Beginning Again

Here we are again at the end of another year. On January 1, 2019, we will  have traveled around the sun 365  times since January 1, 2018. During that time, we’ll have experienced the longest day of the year as well as the shortest day of the year.  We will have witnessed the ever changing phases of the moon, weather patterns, births, deaths, sunrises, sunsets, and government upheaval.  We’ll have felt joy, sadness, grief, anger, fear, depression and a host of other feelings that can change from season to season, from day to day, and minute to minute. 

We move in huge endless cycles but when we get to December each year, we talk about THE END. We get to revisit all of the important events of the past year via the media, social or otherwise, and begin making resolutions to change what we haven’t been happy with during the last cycle. 

 We try to lose weight, pretend we’re not aging, and that the cane we keep losing as we move about our lives, belongs to someone else.  We try giving up habits that mostly limit us, and we pray that the all of the world will become more peaceful and safe for all living beings. 

We party through the night on December 31st, kissing our loved ones as the old year ends and the new one begins.   We chow down on black-eyed peas and collard greens, drink strong black coffee, and try to remember to write the correct year on the checks we will write during the next few days.

On January 1, 2019, I will have spent 1 year and some 45 days in a new home that I plan on staying in for a long time. I will have finished writing the last page of the journal I began keeping on January 1, 2018 and will begin filling a new notebook with my thoughts, feelings, and writing ideas for the coming year.

 In early December of last year, my son and his wife, Jane, lost their beloved daughter, Casey, and now celebrate the birth of their first grandchild, little Ava, who was born in September.  

We have celebrated our granddaugter’s graduation from high school, and the beginning of her college years. We have celebrated our grandson’s magical growth, as well as Bill’s and my marriage of 53 years. For every tear we have shed during the past year, we have many more reasons to be grateful for all that we have.

Is there really an end to it all?  I don’t think so. There is only the past, the present, and the future.  They  will continue to repeat themselves over and over again. As every ending comes along there will be a new beginning. The past is gone, never to be forgotten or relived. The present is now, as I write this blog post and Max snuggles at my feet. The future is what comes next … unpredictable, filled with surprises, celebrations, and terribly painful loss.

I love the following words from F. Scott Fitsgerald:

For
what
it’s worth;
it’s never too late,
or in my case, too early
to be whoever you want to be.
There’s no time limit,
stop whenever you want.
You can change or stay the same.
There are no rules to this thing.
We can make the best or the worst of it.
I hope you make the best of it.
And I hope you see things that startle you.
I hope you feel things you have never felt before.
I hope you meet people with a different point of view.
I hope you live a life you’re proud of.
If you find you are not,
I hope you have the courage
to start all over again.

Wishing you and yours Happy Holidays and and a New Year filled with exciting possibilities. 

Facebook, Time, and Snow

It’s really interesting how things change when you let go of nasty old habits.

 As most of you know I decided to quit Facebook because of the site’s political activity that I was addicted to. I was anxious, depressed, and feeling hopeless. I was using up lots of time reading, commenting, and sharing everything I felt everyone needed to know about our country’s situation. I had little time to do anything else, especially things I’ve always loved to do like taking walks, reading, and writing. 

My first step was to take both the Facebook and Twitter apps off my iPhone. Instead of checking them out at every stop light on my way to an  appointment, I found myself a safer driver. Now I turn on my phone only to find out what time it is or to see if there are any emails I need to respond to quickly. In waiting rooms I now thumb through magazines or better yet, simply close my eyes and meditate. 

I then decided to make it official and get rid of any connection with Facebook altogether by closing my account except for my Author Page. I clicked all the buttons to make it go away. But it didn’t disappear. I thought that maybe it would take time to close an account and that it would happen next week or next month. It’s still with me though. and I’ve come to the conclusion that I didn’t click on the correct buttons. 

The interesting thing is that checking in on Facebook every couple of days has become fun. It’s a great way to see what’s going on with my kids and grandkids. By staying away from social media I’ve gained so much time, that it’s incomprehensable. I can’t imagine why I’ve hung on for so long.

I now have plenty of time to read, take cat naps, and simply stare into space which is something that is a necessity in my life.  It’s in that almost empty space that new ideas come to me and I’m able to make thoughtful decisions.  

We had our first snowfall of the season this past Saturday.  I took most of the day to watch large, fluffy flakes cover the ground. The weather forecasts were extremely amusing. At first we were supposed to have a dusting.  Then it was 3 to 4 inches. In the end we got 10 Inches.  

There’s a gorgeous winter wonderland out there. The birdfeeders are alive with activity, and the chaos of hungry birds seems to be unending.  There are our resident Bluebirds, Carolina Wrens, Finches, Sparrows, and Juncos.  New to the feeders this year are Chickadees and a few Cardinals.

By letting go of a bad habit and getting myself out of that old Facebook trap, I’m more mindful and happy to be back in the world that lives just outside my kitchen windows.

Have you let go of any time sucking habits lately?  Was it worth it?  I’d love to hear how you did it and what you’ve gained.

Decisions, Decisions

You know the drill. 

