Growing older doesn’t bother me as it happens with or without my approval. Favoring the more positive, romantic approach, I bought into the idea popularized by poet and playwright Robert Browning. In an 1864 published work, he wrote, “Grow old along with me. The best is yet to be.”
He lived to be 77, a rather advanced age for that time. As life expectancy increases, many of us plan for longevity much beyond Mr. Browning’s.
Unconcerned about how many candles are on the birthday cake each year, I’m interested in celebrating and socializing. Such plans ended abruptly this spring when reality included the COVID-19 pandemic. Whenever protocol was discussed or warnings given, the word “elderly” was usually included along with dire stories of treatment and outcomes. Elderly meant 60 and up. I felt much older in March than I had in February. Almost like returning to the angst of adolescence and learning appropriate behavior.
Literature concerning healthy living for seniors includes importance of healthy foods, exercise and social involvement. Sharing time and experiences with others is not to be taken lightly. Seniors’ lifestyles should include socialization. Some find socializing a challenge; others thrive on it. Like everything, a comfortable balance is essential.
The health crisis did not allow for easing into changes and directives. One Friday, friends and I were eating dinner in a restaurant; the next day my husband and I hosted dinner for family; the following morning church services were cancelled; and so it began.
Somewhere along life’s journeys we must learn acceptance. Not giving up, getting angry or quitting but gracefully adapting to what needs acceptance. If we look around at others’ valiant efforts, we can be energized to double our efforts at not just surviving but thriving. No, it likely won’t be in ways we once thought were important, but it can be in even better ways.
People’s creativeness explodes in difficult times. Newspapers, television, magazines and social media are full of stories detailing clever and joyous ways of celebrating graduations, birthdays and other special events, all within the confines of social distancing. Likely there’ve been many revisions since original plans were made months ago for the events, but congratulations to the honorees can still be joyfully expressed. Daily happenings, other people’s behavior, challenges, even a bout with poison ivy or a broken leg, can all teach us something. Sometimes the lesson isn’t so much what we should emulate, but rather what we should avoid, like jealousy, rude behavior, unkindness and more. So what have I learned from multiple weeks of no scheduled activities? I’ve relearned the pleasure of phone calls or a hand-written note in my mailbox. I’ve enjoyed immense pleasure from looking at old photographs, church directories, high school yearbooks and various items kept for forgotten reasons. I’ve discarded, repurposed and taken pictures of what I want to remember always, but placed the actual items in boxes to donate for others’ enjoyment. I’ve reminisced, rewatched favorite movies, called people, cleaned out cupboards and closets, remembering fondly or with laughter why certain possessions initially were mine.
Oh, yes, and I’ve grown older and thankfully more grateful. Is the best yet to be? Perhaps, but that is not for me to know just yet. I’m also learning patience during these challenges.