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, July 24, 2016

Growing old together

Mt. Baker from High Divide last week
I just spent a half hour looking for the right picture to put at the top of my post, and I should remember that it's dangerous to do that, since I can get lost in my memories as I peruse them all. That's exactly what happened, and these days I must remember that the yoga class at 9:00am restricts me from sitting around for too long before writing this.

We Senior Trailblazers had a wonderful time last Thursday, when I took that picture during our lunch stop. I'm still feeling the effects of all that effort in my legs; we old folks climbed more than a thousand meters (3,600 feet) to get to that spot. But we did it, every one of the fourteen of us. The youngest hiker is in her mid-sixties, and the oldest a decade older. Almost everybody is over seventy.

It's been eight years since I started hiking with this group, and we've covered an incredible amount of terrain. I've worn out at least five pairs of boots and have gone through several iterations of backpacks to carry my essentials with me. It's been awhile since I started using a hydration pack and now consider that one of my essentials. It gives me the ability to sip water continuously, rather than waiting for one of our infrequent stops. Between having snacks handy and the water, I can manage to keep going and hope that I have many more years to enjoy the outdoors with my friends.

But that is not guaranteed, is it? The people I hike with have changed over the years, with some people no longer hiking because of injury or illness. It's what happens when you are hiking with a group of elders. But we keep on going, and it gives me an incentive to stay in shape so that I can enjoy this activity for as long as possible. I had quite a scare in the springtime when one of my knees simply refused to work. Limping around, unable to climb or descend stairs, I was afraid that it was over, that my hiking days were behind me. But the knee gradually improved, and I am happy to say that my knees successfully carried me up and down all that distance this past week without complaint. They were both braced and the trekking poles were essential, but I did it.

Tomorrow my sister Norma Jean has another birthday. She and I have been growing old together, although mostly from a distance. We still spend some time on video chat together a couple times a month, but she's got her busy life and I've got mine. I cannot imagine my life without her in it, though; we are both now in our seventies and still doing everything we can to keep ourselves healthy. We are both obsessive exercisers and eat as well as we can for health. When we talk, it's rarely about our aches and pains (although there is that), but how we have been spending our days.

Yesterday I watched an interesting movie on my laptop. I've got Amazon Prime and it reminds me of new movies that come available. Last year I almost saw The Age of Adeline when it was in the theaters, but when I saw the premise I decided to skip it. The story is about a woman (Blake Lively) who has an accident that stops her from aging. She stays 29 years old and has to change her identity every decade to keep people from realizing that she's not changing. When she is over a hundred years old, another accident makes her normal again.

The movie isn't really memorable, but I found the premise interesting, and the acting was really good. I wasn't familiar with Blake Lively, but she plays the part very well, and I enjoyed it. What it also did was got me thinking about what it would be like if I were able to stay young while everyone around me continued to age. The movie did a good job of showing how miserable and lonely an existence it would be. Ellen Burstyn plays her daughter, one of the few who know her secret. To have an elderly woman (Ellen) calling this young-appearing woman mama was truly disconcerting.

When I realized that the one thing she would never be able to experience is growing old together with a loved one, it made me again thankful for the time I have with my friends and family, those moments that come for a brief instant and then move on. Sometimes the passage of time is imperceptible. Then I see a picture of myself as a young woman and remember that I was once very different from the person I am today. When did my hair turn white? It was a strand at a time, never noticing the process much, until one day it no longer had any brown in it at all. The imperceptible process of aging will continue in me and in my loved ones until something will remind me of how changed we are today from a decade ago.

There is no reason to try to hang onto youth. What that movie reminded me is that life must move on from the present moment in order to be worthwhile. It is dynamic and not static. To be unchanging in a changing world wouldn't be much fun, and yet we all think we are just the same today as we were yesterday. Perhaps the inevitable birthdays and pictures from years past are the keys to remaining aware of this precious moment, this one right here where I sit in my bed, creating a post in a time I've set aside for this task. I'm breathing in and out and will soon finish and will rise up out of bed to experience the summer day.

A season lasts three months, and we have four of them in each year of our lives. This summer season is almost to the halfway point, and then we will begin to move towards autumn, and the leaves on the trees will change color and fall to the ground. We are truly fortunate to be able to experience all the seasons to remind us of the many cycles we pass through during our journey through life.

My latest journey, the one where I get to be elderly, is so far pretty darn good. I'm growing older with my partner, who shares the journey with me, and my family and friends as well. As is true with most things in life, there are ups and downs: periods of calm reflection, along with periods of upsets. We always get to choose what we focus on, even if we aren't able to manage the particulars of our daily lives.

