Falling Leaves

There’s a lot going on in the world these days both politically and environmentally.  Most everyone I talk to is struggling with their personal lives, as well as how to live in a country that is being led by a madman who isn’t making life easier for anyone, including himself.

Change is a constant feature of life, leaving many unable to find their way back to where they were, whether it’s because their homes have been swept away by vicious storms, they have lost life-long jobs, or they’re living in fear of the raging fires that  sweep through parts of our country on a regular basis. 

Both my primary care physician and my therapist have said that since the election in 2016, they are working more and more with people trying to come to grips with the politics of our time. I have several acquaintances who are so traumatized that they find it difficult to go out.  It doesn’t help that Charlottesville is frequently mentioned in the evening news.  There are many who are still trying to heal from the damage that was done here in August of 2017.  

I’m feeling particularly grateful that I have a roof over my head, food in the fridge, a lovely place to call my own, and that for the moment at least, my mental health is good. But aging has moved into my home. Both Bill and I are trying to stay on track as aches, pains, and increasing forgetfulness become more and more a part of our lives. 

Bill is scheduled to have his left  knee replaced on November 5th,  just days away.  He had his right knee replaced along with a shoulder several years ago and we’re hoping this surgery will be the last.  

I’ll be having my right rotator cuff sewn back together on December 14th.  I’m praying the procedure will cancel out the chronic pain I’ve been living with for over a year. The cuff is apparently torn in a number of places.  Though I’m looking forward to being able to have the pain gone, my arm will be in a sling for 6 weeks and I will not be able to drive for 3 months. YIKES!

I’ve been preparing for a month now. I  practice using my left hand to type, stir pots of delicious chicken soup I’m freezing for later when I can’t cook, and to perform certain sanitary tasks.  I’m gathering clothing that will help me to get dressed and undressed more easily. Getting painful arms into tight sleeves does not feel good.  I’m also gathering a pile of books to read, looking forward to having more reading time than I’ve had in ages. So let it snow, or do whatever it’s going to do. I’ll be fine!

This is where I lead up to tell you about my new writing project.  The working title is, Elder Lessons, and will be a collection of personal essays on aging and about my sometimes fumbled attempts to get through the final chapter(s) of  my own life with grace and humor.  

I’ll be giving you all a taste of what I’m doing, reading, and thinking as I move through the process. I am counting on the writing to keep me moving forward through my own struggles and the slower pace I’ve embraced. 

I’m also hoping to add the voices of others who are dealing with the same issues and how they handle the ups and downs of later life. 

Until next time,
I’ll take time to rest and walk
through the great outdoors,
watching how nature does it.
As autumn leaves fall,
they change from green into the most magnificent colors,
leaving a canopy of cold, dark branches.
But I know they’ll  be back again soon.  

    

The Now Of My Life

 

This past week I closed my Facebook home page and promised my followers I would be taking up writing blog posts once again.  For the moment I will be posting here every other week on Wednesdays.  Maybe I’ll decide to write here every week, but for now I’m giving myself some extra space to grow into.  Where any of this goes depends on my pulling my “now” together. I intend to begin changing and rearranging the pieces of my life that I have a tiny bit of control over.

I was encouraged by friends and told by publishing experts that if you write a book, you MUST have a page on Facebook in order to boost your sales.  So I took the plunge.  It was fun at first keeping up with my children and grandlings on a daily basis.  There were friends, other artists and writers I followed that often sent inspiration my way. But for the last couple of years I’ve used any free time I had on Facebook swimming in the toxic pool of politics and losing my connection to our beautiful world.

 The worst of it began in  2016 when the roof blew off my world. I quickly became addicted to watching the constant chaos in Washington, while I got more and more angry, anxious, depressed, and devastated. Watching it all unfold kept my mind off moving and packing and then the obvious unpacking. Then during the Kavanaugh doings, just a few weeks ago, I finally realized that if I didn’t stop, I would spend the rest of my days following and sharing whatever the news of the day was on Facebook, MSNBC, or CNN. 

My anger was at a high point, and I took it out on those around me.  My anxiety was over the top.  I didn’t want to go out much or talk to anyone. I told myself that if I didn’t stop it, my body would shrivel up into an unusable mass of dying cells and I would get crazier and uglier by the minute. Like a drunk whose tired of what alcohol does to her, I decided to close my homepage on Facebook. I will  keep my author page,  posting cheery, interesting posts about writing and creativity.  

Will I miss you?  Of ocurse I will. But there are other ways of staying in touch. You can subscribe to my blog on my home page at, www.joanzrough.com, or by liking my author page of on Facebook. You could also send me an email by by clicking the contact button, again on the home page of my website.

