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Friday, 06 December 2013

Journal Entry: The Next Step in My Old Age

All we know for sure is that life is short. Or, more likely, it's only old people who know that.

When I was young, in my 20s and contemplating my future, to be 70 someday felt like an eternity, even two eternities - so far off that there was no reason to wonder about it.

But from where I am now at 72, I can close my eyes and feel 20 as near in my mind's eye as yesterday. I have grown old enough now to “grok” that life doesn't last very long.

Yet I am not so old – nor sickly – that death feels close by as I expect it to feel in ten or 15 years should I be given that much time (or will I be as wrong about that as I was at 20 about the nature of longevity)?

And unlike the callow youth I was half a century ago, so cavalierly certain there would be so much time for everything that I didn't need a plan, now I want to consider the best possible way to use the rest of my life.

I don't mean anything as simple as a bucket list of destinations, events or experiences. If there are to be any of those, they should grow naturally out of what I am working to decide now.

The question – a question, anyway – is this: on what information or knowledge or notions or convictions should I base my choices? There are only two or three things, in addition to the brevity of life, I know for sure:

• Yielding to the truth of what lies at the end of everyone's life journey gives me the freedom to live as fully and intensely as I want.

• Even as death closes in, there is no reason life cannot be made pleasurable and productive.

• We are each of us on our own which is the reason we must take care of one another.

• If I live longer than another year or two, I will need to revise these choices as life pulls me in directions I am still too young to imagine.

This is as far as I've gotten. Interim goals elude me for now but I know that when the last of my days are nigh (I would consider it a blessing to be aware), I want to believe I have done the best I could manage, and be comfortable knowing it is time to go.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Thomas Moore: Never the Hero

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post



One thing I try to do is make sure I live my life so as to be regret-free if someone I love is suddenly taken from me, or I from them. By that, I mean that I always say, "I love you," when I part from a loved one or hang up the phone. I communicate praise or compliments when the moment occurs--don't wait. I make sure I don't leave bad feelings to fester after a disagreement--resolve the issue ASAP.

I keep my house in order with my loved ones (and friends also).

Dear Ronni,

Here's a thought from one of the most talented and funny women of our lifetime.

After being a faithful reader of Time Goes By for many years, I think I can safely say that I can picture you saying these very same words.

"When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, "I used up everything you gave me".
Erma Bombeck

Ronni, This post is so thought provoking and I read each word with a meditative stance as I know how true these words are for me; as if I had written them. Thank you.

One of the hardest things about getting "old" is seeing so many friends and family members die.
But one great thing about you, Ronni, is that you are still teaching and learning, teaching and learning, staying up to date, and teaching, reaching out and learning.
I am sure I speak for a lot of people when I say we hope you get a lot lot older because we need your voice and intelligence and writing talent and your example. You have connected me to many blog writers who have brightened my day and shone light to my path. Thanks.

Much to think about as I read this post.
"If I live another 2 or 3 years I may need to revise some choices I have made."
5 years ago built my dream cottage by the woods on country property."
I wonder
can life continue the way it is at this moment?

Goals? Probably to do everything I can between 66 and 70 years of age, live it up, have fun, and not worry about the future, then at 70, recalculate, come up for air, and see which way the wind blows. During this time I hope to keep my wife happy, keep my weight under control, do some world travel, perfect my fluency in Spanish, and continue to manage my finances to perfection. I strive to assume the happiness and attitude toward life that I had when I was 12 years old. Death and eternity, I didn't worry about it at 12 years old and I'll try to block it from my mind for a few more years. Talk to me in 2017 or 2018 and see where this stands.

Most of the women on my mother's side of the family died with Alzheimer's, which became noticeable at 75. Therefore, I will try to do all the things I want to do before that age, and then hope I can continue to go on for many more years. Have 6-1/2 years to go until I get to 75, but have gotten a good start.

Funny that looking back from 80, 72 sounds so young! I wish I could go back to those easier years when just hanging 2 heavy garments up in the closet DIDN'T exhaust me and bring on extreme breathlessness, as it just did.I'm learning again to adapt to limitations of energy and mobility--just turned in my leased car and am working on setting up a plan of help from friends and hired people. My life is still full of friends, music, writing, photography and family--just on a reduced scale.

I've noticed that as I grow older, time flies. So I add more to what I have. More walking, more travel, more of everything as long as possible. Then I record it so I don't forget.

Having survived 16 years beyond your 72 years, Ronni, I can only speak for myself, but I do not plan. I just live one day at a time and sometimes only one moment at a time.

There are times that planning is thrust on me and a decision is never easy. Right now my children want me to join them in California for Christmas. I had to weigh leaving the comfort of my home and the rigors of travel against the knowledge that there are no certainties in life and this may be my last time to spend with them. I decided to go one more time and the plan was made and tickets purchased.

My first cousin, who was just 2 months younger than I, died yesterday. Needless to say, this makes me very aware of my own mortality. I have to balance being prepared for death against living life to the fullest of my ability.

