I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Remembering and forgetting

Sunlight streaming through apple juice and ice cubes
Earlier this week, I was sitting at a table during a gathering, when I saw a brilliant golden light appear nearby. I was mesmerized as the strong late-afternoon sunlight transformed this container of apple juice into a photo opportunity. It almost looks like it's on fire. The sun was close to setting when this occurred.

And today is the first day of spring, the winter season has passed and now we go into the springtime months. On this side of the equator, at least. In the Southern Hemisphere, they will move from summer into fall. While we have our vernal equinox, they have their autumnal equinox. If you're curious and want to know more facts about this day, more information is here at one of my favorite websites, timeanddate.com. I wondered why the equinox is at a particular moment (9:30pm yesterday on the west coast), and I learned this:
The March equinox marks the moment the Sun crosses the celestial equator – the imaginary line in the sky above the Earth’s equator – from south to north and vice versa in September.
I continue to be amazed at the plethora of information available at my fingertips these days. I estimate that I use the google search engine at least a couple of times every single day. Already in these early moments I've used it to find out more about equinoxes. I wonder if this ready availability of information is partially responsible for my inability to retain facts for any length of time.

No, I think that is more a function of my aging brain. It's impossible for me to believe how much I've forgotten. The phrase "I've forgotten more than you ever knew" has turned into reality. Just the other day I thought about the fact that I've taught thousands of students in hundreds of First Jump Courses how to make their first skydive. I used a lesson plan and never deviated from it, since the consequences of forgetting to teach a critical part of that class would be huge.

And today I couldn't even begin to teach it, even with my lesson plan in hand. I've forgotten too much and am no longer an active skydiver. That skill is gone forever, along with much, much more. The only thing that remains in my memory of those classes are the wide-eyed faces of the students. One or two stand out: just because a student went through the course did not guarantee that he or she would make a skydive, since it was up to me to figure out if they had learned enough to save their lives. It didn't happen often, though, since the two jumpmasters holding onto the student while in freefall, the big forgiving parachute that would hopefully open above the student after freefall, and the radio in the helmet with someone on the ground giving instruction were all designed to make the situation as safe as possible.

And now I get anxious when I consider helping to facilitate someone with their Advance Care Directive, because I'm new at it, and it's important for me to make sure that their wishes are known and documented properly. I have been provided a lesson plan so I won't forget anything, but it's a different task: most people have spent their whole lives shying away from thinking about what would happen if they were unconscious and unable to regain the ability to know who they are or who they are with. My job is to guide the person towards thinking about it in a fruitful fashion without inserting my own opinions, staying, as they say, "value neutral."

I can do this and, as time passes, I'll feel more and more confident. But right now it's new and I'm feeling my way through each encounter. Helping someone figure out who might be their Health Care Agent, to make decisions in case one cannot do it themselves is sometimes rather difficult. Fortunately for me, SG and I have each other as our primary agents, and we know that each of us would do the right thing for the other. It's good to have someone as the secondary agent who is younger, so many people choose a grown son or daughter. I don't have anybody like that; my sister is my secondary agent and I know she would do the right thing. But since she's getting on in years too, I am pondering who else I might be able to ask. It's a big responsibility.

The good thing for me is that I get a great deal of satisfaction from a job well done, once it's completed. It might not be as sexy as teaching a student how to make a safe skydive, but that was then and this is now. Life moves on from youth to old age without us doing a thing, except living, of course. This is my new normal, and even this stage of life will change into something else one day. But not today. Today, I am reveling in the return of the light, with each day getting a little longer as we move towards the summer solstice in June.

I am also realizing that perhaps forgetting is part of my new normal, too. When I got up this morning and placed the teakettle on the burner for my usual tea, I forgot to turn it on. After I returned to the laptop and pondered what I would write about, I became aware that no sounds of imminent boiling were emanating from the kitchen. I got up to check. There it was, everything in order, except for that tiny little missing part: the burner had not been activated. Sort of an essential part, too.

