Thursday, April 14, 2016

Aging Gracefully Under Pressure

As we get older it gets harder and harder to relate to others, and if we aren't careful we might end up all alone.  There seems to be an unspoken concesus in the world that we are supposed to act a certain way as we age.  Unfortunately, I seem to have not gotten the correct memo.  Because no matter how old I get I still like the things I used to like when I was younger.  I still like to read and write, and most of my other habits have remained relatively the same.  Though I have noticed that the older I get the less tolerant of certain things I become.  However, I believe that I have always had the same issues I just didn't speak on them like I do now.  It is my contention that the world around me might have changed but I have pretty much remained the same.  I am getting older this is true, but that doesn't make me any smarter or wiser, just experienced. 

What I can tell you is that life doesn't get any easier the older you get.  You still have the same worries and concerns that you had when you were growing up.  Bills still have to be paid, and you still have the family concerns but you have to add on new health issues that you didn't have before.   Next thing you know you are sprouting grey hairs in the most unlikely of places, such as your ears, nose and other unseemly places.  You also start to realize that you really don't have all the answers of the universe, and you begin to realize that your parents weren't so off the mark.  However, aging isn't something that happens all at once, it is a gradual change and your body seems to recognize it before your brain ever does.

Sometimes, I wish I would have listened more closely to the advice my parents gave me, but no I had to be a hard head and do things my way.  I didn't take their experience into consideration.  I just looked at it like every other kid, that my parents just wanted to control me and ruin my life.  Oh how I was wrong on those assumptions, because whether or not I cared to admit it most of the time they were just trying to help me avoid some of the common mistakes that they made when they were young.   Trust me when I tell you that I never thought that I would ever get this close to 50, but here I am just a sneeze and a wink away from it.  I used to think that being 45 or higher was old, now that I am there myself, I see that it is middle aged.  I honestly didn't really start living my life until I was in my late 20's early 30's,  and now I wonder what was the big deal when I was younger.

Growing old gracefully is something that we all should try to strive for.  Use our experience to help mold and guide others that are growing up behind us.  I remember years ago a dear friend gave me a pearl of wisdom and that was to stop looking for the impossible and the improbable, be happy with yourself first and everything else will fall into place.  Let me tell you that is easier said then done.  I still had all these preconceived notions of what my life was going to be when I reached the ripe old age of 45.  Guess what my ideas and notions were dead wrong.  I never in a million years would have imagined how my life actually ended up turning out.  I had no road map or guidebook to help me navigate the myriad of health problems that was going to plague my life. 

Hell at 28 I had a career, two houses, a loving partner, two dogs, a cat and 3 automobiles.  I never in my life imagined that cancer would come back into my life and rob me of the things that I worked hard to get.  I watched everything crumble around me.  How illness and disease drove a wedge between me and my partner.  In just a few short years everything that we had worked so hard to achieve and accomplish in our 12 years together, just disappeared like a dream.  It has taken me long time to come to grips with what had happened and how it all faded so quickly.  If someone would have told me that I should have looked at the situation from my partners perspective things might have turned out a lot differently.  But I never could quite put myself in his shoes, and I didn't realize until it was much to late, how powerless and helpless he felt knowing the pain that I was in and  being unable to help in anyway.  I watched how it robbed our relationship of it's vitality as I battled harder and harder to beat cancer.  

Though that was a long time ago now and he has moved on and is doing well for himself, I never once understood how solitary being sick all the time renders a person.  No one can understand what you are going through unless they have gone through something similar themselves.  No one will understand the pain that you have to endure as your body starts failing at the most basic levels.  Or how weak you would get from the treatments, and the dangers those same treatments were to you.  I have learned a lot over the years about myself, my body, and my illness.  I can pretty much diagnose whatever ills come my way now without a doctors help.  But, it is a journey that you have to make on your own.  Not one person is ever really going to understand all the things that you have to go through. 

Now that I am 47 years old and have gone through 4 major bouts of cancer, I can look back and see the stress and stain my illness has had on everyone around me.  I just wish I could have noticed it much sooner.  But, time marches on and I have lost quite a few good people from my life, I hope that they understand that I am thankful for them being with me and standing my side while I was going through the worst moments of my life.  I hope they understand that the support that they gave was exactly what I needed at the time.

I want you to know that as you age certain parts of your body suffer before others.  For some it is the joints, arthritis creaps in and stiffens you and is very painful.  Others their hips and knees give out and they end up having serious falls and spills that could potentially be life threatening.  Most people suffer from chronic pain and have to take medicine daily to function somewhat normally.  But there is no instruction manual no easy way to comprehend the changes that occur in your body the older you get.  You must be patient if others around you don't understand or sympathize with what you are going through, because they themselves might not even suffer from the same malidies that you are. 

My one piece of advice that I would give to you is this, be receptive to the feeling of others, put yourself in their shoes, and try to understand that because their circumstances are different than yours, doesn't mean that they don't care and hurt right along with you.  Aging is not something to take lightly, and trust me when I say to you that before you know it you are going to be exactly where I am at today.  One positive experience I have had was that I ended up in a skilled nursing facility/rehabilitation center for my back when 10 of my vertabrae fractured. I got to meet some very interesting people and I understand what it is like to feel alone and forgotten behind the walls of a home like that.   It is surprise how many individuals reside in these facilities that never see family or friends. 

It is sad that in today's society we would rather let someone else deal with our elderly loved ones than take care of them ourselves.  I spent 9 months in a facility and only had someone come visit me once a week.  I made it a practice when I had a vehicle to go up and see the people at the home every Sunday once I got out.  But, more and more people end up in these homes lost and forgotten.  Yet, what a store of knowledge they have, and experience and wisdom if we just took the time to reach out to them.  Eventually I will end up in an assisted living facility I think or maybe in a retirement community of some sort because of my extensive health issues, but I am not rushing into that situation until it becomes absolutely necessary.

As you get older you hope that you will have a better understanding of people, their motivations, the angles that they use and how to avoid them. Unfortunately, if you haven't learned how to tell if someone is running game on you before then nothing will change as you get older.   I have never been a good judge of character and life wasn't always easy for me, but through the struggles I have endured, I have become a more knowledgable person, and stronger than anyone could ever imagine.  Yet, to some people looking at my life from the outside they would probably think that I have had it easy, that things seemed to come naturally to me and that my life has been pretty amazing, outstanding and awesome.  For the most part I would agree.  I have met some really famous people and can call them friends, I have been in social setting where no matter my actual standing I always seem to fit in.  I have had some grand adventures and done the most amazing things during my time on the Earth. 

I have some great stories to tell, but that will have to be at some future time.  Aging gracefully is something you just do, it isn't something that  is taught in school, it is taught by life itself. From the moment you were born till the day you die you will always feel the pressure of your responsibilities, but that doesn't diminish your life and what you have accomplished.  Life is but a journey with many rest areas along the way.  We will never know how the story is going to end till we get there.  You are never to old to have surprises, and you will continue to learn and experience things.  Just be you, be happy, be confident, be pround, because every experience you have will continue to mold you and develop you into an extraordinary being.  You are growing, evolving, experiencing, learning, achieving new things the longer you are here on this planet.  You can't ever be replaced, because there is only one you. You are totally unique in everything you do.  Remember that!

As always my hopes and dreams are with you,

Uncle B