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, June 23, 2024

Picking and choosing

Fifteen years ago

Yes, I am still able to go on most of the hikes I could accomplish fifteen years ago, like this one to Winchester Mountain in 2009. I did, however, skip the trip the Trailblazers took last week to Noisy Creek, a more than ten-mile hike after a long car trip. Nine people did go, and apparently they had a great time. Other than feeling a little bit of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), I realize that I have now reached the place in my life where it's possible to pick and choose, rather than keep myself reaching for new heights at every turn of the calendar. It's summer, and the next few months will be spent going into the High Country, as in this picture. And yes, I will pick and choose carefully. Full sunshine as in this picture is not my favorite hiking condition. I seem to wilt in the sun and certainly don't want to be a drag on my fellow hikers.

There is little doubt in my mind that, if I continue to listen to my body and take it slowly, I can still climb almost every mountain that we have on our schedule. However, it makes no sense to push myself as hard as I have in the past, since there are so many other ways to keep myself fit in my later years. I am enjoying the yoga classes at the Senior Center, as well as the Fitness Center there, and keeping the routine for the upper body that I've worked out as necessary to maintain my strength. At present I am only doing that once a week, before yoga on Mondays, but I'll try to find one more day during the week to work that in.

I don't see the retina specialist for any more eyeball jabs until August. We both decided it's unnecessary to try to salvage any central vision for the right eye, since it's gone and unable to be retrieved, but instead continue to concentrate on trying to slow the progression of the geographic atrophy in the left eye, which still maintains its central vision. I'm definitely losing the ability to distinguish the distance between objects, and sometimes when I'm gazing at a photograph, it takes awhile before I can figure out what it is, exactly. But eventually I do. And I am still very grateful that it's not happening all at once, but gradually so I can find ways to adapt. 

When I reminisce about all the different hurdles I've managed to clear during my long life,  I know that this one, my eyesight, is probably the most difficult task I've faced. Well, that might not be quite true: the fact that I've survived the death of both my children, one in 1965 when I was just 22, and the other when I was 59, in 2002, both of those events seemed insurmountable when they happened. By the time I had recovered from that first one, an entire decade had passed, and I have few memories from that time period. Perhaps it's a survival mechanism to forget the hardest of the hard times in one's life.

And although I've had many hard times in my life, I don't think they are that different from what other people endure as we grow older. We lose faculties we once took for granted; we lose family and friends to illness and circumstances that take once central characters out of our sphere; our cars start to break down and require replacements; our jobs change and finally end when we retire. All those inevitable moments in a long life are milestones we reach as we look back at where we have come from, to who we have become today.

It occurred to me to list all those numerous life events, to look back at them from the vantage point of Summer 2024, but when I pondered creating that list, it felt daunting, as well as possibly leaving out some important milestones that I prefer to forget. And that wouldn't be fair to my desire for accuracy. As I sit here in the dark, I can look out the window at the burgeoning daylight and think about what's ahead for this summer day: first, a trip in John's truck to Fairhaven for our weekly breakfast, solving the Wordle puzzle and Connections on the New York Times while we wait for and then consume our breakfast. I'll then come home and spend some time chatting with SG, who will be up and out of bed by then. I'll probably go for a nice walk to Cornwall Park and perhaps listen to a podcast while I walk. I'll do a little puttering (isn't that an interesting word?), read the posts that show up in my news feed, and then turn on the TV and watch as much of the world news as I can tolerate. The big task on my schedule for the day is to get my laundry done. Since it's Sunday, the Senior Center is closed, or I might have ventured there for some activity. 

Pretty boring stuff, when I think about it. There are plenty of tasks I could take on here at home, but I know I probably won't. I might eventually get to REI to buy myself some new pants, but it's not something I particularly look forward to. I remember the days when shopping for new clothes was something I enjoyed, but now it's just another chore. Last Sunday I went bowling with my friends, and although we played two games, I only got one strike and one spare, with a smattering of gutter balls. Nevertheless, it was fun to be with them and spend some time together. I never considered that my life would become so mundane, but frankly, it's just the way I prefer it. I know that just living will cause many changes to come about, and anything I can do to keep our lives on an even keel is a good thing.
Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness. —Desmond Tutu

When I think about how so many innocent people in the world today are facing dire straits, through no fault of their own, I teeter on the edge of despair. And then I remember what the enlightened among us, like Desmond Tutu, remind me: there is light despite all of the darkness. It matters where I place my attention, and so today I will make an effort to think only positive thoughts, surround myself with only positive energy, and remind myself that I am one of the lucky ones: I can pick and choose what I will make of today and who I will spend it with. And just like that, I can feel gratitude beginning to surface in my heart, and as the light grows in the sky outdoors, I can feel it taking shape all around me. 