I do have a new writing project that I’m excited about.  I’ll tell you more about it in a future blog post, but for right now, I’m working on getting my daily schedule cleaned up so that I can add at least an hour every day for sitting in front of my computer, filling page after page with words from my heart. 

I believe that spreading positivity and love is the way I can best serve myself and those around me to get through whatever the future holds.  We all knew that there were big changes ahead and that the process of recalibrating our lives would not be pretty. Reconstruction takes time, patience, stamina and strength to move through the complications of reshaping a world gone bad.  I will turn 76 years old next month. I can’t afford to allow myself to OCD on the news that our country failing and is no longer a democracy. 

I’ve learned that by ignoring my here and now, I will miss the season of colorful leaves that are falling all around me as the season changes. I’d miss noticing the confused Magnolia trees, who think it’s spring, and are in their second lovely bloom this year, and of course the last of the hummingbirds coming through as they journey south for the winter. I don’t want to miss out on the laughter of children as Halloween creeps closer, and all of the things that inspire me to keep moving forward with smiles and a delightfully warm heart.

I do have hope for our world,
however, and absolutely will vote in a few short weeks.
I pray you will, too.

   

Retirement Anyone?

“Wholeness does not mean perfection … it means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life.”
Parker J. Palmer
On the Brink of Everything

Our move last fall into a townhouse has changed my life in many ways … some good, some not so good.  But I prevail and am not allowing the chronic pain that began during that challenging time to take over my life. After working my way through two orthopedists and a neurologist who didn’t help much, I’m back to my usual “fringe medicine” ways of taking care of myself.

I’m working with a physical therapist, a chiropractor, and doing egoscue. Several months ago I joined our local YMCA and am working on getting there three times a week to use the recumbent bike and the indoor track. My workouts are short, but get a few minutes longer each time I go. I’m feeling much less pain now and plan on going back to my favorite yoga class in the next month. I also plan to in the future to try water aerobics and get back to pilates.

I’m not sure that the pain will ever completely go away. Some say that with time it will, but I’ll not count my chickens just yet. I’m in pain management mode and we’ll see what happens.

The other very helpful thing I’m doing is taking CBD oil twice a day. It not only helps to control the pain, it also helps to reduce my anxiety which has been a life long problem. It’s an oil made from cannabis flowers and is lacking the element that gives you a high and is not addictive.  It is legal here in Virginia and is getting great press all over the country for those with cancer and helps people who suffer from seizures. 

As a result I’m much more relaxed and find it easier to accept my health issues and aging dilemmas. That alone is a major change in the way I spend my days. All of the things I thought I’d get done in the last few months including getting back to writing are still on my to-do list and are slowly getting done, but now when I feel I need to take a nap I just do it without feeling guilty or anxious that I’m not completing the tasks on that list. 

This relaxed way of being is what I’ve been longing for all along.  Before our move I was on my way toward being more mindful, listening to my body, and taking care of it. But the move crushed the boundaries I’d built up to protect myself and once again I became a raging Type A, insane workaholic, bashing myself to death for not being able to do the amount of work I used to do.

My anxiety was off the charts. I was holding myself to very high standards and expecting the same from others.  Bill was exhausted from the move and couldn’t keep up with me and my perfectionist ways.  The boat was rocky for a while, but we’re happily enjoying life again and feel the move was necessary and well worth the struggles.

I recently proclaimed that I’m officially retiring. That means no more speeding through my days. I’m allowing myself plenty of time to swing in a hammock, read a book, write a story, make art, be grateful, and simply enjoy every single day for its gifts.

I may swing back and forth occasionally and become crazed with anger and impatient with the ways of this very frightening world.  It takes a lot of practice, but it’s a process well worth the effort and brings me peace and lots of hope.

Making Way For Change

Lilli is famous for going out and then coming right back in.

It’s been said that the only sure things in life are death and taxes. I’ll not deal with the death and taxes part here, though there are many CPAs out there trying to figure out the new tax laws. Taxes may not go away, but they do change!

Change is always happening and I’m especially feeling it as I continue on my path to where ever I’m going. I can’t say where that is but for the first time ever and without regret, I’m just letting it happen.

I’ve done enough worrying, whining, and it adds to that pile of anxiety that seems to follow me around.

If I just go with the flow sometimes astonishing things happen that take me in new directions that fill me with happiness.  I’ve alway been good at ”what might happen?” and have spent too much time stressed and working out plans, B, C, and D, while the world keeps spinning and I miss out on exciting opportunities.  So when I begin imaging the worst possible scenarios I tell myself to just focus on now, and deal with what’s on my plate right this minute. If it’s a piece of dark chocolate, I simply hold it on my tongue and let it melt slowly, enjoying the rush of sweet and bitter flavor that most often tells me to have another piece. If it’s a bowl of something I’m not fond of, like lima beans, I simply chew, have a sip of water to help wash them down and think about the vitamins they are providing for me.