I guess what I am trying to say is that there comes a time in life when you stop thinking about tomorrow and just take it as it comes.

Here I am running up against 72 and feeling sort of surprised to be here so soon, time flies. I have sold my house and am relocating to a smaller one floor condo, someone else to do the yards and outside maintenance. Its a smaller two bedroom, room for company.

I downsized my possessions, keeping mostly books, art supplies, and art, and family photos. I'm planning on spending my time talking and walking with people I love, traveling a little, and exploring life spiritually with others.

I've always had allergic asthma but I found since moving out of my dusty, 93 year old house, that backed way down, an unexpected bonus giving me more energy and less down time.

Except for my Mom who died at 74 of emphysema, the women in my family have lived to be quite old, 85 to 101, most of them wheezy and arthritic but still on their feet. I think I can still buy green bananas, but who knows, so I try to resolve disagreements, tell my peeps I love them, and look for something good in each day. Our time is only a loan.

To me, the biggest change occurred when I actually started thinking of my life as having a finite end point. It was like suddenly being able to see the back door of the house from where I stood in the living room, or the place where the sidewalk ends up ahead.

I don't know how much time I have left, but I do factor the thought into my plans.

How appropriate to read your thought on the day we hear of Nelson Mandela's death, Ronni. If there was ever a model for a life well lived, he was it. I read a quote from him this morning that made me smile: "I'm not a saint. Unless you think a saint is a sinner who keeps on trying." What more can any of us do?

Thank you so much for your thoughts today. I am 'only' 67, but for years I have been trying to figure out how to live my life's end (whether it be a few more days, years or decades). You've been a great help in the couple years I've been following this site. Most recently, with the birth of my first grandchild, I have been anxious about just how long I will be in his life. But I also want to just live my own life. Living on 1/3 what I used to earn means I probably will not travel very far, but even the thought that I'll never see my favorite place on earth again (Venice, Italy), is Ok. I can read about it, see it on film, look at my photos, write about it. That's a good life, even at its end. Plus, I live in San Francisco, and one of my sons and one of my brothers lives here too.

Hi Ronni,

oh, I find I think about things much, much differently at 52 than I did at 22 too. The whole idea of planning stuff has become important. Being part of a family has become important, which is in part why I decided to get married again (we've been together 12 yrs anyway.) For me, there was always a push-pull between "settling down" and partying it up. It's only now that I feel I"m finally ready to "settle down" and understand kind of what that means. For me, too, I've thought more about it because of a number of acute illnesses that have taken over the past few years. No, the illnesses wouldn't have made me settle down if I wasn't ready, but they do make me think more about the future, and planning, even if that planning is just the next meal. It's put a lot into perspective for me.

I'm only 60, but yesterday as I was writing Christmas cards, I noted this: rather than cross out an address because someone has moved, I crossed out a couple names, because 2 aunts have died over the past years. That was just weird. I love to travel, and have it in my mind that I must do the lengthy trips now, between 60 and 70 before it becomes too uncomfortable to fly half way around the world. Lastly, I just want to die consciously, and with ACCEPTANCE, and I don't think there's any way to rehearse, except maybe through meditation, and even then, I doubt it. I've always wondered why the human body resists that which is as certain as a moonrise. I remain baffled. Still.

Nearly 30 years ago I got my Filofax and puzzled over the inserts for "goals" and "objectives"...I had no idea what they meant in the context of my life - and I still don't. I take care of practical matters and enjoy time with friends and (some) family and I just bumble through with the rest, doing what feels right. I don't think this will change unless something major happens. I'll think again then, hoping I'll have the health and strength to deal with it.

I noted your mention today of our taking care of each other. I am quickly approaching 83. I've had cancer and two broken hips ~~ not recovering well from this 2nd one. I feel it's fair to say that I've been a care-giver to many in years past. These days I find strength and inspiration in Mary Oliver's poem (The Journey) as I don't see many around me stepping in to offer help, or even express caring, when I am in need. Bluntly, but with a smile, these days I see people having to deal with their own busy or problematic lives, or they are dying. I do love your blog__and__ your followers. Thanks for being there.

What Darlene said.


"• If I live longer than another year or two, I will need to revise these choices as life pulls me in directions I am still too young to imagine."

Isn't it strange and exciting to be able to say "...I am still too young..."?

I have had suicidal thoughts since the age of 17 which have not subsided despite counseling and anti-depressants. Therefore I have rarely considered what I should do with the next 5, 10 or 15 years of my life. I'm basically a coward and, if the going gets too rough, I'll get going, if you know what I mean.

Great post, Ronni.

being 72 myself,we are very much in the same state of mind. i have wondered if when i am 10 or even 20 years older, i will look back and think about how naive my younger 72 year old self was.

i was struck by the calmness and purpose that most of the comments expressed. i am not a "religious" person, but have my own personal beliefs and one is that somehow this life is not the end. time seems to go by more quickly as i age. i become more limited in being able to do some things, but there does seem to be a kind of calmness, acceptence, and even humor about being old. we old people are pretty damn cool!

