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, April 3, 2016

The new normal

Display garden tulips
I love to see the spring flowers blooming all around me these days. At the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival last week, I was saturated by the enormous numbers of eye-catching tulips of every color and stripe. These were a favorite, but then my eye would be caught by yet another variety, until I was unable to take in any more. My ability to continue absorbing it all has diminished as I've aged.

That's part of my new normal. Just last week I was thinking how different the world looks to my old eyes. I've been through plenty of periods of turmoil in the world, but these days my tolerance for it all has changed. That said, I cannot remember a time when the political climate was so toxic. Or the world in general, for that matter. A vague memory of watching the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago on TV, a horrifying spectacle for me, followed a year when we lost Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy by assassination. I wasn't even thirty yet, but I still have vivid memories of that awful time. So yeah, when I think back, this political climate isn't the worst I've seen.

But it's the meanest and scariest in a long, long time. In the almost fifty years since then, so much of my world has changed. Back then we had television everywhere but not much else. Our phones connected to the wall and only made phone calls. We had three major networks on TV that gave us the news and not much else to choose from. Nobody had personal computers, and the Apple I was just being invented. Nobody ever heard of the World Wide Web, which was invented in 1989, and now it dominates my life. Back then I read newspapers to get the majority of my news, along with books from the library (that hasn't changed). Newspapers are on their way out, and books can now be purchased and read electronically. Smartphones. Blogs. Google — all concepts that were still in the future in 1968.

I think one reason I enjoyed the series Mad Men so much is that I lived it myself. All those fashions I actually wore; in fact there was a Betty Draper shirtwaist dress in the first season that I know I had in my closet. Not to mention the feeling of those times, which the series captured so perfectly for me. Times long gone, and now they are part of history.

That's what happens when one gets old: you can look back on decades and see a trajectory of change, sometimes gradual and sometimes dramatic. But change for sure, and now as I sit here in my bedroom with a laptop (unconnected from the wall), a smartphone next to me, and infinite information available to me with just a quick search, I am really glad I've lived long enough to see and experience it all. When I was young, I remember watching a TV show that predicted a Dick Tracy-like watch that allowed video calling. A wrist-sized two-way radio in those days was a fantasy, much less communicating face to face. I didn't think I would ever see these things become reality, but they have, and much more I couldn't have predicted. This is our new normal.

Not only has technology changed our lives, but the sheer numbers of people on the planet has mushroomed from 3.5 billion in 1968 to 7.3 billion in 2015. A trajectory of population growth makes me glad I won't live to see it reach 9 billion (in 2040). Even though population growth is gradual, all those people have to live somewhere, eat and drink just like me, and dwindling resources are a fact of life. I could look up a statistic to find out how many people are starving every day, but I can't bring myself to look at what I know is a huge number.

I wonder if that massive population growth is one of the reasons for the wars roiling our precious blue planet. It is one way to reduce the population, after all. I won't even go into that, but my mind took me into that dark place. The clash of civilizations in a world too small for us, that's also our new normal. Thinking that we are going to bomb and kill our way out of this dilemma is simplistic. Or is it? Many dystopian novels I've read portray a world after the apocalypse that many of us see coming that I sure don't want to live in. If I'm lucky, I'll be dead before then, but today I can mourn for the future we've given our children. And who knows? Maybe it will be totally different than my imaginings. After all, I could never had predicted the world of today.

Another part of my new normal is getting accustomed to the aging process. It's a one-way street, and as I feel my back begin to pop and crack with age-related changes, and as I gaze at my spotted hands, I know that the changes in my body are completely normal. Just this week I saw the dermatologist and asked about a cyst that has appeared on my thumb. I thought maybe he'd just remove it, but he told me it's a benign cyst that is caused by osteoarthritis. It's not usually a problem, he said, but keep on eye on it and let him know if it changes. I also went to the dentist and got my teeth cleaned and checked out. I am lucky that I still have all my teeth, but that's partly because of the dentist's care, and brushing and flossing regularly. In the old days, teeth that got cavities would be pulled, not fixed up and given new life. Plus I guess I ended up with good genes for teeth.

But my new normal body bears little resemblance to the one I had in 1968. I was in my mid-twenties, after all. I see people who are that age today and they look so different from me that I have to remind myself that I was once that young. Yesterday I saw a young woman who had on jeans that barely covered her derriere, with enormously high heels that made her legs look like they went on for days. A long way from the prim shirtwaist I wore when I was her age.

But on the other hand, I went on a hike this past week and managed to cover a great distance with a pack on my back, almost twelve miles, and none of it was flat but pretty severely up and down. And even if I am still today feeling the effects of it, I was able to do it and get up the next day and make it to my exercise class. Today I am more fit than I was fifty years ago, so there's that new normal, one that I have earned through hard work. And I spent a good part of yesterday working my garden plot, raking and shoveling and pulling weeds. I must remember to give thanks for still being able to enjoy the outdoors and a good brain that allows me to do things like write this post.

