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, December 16, 2018

Memories are made of this

Yoga Northwest yoga dancers
Yesterday evening I attended a party to celebrate B.K.S. Iyengar's birthday. Although he died four years ago, he would have been 100 on the 14th, so Yoga Northwest held a 100-day yoga challenge, starting on September 5 and going all the way to December 14. I managed to do all 100 days, even though many times it was tough. You committed to do fifteen minutes or more a day of yoga. I set the timer on my iPhone for fifteen minutes and found a way to fit it in.

There were prizes given out in a raffle for those who completed every day, those who made it for 80 days, and 50 days. I was thrilled when I won an hour of private yoga with my favorite teacher, Denise! (She is the one on her head in front.) Some of the teachers and advanced students performed a yoga dance for us during the festivities, and I captured a few pictures.

Although it was only 6:30 when I left, it was so dark, and there were so many Christmas lights everywhere, that I was very glad it wasn't raining, which would have made the drive home even harder. It was the first time this season that I've been somewhere after dark and needing to navigate the busy streets to get home. I won't do that again, since I realize how much harder it's become for me to process all the hazards around me and stay safe. Before the cataract surgery last year, I could not have driven at night in any circumstance, but I'm realizing that old age is beginning to steal other things I've always taken for granted. Sight is not the only thing you need to drive safely at night.

I find myself getting confused when too many distractions come up at once, and forgetting the names of things and the inability to articulate events is beginning to happen more often. Not all the time, but occasionally, and I notice how much I resist the realization that this is the natural order of things. You have a full life, decades of experiences, and then you begin to see it all begin to fall away, a little at a time. Perhaps that's what is necessary in order to make the transition to real, true infirmity. I wonder if this is what I'll be finding out as the years go by.

I will continue to keep up my exercise routine, my enjoyment of the outdoors, and try to keep myself from feeling distressed about it, since that not only doesn't help things, it also exacerbates the symptoms of old age. Fortunately, almost everyone I know is in the same boat: when you hang out with septuagenarians, you see it happening to those you love, too. Looking in the mirror, I see that I have become someone other than my own image of myself. When did that happen? Incrementally, of course, but happen it did.

This upcoming week is the final one of fall, and the first days of the winter season will occur next week. I'm thinking it might be a good time when I sit here next Sunday to take stock of what has happened in my life this past year. Contemplate the moments that I cherish so that they won't just fade into the distance. One really great thing about keeping a blog is that I can go back and read what I wrote on previous Sundays, and that always jogs my memory and reminds me about all the good stuff I would otherwise have forgotten. The end of a calendar year is always an appropriate time to have a retrospective.

I will start the upcoming year with a visit to Florida to see my sister, to swim alongside her in the mornings and walk with her during the day. We'll have time to visit to our heart's content, and it will also be a time for appreciating our shared history. We are the only ones left who remember the time when we were young, when we grew up in tandem with one another. Our parents and other older relatives are all gone now, and our younger siblings weren't there when the two of us were little. How strange that now it's all just memories, and most of them have been forgotten. When we reminisce and discuss things that happened to us both, it's been long enough now that they have become two different events. Memory is fungible and not to be trusted. Who is to say what really happened when we remember events so differently? And who cares, really? I'm just glad I get to spend time with Norma Jean and make some new memories together.

Mark Twain once said, "When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not." That's similar to some of the conversations my sister and I have about past events. "That's not the way it happened," she might say, and I would have no way of knowing if she is right or not. I think sometimes my inability to remember is just one more sign of growing old. Maybe it's true that once your head gets too full of memories, they begin to spill out your ears because there's no room left inside. It makes me smile to think of it. Whatever the reason, I've forgotten much more about my full life than most people would believe possible. Memories might be in there somewhere (if they haven't already spilled out my ears) and something will bring it all back, in whatever form they might take for today.

Today I'll make some new memories with my friends. First a trip to the coffee shop (of course), and later a movie with my friend Judy. We'll see that new Robert Redford movie, The Old Man and the Gun. Who would have believed that Redford would still be making movies, and his advanced age? It gives me hope for my own future, since he's even older than I am (he's 82). So I've got at least a few more years of creative juice, right?

However, no one can see the future, and we're all different. I heard someone say the other day that seventy is the new sixty, but eighty is still eighty. So true! The decline that begins in our middle years builds up steam as we approach the latter decades of life. I like to think that I've lived a good life all these years, and I look forward to the future with happiness, even knowing that somewhere in my future that will change. Or maybe not. Who knows?

In any event, another post has written itself as I sit here in the dark with my beloved sleeping beside me. Tea is gone, the day beckons, and the change to make some new memories is calling me.  I hope that your day will be a good one, and that you will have lots of happy memories being created, even if, in the words of Twain, they really happen or not. Be well until we meet again next week, dear friends.


Linda Reeder said...

I recognize myself in your post today, of course. I am 74, going on ...old! My memory abandons me often, especially when it comes to names of people and places, and my vocabulary. However, my biggest concern is the almost sudden onset of lack of mobility. I am hobbling along where less than a year ago I was striding out on long exercise walks. I am trying to adjust, but it leaves me worried and unhappy. I stay busy to counteract that, but busy hurts. I am working on not complaining, so forget I just said all of that. :-)
We will have a little solstice gathering on Friday with one of our retired teacher friends who is pretty much a shut in. Now, she has real physical problems, but hardly ever complains. Some of us are strongly Scandinavian and I will be sharing lefse and fatigmand. We'll have fun as we celebrate the return of light, slow as it may be.
Have a good week. I'll see you on Facebook.