But even though my tea was a little late, I was eventually able to enjoy it, part of my morning routine. And you all know how much I cherish routine. Since I've gotten plenty of exercise this past week, I will give myself a day off to have a little R&R (rest and relaxation). The only thing I know for sure that I will do today is head to the coffee shop to quaff my latte with the usual suspects. That is after I've done my Sunday morning meditation with this post, checked the news online, read my emails, and performed the Five Tibetans. Yes, I am still doing those ten minutes of exercise every morning and wrote about them here. One nice thing about a blog is that I can go back and find out when I began something that is part of my daily routine. That link takes you to a post from July 2014, which is when I first started with them, and why.

My friend Judy asked me the other day whether I think they make a difference. All I know is that I continue to do them and they are part of my morning routine. I don't even consider it exercise any more, just something that I do. Afterwards, I have breakfast and begin to make my way out the door to the coffee shop. And with that, I can feel myself being drawn towards finishing this post so I can begin the next part of my day.

Everything is quite normal right now, with my tea gone, my partner softly snoring next to me, and once I've read this over and posted it, I can get on with things. It's always a little daunting when I get started but it always feels good when I get here, to the end. And I will wish my readers a very good day of whatever equinox you experience today. Another bright and shiny new season begins.


Linda Reeder said...

Ah, Spring. that most wonderful of seasons for those of us tuned to the earth, and by earth I mean soil, dirt, that stuff in which things grow.
We've spent many hours over the last few weeks getting ready for spring in our garden and several others. We are tired and have aches and pains. We will celebrate this first day of spring by taking it easy.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, A very good Sunday morning to you. I enjoyed today's post, as always. While you were talking about teaching skydivers I was thinking about my years of teaching high school business ed ... my favorite subject was accounting. I think the reason is that I love structure in my life. Anyway, I actually had two students who returned in later years to tell me how happy they were to have gone into accounting for a career. I think that's one of the real pleasures from doing a job you enjoy and something that helps people. Getting back to today's post: I'm really enjoying your fascination (and share it) with timeanddate.com. Truly one of the best sites for anyone interested in the skies and astronomy. Lastly, you have the most excellent ability to pic just one photo to start your Eye posts and this week is just great. I could almost imagine being in the coffee shop with you and seeing that sunlight streaming through the apple juice! Great! Have a good day and a fine week ahead!

Marty said...

The Venn diagram of your skydiving instruction and your end of life coaching is fascinating. The end goals - bringing someone to the end alive, and assisting someone else to pass smoothly to death - are different, but it's easy to see the similarities of the process.
And happy vernal equinox to you!

Marie Smith said...

Happy spring! Wishes for glorious sun and a cloudless sky sent your way.

Imagine all the people you guided through the procedures of sky diving, as they prepare to take risks that many people never consider. You had their lives in your hands. It is as if you are rounding out your life with the ultimate instruction, one a precursor of the other. In each case, your goal is a soft landing. A natural progression it seems.

O-town Ramblings said...

Happy 1st day of Spring to you D-Jan! I can't think of anyone I'd want more than you to help me navigate through the process of completing an Advanced Care Directive. It is a daunting thing to think about. As a single mother, it made it even more of a challenge for me to choose the right person to act as my designated representative. I learned how important it is to have the conversation with anyone being considered for the role. I assumed my older brother would accept the role willingly. When I asked him he told how uncomfortable it would make him and that he would never be able to abide by my wishes as outlined. Good thing I asked! Thankfully, one of my other siblings was willing to accept the role.

Enjoy your day of R&R!

Midlife Roadtripper said...

"I wonder if this ready availability of information is partially responsible for my inability to retain facts for any length of time."

I found this sentence most interesting as I've wondered the same thing. I Google information many times a day also and I rarely recall any of it. I would like to think the reason is because too much is put in our brains so quickly and we don't have time for the processing. Not that my mind is not what it was. That is difficult to accept although I'll probably get better at it as time goes by.

