Growing Older Is a Full-Time Job

 

Over the years I’ve heard the tiresome phrase, “Growing old ain’t for sissies.” I never liked the phrase; maybe it sounded too ominous or cynical. Still, I’ve been moved lately to reflect on getting older—I refuse to use the word “old!” But the years are ticking off, and with my birthday a few days away, I thought some reflection after nearly 73 years was overdue.

So, what do I mean when I say that getting older is a “full-time job?” In many ways (depending on the day), living this life demands a great deal of my attention! I realized the changes that I have experienced in just the last couple of years have been a lot to absorb into my adjusted reality. In most respects, the “job” has become more demanding, and with little to no choice about what I want to take on or not.

For example, the physical changes are the most obvious. My legs swell because the little vents in my legs are not working as well as they used to; I can wear compression socks, but those are for old people (!) Plus, they don’t cure the problem. There are the bruises that show up on my arms, my little “beauty marks” that were especially bad with the high dose of prednisone I was taking; fortunately, I’ve been able to reduce the dose, so I don’t look like I was in a boxing match, and I only have my “maturity” to blame. My hair, which has always been such fun to work with, has become much thinner and less curly; it’s hard to know if those are the after-effects of chemotherapy or age. My hairdresser pointed out two new little strands of hair that were starting to grow on my temple. I know she was trying to encourage me, but, well…. And my stamina does not seem as strong, but I’m learning to pace myself and feel stronger every day.

Mentally, I’m going through the usual losses: forgetting words, names, and tasks. I’ve got a well-worn path from my office to the kitchen (and we have tile floors), trying to resuscitate an idea that had been so vibrant only moments before.

And then there are the routines. I used to roll my eyes at friends who seemed to have umpteen visits to various doctors. No more. Once I realized the number of visits I had planned to my internist, my oncologist, my breast surgeon, eye doctor, dermatologist, never mind the ongoing blood draws for my PMR, my arrogance vanished. I’m on a first-name basis with the tech at Quest Diagnostics.

*     *     *     *

With all the new adjustments, I’m incredibly blessed to continue some of the most rewarding work of my life. I continue to work with @iwe and our team to more deeply explore Torah, and I love the opportunity to be stretched in my thinking. I’m also grateful for the conversations I have as a hospice volunteer with people who have lost loved ones; I am constantly learning how to be present, how to open to the grieving of others, and how to best support them in just a few words. And I’m very grateful to be able to maintain my physical activity to allow me to do the rewarding work I pursue.

*     *     *     *

And I don’t want to leave you with the impression that this job has no “bonuses!” There are the deep friendships that become more intimate all the time. There is giving myself permission to take risks, whether I’m trying something new, saying something I might not have said aloud in the past, and speaking up when I feel I have something important to say. There are also the moments when it makes more sense to let things go than to grumble about them. There is stretching myself spiritually, not only in Judaism and reaching out more passionately to G-d, but trying to better understand the religious paths of those people in my life and their experiences. There is exploring new themes in my writing and being surprised sometimes about where they take me. And then there is the intangible relief of having nothing to prove, nothing over which to stress myself, no great milestones to attain or projects to complete for anyone but me or those I love.

This “full-time job,” my life, is quite enough for me.

And the journey continues!

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  1. Southern Pessimist Member
    Southern Pessimist
    @SouthernPessimist

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    I remember one time I was at a Zen retreat and we were invaded by vultures sitting in the trees–are they the same bird? What a noisy and intimidating group!

    The only place I have seen a very large group of vultures (buzzards we call them in the south) sitting in every tree was at a hotel outside of Disneyworld and that seemed appropriate. It seems to me that vultures are generally very quiet. They just watch you.

    • #31
  2. CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill
    @CarolJoy

    OldPhil (View Comment):

    WillowSpring (View Comment):

    @ susanquinn – I have a couple of years head start and one thing that has taken me by surprise is how quickly I have lost my tolerance for the cold. You may not have realized it, what with living in Florida and all, but cold is definitely harder to take.

    Mrs. Spring and I used to exclaim how hot either of our sets of parents kept their homes when we visited them. No longer.

    Flannel has become a good friend.

    It’s gotten cold this last week here in Western Virginia (40s in the day, 20s at night) and yesterday my wife said “I’m tired of winter already” (and it’s still only November).

