Tuesday, January 15, 2008

No R&R Club Membership for Me, Thank You Very Much

"He who is of a calm and happy nature will hardly feel the pressure of age, but to him who is of an opposite disposition youth and age are equally a burden." ~~from Plato's The Republic
Three aunts, an uncle, and two great-cousins are proving the 'calm and happy nature' part of this quote to be true. All mid-80's to mid-90's, going strong, enjoying life, experimenting with new adventures, and sharing their love and wisdom along the way. Sure they have health issues, aches and pains. Their bodies creak, and their vision and hearing are skittish. Certainly they've had their share of hardships in life. But their minds, ah, their minds are elastic, confident, curious, and balanced. It's not simply a matter of positive thinking. It's positive being which leads to fresh thinking and the courage to try new things. It's focusing on what is good in life rather than what is disagreeable.

To this I aspire.

The opposite disposition, the frazzled and discouraged, tends to crash early on, it's true. They head for the end of each day like a frothy horse for the barn, and more often than not, sitting underneath a frazzled and discouraged outlook is a reclining chair with a remote control nearby. The R & R Club. Once a bottom learns the backwards flop into the cushiony seat of a recliner, once the arms and feet do the simultaneous dance of raising the foot rest, once the remote control becomes a fixture on the armrest, nearly all is lost. It's just a matter of time from there, my friends. From years of succumbing to this flirtatious, quicksand-like trap the lounging spine, hips, and knees take the shape of the chair when reclining and when rising to walk the stiff, bent walk of the R&R member.

It's a downward slide, usually premature, to the unnatural mindset of 'old.'

I remember one time Tom and I invited a couple who are ten years younger than we are over for Sunday lunch. Having been separated from them by time and miles we were eager to share a leisurely afternoon. The night before our planned get-together I confided in Tom that I wondered if we'd seem old to them.

I needn't have worried.

Before the first hour yielded to the second the conversation had been hijacked - by them - to the subjects of aches and pains, feeling 'cold all the time', the necessity of afternoon naps, scaly rashes, blood sugar dips and spikes, thyroid levels, cholesterol numbers, the need for fiber as 'constipation has become an issue,' and 'I feel chilly. Do you have any lap blankets in here? We always wear lap blankets when we are home."

I sat there, the fattest, grayest, cheeriest person in the room, struggling to keep a straight face, to keep the guffaws inside, nice and quiet.

"Are they serious?" I asked myself. It was obvious that age-fear had captured the minds of this couple, imprisoning healthy bodies, brainwashing them into false thinking and behavior.

Glancing at Tom I saw upwardly peaked Norwegian eyebrows hovering over somewhat alarmed eyes. I quickly looked away, suppressing the laughter. Sad, sad was the scene playing itself out in my living room, yet the absurdity of it induced astounded humor.

I'd just turned 50. The couple had just turned 40.

I just don't think in those terms.

"Have you noticed, now that you are older, that it takes much longer to heal from injuries and illnesses?" asked the still-in-the-prime-of-his-life husband.

"I guess so," I said, while thinking, "Get me outta here!" Steering the conversation like a drunken pirate only led me back and back and back to the same old stuff. Pills, holistic doctors, and natural remedies. Organic green grass drinks for breakfast, and goat milk for lunch. Nothing wrong with those things, but they didn't seem to be working for this couple.

Maybe a little chocolate now and then and a potato or two would help. Vodka in the wheatgrass smoothie.

Yes, I realize that health is not something to take for granted, nor is a good attitude any guarantee of a long and limber life. Genes play a role along with the will of God. Calamities happen. We live in a dangerous world. I do suggest however, that with whatever we are dealt we can choose to make the best or worst of it.

To a large degree happiness is a choice.

And so is 'old age.'


Cecily said...

Hahaha... the constipation bit... I tell you, poop is the most fascinating topic in the world. My Dad thought he was old from about 40 onwards, and from what I've heard, his Mum wanted to die from about 50 onwards. She made it to 80 something but was always unwell. I'm trying to halt the moans and enjoy every single day!!!!

To long life!

tshsmom said...

We've had those painful conversations too. People stare in astonishment when we say that we have no idea what our cholesterol numbers are. If our doctor doesn't think it's important right now, why should we?

We've noticed that once people start worrying about this stuff, their health starts to decline.

sean said...

