and unresponsive, babbling, muttering and moaning, is difficult indeed. Worse yet, when she was admitted on Saturday night she was lucid, and her clear orders were to start her heart again if it stopped, and put her on a ventilator if she quit breathing. That order stands, despite the fact that I have power of attorney for health care.

We’ll know in the morning if this is a stroke, and then we, with the doctor’s assent, will modify that order to a Do Not Resucitate. And then maybe she’ll just go to sleep and silently pass away.

Meantime, the thing that frightens me the most is that her heart will stop, and they will shock her with paddles and beat on her frail little chest and put breathing tubes down her throat, when at 86, they ought to just let her slip away. This is the scenario that hurts my heart the most.

She’s in such a pickle because she has not been to a doctor in years. She is suffering from untreated diabetes, untreated hyperthyroidism, untreated kidney disease, and untreated heart disease. She hates doctors and despite recurrent chest pain, would not see a doctor. And then on Saturday night, when the chips were down, she faced up the finality of her actions, got scared and said: “Save me.”

Well, she’s 86 and has had a good life. She has been a good mom, a good wife, a good grandma, and a good great-grandma. 

She deserves a good death, and I hope she gets one. 

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Filed under Aging, family

Pain

Man, this getting-older stuff is not for sissies.

I email daily with a friend and the other day I wrote “I have a new pain…” and it was true. Still is true. She, a little older than I, completely understood what I was saying. We’re not used to pain, but eventually we become accustomed to the little ones, and when a new one shows up, it’s noteworthy. I’m still about 36 in my head, although my body is older, and when my body squeaks, it always surprises me.

But it won’t slow me down, not for long, anyway. I have too much fun stuff on my plate. I suppose that this latest pain is telling me to go for longer, more frequent walks, and I’ll do that, especially since my dog has been telling me the same thing. And that will be good for both of us.

So I guess that’s the message: we listen to our pains and learn what they have to tell us. This is especially true for emotional pain, maybe even moreso than the pain between my shoulder blades. I suppose the day will come when pain fails to teach us and instead merely terrorizes us, but until that day, I’ll listen, try to learn, and try to accommodate or at least compromise.

My compromise with this new visitor (a temporary guest, I hope) has been a chiropractor’s appointment, a pillow behind my back in my desk chair, some good stretching exercises and a doctor’s appointment next week. Oh, and those longer walks with the dog. That’s about as far as I’m willing to go with this one. 

I hope it’s listening.

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Filed under Aging, years