Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A healthy old age - use denial and adjustments..

I find that there are two critical things old people need to deal with advanced age - denial and adjustments. I had this epiphany the other day as I tried to plant a couple of lilac bushes in our yard.

I grabbed one pot in each hand, took two steps, felt a pain in my left thumb and dropped one of the pots. It was like being stabbed in the left thumb; the outer most knuckle to be exact. I was shocked. I'd done this very thing many times before but now I could not. I'd had some stiffness in that thumb but have been working on a lot of jewelry so thought it was an under used muscle. Not so; today it is a swollen red hot knot. I managed to get the pots across the yard by carrying one close to my body and wrapping my left arm around it. I carried the other normally but the whole chore was changed due to one knuckle. As I dug the hole, filled in the dirt and watered the plant, I favored that stupid thumb. For each task I made minor adjustments so I could just get those plants in the ground.

I have to admit that I knew the knuckle was getting worse but I ignored it. To admit it hurt and was stiff would be admitting that my age is showing, that I'm slowing down. I'm only 47! How could I be slowing down? I'm not OLD!!!? I am, however, in denial and it's not such a bad place to be! Denial enables me to keep trying to do anything I want. Denial removes the fear that I might not be able to do something. I can also deny that it will take longer, that I might suffer stiffness or that I might need help.

My mother did so many things throughout her life - gardening, fishing, canning, typing, laundry, chopping, dicing, slicing - all a lot of fussy little tasks to grow our food, fix our meals, support our work and school lives. We never noticed the minor adjustments she made so she could do it easily and quickly. She just made minor adjustments so that she could continue to do it all as she grew older, slower and weaker. She never discussed it she just kept going like nothing was wrong. She was also in denial over these necessary changes.

Before moving, Mom was proud that she did all of her own laundry. Never mind that it took all day, that she used a special "grabber" to reach into the washer and dryer or that she had to store the soap in a waste basket on the floor. She was happy to sit directly in front of the dryer, pulling out each individual piece then folding each ever so slowly on the kitchen table. She never complained, she just kept at it until the laundry was done.

After my own experience, I found that denial is required to keep going as our bodies stop working as quickly and nimbly as we once were. Dwelling on it would only mean frustration and depression. Mom just kept doing things because she had to. So, I'll follow her example. I will deny that I have difficulties, I'll make adjustments so I can keep getting stuff done.