I've always been an avid Jeopardy fan. I killed on every show from my chair where I live. Now, I often find the answer is on the tip of my tongue. Or I get part of a name wrong. Not as quick as I used to be. Very interesting discussion you've begun here. I'm off to read about your morning ritual.

Midlife Roadtripper said...

Okay, I just looked at those Tibetan exercises. You must be in incredible shape. I tried the first one and I'm still waiting to stop being dizzy.

Arkansas Patti said...

That apple juice looks magical and powerful.
You make me think about naming a Health Care Agent but I worry about the burden that puts on someone close to me. A dear friend was a HCA for a mutual friend and it tore her up having to make such life altering decisions. I will have to give it more thought but thanks for making me look deeper.

Gigi said...

The forgetting may be your age, but I am leaning more toward a small factoid I heard recently (that I actually remember!); there was a study done and the result was that people just simply aren't retaining information like they used to - because we don't have to anymore. The information is right there at our fingertips. It also mentioned something about just how much information we are inundated with daily and how that affects how we remember things. I wish I could find it for you.

The apple juice photo is simply amazing!

Have wonderful week!

Elephant's Child said...

I do love these weekly post of yours. Thoughts to mull over, smiling.
And yes, I forget. Too often. Though it has some small positives too. I can reread murder mysteries since I have forgotten who died, much less who killed them.
Anxiety? Much better than complacency.

Anonymous said...

This is a sweet meditation on the aging process. I'll let you age gracefully. Nothing wrong with that.

Red said...

Tonight we were talking about people we worked with in 1965. We couldn't remember names even though it seems like yesterday. You are doing the right thing by learning new things and moving to things which are more suitable as you age. Happy spring.

Red said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Furry Gnome said...

Better to forget turning it on than to forget turning it off!

Far Side of Fifty said...

Happy Spring! I just heat water in the microwave for tea!
I think it is wonderful that you are helping people to record their last wishes. It is really important. I read an account of a woman stuck in ICU for four months because the family couldn't agree what to do for her... now that is scary to me.
You are doing a great service with your volunteer work.
I think open and honest discussion about death is the best, can't ask anyone if they can no longer speak for themselves:(

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

What you're doing in terms of death and dying is important stuff. Death is part of life, just a transformation from the physical into the spiritual.

Elizabeth said...

I agree with the Furry Gnome... better to forget to turn the kettle on than off...

Lots to think about in this post...thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Rita said...

We're always early for winter and late for spring up here. But at least now any snow or sleet will not last long--that's spring for us--LOL! ;)
I think this new job might be even more significant than teaching skydiving. Time will tell. The world needs people like you. :)

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

I think we are constantly bombarded with facts and factoids and ideas and trivia and stimuli of every sort, and we have, to some extent, exceeded our cranial capacity. And then age causes us to lose a few brain cells now and again, and there you have it.

Hilary said...

How many times do you do each of the five tibetan rites?

Sally Wessely said...

I understand all too well about forgetting more than many younger might know. Life is a process of learning and then having to learn new lessons. I think our lessons live on in those we passed our lessons on to. They are not really lost. Those lessons live on. Think how many are now enjoying a sport and living to jump again because you taught them well. No, those lessons are not lost. They were transferred to someone else to use.

Barb said...

If you were to ask me whether I'm forgetful, I'd probably say no. However, this morning, I went to get sheets from the dryer, and they were still wet- I'd forgotten to turn them on! Also, sometimes I'll see someone I know and cannot for the life of me remember their name (until a few hours after it's too late). Bob and i have a health directive, but I think we need to put more in writing for our sons who will take over if either of us can't for the other. I think it's best for those left to know exactly what we want - it leaves less room for conflict, too.

Barb said...

PS Those 5 exercised look like they'd keep you limber. I also do 10 minutes of stretches, but nothing quite so aerobic.