    Me too.

    Yep that is one sign of getting older.

    I used to find the weather to be fine maybe some  240 days a year.

    Now it is always too  hot or too cold.

    If it is a day when temps fall between 63 and 83 degrees I’m set. But that brings the weather score of “decent” down to 45 days a year.

     

    • #32
  3. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill (View Comment):
    If it is a day when temps fall between 63 and 83 degrees I’m set. But that brings the weather score of “decent” down to 45 days a year.

    Yep, that’s about my range! And the 63 means I’m bundled up!

    • #33
  4. Chuck Thatcher
    Chuck
    @Chuckles

    Southern Pessimist (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    I remember one time I was at a Zen retreat and we were invaded by vultures sitting in the trees–are they the same bird? What a noisy and intimidating group!

    The only place I have seen a very large group of vultures (buzzards we call them in the south) sitting in every tree was at a hotel outside of Disneyworld and that seemed appropriate. It seems to me that vultures are generally very quiet. They just watch you.

    • #34
  5. Scott Wilmot Member
    Scott Wilmot
    @ScottWilmot

    Percival (View Comment):
    Every year, without fail, the turkey buzzards return to Hinckley, Ohio.

    Yes they do. I grew up 10 minutes north of Whipp’s Ledges. It was ( and still is) my claim to fame that they return every year on my birthday.

    When the Cleveland Indians were forced to change the team name I was hoping they would go for this:

     

     

     

    • #35
  6. Scott Wilmot Member
    Scott Wilmot
    @ScottWilmot

    I agree with you Susan – growing old takes work. Golf has become my passion and at 64 it has introduced me to body parts and muscles that I didn’t know I had. It takes great effort to keep the body in shape to be able to compete with the younger men I play with. I find it easier to exercise and eat well with the goal of keeping up with the young fellas rather than just health for its own sake.

    • #36
  7. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Scott Wilmot (View Comment):
    I find it easier to exercise and eat well with the goal of keeping up with the young fellas rather than just health for its own sake.

    Very good point, Scott. That’s a great motivator. I mainly do exercises, not just specifically for my health, but for my overall wellbeing. I think better, I move with less discomfort, and I feel better overall, too. But I think it’s a great idea for people to have reasons other than “good health.”

    • #37
  8. WillowSpring Member
    WillowSpring
    @WillowSpring

    Southern Pessimist (View Comment):
    They just watch you.

    Just don’t walk underneath them!

    • #38
  9. OldPhil Coolidge
    OldPhil
    @OldPhil

    Scott Wilmot (View Comment):

    I agree with you Susan – growing old takes work. Golf has become my passion and at 64 it has introduced me to body parts and muscles that I didn’t know I had. It takes great effort to keep the body in shape to be able to compete with the younger men I play with. I find it easier to exercise and eat well with the goal of keeping up with the young fellas rather than just health for its own sake.

    I solve that issue by just playing golf with old guys.

    • #39
  10. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    OldPhil (View Comment):

    Scott Wilmot (View Comment):

    I agree with you Susan – growing old takes work. Golf has become my passion and at 64 it has introduced me to body parts and muscles that I didn’t know I had. It takes great effort to keep the body in shape to be able to compete with the younger men I play with. I find it easier to exercise and eat well with the goal of keeping up with the young fellas rather than just health for its own sake.

    I solve that issue by just playing golf with old guys.

    I must say that with the amount of exercise I get, I’m in better shape than most of the country, old and young!

    • #40
  11. Chuck Thatcher
    Chuck
    @Chuckles

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    OldPhil (View Comment):

    Scott Wilmot (View Comment):

    I agree with you Susan – growing old takes work. Golf has become my passion and at 64 it has introduced me to body parts and muscles that I didn’t know I had. It takes great effort to keep the body in shape to be able to compete with the younger men I play with. I find it easier to exercise and eat well with the goal of keeping up with the young fellas rather than just health for its own sake.

    I solve that issue by just playing golf with old guys.

    I must say that with the amount of exercise I get, I’m in better shape than most of the country, old and young!

    ’round here for sure!  Went to Subway today and a man, his wife and two young boys would have made well over a dozen of you.   Sigh.

    • #41
  12. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    When I can tolerate Florida, I’ll know I am old.

    • #42
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