The Thinker, Auguste Rodin

Some days it’s as simple as deciding which sweater to wear with the new skirt you bought last week. But when it comes to certain other decisions it’s a different ballgame altogether.   I’ve been chewing on one for over a week now and I’m still kind of swinging back and forth.  

Two weeks ago I decided to postpone my rotator cuff surgery set for the 14th of December.  For a number of  reasons the holidays can be a difficult for me and I came to the conclusion that adding another challenge for myself was not in my best interest.  I immediately felt that the boulder I’d been carrying for a couple of months had vanished.   Plus after dealing with Bill’s very successful knee replacement surgery in early November and his ensuing recovery, I was happy to give myself some time to rest and relax before my role as caretaker became one of being the patient. 

Discomfort over having to deal with a long recovery after my surgery was constantly on my mind.   My right arm would be in a sling for six weeks and I’d be unable to drive for three months. That meant that I’d be stuck inside for the colder months with little chance to get out on my own when I need it most. I remember too well the cabin fever I used to suffer through during the winters when I lived in Northern Vermont. I felt trapped and spent the cold months quite depressed. I don’t relish going through that again. 

Discussion with friends around the Thanksgiving dinner table last week was partly about the challenges of failing body parts as one ages. It was pointed out to me by one friend that a study out of Finland found that physical therapy can be as effective as rotator cuff surgery.  He continued that recovery from rotator cuff surgery can take six months to a year. 

Oy, I thought, what have I gotten myself into?  

Over the next few days I’d  decided to cancel my surgery altogether.  But just to be sure I decided to do some research of my own.  I read the piece the Finish study, saying that physical therapy was the way to go. I also read that most small rotator cuff tears are the ones that benefit most from PT.  But other than the three different surgery technics used, there was little other information that was of helpful. And I reminded myself that I shouldn’t believe everything I read on the internet. 

What to do?  

I had a pre-op appointment with my surgeon that I had not yet cancelled and decided to get the expert’s advice. That’s not to say I believe everything that doctors tell me either, but he had done Bill’s very successful shoulder replacement surgery several years ago.  Knowing that his work is good I decided to trust him to help me make the best decision for me.

He reminded me that I do not have a simple small rotator cuff tear.  When he had gone over the results of my MRI back in the early fall he showed me at least seven things that needed repair and told me that if I did nothing it would only get worse. That would mean a much more complicated surgery down the road. He also pointed out that if I only had a year to live, he would not recommend the surgery, but because I’m very healthy and the odds are that I could live at least ten more years, he’d recommend I go ahead.  

Knowing that there is no chrystal ball to help, I came home after the appointment confused and terribly dissapointed that my decision would be to go for the surgery. 

So once again I’m thumbing through the calendar trying to pick a few dates that would work for me.  Then I’ll call my Doc one more time and let him know what I’ve decided, knowing that I may keep wondering what the best thing for me is until I wake up from surgery.  

I hope everyone had a wonderful Turkey Day
and that the rest of the holidays
will be blessed with easy decisions!    

Adventures In Knee Replacement

November 5th, Bill waiting to go into the OR.

Last week I took Bill to Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital for the replacement of his knee.  His right knee was replaced two and half years ago.

Over the past year it became evident that his left knee was ready to be done as well. When we first moved to this new four story town home a year ago tomorrow, we both insisted on using the stairs most of the time rather than the elevator which was one of the features we were looking for if we couldn’t find a one story home. 

I think we weren’t ready to accept the idea that we were aging more quickly than we thought and not as flexible as we used to be. Bill’s replaced knee was doing great and my occasional knee pain wasn’t that bothersome. 

But we were downsizing and planning for the possibility of failing body parts and the need to slow our lives down. We still felt pretty good and for about three months we ignored the growing pain in our knees until it was simply time to give it up and start using the elevator. Accepting the fact that things were changing was not as easy as I thought it would be.

Bill has been hobbling around ever since using his cane. The left knee grew more painful and the cursing grew louder.  His pace slowed to a crawl and his enjoyment of the activities he so loved ebbed as the days passed. Going anywhere was all about how many steps it would take to get him from the car to whatever venue we chose, even if handicapped parking was near by.  

In August he decided to revisit his surgeon. He was nervous about it. He wasn’t sure that she’d take him on. He hadn’t lost much weight, which had been one of her requirements when he’d checked in with her earlier in the year.  But this time she said, “Yes, let’s do it. “   

November 6th, Post-op and going home later in the day!

It’s a week since his visit to the OR and the patient is doing well. He’ll see the Doctor again today.  We had a bit of a scare Monday when we thought he might have a blood clot. We spent a good 4 hours in the ER waiting for his surgeon, who was operating on someone else, to decide what to do.  But thankfully there was no blood clot and things seem to be moving along again.  We’ve had visiting nurses and physical therapists who were great, and he’ll go out for physical therapy starting next week.  

As for my knee, it still is fairly good and I’m doing what I can to keep it healthy.

It’s been a long, patience straining week but we’re getting through it nicely.  Between several bouts of tears and panic attacks on my part, we’ve been laughing a lot, and enjoying the loving kindness of dear friends and family who have brought us delicious things to eat, along with laughter, prayers, and comfort.

Thank you to all of you. 

   

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.