Dear Ronni,

You are as amazing and erudite as ever. I wonder if you might explain further on the first bullet point "Yielding to the truth of what lies at the end of everyone's life journey ". I'm not sure I understand what you mean by this.

I am 70 next year. Mostly, I live a day at a time. Life has held so many surprises and adventures for me that I am sure there are still some left so what is the point of planning. Not that I am throwing everything to the winds. It's just I know that I must live well and thoughtfully. I also feel much looked after by my Creator so that things that may seem troublesome turn into steps along the way. Chronic illness has played a huge part in my life since my early 60s and interfered with my plan to remain working until at least 70. It is now putting me in compression stockings for the rest of my days.

The death of a husband and a child have taken their own hidden toll. But isn't this really just real life; life how it is. And so many people have suffered so much more.

I love and welcome the responses you draw from your readers, Ronni. They are encourage and contribute to the building of a community in this place.

Lastly, I must say, is that in this old age I worry about my nation, Australia. We have developed a shameful political ethos in the last few years and many of us fell strangers in a very strange land. The values of previous generations seem to have gone overboard. I know there are younger ones who have strong ethics and who care about people and the environment - I just hope there are enough of them prepared to put up a change-bringing fight for sound values in communities and nation. But, in the main, my activist days are behind me except for what I can do on the computer. One thing though, it is easier to impede the body than quench the spirit.

Blessings to one and all,

Well, both my parents died at 89, so I'll be glad to turn 90 in a few months.

I forget I'm old most of the time because I have pretty good health, and I have things to feel good about. And grateful.

Death interests me, but strangely enough I don't feel particularly close to it.

Would love to hear what others think.

It's easy to understand why you made your living as a writer, Ronni. You are good at it--really good!

As far as goals and objectives for my old age, I haven't had time to think about it in depth yet. I'm somewhere in between you and Pamela. I hope I can pretty much continue to live my life as I am now until (almost) the end--which I can only hope will be within my control at least to some extent. And I hope that my husband (who is 84 to my 77) and I depart this mortal coil at approximately the same time. I cannot imagine life without him. We are "one" and have been since we met almost 40 years ago.

One last thing: I, too, worry about the direction our country is taking. If we don't care for and about each other as a society, I don't think we're going to like what America becomes.

At 68, I am a very boring person who will try to do interesting things as long as possible.

I will be 70 early in 2014 and am just at the point with no "children" to look after. I raised 2 generations working a as a single mother/grandmother and now feel like this time is mine to do as I please. I spend my days outdoors, walking or swimming or inside crafting, reading or cooking. I see friends and family and find free events to attend. I have no frenzied bucket list to complete, just enjoyment of the wonder each day brings. It's a very good life indeed.

This growing old is extremely complex, isn't it? For instance, I never feel like I have "enough time" for anything, and only read half of these comments because of that feeling bearing down on me. I keep trying not to rush, but it just gets worse, and I'm sure it stems from knowing I really do NOT have "enough time"! I'm already full of regrets, congrats to you people who've managed to avoid them. Most of them can't be fixed at this point. I hope not to repeat mistakes, but guess what? I still do! It seems to me our basic natures don't change all that much even if we do gain wisdom in our later years.

I msut reiterate that Erma Bombeck really was one of the funniest women to ever walk the planet. We lost her just as we lose our nearest and dearest. In fact I dreamt of one of my lost ones last night, and now feel the mixture of warm happiness from being with her and cold pain that I can't be.

Thanks for this forum, Ronni.

I am continually shocked to think I am 70. In a good way. I never thought I'd feel this good and never take it for granted. I thought 70 was beyond the pale. I didn't anticipate living to reach it a possibility.
But now that I'm here and in good health, mentally, physically, emotionally, I'm continually astonished at what life offers me. I conduct workshops on elder abuse (there are 100s of facets to this) in high schools and over 50 clubs and even for elders themselves. I was recently voted in mayor of my small town and hope to make some small grassroots changes for my little community which is comprised mainly of elders. I am excited and looking ahead. Every day. But I keep my life where my hands are. Goals and objectives? Nah. Not for me.

Every now and then, I try to imagine the world after I leave. I cannot do it. I know nothing will change, that I do not matter at all except to family and friends. It doesn't really disturb me BECAUSE I can't imagine it. Maybe it is another way of putting my head in the sand. I never think about what happens after death because I believe that's it. It's sort of like you are at 3 A.M. and sleeping soundly.

I've reached an age which I still find it hard to believe. I have no bucket list (interestingly, even my teen age granddaughters talk about their bucket list.) I'm in pretty good health and even at 80 I can still travel, if not as rigorously as I did at 20 or even 50.

I think I have faced what we all must come to as so many poets from Goldsmith to Swinburne have But maybe I haven't.

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