Oh, and there's one other partner with whom I share this ride: you, my dear reader. We've got each other's backs. I hope you will come again to share this time with me, but today, it's time already to move from this present moment into the day. I hope you will be well and spend some time thinking about the journey we share until we meet again.


Marie Smith said...

So much to consider. Watching our granddaughters grow puts life in persoective for me. I want to embrace every stage they go through as new and interesting, as aging can be in my own life. Staying healthy is the key of course. Enjoying every moment is also important, being in the moment as if it was the last. It makes every experience important and memorable. Life is good.

Linda Reeder said...

I'll soon be off to join with extended family at a "cousins" reunion, including three of my siblings and many of their off spring. we will also celebrate my younger sister's 70th birthday.

I will be one of the matriarchs, one of the old people. It seems shocking on first thought, but then I realize I have earned that position and it is a blessing to be here at this point in my life, seeing the families we have created that will carry on after we have gone, just as we did in our turn.

Anonymous said...

Did you see the movie about the picture of Dorian Grey? The picture gets old but the actual person does not. In the end, the person dies and all of his wrinkles suddenly appear on this face, while the picture shows him as a young man.

Carole said...

Once again you have inspired me with your wisdom and your thoughtful writing. Your positive attitude as you move forward in life is surely what makes you a blessing to others. Thanks for sharing this part of your life with us.

Linda Myers said...

Lovely post, DJan. You're appreciating this time in your life rather than bemoaning it. So good!

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, As I write this I just checked, yes, I am still #16 of 16 comments on last week's Eye on the Edge. This week I will be closer to the top. However, on the other hand, this week is like most, in that I like to stop for a while and reflect on what you've written. Today, my interest was especially in your discussion of choices. You've reminded us once again that life is dependent on our choices. We may not be able to change things, but we can make choices about how to approach things. Your post is the second time this past week I've read something that emphasizes the importance of choices. I appreciate being reminded to focus on choices. Also, I appreciate the picture you selected to sit at the top of the post. Excellent, as usual. It would be a perfect choice for one of those "wordless" memes. Thank you for sharing and wishing you a fine week ahead!

Elephant's Child said...

I love the choices you make, and the focus you have on living. Not existing, but living.
It costs more, and is worth more.
And I would hate to live forever.

Rhapsody Phoenix said...

its such a complex experience and it varies from person to person.
As a child I was always surrounded by the elderly, it was a deliberate choice because it’s where I felt most comfortable. Through the years I saw many variations on aging and the physical as well as the emotional told on each. Some were angry - felt betrayed by their frailing bodies, some took it in stride - a one day at a time philosophy while others just accepted as God’s will and was still able to smile, enjoy life and find wisdom in being. I sat with a few during their last hours – they were ready, they were not afraid and peace seem to abide in them.

I like that you are active and stay engaged with others. I wish you peace, acceptance and grace.

Have a blessed week


Red said...

Your sunday post is one I wouldn't miss. It is interesting how physically we age , but in our head we seem to be younger. When I meet old buddies I can really see how I've aged even though we act like 17 year olds when we meet.

Far Side of Fifty said...

You seem so calm and content today! That is a good thing! I was happy to hear that you are using knee braces, I am certain it should help. You have come a long way since your injury.
I hope you have a really good week:)

Arkansas Patti said...

That movie has an interesting premise but I too would not want that condition at all.
I am so impressed that most of your fellow hikers are in their seventies. Just shows what we can do if we don't let our mind limit our bodies. So glad the knee brace and poles keep you in the hunt. You have more will than any one I know. Keep setting the bar high for the rest of us. We need it.

C-ingspots said...

I love this post! Your words resonate such truth, and with them beautiful reminders to live our lives gracefully, with thankfulness and mindful of the present. All those tiny joys that we get to experience every single day. Hope you make the most of yours! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.

Meryl Baer said...

I think focusing on the positive, keeping active, and looking forward to new experiences are keys to a happy, productive life, especially as we age.

Rita said...

You are lucky to have a sister you are so close to. I love your Sunday posts. And I, also, am glad you are using your knee braces. A little help is a good thing to keep you going. Have an awesome week, dear friend!! :)

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Your Sunday posts are a wonderful counterbalance! The idea of that movie is intriguing. Will have to check it out.

Glenda Beall said...

I saw that movie, and like you, I thought I might not like it. But I did like it and found it most through provoking. I remember my aunt at 98 years old saying she was ready to go on. All my friends and family are gone now, she said. I remember thinking how sad that must be to have no one of your generation who understands and knows about the things you remember. I almost feel that way now. It seems that our culture has changed so drastically in such a short time that I wonder how long before i will feel obsolete in this world.
Your perspective on aging is always uplifting and I like that about your posts.