The blogosphere, that fairly new part of my life, is now an essential component in my ability to enjoy life. Not only do I read several (that will be after I finish this one), but I have friends all over the world whose lives are intertwined with my own. We care about each other, and I always look forward to the comments left by you, my dear readers, people whose blogs give me a glimpse into your lives. I cherish that part of the new normal, and I thank you for sharing your worlds with me.

And with that, I will start the rest of my Sunday morning. My surroundings are all familiar, with my partner still sleeping as I write this, and my tea gone. I'll look forward to spending another half-hour or so with my fellow bloggers, make a quick scan of the day's news, and head out to my coffee shop to have a latte and visit with my dear "skin" friends. Until next week, then, I wish you all good things.


Marie Smith said...

You've put everything in perspective for me today, Jan. Enjoy your day and have a great week.

Far Side of Fifty said...

My husband was just talking about that wrist communicator just the other day. He visits with his sister with the IPad, for him it is almost better than visiting in real person because he can talk to her several times a week. A blessing for him.
The sixties were a scary time politically. This year I think people are just so unhappy that they will do/say anything to try and get their point across.
Seems that there are more shootings all the time, more robberies people are just unhappy. I think Meth use has a lot to do with it...but that is just my opinion.
I see Meth use as a HUGE problem, I am not sure that any of our "politicians" have dealt with that issue. Maybe MJ should be legal and taxed and used for the war on drugs. I saw some news flash of people in DC smokin pot and carrying flags...reminded me of the 60's.
Oh yes and bigger news, Medicare is taking away portable Oxygen Units from their patients, it has to be covered by other insurance...our Ins will cover it...but wow I was blown away by that decision.
I am not so sure our new normal is the best normal...but it is what it is. I especially like the Internet, I would be really lost without it.
I hope you have a great week, it is cold here but the sun is out!! :)

Linda Myers said...

We live in interesting times!

Our son Peter came to visit last month. He was given the tour around our fabulous resort. When he got back I said, "What do you think of where we live in the winter?" He said, "Everyone is old."


Linda Reeder said...

I did not expect a sunny morning when I finally got out of bed at 8:30. It is another blessing. We will go for a walk before we tackle any more yard projects.
This week has been filled with so much beauty for me, from working up close and personal with the emerging plants in my own garden, being amongst the dazzling color of the tulips in the Skagit Valley, spending time on Whidbey Island, and yesterday visiting an estate garden in Tacoma, in the company of my grandchildren, who spent the day with us until we dropped them off at home to go to a Sounders game, where we had lovely views of the Seattle skyline, all of this under clear skies.
With all of the beauty, I put a lot of the political mess out of my mind for a while. Of course technology kept me connected wherever I went. I can only hope that our political situation will sort itself out. There is a lot of anger and unhappiness, but I do believe that with all we have these days, we have come to expect too much. Everything we 1940's babies have was achieved by hard work. We need to continue to assure that all have equal opportunity to achieve, but the achievement must still be earned.
I think occasionally about the dilemma of overpopulation and diminishing resources. I fear for the world we will leave for our grandchildren. But we can only continue to pass on our values of hard work, desire for learning and improving, and empathy for others and hope that they will create their new normal in such way that the world's peoples can co-exist.

Anonymous said...

You made a good point: Despite getting older, you are still able to hike and blog, which shows that your are still physically fit and mentally sharp.

I think the new frontier is Mars and the Moon. Once this Earth is ruined, future generations will have to reside in space.

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

I was very engaged in the politics of 1968 (through 1972 and beyond), and I actually believed that we were going to end up with a better world. Equality and justice for all, no more wars, and caring about the environment were, I thought, within our grasp. So I was shocked by the "police riot" in Chicago but not afraid. It turns out that the progress we did make has been either superficial or easily reversed.

Now I've been sitting here thinking about all these issues for several minutes. You not only have a strong body (despite the aging process), you have a strong and active mind. And you've given me a great start to my day. Thanks for you and the internet!

Elephant's Child said...

How I love your Sunday ruminations. Almost as good as sitting and having a cuppa with you.
Have a great week.

Gigi said...

Oh the politics - it's all so ugly and so very horrifying.

I, too, fear what our children and their children are inheriting.

Have a great week, DJan.

Tabor said...

It is amazing how we find soulmates in the blogosphere and enjoy reading abut their lives. When you are finally in the final act of your life you do get a great view looking back. It is a dangerous time, but I hope mankind will make it through without huge loss.

Rian said...

DJan, I too remember 1968 well since I graduated from LSUBR and married that January. We were both 22. Now we're 70. So very much has changed. Technology has taken over our lives... some good, some not so good. Politics and the Media has gotten a bit out of hand. Yet if you read articles written back in years past, people have always thought that the world was going "to hell in a handbag" (boy, I'll bet that expression dates me). I tend to think that population growth and climate change are real issues, and that the elimination of "war" is probably beyond our capabilities. Yet... life goes on. We do the best we can with differing opinions as to how to handle the problems. I think they can be handled, but whether or not they will be is another story. I too would not like to live through an apocalypse... nor do I wish my children or grandchildren to experience this. But (IMO) it is a real possibility.
However, we can only do the best we can on an individual basis. This is in regard to everything from politics (the Political climate right now is downright scary) to aging (that's pretty scary too).
You seem to have a good handle on life. Hopefully the rest/some(?) of us do too. I guess time will tell.