My dear friends, I hope that today, and this coming week, will bring you all that you desire, and that you will also surround yourself with positive energy. It's there if we just look for it. Until we meet again next week, be well.


Rian said...

DJan, I found it interesting that you mentioned 'few memories from that time period'... as I too find that I also have lost memories from some of the difficult days (especially the days, weeks, and months surrounding my brother's death). Maybe our bodies try to protect us?
As for accepting our mundane lives, I think 'simple pleasures' these days may be enough to lift my spirits. My granddaughter's call to let me know she found her 'favorite bug in all the world' (a walking stick bug) did it for me yesterday. Enjoy your Sunday!

gigi-hawaii said...

Life could be worse, so be grateful you don't have cancer or renal disease! Take care, and God bless.

Anvilcloud said...

You have a good attitude about your daily life and even about your visual predicament, which would be extremely hard.

Linda Reeder said...

I am looking forward to a "mundane" day today after yesterday's activities. While I am still battling reoccurring headaches, we drove 30 minutes east into the "wilderness" to the home of a fellow garden club member who is new to the group to tour her wonderful garden and then have a potluck lunch. We didn't get home until 2:30. I spent time posting a blog, reading the paper, treating my headache, dealing with the mail, and preparing an early supper before we left at 6:00 for the Sounders Match.
Yes, I made it to the stadium safely, despite having to get off the light rail two stations early and waiting for a shuttle bus to take us the rest of the way. The game was dissapointing for the first 80 minutes, with the Sounders trailing 2-0 to Dallas, until the Sounders scored three goals in the last 12 minutes to win in a very exciting finish.
After the game we had to wait with fellow passengers for half an hour for a shuttle bus to come and take us back to the train station down the track past where the tracks are closed for repairs. We got home late, but we were hungry so we sat and ate ice cream and read about the game.
Now it's 9:00 Sunday morning and I guess I should muster the energy to get to the shower and get going.
I am pretty pleased with myself for making it to the Sounders match and back though.

Marianne said...

Expressing personal thoughts and emotions in writing has always been a problem for me, it is easier to keep them inside or only share with very special people. Your post this week and last week describe how I am feeling and seeing my life at 76. After a lifetime of striving, setting goals and then meeting the goals, I am ready to have a mundane life, filled with small pleasures and time to just be. Your posts make me realize that I am not alone and that it is just fine to give up striving and just relax and enjoy. Thank you

Rita said...

I have always taken great pleasure in and am so very grateful for ordinary days. Out of my 26,750 days the majority of those have been precious, ordinary days. I have had plenty of traumatic, difficult days and even time spans where it was more challenging to find the positive path forward. The traumas...the heartbreaking days...have made me appreciate the ordinary small pleasures even more. There have also been days of awe and amazement filled with tears of joy. The high and low days give perspective. I know the day could always be worse. But remembering those epiphany days and all those beautiful ordinary days are like a balm for my soul when times are hard. I have always tried hard not to skim through my days. Just a cat purring on my lap or finishing a task...paying attention to all the small miracles on those thousands of ordinary days...that IS life to me. That is the ordinary life I am blessed with. My heart to yours, my friend.

Elephant's Child said...

Mundane works for me. I often think of the purportedly Chinese curse 'may you live in interesting times' and shudder. Here's to adaptability. Enjoy your week dear friend.

Gigi said...

This little mundane life of mine suits me just fine. I love to come here and be reminded to be grateful and to seek out the beauty life has to offer us.

Have a wonderful week, my friend.

Marie Smith said...

Mundane is good. So much to be grateful for…a butterfly, a breeze, a smile from a passerby. Life is good. Seize the day!

Far Side of Fifty said...

Calm is good, I can live just fine without chaos and drama. I hope you have a wonderful week!

Red said...

You keep on mentioning the things you can do and can not do. It's the challenge old age gives us. we get slower and slower. When it's hot, I don't work outside.

John's Island said...

DJan, I love this … “I realize that I have now reached the place in my life where it's possible to pick and choose, rather than keep myself reaching for new heights at every turn of the calendar.” Wow, perfectly said and exactly the way I’m feeling about getting older. And another one, “Perhaps it's a survival mechanism to forget the hardest of the hard times in one's life.” Yes, I do believe that is true for me as well. I continue to appreciate the perspectives you give us on life. Take good care and have a fine week ahead. John


Your reflections on hiking and adapting to changes are inspiring. It's wonderful that you're finding balance and continuing to enjoy activities like yoga while being mindful of your health. Keep embracing the adventures you love at your own pace!

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