Dementia: My Head-in-the-Sand Approach

Those of you who follow me on Facebook have already seen my current article on dementia. But I realize that some of you who subscribe to this blog, Writing for Self-Discovery, are not on Facebook. (You’re smart!)

I’m inviting all of my current blog followers to also follow me on MediumIt is a platform for writers that has much more visibility than my personal blog. I’m nearing the final edit and rewrite of my memoir and one thing publishers want of writers these days is a following. They want to be convinced that there are people out there who like the new author’s writing and are potential buyers for the book they are considering for publication.

In the future the material I post on Writing for Self-Discovery will be different from what I share on the Medium platform. I hope to see you there!

Here is a link to my current article:

https://medium.com/@bronson.sherry/dementia-my-head-in-the-sand-approach-a98b22a6008

Thanks a million for your continued support!

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Wisdom from Never-Never Land

 

In that groggy place suspended between dreams, I often get my clearest insights. Inspiration lurks there and I have to be quick to capture it before it dissolves into the murky shadows of Never-Never Land.

It’s fortunate on such mornings that I live alone. When I leap out of bed, throw covers on the floor, dash across the room, stub my toe, hobble to the table, scrabble among the papers for a pen, and write furiously without being able to see the words because it’s still that dark, anyone watching would have to laugh…I have to laugh!

Sometimes I return to my cozy nest and immediately fall back to sleep. When I awake again an hour or so later, I have no memory of my pre-dawn brilliance, throbbing toe aside, until I sit down with my first cup of coffee and see the scribbled note.

That’s what happened this morning.

20180707_223025

When I looked at what I’d written, the concept my subconscious mind had been chewing on all by itself with no help (or hindrance) from me came back in a flash. The more I considered it, the more it made sense. Here’s the gist.

1 – 20 Lost.     From birth to around twenty years old, we’re not our own. The adults in our lives make the plans. They mold us, scold us, and hopefully we arrive at adulthood fairly unscathed. Those years are lost in the sense that we don’t control them.

20 – 60 Learning.     I’d like to say that we have things pretty well figured out by age forty or so. But I didn’t. I was still repeating the same stupid mistakes I’d made in my 20’s and 30’s. They wore different clothes and had new faces but underneath those choices were driven by the damaged sense of self that hadn’t changed since childhood. Damaged or not, our child-rearing, career-building years are spent learning.

60 – ?  Living.     There should be another category tucked between 50 and 60 called Transforming. It’s a time of reckoning. The kids have gone on to start their own learning years. The nest is empty. If we’re still married there’s nothing to distract us from our mate any longer. It’s just the two of us trying to remember why.

And we change. It’s impossible not to. But is it conscious change or unconscious? If we’re aware of the growth opportunity and work with it, we’ll advance into our sixties wiser, making good decisions for ourselves and modeling positive aging for others. If the change is unconscious we may go to the grave still making the same mistakes.

The morning insights could have stopped there.

But my subconscious has a mind of its own and it likes to do math. (This is definitely not me.) What it came up with was so simple and obvious I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it myself.

Bear with me now. We’re going to throw away years 1 – 20, we had no control over them anyway. From 20 – 60, then, are forty years of self-management, probably much of it spent meeting expectations, shouldering responsibilities, keeping the nose to the grindstone, the pedal to the metal, with a two-week vacation thrown in now and then to maintain sanity.

But consider this: our life expectancy in North America is around eighty years. Think about all that happened between ages 20 to 40, then from 40 to 60. Now we have another 60 to 80 ahead, one-third of our adult life yet to be lived. My mother at 90, still works out five days a week, beats the pants off the others at Bingo, and pretty much rules the roost in her assisted living facility. So where am I going with this?

Don’t waste the Living years.

What did you always wish you could do but never did? Make a plan and do it. Have you neglected exercise and proper diet? Start now to implement healthy habits. Does the cost of living where you are prohibit retirement? Move. I did, and it was the best decision I ever made. Did you fail to finish your degree? Check out your state’s Statutes. In Minnesota senior citizens can attend college tuition free. Maybe your state has a similar ruling.

Live like dying isn’t an option.

It’s not denial, it’s grabbing hold of the greatest gift we’ve ever been given, life, and running with it…wee wee wee, all the way home.

 

 

 

 

 

Aging-growing up fast in reverse!

Remember when you were a baby and you ate and slept and grew at a phenomenal rate? Of course not. Babies don’t have a huge measure of self-awareness. That kind of consciousness doesn’t begin until around age 2 or 3, and then it’s on a very elementary level.

But by the time you’re in your twenties, you’ve developed a sense of what you look like that doesn’t change significantly for many years. Weight gain and hair color modifications aside, the years from 20 – 40 hold few surprises.

Then the fifties. For women, menopause wreaks mild to acute havoc usually sometime during that decade. But again, it’s mostly an inner change with slowly diminishing estrogen levels causing insomnia, sweats, flashes, and mood swings that make an otherwise sane person wildly neurotic. But it passes, and with the exception of a few wrinkles around the eye-corners, smile lines, maybe the beginnings of arthritis here and there, you’re still the same package.

