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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The Size of Joy: Lady Bugs to Relationships

This past month has found me reading too late and starting too early and avoiding house tasks to read a bit more. The energy comes from trying to make my own definition of joy. As a usually happy person, my joy always seems to be a combination of gratitude and happy. I have been reading and rereading The Book of Joy ( not the Joy of Sex that was another decade) with discussions between the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. I started it in January after my friend Jeanie gave it to me for Winter Solstice and I pick it up and read and underline and highlight and then think about it for the days needed to absorb the ideas.

As an Extraordinary Elder in training, the aspect of introspection always leads me to the need to read and study what other people think and to ask myself the same questions they have asked. The answers of the two powerhouse wisdom keepers mentioned above no doubt come more easily than mine. And then, in a work of fiction I was reading, a character asks, “what would be essential for you to bring to the house to make you comfortable”. The accumulation of stuff raises its overstuffed head again. How does that impact joy in a human being? I find it interesting that Marie Kondo, who taught the world how to fold underwear in her tidy book, named her second book ” Spark Joy”.

In her first writings she tells us that if an item does not create a sense of joy, get rid of it. While I get a sense of productivity and prevention from my toothbrush it does not bring me what I consider joy….but it does give me a sense of well-being on some level and gratitude that I have it and the dentist has not taken any money in several months.

Great pleasure or delight seldom comes and settles in when an object (even a living one) attracts my attention for a moment. I am happy to see a lady bug, but true joy will be more likely to come to me from the delight of time spent with a person with whom I have a relationship. Sharing the sight of a lady bug with a child would double the happiness and maybe joy for the moment in time with the two of us.

In The Book of Joy, the authors understand that exploring what makes the human experience satisfying is the task they wish to discuss. Please read the book so you don’t have to watch me regurgitate it, but know that one of the outcomes is that the ability to be joyful is work done from the inside out. Possessions and jobs and money and gold bathroom fixtures are not long-term joy producers. As elders we should know that by now, but occasionally get caught up in the anticipated joy of new kitchen cabinets .

The picture at the top of the page is of a baby celebration cake. A library book club to which I belong lost our facilitator to maternity leave this past week and we celebrated the coming birth with a cake and small presents for her. In the room was a sense of joy from our relationships with each other and to her and for being part of the joy she was anticipating. A small example of relationship and community creating a space for felicity in a world that can be full of fear and anger and sadness. But, it came from inside of all of us–even thought the cake was a success, it was the interactions that counted.

May you find joy in your life,

Joanna

 

 

 

Natural Healing

On my daily gratitude list, the inventors of medications that help or heal the diseases of the flesh and body systems could be mentioned every time my pill-box is opened. Actually, if penicillin had not been invented when it was, my first round of pneumonia in the late 1940’s would have been my last. But, extraordinary elders, you may have noticed that the medical community occasionally seems to push the meds on us instead of looking at more than a symptom. If you have reached the age of older, you may have gone through not only the health care wars, but the finding -medical- personnel- who -really- listen- to- you- battles. (My brother and sister-in-law fit in the “listen” medical personnel category)

When pain from various chronic issues started controlling my life too much, to my delight I found that an internist who is a STAR, was practicing again at the Anschutz Wellness Center. She could help me get a handle on how to manage this next few years of aging with a body that is not allowing a quality of life I want. Balancing movement, sleep, nutrition, mindfulness, stress, and activity level with pain caused by different body parts as they deteriorate is the goal. Keeping good records to track what helps and what needs to be improved is half the battle. Being able to utilize as much “natural” healing is also a goal for me. If you know me or have taken a class or seen a reading list, you know that the book Never Say Die, by Susan Jacoby is one considered a must read by me.

My doctor sent me to the small town of Kittredge, on Colorado highway 74 to a set of greenhouses that grow organic hemp. Now that Colorado allows the growth of marijuana, various health related business ventures have started to stand out.  CBD is the part of the plant that is used for various ills. The research is incomplete, FDA doesn’t regulate so you are guessing on a strength of a salve or tincture that will help, but the owners are very knowledgeable and in addition to a purchase they gave me several samples to try. Ambary Gardens being the choice of my doctor and her medical friends tells me a lot. I trust this woman with my life and now that I have been to the gardens I can see why the doc is excited about the product and the people.  If the salve just relieves the inflammation from the arthritis in my hands for several hours during a flare up, the trip was worth it. Of course, because it is in the mountains and I had breakfast across the street with my friend it is already worth it

Natural ingredients that are in the product in addition to extract of the CBD from hemp include shea butter, almond oil, coconut oil, argon oil, Calendula, arnica, essential oils of jasmine, ylang ylang, bergamot, geranium, and clary sage. It smells heavenly.