William Kendall said...

It is good that you get along with your sister.

Elephant's Child said...

I do love your contemplative posts.
I am so pleased that you won a private yoga session. And feel sure you will take lots away from it.

gigi-hawaii said...

This is a nice post, so beautifully written.

Gigi said...

Congrats on the 100 days of yoga! What a commitment.

I think I read somewhere that you DO tend to drop memories or things you don't "need" to remember to make space. But then again, I could have made that up to console myself whenever I can't remember the word I'm looking for.

Have a great week!

Red said...

I have trouble coming up with names instantly. They come up sooner or later. We have to remain in the same area to keep all those memories. Those of us who move from place to place lose those memories when we are not exposed to them anymore. For example . I rarely have contact with northerners. Much of my northern memories are gone. However, my wife and I often share northern memories. I think it's important that we don't stress ourselves over memory lapses.

Tabor said...

Your posts are still quite cogent and interesting, but I do agree with you on how we find things dropping off or out or fading away. It is what it is!! I do use the term "that thing" more often these days.

Trish MacGregor said...

I laughed out loud about that comment: That's not how it happened. This occurs with my sister and me, too.

Far Side of Fifty said...

I believe that siblings can recall memories differently after all they are not the same age or they don't see the same things the same way...my brother and I do the same thing. Yes we are at the beginning of winter...I hate the dark evenings. Before my cataract surgery I only drove familiar roads at night. I still don't enjoy night driving but sometimes it is necessary.
I hope you have a wonderful week:)

Galen Pearl said...

I know. My mother once regaled my friends with tales of my childhood. As I listened, I kept thinking, whose childhood was that? I didn't recognize myself of my mother in any of the stories. My best childhood friend and I laugh about how we have such different memories of our youthful years.

Congratulations on your 100 days of yoga practice. I have a fairly regular meditation practice, but on Jan 1, I'm going to start the year with an intention to meditate 100 days in a row. You have inspired me! Let's see if I can.

Rita said...

What a wonderful celebration and how fortunate a winner you were!

I know you will have a wonderful time with your sister. I have different memories than my siblings do, too. Even the girl I grew up next door to has different memories or impressions than I do of my own family--LOL! That's pretty normal, I think.

I was never good at places, times, names...ever. Even with songs or books or movies, I was better at remembering what they were about than the title or author's name. Better at concepts--LOL! My own personal memories used to be like a motion picture for me, but I am beginning to lose more and more of the details and whole incidents I have forgotten...or don't remember until something brings them up. Maybe it's too many memories--falling out my ears--but I think it is more fibro fog and age. LOL!

Have a fabulous day! I know you take full advantage of what few hours of light we have. ;) I hope you enjoyed the movie. I think I remember reading that Redford said this will be his last film.

Marie Smith said...

Your private yoga session will be such a treat. You will take so much away from the experience I know.

You have great family time to look forward to next month as well.

Merry Christmas, dear Jan.

Mary said...

There’s a point when life stops giving you things and starts taking them away...

A quote I found somewhere....
I’m almost 72 and I’m beginning to feel it..aging, that is. I just feel tired so often. Not sleepy, but bone tired lack of energy and I look in the mirror and see someone older looking back. We are all following the natural course of things, but I’m still not exactly pleased with how quickly it has arrived.

Linda Myers said...

I like your contemplative posts, DJan. For some reason, it helps that I spend my winters in a 55+ resort in Arizona, where we are all in the same boat with memories and bodies and energy levels.

Arkansas Patti said...

Congrats on your 100 days and the free session. If I had seen those women, I would never have attempted Yoga. You go girl.
So agree on the different versions siblings have of their childhood. My brother and I are the same but he says his children--who do not have age as an excuse--do the same.
Too bad blogging wasn't around when we were youngsters. Then we could win some of those arguments with our siblings.
Have a wonderful time in Florida. Soak up the sun and love.

Dee said...

Dear DJan, congratulations on your 100-days-of-yoga accomplishment. That's quite something and must make you feel proud of yourself as you body reflected all that work it's done--all that relaxing into being.

I found your posting on memory and aging so thought-provoking. Right before reading your post I had a long talk with a Minnesota friend of many years. We know one another well. Well enough, that she can be honest with me about what she is hearing in my voice and concert.

She helped me see that at 82 it's time for me to let go of my expectations that I can do all I did when I was 40. 60. 70. 75. I tell you, as you indicated in your posting, that 80 brings real change. And so I want to spend time in the next few weeks, meditating on who I am today and what in life is most important to me. It's time for a retreat into the deep center of myself where Oneness--my connection to all beings--dwells.

Thank you for your thoughts, they have united with my friend's to bring me to the brink of exploration. Peace.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, You have the most wonderful ability to put complex situations into a few words perfectly. In this post, it's this: "You have a full life, decades of experiences, and then you begin to see it all begin to fall away, a little at a time." It's precisely what I'm experiencing and, like you also mentioned, it seems that all of us are going through the same thing as time rolls along. Another excellent post and thank you for sharing. John