On a personal note…
You know what happens when you get too big for your britches. (Elders will get this right away…you who are younger might need a tutorial…) Yes, sometimes, “something” happens. A distasteful lesson arrives, unwanted, insistent.
So it was this past Tuesday and Wednesday.
Those of you who have been reading this blog know that I’m endlessly cheerful about being old, and encouraging to those who are doubtful that there is anything to be cheerful about. I’m still feeling cheerful, but for all of that, I’ve also been humbled this past week.
I have been dutifully reminded that there really are limitations out there over which I have little control – but over which I do have some control that I have nonetheless refused to exert. The lesson has unfolded over two days which were more intense than any that I have had in a long time.
I’ve been proactive in keeping my life balanced so that I have the energy that I need to keep this elderhood in good shape. But sometimes life really does happen while you’re busy making other plans, to paraphrase John Lennon again.
And sometimes I have just avoided the work and discipline that should make that balance work. Like regular exercise…
Tuesday and Wednesday this week, I was steeped in intense work on behalf of the small church that I’m serving for a short time while they search for a new pastor. It began with a trip with two of the members – both elder men who happen to do a lot of walking.
We are in the midst of a thaw in this part of the world, after nearly 80 inches of snow that has piled up high. When we reached Minneapolis to meet with denominational officials, we found we had to park three blocks away. The walk to the Conference Center was uphill, the sidewalks mined with occasional strips of ice and slush which needed to be negotiated carefully. (We call it the “Minnesota shuffle.”)
I was doing so well, and I was congratulating myself for being an old woman who could still hack it on the winter walking scene (no small accomplishment!) with these two fit friends. Then we reached the 8 or 9 steps that led to the parking lot.
I could barely lift my legs to begin the climb! They were dead weight! Nooooooo!! Step by step, I slowly made it to the top, but every step was a question mark. I was confounded! Would they notice? And I still had nearly a block left to reach the front door. Surprisingly, and to my considerable relief, every step on level ground was fine. Nonetheless, my comeuppance was clear.
The two-hour meeting was intense, full of energy and hard work. It was good. The hour and a half trip back home went well. But the next surprise, the limits of my stamina, was about to appear.
Intensity can be invigorating. It can also be draining.
Especially for us introverts!
As I parked my car in my beloved underground garage, I realized suddenly that I was totally, unabashedly exhausted! Done in!! Weary to the bone! I slept 10 hours that night. (My usual is 5-6 hours…)
The next day, I had a three-hour lunch with a wonderful woman of the church who filled me in on the history of the church over the past few years. My energy was at full tilt. Listening, I was reminded, is taxing work, even when it’s good work. My stamina was again being challenged.
That evening, I began to run a temperature of 100.5. Out of the blue! This happens now and then to me for no apparent reason. Chills and fever and feeling lousy for a day or so. Just a coincidence, or a lesson waiting to be learned? I slept 9 hours. And I had to cancel a third intense day.
Coming up against our limitations at any time can be frustrating. In elderhood, it can be downright discouraging – depressing – infuriating. Not so long ago, that would have been where I landed. But it isn’t our only option.
Giving up, giving in, doesn’t have to be the default choice.
The calm that I so cherish in my elderhood has turned out to still be strong and resilient, despite my dismay. Evidently it is well enough developed that it’s here to stay. That alone is good reason to take a deep breath of gratitude.
This grace of calm is not unique to me. It is part and parcel of this time of life, especially when we embrace it and welcome it. It becomes the balance that can keep us on an even keel. It takes our wobbly spirit and stills it and sets it on even ground. Its serenity clears away the cobwebs that have wound their gossamer fingers around any unused habits or forgotten intentions. It always amazes!
This calm also reminds me that I am still in charge of so much more than I think I am! My physical well-being is not just determined by my age. Yes, my body has been chugging along for nearly 78 years, and some things are wearing down. But there is such a thing as – EXERCISE – which is a meh! reality for me, but an essential for the rest of my life.
Two recalcitrant legs that almost refused to be lifted and a mysteriously appearing fever. Just chance, or a gentle warning? I’m thinking I need to pay attention. Okay, so here I go…and some day I may return to Minneapolis and climb that same hill and those same steps, just to prove that paying attention is all worth it!
Welcome the calm when it arrives! Nurture it! It will serve you well!
And I’m very okay with that!