I have used arnica for several years and found it effective for bruises, and general pain from hitting my head against the wall–accidentally. If you read stories and books about the middle ages in Europe there is always a wise women (or man) who lives at the edge of the village and has a herb garden. If the person isn’t killed for being a witch, she or he will have all types of tea and salve to help the physical pains of living…especially living long when you would also like to prosper.(they also have the best gossip) My children have aches and pains from sport injuries years ago and the specter of an aging body right in front of them. My journey is for all of us who hate to take pain pills, believe in physical therapy and massage and acupuncture as methods to try. I just added hemp oil.

The cottage picture above is mine (in my mind) and we should all go and plant a garden of good medicines and good memories.

Here is to health and quality of life

Joanna

ps give the guys a call and ask about hours and payment options and the store dog who is walking better because of the salve.

 

 

 

Asking Questions?

One of the paperback books that moves with me from room to room in my townhouse is The 7 Powers of Questions by Dorothy Leeds. It is the second copy or maybe the third; the first one destroyed in a coffee cup spill years ago and the second loaned and not returned. This copy is full of sticky notes, scrapes of paper, several colors of highlighters and something that reminds me of the strength of the right question on every page.

My reasoning is: if extraordinary elders use the last part of living to become introspective and learn to frame wisdom stories from their experiences, the right questions need to be asked and answered. Giving a “think” to what open-ended questions you would ask a friend in your age group would give you a start on the questions to ask yourself. “What were some major life lessons that led you to be the person you are now?” Big complex question, lots of possible answers that may give you a clue to a person’s value system or trauma history. Please do not ask me that question if you want a quick answer.

The other quick reference the book can offer is a chapter titled “the 50 smartest questions.” When mediation was on my career plate, this was a great chapter to review before going into a session with hostile participants. These hostile -to- mediation type- people had the most difficult time engaging in that other important practice–LISTENING. There are also constant teachings about that subject in the book.

A major reason this book is following me from room to room is the workshop/class/seminar that my friend Terri and I are writing with a working title of Civil Conversation. ( THIS IS THE THIRD WORKING TITLE). First working title was “how not to call some one a —-head”. This has become such a huge work in process that if we ever get to teach it we should get news coverage. I am reading books and articles about human nature, implicit bias, and perceptions of social class. Based on all of that, I am thinking we are a doomed  species since we cannot seem to have a conversation about the big important stuff without  becoming defensive or angry and turning off that all-important listening button.

But, in addition to that book, one came into my hand at the Green Valley Ranch branch of the Denver Public Library. In looking over the space where my class will be held in May, my elder squinty eyes spied books to tell you about. How Then Shall We Live by Wayne Muller.

The questions: Who Am I?, What do I love?, How shall I live knowing I will Die?, and my all time altruistic favorite,  WHAT IS MY GIFT TO THE FAMILY OF THE EARTH? Is that an awesome question or what? Really makes the people who can’t have a civil conversation seem a bit small.

At the monthly meeting of the Death Café today, I thought about bringing up that question, but it can wait. There were other people with more pressing questions, but if you are diagnosed with a fatal something or other, that last one would be on your list.

Speaking of the Café, they will have a session next Sunday, the 26th at 3:30 pm at the Tattered Cover on Colfax in Denver to help people fill out some of the planning ahead paperwork around medical care when death is close. The Five Wishes and the Colorado MOST forms will be discussed by Nancy and the other facilitator. If I had a wish for you all, it would be that you attended even one of the sessions to see the sense of community a group of strangers can make in the right atmosphere.

May you answer the questions that need an answer and ask the ones held deep in your heart,

Joanna

 

 

 

 

 

 

Health, Wealth and Happiness

Do any of you remember this saying in the title from the age of the dinosaurs? With aging the perception of what the definitions for those three wonderful words do a little adjustment in our thinking. Health might mean just the absence of any cancer cells or tumors. Wealth could connate the ability to travel frequently. Happiness, which is always a matter of perception, brings to mind a conversation with a friend.

During the 90 degree days, while staying in the cool of the basement, I cleaned out yet another file of old papers and articles saved for some reason or the other. Luckily, a small piece of newsprint was in the stack and it is copied for you below. What is fun about it is that even though it is “old” thinking, it is still true.

By George W. Calver 1928

The 10 Commandments of Health

Eat Wisely

Drink Plentifully  (of water, not martinis)

Eliminate Thoroughly

Bathe Cleanly

Exercise Rationally    (this is why I like this list)

Accept the inevitable     (don’t worry)

Play Enthusiastically

Relax Completely  (let go of all the busyness in your brain)

Sleep Sufficiently

Check Up occasionally   (do we go to doctors to frequently?)

Give 5 % of your time to keeping well and you won’t have to spend 100% getting over being sick.
Our hard-earned wisdom will tell us that getting ahead of a physical problem is the ideal, just like getting ahead of the pain after a procedure, and it may prevent a bout of something that makes you lose several weeks to illness.  That said, there are numerous elders that still have a difficult time asking for help, or telling  medical personnel how “bad’ the issue is, or how much pain and fear they have. YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN ASK FOR HELP..AND IT IS NOT A WEAKNESS OF CHARACTER.

Take care of yourself and come back for another reading list in a few days.

Joanna