Those trips that were planned. The classes scheduled. The family gatherings. The next normal phase of life that is not happening. Getting old in the age of Corona. Living with a love who is aging in front of my very eyes. Wondering what will survive and what will not. Hoping for a future for my grandchildren and great-grandchildren that is safe, clean, kind and friendly.
Life is what you know, what you have come to know and expect. When that changes drastically, what do you do? First you try to keep doing all the things that you used to do, and you long for those that you cannot do now, but there is hope that “normal” will return. Then, you realize that things have changed for you and the life you knew before will never be again like it was. Then you get really depressed as you see no way out and no proverbial light at the end of this tunnel. Then you realize that this IS life now as we know it, and how can you restructure this life to be one that is enjoyed, experienced to its fullest, and meaningful. Afterall, if you have life, if you are breathing you have things to give and things to receive. And, in a global pandemic, living and breathing are especially meaningful as keeping safe and healthy is also a change to daily life and has to be accommodated.
When setting out in life in the beginning there were so many choices. What are you going to be when you grow up? That was the question. And, there were so many options. So how did you choose? I did things that I was good at and then strategically planned on how to use my talents to not only feed my family but provide a nice life for them, by my definitions. And that meant travel. I have always loved travel. Next to travel it is probably gardening that I love most. Then art.
So, now that I cannot travel, gardening (nature in general) and art are available to me. And, how can I take my talents now and translate those into meaningful activities that also satisfy my need for change and new things? How can I include my aging loved one in activities to keep him as healthy as possible? This is my current quest: to utilize my talents and interests in meaningful ways that will keep me at a greater level of happiness more often.
Taking Wednesdays off. That is my start. For years I have worked regardless of weekends because I was traveling at least once a month, and not working while traveling. Since the shutdown on March 13 I have been working most days without regard to weekends. Starting three weeks ago, I now take Wednesdays off. You noticed that this is being written on a Wednesday? Well, it is hard to break old habits since I also love work. But, the key is that I am doing this because I want to, and not because I have to do so.
Walking. I started walking in the woods by myself in March. At first, I was tentative about being so alone in so vast a space. However, now I seem to have no fear and can walk any trail within walking distance, which, let me tell you, is a large choice of trails. Nature provides constant change. The cycle is so evident and powerful, that is is really fun and exciting to watch. Trees grow and fall. The flowers and grasses change weekly. Birds provide color and sound. And, there is so much to learn about it all. Harder than you would think, as well, but it is not only something that I learn alone, all of my grandchildren have an interest in learning about the things around them and we can learn together.
Art. Looking at art and enjoying it with others has become a passion. Every Friday I host a MeetUp on Zoom for my Art Alliance for Contemporary Glass membership. ContempGlass.com in case you are interested. This provides meaningful results through sharing art and experiences with others. We start early and say hello to each other prior to a presentation by a glass artist, a gallery, a museum or someone involved in the art world relating glass to art in some way. The Art Alliance for Contemporary Glass channel on YouTube houses all of these MeetUps. Some are really fascinating. We are also getting some travel in as some of the sessions include photos of where the presenter is and what is happening there: Venice, Murano, Prague, New York City and the Berkshires have all been featured.
Aging issues. Wearing a mask when with others. I am religious about it, my love, not so much. He is better now at wearing the mask when he goes out but does not have the capacity for understanding social distancing. Neither do my littlest grands. So I am forever, saying think of the space as a llama. An adult llama. That seems to get them all to better understand. Washing hands thoroughly. All the grands have learned this and comply. Note that I am not mentioning my love on this one. Speaking slowly. Repeating exact sentences. Trying to be patient. Looking for ways to include another in cooking, gardening, walking, and art. Taking over the task when it just becomes too unpleasant, like carrying things downstairs safely. Asking daily about getting out to have some exercise. Even a stroll around the yard. Just moving. Patiently teaching the intricacies of Zoom, microphones and headsets so that the shared experiences can be shared. Fixing healthy, some even home grown, meals that have variety, are tasty and nutritious, and can be frozen and used so I am not relegated to a daily routine that includes always having to fix dinner. Oftentimes when I am interviewed about aging issues I say, “If you have met one 85-year-old person, you have met one 85-year-old person.” Each of us ages in our own way, at our own pace, and in ways that cannot be predicted. Each of us accepts advice or opportunities at our own pace and in our own time. The one thing I learned from having an elder care business for almost two decades was that nature takes its course. You cannot make someone do something just because it is good for them. The only time you can really insist is when whatever the action actually puts the person in danger or endangers others. You have to learn to live with whatever happens and adjust to the reality of what is.
All in all, I am doing well. I am now looking at all my endeavors and trying to make life more exciting, educational, and meaningful. I’d love to know how others are coping and what you are doing. Stay safe out there.