“You’re living a creative life every time you start over, keep going, make better, uplift, brighten, become, turn to, and transform…every time you allow yourself to tear down and rearrange what’s already there – unafraid to go places where others have never been, or more importantly, to places you’ve never been.”
-Bill Apablasa, The Crunchy Part of the Lasagna, Oxygen Buzz, February 21, 2019
TO NATTER: to talk about unimportant things for a long time.
Have you ever noticed that your mind can be blithely nattering on without your permission? That this nattering mind makes things seem Ultimately Important that are not really important at all? It tries its best to take you back to places you thought you’d left behind. It leads you to scary places down the road that may or may not ever appear. It works very hard, just so that you can be reminded again that life is a fearsome journey and you’d better face the inevitable disasters sooner rather than later. Yada, yada, yada.
It often begins with a question: “What if?” Or even,”Are you kidding?”
It never leaves us alone forever. It’s never finally conquered. It can only be managed. It showed up recently, once again surprising me with its blathering nonsense that ran on a continuous loop, as it loves to do. Predictably, it began with one of its favorite questions, “What if…what if…what if?” (It adores repetition!)
The nattering mind happens at any age. It showed up again a few days ago, after a hiatus of many months. As usual, it was unexpected.
It began after a friend and I drove to the Twin Cities to visit an 83-year-old dear friend and fellow choir member whose family had moved her there six weeks ago. They needed to watch over her well-being better, now that her memory has grown worse. It was a wonderful visit. It was a sobering one.
P. is now living in a beautiful independent-living, handicap accessible, light and spacious apartment with large windows that look over a thick woods and the river beyond. The complex is bright and airy and has all the expected amenities of senior living. We were glad to see her well situated. But the fact that she is now much less independent and far from her closest friends subtly weaved its way through our time together.
She was still P. in so many ways. We had lunch at a familiar chain restaurant like the one in Rochester where we’d gone after church many Sundays. She still had her gimpy walk, aided by her cane, because of two bad hips. It didn’t stop her, though. She still had that quiet, fierce determination. And her wry sense of humor.
But there was a winsomeness about her now.
We put together a 300-piece jigsaw puzzle on her kitchen counter in an hour, just as we’d done so many times over the years on a Sunday afternoon. Arnold Palmers and peanut M & M’s were rolled out, as always.
Yet, there was a new fragility, a few thin, transparent cords of hope that were hanging on for dear life. As if she were floating just above solid ground. Time was taking its toll.
I was back home alone in my favorite space when the nattering mind took hold. Of course. I didn’t notice it at first. It was a familiar conversation. The one about the fear and the angst of not knowing what the future holds. One of floating just above solid ground, holding on for dear life again because I don’t know what my future might hold. What if…?
Two years from 80, I was getting caught up again in the old familiar face of my own aging. “What if?” becomes the cudgel to break me down. “How will I handle it when and if this becomes my future?” “What if I run out of bravery?” You know, those questions that are impossible to answer.
We all face the nattering mind, chattering away as if it holds all the important secrets to life. Pretending it has our best interests at heart. By elderhood, we’ve learned some of its tricks. Experience has taught us that we can do battle with it. Practice has shown us that we can win the battle, and how to do it: with courage, possibility thinking and determination. And creativity. Lots of creativity.
As Bill Apablasa reminds us, we’re being creative in managing our future “…every time you allow yourself to tear down and rearrange what’s already there…unafraid to go places you’ve never been…”
I began to remember that all of life is about practicing for the future. Becoming more and more adept at meeting the next change, the next challenge, the next bump in the road, with a brave heart and a willing spirit. Tearing down and rearranging. Refusing to be undone by the new, unfamiliar thing that just showed up.
Being fascinated with the possibilities of what can still be when new circumstances come our way:
that’s where resilience begins.
At the end of that day in the Cities, resilience was what silenced that overzealous mind. It reminded me that the nattering mind brings nothing new to the table. Just the same old fear-mongering that robs me of the rich present. And the hopeful future.
Resilience: it was rearranging the nattering present to write the future. Again.
“Live in the moment.” So easy to say. Doing it takes work. The future depends on it. Practice, practice, practice.
The sooner we start, the better our elderhood will turn out. I really believe that, because I’m living it, with lots of help from friends and strangers who have graced me with light to see by.
Grace, and hearts that beat like mine with hope, and determination, and the expectation that the future will still be worth living, no matter what shows up.
We all keep bringing each other through.
And I’m very okay with that.