Tag Archives: growing old

Miss Smartypants Bites The Dust

So for some reason I’ve been putting off writing this blog. I could plead fatigue. I could plead that my worries are so small in the face of all the disasters around us that I’m embarrassed to focus on me. But I realize most of it is avoidance and denial.

Our mother always said: Pride comes before a fall. This can be a crippling refrain if it plays constantly on your brain’s radio dial. But in the story I’m about to tell, it plays a big part. I let my ego take control and it all got out of hand.

I was so proud of myself at the beginning of May. Here was my mindset: Seventy-one years old and close to being in the best shape of my life!! Walking four to five miles a day, working out, doing yoga, eating well (well, mostly well), and in fantastic health. Working on my memoir, writing short stories, writing my blog! And I only needed 6 hours or less of sleep a night! Others around me might be aging, but not me!! I was like good wine. (Muscato fine vintage.)

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Then on May 25th, I got a sore throat. But because of allergies, I often get a sore throat and then it goes away. Or if I get a cold, I easily get over it. Positive thinking and meditation helped with that. I even wrote a funny blog about how sick I felt. But after a month, it wasn’t so funny. I made it to the important things like my grandson’s high school graduation, but I’d have to rest all day. My brain was a little fuzzy—I’d mean to say kitten but I’d say cotton. Even though I couldn’t manage to go to a manicure appointment (that should have told me how sick I was) I managed to finish a memoir piece about being sexually harassed when I taught school in the Sixties.

And I did start to get better. “I can tell I’m turning the corner,” I’d say to people when they asked if I’d gone to the doctor. “Look at Rachel Maddow. She had this thing too and it knocked her out of work for over a week.”

But then I started to get worse. I began to feel like a vintage wreck.

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“You’re still coughing?” my son said at the beginning of July when they returned from their trip to Thailand. “What did the doctor say?”

Well, unfortunately my doctor was away on a trip also. And it was a holiday weekend. I found out a month later that no one had really read the results of my chest X-ray to see the pneumonia and other issues. So I kept going like the little engine that could barely get up the hill. I thought I should be done with a cold so I started walking three miles. Yeah, not so smart.

After two months I went to Seattle. My daughter took one look at me and called her doctor. We went first thing the next morning: her doctor diagnosed walking pneumonia and I got on an antibiotic. It probably would have been better if she had said I had lying down pneumonia or stop what you’re doing pneumonia because I thought I could still walk around. Me, who thinks I’m so smart, just didn’t hear the message that I needed a lot of rest.

I guess my hearing is non-existent when I’m supposed to be listening to my body. I always push myself beyond my limits so was I going to quit now? No, not me. I went to Canada as planned and to the Bruno Mars concert. IMG_1719

 

I didn’t cancel plans with friends in Seattle though I was having trouble breathing, especially in the smoke filled air. I couldn’t really talk because it made me cough, but I went to a party and tried.

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I could go on and on, and I did. When we got back home, I finally shut down.

 

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So now we’re past the third month. I am better. I am. I’m trying to do less while keeping up with must get done. I prioritize better.

I’m not good at staying in bed. I get antsy. Fortunately, I’ve kept busy at home with little projects. Researching sponges was fun!

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Yes, I did become addicted to Facebook and the news.

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I found Facebook to be similar to leafing through magazines in the old days when you were sick. Oh, and shopping online!

I always try to learn from my experiences. This time I’ve learned that I’m an idiot. My husband is happy with that thought, and the fact that I’m no longer giving him advice on how he should follow doctor’s orders. The blind can’t tell others how to see.

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Okay, there’s more to this story, but I’m tired. I think I might listen to the doctor’s advice and go rest. He did go to medical school, after all.

 

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In Praise of Crying

There’s a lot of sadness in this world, my dad would say. I think I could write a book with that title—each chapter talking about a time when his words would resonate in my life. He started saying it when we were young and complaining about something trivial, but he continued saying it into his nineties. He said it so often that I hear it in my head all the time. My kids, grown up now, say it too.

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There IS a lot of sadness in this world. Sometimes my world becomes so sad that the weight of it fills the room—like when my brother-in-law got throat cancer and died. And we didn’t know whether to tell my mother-in-law—whether to disturb her dementia with truths. Whether to pull her out of the nursing home to take her to his funeral. You’d want to go to your son’s funeral, right? Or maybe wrong. That was a sad time, but you didn’t have time to dwell on it. You had to make decisions—you had to argue with siblings about what to do. That pushed the sadness away.

I don’t know why I am so sad this morning. Is it the world situation, which terrifies and saddens me? Is it that wonderful friends have been diagnosed with cancer and brain tumors? Is it because I’m now just beginning to process that we moved away from a place where I had twenty-five happy years? Is it that I have been looking through photos of my life with my granddaughter as she prepares to scan them into the computer? She is already twelve—no longer the three-year-old who loved to play Goldilocks on our front steps. Don’t get me wrong. She is a lovely girl, inside and out. I wouldn’t want it to be any other way, but how did it happen so quickly?

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And how have the years flown away since my own little family looked like this?

 

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Or is it just plain melancholy I’m feeling? In our society, we’re not allowed much space for sadness. In the nineteenth century, there were spots in gardens set aside for people to sit and examine their melancholy. It wasn’t seen as an illness. Now we say these people are depressed and we should find a cure for it; medicate in some form. I usually medicate by overdoing. I’m so busy that I don’t have time to think let alone cry. But this morning was different.

I took a walk along the lake, listening to an audio book. This kept the mind busy, giving me no time to think. Then I happened on some dead bushes. I idly wondered if they were victims of the drought. My attention was caught by the original tag on one of them, waving in the breeze. Someone had placed it on the plant when it was healthy and blooming. Now the withered plant was dead. The hopelessness of it hit me and I began to cry.

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I pulled myself together and kept walking. I didn’t start crying again until I was in the kitchen cleaning out the pantry cabinet, throwing out food that had passed its sell by date. One side of my mind told me to cut it out, eat my breakfast and get on with it. The other side told me to let go of my sadness—to let some of it, at least, seep out of me. It was when I was cutting up celery that I began to keen like some banshee. I put down the knife and leaned against the sink. I was alone in the house and could make as much noise as I wanted. It was only the dog I scared. He looked at me with alarm, then ran to get a toy to drop at my feet. I sat on the floor and hugged him. Normally I would have told him I was okay to reassure him, but not this time.

So why am I telling you this? I’m not sure why I’m revealing so much. I know that when I got up and started cleaning up the kitchen, I stood outside of myself, wondering what someone would think if they saw me: is that old lady batshit crazy? I wondered how many other women did as I was now doing—cried when no one else could hear. Maybe fifteen minutes later, I realized my tears weren’t feeding my depression—my sadness—. Instead they were easing it. I was doing something I should have been doing all along—crying out my grief, not trapping it inside to fester. The phrase, “It’s All Right to Cry”, that Rosie Greer sang on Sesame Street began to play in my head so I looked up the words. Here are some of them:

It’s all right to cry
Crying gets the sad out of you
It’s all right to cry
It might make you feel better

Raindrops from your eyes
Washing all the mad out of you
Raindrops from your eyes
It’s gonna make you feel better

With Robin Williams’ death, there has been much talk about depression. Maybe that’s why I’m sharing my experience. Because you know what? I feel a lot better. My chest doesn’t hurt and I can take a deep breath. Yeah, it’s all right to cry.