At the fitness studio few days ago some acquaintances and I found ourselves in a conversation about the aging process. One of them talked about having to be realistic about decreased mobility, flexibility and energy. Once again, Jean's mouth opened before her brain could catch up. I heard myself say, "The older I get, the more frantic I get about doing everything I want to before I just can't do it any more. I take on more and more challenges because if I don't do it now, when else will I be able to do it? But at the same time, all that effort wears me down."
The woman who had started the conversation isn't someone I'd choose as a friend. I have nothing against her, she's a good person, a hard-working person, etc. etc. but neither is she a comfortable person for me. So I was a bit surprised when she nodded and said, "That's exactly how I feel."
So the lesson here is: Is "growing" older an oxymoron? Am I growing, or am I declining and losing ground? Am I learning and growing closer to God, or am I shrinking, losing competency and grounding in reality? My mom had Alzheimer's. I know it's a risk for me and sometimes I have to ask myself, "Is this the start of the end? Will I even know when the end of my sound mind is coming close?"
After all that navel-gazing, I can only conclude that I must stay on my course to learn and do and love and grow all I can while I'm able, and trust that God will take care of me when I can't do it for myself any more.
To paraphrase a Bruce Springsteen song, life has been giving me some hard lessons lately, about pain, loss, disability and hope. Years of chronic pain, my mother's death, my hearing impairment and other serious medical problems have sorely tested me. When I finally found a doctor who took my pain seriously, he asked me why I had checked "suicidal thoughts" on my new patient questionnaire. I told him, "I have 30 years ahead of me if I live as long as my mother did. I refuse to live in pain for another 30 years."
In all that I've learned and written since then, the most surprising discovery has been my ability to remain optimistic about my life and my future. If you hear despair, anger, frustration and fear in what I post here, please don't turn away. All is not dark, and eventually a glimmer of hope will light the path ahead.