I really must be honest I'm the "frothy horse in the barn" hoping for slep to take me away fo a few hours from the world.
I was born in July on a wednesday at 2O'clock in the afternoon, and it was a miserable rainy day- it never really stopped raining since.
I've never had as much as one break in my life- Job isn't in compared to me- quote: "let me speak, let me spit out my bitterness, born of grief, and nights without sleep, and festering flesh"
My life perhaps reflects the country I grew up in; a people divided- in fact my father was Protestant, and my mother catholic, so the impact was felt within and without. I couldn't take the easy way out by being one or the other - like the majority did - to vent my anger, and frustration. To the catholics I was a Prod. and to the Prods. I was a catholic.
I'm not siting religion (which was politics in guise) being at fault for my disposition; that would be too easy, but I am still open to the possibility of environment being a contributing factor to health in general. Nor can I really blame my parents, as a psychiatrist suggested to me once on the grounds of heredity.
I suffer for two disorders which were not recognised till rather late in life. I was considered a melancholic dim'wit. In my mid twenties I decided to break the mould, but I'm still struggling with it.
I think when one is of a happy disposition, happiness is naturally rewarded, and so accumilated; likewise when one is in opposition - through whatever circumstance - it is shunned. We live at the mercy of human kind first before the mercy of God, should he deem to deliver us on this earth beyond our sins to peace, but then, we maybe chosen to be in his like, crucified in this life.
Jesus wept in front of Lazarus' tomb, and was angry with his father- well it is said he prayed loudly, but I think he was angry.
He also questioned his fate, and asked why me father, Amen

Cherie said...

Good for you, Cecily, for observing and making wise choices. And back to you - to long life!

Tshs: I've noticed the same thing, that once healthy people start looking at numbers and statistics - or just listening to the news - often they begin to worry, then become obsessed. Pointlessly so.

Sean, thank you for offering balance to a somewhat shallow post. What amazes me is that, with all the obstacles your life presents still you write beautiful words, and post beautiful music. To me these are hopeful choices that come from the heart of you.

You are right that unhappiness -depression? - is misunderstood and frowned upon, and wrongly so.

I guess I'm speaking more about the fact that there are people who have every advantage in life who choose negativity, who spend their days with eyes closed to loveliness, to beauty, to life, closing off their hearts and minds in fear, not aware of all that is within their grasp. It's their choice to give up when the tiniest obstacle - real or imagined - approaches. Is it a failure of courage? I don't know for sure.

You, though, you understand the heights and depths of life, and you struggle, you don't give up. You are engaged in life. At least that's what is conveyed in your words. And that, to me, is living life the best you can. There's a certain hope in you, Sean.

Again, thanks for offering depth here, for giving me more to ponder.

Sandy's Notes said...

I think I'll just stay 49 for the rest of my life. Let someone else tell me I'm getting old.

Cherie said...

You'll never be 'old', Sandy. Never, never, never!

sean said...

Yes, sorry Cherie if I sounded like ... what?.... I was correcting you; far from it, in fact I agree with you. There is an unhealthy negativity - in the world - some get off on relentlessly, no matter what their situation good or bad may be.
We should reflect, and take stock, lest we miss the blessing, and you have pointed this out- nothing shallow in your words. More like my inferiority complex popping up/out.
Thanks Cherie

Mike S said...

Somehow I've gotten old & decrepit, but I was just too busy being alive to notice it happening:):)

Cherie said...

Sean, no need to apologize. I didn't feel corrected, but from your first comment noticed an aspect of the subject that needed to be addressed, and you did it. You deepened the dialog, and that, to me, is only helpful, and quite appreciated. Thanks for being candid. It adds much.

Mike - and there it is, exactly the outlook I am striving for, the one that my favorite relatives have. Nail on the head! Thanks.

Annie said...

This is an inspiring and funny post, Cherie. I especially like the last full paragraph.

I'm going to sell my recliner! (My husband would kill me!;)

Cherie said...

Oh no, Annie. Please don't tell your husband that it was me who made a zealot of you! Ha!

Ben said...

Hey, I want a recliner... anyone here want to sell me one?

Cherie said...

Maybe Annie will give you a call, Ben! Ha!

Oh, man, you don't REALLY want a recliner - an arrow right through the heart of me. ; )

Well, I guess you are young enough that you won't spend all day - and evening - in it, watching Fox News. Ahem.....

Ben said...

Ah, you're not one of those anti-fox-news people are you? They're better than Jerry Springer!

(No I don't want a recliner... but I did get an awesome and super-comfy Ikea chair from craigslist! It is the perfect 'working on pics on my laptop' chair!)

Cherie said...

Oh, heaven's no. I like FoxNews. Just not every hour of the day and evening. Blaaahh.

Hey, congrats on the new chair. Sounds perfect!

Did you guys find any dressers? Will you be able to bring the two down when you come? The girls are about ready to paint and the weather is cooperating, although the duct tape tent is full of sheetrock stuff. Holy moly!

Ben said...

Sure, I can bring stuff.