We just discovered that Bill’s diagnosed bursitis is not bursitis at all. His “good” knee started bothering him a week or so before Christmas and when he woke up one morning and discovered he couldn’t put any weight on it, we went to the ER, where the knee was xrayed. After reading the image the ER doctor came back in and said,  “it’s good news. It’s only bursitis and nothing to worry about once you rest it for a while.”

But once home, it continued to be painful and got worse. Last week he saw an orthopedist who xrayed it again, taking pictures from several different angles. What he found was arthritis and though it is not as bad as it was in his other knee that resulted in a knee replacement several years ago, it could get worse over time. For now, Bill had a cortisone shot, will be getting a knee brace ordered especially for him, and will start doing some physical therapy next week.

Yesterday I went to the same orthopedist about my very painful shoulders and a wrist problem that is also making me extremely uncomfortable. I’ve alway had shoulder problems but usually a visit to the chiropractor or a good massage helped it go away.  But now those things don’t help any more. It turns out I have bursitis and tendonitis in both shoulders and carpal tunnel and tendonitis in my wrist.  Whoa!  Is this what is called aging?

Hellebores, a sure sign that spring is on its way.

We don’t know what will happen in the days to come. Will Bill need another knee replacement which can make for a long recovery or will he be fine? Will he be able to travel during this new year without pain?

Will my problems go away after going to physical therapy twice a week for eight weeks?  Will I be able to continue to make art and write?

We’ve decided not to worry about it. We plan on relishing the good days, the return of the light, and the approaching spring. And we are gratefull for our new cozy home with its sturdy roof over our heads, good books to read, and nourishing food to fill our bellies. I hear about those folks in Southern California now experiencing mud slides after those terrible fires………………………………..

And I think it could always be much worse!

The Next Great Adventure

For Bill and I, big changes often come out of the blue. We’ve been perfectly content and happy where we are. But less than a month ago we were in conversation with a friend who is about our age. We were talking about aging, aching bodies, brain farts, and a host of other things that inflict those of us who are moving on in years. She told us about a couple she knows who have sold their lovely dream home and moved into a new one-story home in a small, nearby development. They are loving their new place, meeting new neighbors, and the convenience of having the outside mainenance of their home taken care of for them. No more seasonal gutter cleaning, leaf raking, snow removal, lawn mowing, etc. Healthy and happy, they now have more time to travel and take advantage of leisure time they’d not experienced in the past.

As we were listening to our friend, both Bill and I realized we’d been thinking about a similar kind of move. Though we’d talked about it now and then, it was something that was way in the future. But with birthdays coming up in November and being in our mid-seventies, we have been aware of the struggles of other friends who have waited too long to accept the changes that aging brings. Some have gotten very ill, passed on, or are now moving into senior living facilities. Wanting to make the most of the years we have left, we want to live with dignity and grace while we can. And there has been the haunting question of what would life be like without the other? Would the one left behind be comfortable living where we are now … a big house that is also aging and needs continuing maintenance? Though the garden is small and exquisitely beautiful, I’ve been having a hard time keeping up with it as my body refuses to do what it used to do. And though I do loads of self-care including Egoscue, Pilates and Yoga, it still won’t go back to the way it was when I was twenty-five or even forty.

So we decided to go take a look at a small, new development not far from where we live now. And though we said we’d never live in a townhouse, we walked into the model that was open that afternoon and fell in love. During the next few days we toured other places, but at the end of the day we always went back to that first place in a quiet location with lovely gardens and walking trails in the woods next door. We put a hold deposit down on one of the last available lots that will be a finished home next June. We figured we’d need at least a year to clean this place out and prepare ourselves for the next chapter.

But God, the Universe, or whatever you may want to call that thing that helps us and directs us through life, had other things in mind. When we told our good friend and realestate broker, Bob, what we were doing, he found a finished resale available in the same development. It is an end unit with glass on three sides rather than on just two. We went to look at it, made an offer and it was immediately accepted. The unit is only a year old, and the seller lived there for only seven months. It is a four story home, but get this … it has an elevator for when our legs, knees, and other bodyparts start failing us. It is half the size of the home we’re in now but I’ll still have a fairly large studio on the top floor with a walkout veranda.

So here we go, ready to set out on our next adventure. This house will go on the market shortly and with lots of available help we look to move into our Out of Bounds townhome sometime in November. We will miss this gorgeous home and our wonderful neighbors here. But it’s time for us to simplify and to move on.  Life moves on and we need move with it. I’ll post pics as soon as I can get some.

I’ll keep you apprised as the adventure continues. In the meantime I hope you are all having a wonderful summer.

Are you setting out on any new adventures?