Growing older

in #life5 years ago


Misty morning
Bare branches silhouette lace
Against gray sky

Flash of color
Autumn bright leaves
Cling in the winter cold

This poem was inspired by the trees in the photo above, and my surprise to see bright foliage amidst the bare trees of a January day as I walked to my office. It caused me to think about my own life, as I hurtle through the second half of my 50s. My winter is fast approaching.

My work with elders as a clinical social worker brings me face-to-face with possible futures. Some of the people I meet have physical disabilities; loss of sight, mobility, or hearing, and the subsequent inability to engage in activities they have enjoyed, that have given them a sense of satisfaction or worth. Some have cognitive impairment, perhaps short-term memory issues, confusion, or even full-blown dementia. Others lack social support; friends have died, family is estranged or far away, possibilities for meeting peers have dwindled for a variety of reasons. Most have some aspects of all of these. The common thread is loss. The elders with whom I meet mourn the relationships, the abilities, the feeling of purpose and engagement and pleasure that enhance our lives. When losses add up enough, personhood is lost, as in the case of advanced dementia.

All of us, if we live long enough, will experience at least some of these losses. All of us. When I spied those colorful trees, they became a metaphor for me. What could I do to maintain my own, unique style, personhood, “color,” as I experience the losses of aging? Is that really important? Is it better to flow with the changes, to be stripped down to essence in preparation for transition of death? What can I control, if anything?

So I continue to do things I enjoy, to work, to maintain relationships, as long as I can. Enjoying meals with friends, walking, dogs, hiking, dancing are things I hope to enjoy as long as I possibly can. A good plan for me would be to cultivate activities that I could do even when, someday, I become unable to leave my home. Playing and listening to music, blogging, crafts, reading, talk and news radio are all things I love to do and should be able to continue to do for a long time. And now is a good time to try new things, flex mental and physical muscles. To bastardize a Buddhist saying, “Loss is inevitable; suffering is optional.” Perhaps.

“That ends this strange, eventful history, is second childishness and mere oblivion, sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.” - William Shakespeare.

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