Choices to Make

My belief system about old age has contained one of the same truths since my Mom was placed in the locked Alzheimer’s unit six years ago. It feels as if you have to change on a dime more often than not in your last several decades. Either because your situation with health, money or living situation shifts, or those around you face changes you want to help support. Just when you think things are set for a bit, they suddenly are not, and the situation must face a reevaluation.

Research told my generation as we reached middle age, that strong skills in resilience would serve us well in surviving and thriving in life and that there are lots of ways to improve that skill. I agree, although it can be exhausting to be a resilient elder. Now I know, that not just the situation may need to be reevaluated, but your personal part of the whole picture too. YOU CAN ONLY DO SO MUCH. I write that to remind myself as much as the reader. While you are assisting others, your health, money or living situation may shift and there is not enough physical or emotional energy to deal with that effectively.

Making choices, from which new phone to buy, to what therapy to get for bone spurs have many of the same methods. Gather as much information from as many “experts” in the field, figure out what your priorities and value systems say to you and move ahead with out haste, but quickly enough so the whole situation has not shifted and your choices are more limited. There is that little quirk now that we have so many choices we can become overwhelmed–and that is not just us elders either.

If you have a large enough social circle and people you trust, you already know immediately whom to call or text or email or send up a flag for. If not, ask a medical professional or religious leader who knows your situation.

In my life, I have recently done all the due diligence and am leaving most of my teaching or volunteer projects behind for some serious hours learning to write a personal essay or letter to the editor that may impact an issue that interests me. Traveling to the last of the places on earth I hear calling to me is another decision, that requires more self-care in the short-term to get all of it done while my body can enjoy the trips too. As we know too well, don’t wait, do it now.

So, this will be my last blog for a time, with the hope that when I am traveling a new set of observations will need to be set down to share with anyone who wants or needs to read them. The discipline of a blog has helped me to learn focus and practice mindfulness and writing it may be a constant companion that will not go away.  It may be the ultimate self-care for me.

May you encounter more joy than sadness, less suffering than expected and spread kindness and compassion all of your days.

Joanna

November 4, 2017

 

 

 

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Ultimate List of Things to Do

One of the heavy books that follow me room to room and project to project is the amazing, thought-provoking and creativity boosting Life is a Verb by Patti Digh.

In thinking about a list of actions for people who are studying to be extraordinary elders my thoughts went to Patti who based this book on what she would do if she had 37 days to live. Her step father had been diagnosed with lung cancer and died 37 days later.

In anticipation of two classes in May I will be teaching at Denver Public Library branches the list that was inspired by the book will go up here in installments and class members at Ross Cherry Creek and Green Valley Ranch will have some homework after their attendance. Be mindful and pay attention to each item on the list. Some of the suggestions may take more than a day or less than an hour, but they are all designed to be done with intention.

31. Write the obit you would like to have written for you.

30. What do you have to do to live up to the praise in the obit that you haven’t done to your satisfaction?

29. Look at your life and see how much time, daily or weekly, is spent on fun? What is fun for you at this point of the aging process? Why aren’t you participating in your life?

28. Write three goals for the next 18 months of your life. Jot them down in an unused notebook and start thinking and researching how to achieve them….or at least come close.

27. If you don’t already, learn to use public transportation–this can even involve Uber.

26. If you have a special charity you wish to help, ask every person you know for $1. Young or old, rich or poor. Ask for help for a greater cause and it will help you learn to ask for help in general. (be sure and give the money to the charity)

25. Make a cup of tea, hot chocolate or coffee. Sip it slowly, smell the aroma, feel the steam and thank the universe for the beauty of a relaxing experience. Be grateful you have the ingredients for the cup of nourishment, and that you have the physical ability to complete the task.

24. After the hot drink, go save the world you slacker!!

23. Read The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.

22. If you are a book person, go through your books, collect 10 you can part with and give them to your local Denver Public Library branch . Donate and they can give you a tax receipt and you house will be less stuffed too.

 

More of these in a few days–let me know how you tackled the ultimate list.

With Joy,

Joanna

 

 

Strange and Spooky

The yearly tsunami of candy is over for the year. Candy and princess costumes and a holiday without much meaning is how it seems now to me. But, as a child and older, the masks and dark and unknown scared the breath out of me. So, imagine the children new to this country and the overwhelming visuals and sounds of their first Halloween.

Watching the refugee families that my friend group helps was like watching a National Geographic Special. Our primary family has been in the country for six months, the 7-year-old goes to school, they have shopped and had doctor appointments and gone to Mosque and been to see the mountains. But this strange holiday was scary and too full of “new” to process easily.

Put this on top of the layer of fear from being Muslim in a country that welcomed them a few months ago because they had been a help to the American troops in Afghanistan, but suddenly they hear that they could be deported.  Friends who watch television and follow the politics of  the season had enlightened them. We had asked the family numerous times to join us at one of our houses for a light supper and conversation. After the rounds of “hate speak” they had heard, the women wanted to make sure the husbands were with the family when they visited us. That means we needed to do a Saturday or an evening. Then we begged them to come for Halloween and the two oldest girls could learn to go door-to – door with us in a safe neighborhood where parents walked with children.

The father, Abdul, kept calling Halloween evening to try to make excuses, but our leader was tenacious and just as it was getting dark, they pulled up in his new (old) van and they entered the land of what must look to them as science fiction. We were set up on the front porch with candy out in big bowls for the trick or treaters and the four women mentors, one husband and a small dog. Two of our group took the girls up the street with bags to learn how to trick or treat.Sugar and chocolate is a great incentive. Donna, who was an elementary teach, told the girls how to scream and be scared when they were and they all screamed their way to a new experience.

While they were gathering chocolate, we tried to explain to Abdul about All Souls Day and All Saints Day and bribing the ghosts to stay away. He then translated to his wife–I wish I knew what he really said. When the girls came back they handed out candy and with English skills being important, they repeated the names of the costumes or colors as we told them. They could see that the kids were just like they were, except dressed up. Lots of the younger kids who came up to the porch could not keep a mask on and that helped too to see the little faces. Our girls eyes were wide and shiny and they kept coming to us and hugging us with excitement. With our cultures appearing to be so different, the culture of being human was not.

Good parents worry about their children. In this case, the layers of fear and the unknown had to be peeled away one layer at a time. But, that one evening peeled several layers away at once. The adults trust us a bit more, the children think we hung the moon and the elders were thrilled to have such a special experience.

Be Kind.

Joanna

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