The Furry Gnome said...

So enjoy reading your weekly thoughtful post.

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

1968 was a dark year. But this political climate is definitely the most toxic and polarized I've see in the years since and it can be right in your face because of our immediate access to information. If the republicans have a brokered convention, it may be worse than the 1968 democratic convention.

Red said...

Some things like a benign cyst can scare the crap out of us. You've earned your good health. You've worked hard to stay in shape both physically and mentally. I sometimes think when I see people in very poor condition that with exercise and effort they could be in much better condition. There will be wars. The first wars will be about water.

#1Nana said...

I have also reflected on the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago and some of the parallels to the current political climate. Back then I was a senior in high school and would not vote in a presidential election for another four years. During those challenging times of riots, protests, assassinations, and political unrest I don't remember the same level of hate and despair that I see today. Maybe I was too young to understand, but I'm older now and I am afraid for the future of our country.

Anonymous said...

Every day is getting improved in all fields. Likewise we should also improve our way of living...

shortybear said...

great post.

Hilary said...

I love reading your perspective....it so parallels my own. Getting older is not always easy, but yes, there
is so much to appreciate, and so much to be thankful for.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, As always, I enjoyed this post. I may have mentioned this before, if so, excuse me, but one of the things (and there are many) I really enjoy about Eye is reading the comments from fellow members of the blogosphere. We do have some interesting folks here, don’t we? For example, Linda Myers comment … her son stating something that is obvious but probably not consciously observed by members of a community where everyone is older. I’m not complaining in any way but just remarking on how it seems interesting and unexpected. Another example, Far Side of Fifty mentioning, “Maybe MJ should be legal and taxed and used for the war on drugs.” I had to smile and wonder if that is what we are doing here in Washington. Another example, Marie Smith saying, “You’ve put everything in perspective for me today, Jan.” Wow, when you think about that it is a pretty amazing comment! :-) Yet another, Nancy/Blissed-Out Grandma said, “…You’ve given me a great start to my day.” There are probably many church leaders who would appreciate that comment after their Sunday sermon. Lastly, it’s interesting to see the agreement among most commenters about our current toxic political situation in America. I hope you will continue to reflect on that and let us know if you see any positive way forward. Thanks, DJan, for sharing your thoughts and have a great week ahead.

The Broad said...

Excellent post and excellent comments! As a Democrat living abroad the situation from here is very disconcerting and worrying. So many people a so afraid -- they don't trust the future, their fellow citizens, their government, the world at large. People feel threatened because they are threatened and someone who speaks fiery rhetoric makes them feel someone is listening. That they are being used and abused is beyond comprehension to them.

Washington State is so beautiful at this time of year -- and I well remember those tulips from my time living in Olympia. And the fruit trees, too!

Elizabeth said...

Wow....you've voiced many thoughts I've had the last few months.
Thank you for sharing.

Arkansas Patti said...

You are aging well cause you work at it. Something we should all emulate. You set the bar high girl.
Like you, when I see how mean and toxic our world is today, I think even farther back to a time when I was a toddler--WWII and the depression (pre-toddler). Those were hard, brutal times yet somehow we survived. Later as you mentioned, the Kennedy and King assassinations were devastating. School integration was brutal. Somehow each time we got a little bit better. I'm not seeing how right now but hopefully this is an evolutionary time also---if we don't kill the planet first.

Jackie said...

You're not old, my friend. You just have a very long memory.
And, I'm so glad we met through blogging.
Spring is beautiful!!
Thank you for sharing the lovely photo with us.
Continued blessings and many smiles and hugs to you.

Rita said...

Those times were very scary back then, too. Vietnam over dinner every night, assassinations, Watergate...seems like when Kennedy died so did our faith in the government. I love watching Mad Men, too. I will recognize things like wallpaper and clocks and pedal pushers and glasses and purses--that is when I grew up.

And now--we chat online from all over the country--the world. So there are really wonderful things along with the awful stuff. The new normal. Yes. :)

Barb said...

Like you, I was a child in the 40's and can now look back at that long span of years. Often I worry that mankind really doesn't learn from its mistakes. We just keep blundering along looking after our own selfish interests.

Glenda Beall said...

I loved Mad Men because it took me back to those years I so remember. The Clothes were what I wore back in the sixties. Ageing is more difficult than i had expected. I thought I would be one of those who hikes, and travels and lets nothing stop me. But there are days I just want to stay in bed.
Your posts are inspiring and always enjoyable.

Rhapsody Phoenix said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rhapsody Phoenix said...

Love tulips
Yes as we age our BS tolerance gets quite low.
God help us all if Trump wins. I can see visions of "Jim Crow" returning.