Aging Order of Operations

We don’t get to pick the order of operations as we fade or explode into deteriorations or setbacks. Since having every part of us go kaput would be a critical system failure, most of us try to manage these sub-system breakdowns with some grace while we work to improve or accept whatever crappy situation our health may have us in.

A great asset to have during times of regrouping is an activity that can take our minds away from our pains. Something to do while sitting or reclining would be good. However, I am poorly prepared for escaping anywhere without my feet.

My friend Donna has the mental skills to float away during physical distress. We met in my first writing class, and I wrote about how much better prepared she was for our assignments. She can be practical and literal, but I soon found that she was a poignant and funny writer as she responded to our in-class prompts.

Donna is also a voracious reader, but reading and creative writing are only a small part of what she has to lift her spirits when life hits a slowdown. She is a multimedia artist who regularly sells works in several northwest galleries. The other day Donna mentioned that she didn’t get to some chores because she “got lost” in painting all day. Her comment stirred up some unsettled thoughts in my head.

If my body dictates that I slow down, I have a perplexing problem. I rarely “get lost” in stationary activities like art, writing, or reading. In reflection, I see some reasons for this lack of quiet-time rapture, but the whys of how I got to this state are unimportant right now. I’m a person who gets carried away when on the move. Hiking is my solace, and if weather obscures the views, I’ll convert the trek into a conditioning hike as I try and keep in shape for a climb to a distant wildflower meadow. But, I realize that I will likely have to retool my escapes to joy sometime in the future. As things stand right now, it won’t be a smooth transition.

I had back surgery a couple of months ago, and the outcome was uncertain. I tried to get lost in flat-land walks around my home, but my slow gait wasn’t very elevating for my soul. I got books that friends would recommend, but I’m an academic reader who can zoom through a text to extract content and not in the habit of slowing down enough to get lost in a book.

Writing became a chore that I didn’t do. Ideas don’t flow coherently on a good day, and when I was hurting only drivel dribbled from my brain.

Before surgery, we rented a hospital bed for the den and Michael installed a TV. The remote became my friend, but it didn’t help me get lost in much at all. I felt I was receding into passive nothingness.

Before I retired, when I was stuck in boring meetings or workshops, I made little line doodles and enjoyed some of the results. I wasn’t trying to create anything of value, and that probably helped move the pen along.  Before surgery, I got some watercolor pens to spend some of my time drawing flowers on note cards. They kept me occupied, but not carried away to joy.

Right now, with a gifted surgeon and some challenging therapy exercises, it seems like I’m getting back my active escapes. Yesterday after a short distance of running without pain, I pumped my fists as a silent cheer of gratitude because I knew I was working my way back to the mountains.

Eventually, I’m bound to fizzle or explode again. I hope that it is years away, but when I’m too frail to head to the hills, I realize that I will need to have much better strategies for getting lost in time. I’ve signed up for a drawing workshop in late summer. I keep trying to get engrossed in books. I’m sitting here writing.

Hopefully, before I fail again, I will find a joyful dance to occupy my time when all I can do is stutter my way across the floor.