Of course your genetic inheritance and the way you’ve treated your body to healthy or unhealthy habits, weighs in significantly. But I’m generalizing and drawing upon my own experience so feel free to adjust this information accordingly.

The sixties are different. It’s the growth process in reverse. But unlike the baby that has no knowledge of the sweeping changes in its own appearance, the mature adult not only sees and understands what is happening, but also has to deal emotionally with the loss of youth, vitality, and power.

I am appalled at the speed of change. Tomorrow I turn 64. Only one year ago my skin was still elastic, though a little crinkly at the knees. About six months ago while engaged in an inversion pose, I noticed disturbing sagginess in the skin around my upper arms. It disappeared when I righted myself and I made a mental note to do inversions only in private. A month later I couldn’t deny that the sagginess existed even when I stood upright.

Yesterday I took a long, honest look at myself. How can a heart that feels so young, occupy a body that looks so…mature?! Nothing prepared me for this transition. I’ve watched my parents age, but they’re my parents.

Mom and Dad

Mom and Dad

In some corner of my mind I knew that I was seeing my future, but it was far, far away. I tucked that thought in a safe place and forgot about it. Now it’s staring me in the face every time I look in the mirror. I am mentally trying to assimilate these physical changes, but it’s daunting. They’re happening so fast.

I take comfort in things I’m glad about. I’m glad I’m living my dream. I’m glad I’m in a country where old age is honored. I’m extremely grateful for excellent health and a strong body. Those things make it easier. But I remember the title of a book I saw once. I laughed then, but I’m not laughing now. It was called, The Girls with the Grandmother Faces. That’s it in a nutshell. Inside I’m still a teenager. Somehow I skipped adulthood and went straight to old. How does this happen?

From here on, it’s the inner work that matters. Actually, it’s always the inner work that matters. But in the culture of the West, youth and beauty equal power. As I attempt to come to terms with aging, I am engaged in the struggle for power. What makes me significant now? Where is my worth?

It occurs to me that youth and beauty are a hindrance. Anyone so blessed doesn’t need to develop a stunning  inner core since the outer is so compelling. This time of life is an opportunity to allow the richness inside to radiate outward. It’s a call to share the wisdom of a lifetime of good and bad choices with those who care to listen. And it’s a chance to become beautiful in a way that time can’t touch. Right! Happy birthday to me!

64...bring it on!

64…bring it on!

My Wife is Fat

I strolled through the neighborhood this morning with a shadowy intention of ending up at Lake Harriet.  The sky was a powder-blue dome, seamless, the sun its only adornment. I’ve driven or biked the route many times but walking yields sights and sounds that are otherwise lost.

There are huge, peach colored irises in a garden right by the sidewalk. They are the size of coconuts, or cantaloupes, utterly breathtaking. One block has a row of maple trees including the showy Crimson King with the dark purple leaves. There was no traffic.  It was so quiet I could hear bugs skittering through the grass. I could also hear my own thoughts.

I’ve learned a lot about thoughts. Thoughts are the root of everything. No matter what situation I find myself in, how I choose to think about it becomes my reality. That nugget of truth was brought home to me time and again when I talked with my Balinese friends. One conversation in particular comes to mind. We were discussing nutrition, the abundance of healthy eating choices available to the native residents and foreigners alike in Bali. In spite of that, I had noticed that some Balinese women and children are overweight. My friend told me that the Balinese can earn more money now and it is easier to buy rich food or prepackaged cookies, candy, and snacks. He flashed a huge smile and said, “My wife is fat.” It was one of those moments, there were many, when I didn’t know whether to congratulate him, scold him for saying something unkind, or commiserate. I have a terrible tendency to sit with my mouth half open and a glazed look in my eyes while experiencing inner turmoil. Still mentally trying to sort through the etiquette of an answer, he rescued me. “I like it!” he exclaimed.

So, to my point, he thinks fat is beautiful. He THINKS fat is beautiful. Therefore his chubby wife makes him happy. This is what was floating about in my mind as I meandered the streets this morning. I dallied through the rose gardens, across the biking and walking paths that circle the lake, and out onto a wide, plank dock. As I sat down at the end I realized I had been noticed. The fish were gathering. I counted 21 then stopped. They formed a semi-circle at the end of the dock with their pointed noses all headed in my direction, watching, waiting. We eyed each other for about three minutes, then they tired of me and swished away. I took off my sandals and bared my shoulders to the warm rays. Ahhhh. I slowly gave in to gravity and reclined full-length.

Creating my own reality is a big responsibility. Choosing how I will think about everything makes me have to think about thinking. It requires that I become aware of my tendencies toward negative or positive viewpoints. It is the process of mind watching mind. As a child I was taught how to moderate my physical actions. I remember mom saying, “Sit like a lady,” and I knew that meant I should keep my knees together. But there was no instruction regarding how to think in order to create my own happiness.

I have neither a fat wife nor a fat husband. That’s a plus. However, I do have to organize my thinking around wrinkles, retirement, and what matters most as I enter the ‘golden years.’ What surprises me is the feeling of empowerment. Knowing that I can stop at any time, review my thoughts and change them, puts me in charge of my own happiness. Senility may eventually put a wrench in the works, but until then I’m choosing NOT to think about that.

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