I used to have this fantasy that the summer months should be a time of fun, relaxation, and not thinking about anything too serious. I suppose I could work on maintaining that illusion, but the passage of time and life events often prevent that from happening. For one thing, my birthday is smack in the middle of the summer. Since my birthdays are often a time for reflection (as they are for many people) I am sometimes prone to having some sober thoughts even in July and August.
As always, I struggle with how much to say about what is happening in my life. I don’t want to write about stuff that will be a downer, but I need to face reality and writing it down is usually a positive thing for me to do. So, here it is. What is on my mind right now is getting older. Maybe my words will not only help me get through a somewhat sad feeling, but also help those of you who have had similar experiences and feelings.
I have shared with you already that this past winter was hard for me. The first thing was the loss of two wonderful people of my generation whom I loved deeply. Their illnesses and deaths were dizzily abrupt – too swift and unsettling to process and deal with at the time. I am working all of that through now. Of course, there is nothing really to work through except to allow the accumulated sadness to enter into my spirit and find a place to settle quietly where it doesn’t agitate my consciousness every day. In a way, this sadness feels good. I am acknowledging it, even welcoming it as a delayed, but necessary passage. I know it will dissipate gradually over a long time. I also know it will never quite go away and that is OK because it is one of the ways for me to remember the people I lost.
The second thing that happened was that I had some health issues. None of these problems were life-threatening or even chronic. I am extremely grateful for that. Yet, I had a spate of episodes in rapid succession that each caused me a lot of pain and which left me incapacitated for what fortunately turned out to be relatively short periods. I am mostly better now, but I’m still having some residual aches from time to time. Just as that sadness of loss will never disappear and continue to be a reminder, maybe it is reasonable to have an ache now and then. It offers a different set of reminders. One, it tells me that I am vulnerable (I have mentioned this before) and that I can no longer be smug about how healthy I am. Basically, I am well and strong, but I have had a tendency to put my healthiness out there without being sensitive enough to people who may not be as fit as I have had the luck to be.
In addition, these health issues have confronted me very bluntly by saying that I am getting older, something that I have wanted to ignore. Intellectually, I know I am getting older. After all, that is what I write about. But I hadn’t allowed that reality to slip into my psyche. It has been easy to disregard the fact that I am marching in quicker and quicker time towards being among the “older” old. I still have a number of years to go before I will become one of the “oldest” old. But, now more than ever before, I can see that ahead of me.
For the first time, I am wondering how I am going to handle the future. This is clearly because of the losses and my own slight decline in health. Of course, I will still keep doing what I am doing now – keeping my mind and body active, being with and loving my family and friends, and working for the good of my community. I can’t think of anything else to do. I don’t think that doing these things will keep me young – that would be a delusionary fabrication. I realize that it is more important – actually essential that I think of these things as a way to keep me vibrant and productive even as I get to be older and older.
I will continue to age and I worry about the potential for losing more people I care about. I don’t want to contemplate having more health and well-being problems. Yet, both of these are things over which I have almost no control. So, I guess my job going forward is to do what I am doing in these current circumstances: experience a multiplicity of events both unhappy and happy, acknowledge them, bring them into my being, incorporate them into my array of experiences, learn from them, and keep going. I must expect to have a lot of good things in my life and revel in them. But, more unhappiness is also likely and I am being prepared each day by the passage of time.