Welcome to the New Year 2018
Early January Cancer Update

"Let Age Be Age"

Not meaning to sound too much like a grinch, finally these endless holidays are done and good riddance. They last nowadays forever – my first Christmas catalog arrived in August – and one of the things I have come to value at this advanced age is routine.

(Although, if the time allotted to end-of-year holidays expands much more, it will become our new routine: all Christmas all the time.)

One of the new-ish reasons I value routine is that it helps speed things along when what needs to get done each day expands with the years:

”An increasing part of living, at my age, is merely bodily maintenance, which is tiresome. But I cannot find anywhere in my life a time, or a kind of time, that is unoccupied,” writes 88-year-old Ursula K. Le Guin in her latest collection of essays, No Time to Spare – Thinking About What Matters.

She goes on to list all the things with which her days are filled – it takes up half a printed page – and she doesn't even mention any of those bodily maintenance chores that, especially since my cancer diagnosis, take up two to three hours a day.

NoTimeToSpare225 Did I say Le Guin's new book is a collection of essays? Well, I'm wrong. It is, instead, a book of blog posts from, roughly, 2010 to recently. (Did you know she keeps a blog? I didn't. You'll find it here.)

But then, blogs generally are essays and Le Guin's have always been thoughtful, ironic, funny and often get within easy shouting distance of real truth, especially about everyday life.

The first section of the book is mostly taken up with growing old and it is nice to find that a well-known person whose work I admire reinforces my own beliefs and point of view.

”It can be very hard to believe that one is actually eighty years old,” she writes, “but as they say, you'd better believe it...If I'm ninety and believe I'm forty-five, I'm headed for a very bad time trying to get out of the bathtub.

In one essay, Le Guin lobbies earnestly for a return to respect for old people:

”Just coping with daily life, doing stuff that was always so easy you didn't notice it, gets hard in old age, till it may take real courage to do it al all. Old age generally involves pain and danger and inevitably ends in death. The acceptance of that takes courage. Courage deserves respect.”

She explains further as she speaks to the value of elders:

”...an old intelligence may have extraordinary breadth and depth of understanding. It's had more time to gather knowledge and more practice in comparison and judgment.

“No matter if the knowledge is intellectural or practical or emotional, if it concerns alpine ecosystems or the Buddha nature or how to reason with a frightened child: when you meet an old person with that kind of knowledge, if you have the sense of a bean sprout you know you're in a rare and irreproducible presence.

“Same goes for old people who keep their skill at any craft or art they've worked at for all those years. Practice does make perfect. They know how, they know it all, and beauty flows effortlessly from what they do.”

As much as I appreciate Le Guin's thoughts on respect for and value of old people, her realism is equally important:

”Existence in old age is progressively diminished by each of these losses and restrictions. It's no use saying it isn't so, because it is so.

“It's no use making a fuss about it, or being afraid of it, either, because nobody can change it...

“A lot can be made of a diminished thing, if you work at it. A lot of people (young and old) are working at it.

“All I'm asking people who are not really old is to...try not to diminish old age itself. Let age be age. Let your old relative or old friend be who they are. Denial serves nothing, no one, no purpose."

This section on ageing is small. Le Guin has pulled together blogs posts on a wide range of topics – her cat “the Pard,” the literature business, anger, belief, “the Pard,” music appreciation, even the Oregon high desert and more about “the Pard.”

When I started reading No Time to Spare late one evening, I expected to get through one or two of Le Guin's blog posts before turning out the light. Instead, I read half the book before sleep overtook me.



Comments

"Old age generally involves pain and danger and inevitably ends in death."
But of course this is true of any age if one wants to go around with a glass half empty view of life, n'est-ce pas?

Sounds like an amazing book, I'm off to Amazon

Ursula K. Le Guin output is phenomenal! Thank you for the links.

I agree on the Christmas thing, it just keeps expanding. I go with the idea of decorating two weeks before Christmas and then taking it all down before New Years and starting clean and fresh on day 1 of the new year. Back to routine.

LeGuin is new to me so I'm off to look at her blog and see if she is someone I want to follow. Thanks for the information.

You sold me on this book. :-)

I had no idea Ursula K. Le Guin had a blog, thank you Ronni. A Christmas catalog in August? Eek! I was was pouting when the Kristmas Krap showed up int the store before Halloween.

I think my family lets the old be old, they aren't always happy about it but they actually recognize I still know things and have skills and are generous about filling in where I need it.

Routine is what holds a lot of my life together. Being slightly OCD hasn't hurt either. My little medical routine takes an hour in the morning, exercise about 45 minutes. If I don't do them right away in their assigned time slot I never get back to it during the day and my meds get screwed up. When I lose my keys, phone or whatever they are usually "lost" in the same place.

Thank you, Ronni. I'm going to check out Miss Ursula. Be well.

I doubt that I have learned much about being old except that the older you get the harder it gets. I am falling a lot now and had the men in black at my home lifting me to an upright position last night. Today is full of aches and pains, and I just have to deal with it. Old age is what it is.

The only thing that surprises me is that I have lived this long. Even with aches and pains I am still grateful for each day. When I am no longer grateful I will know that it's time to check out.

A friend sent me an long article of a list of all the luminaries who died in 2017 and it's really daunting to see how many famous people slipped away with barely a mention. It made me realize that my expiration date is not really that important in the scheme of things.

I doubt that Ursula K. Le Guin would agree with me.

Thanks Ronnie for the recommendation. I am number 28 in line for the 5 copies of No Time to Spare my library owns!

Yesterday a friend sent a text saying the world is in order - the Valentine candy was displayed in a Tacoma store on Boxing Day.

Marian...
Me too - I mean, there was Valentine's candy in the supermarket when I was there are on Tuesday. I was looking for discounted Hannukah candles to keep for next year, but nooooo. They're gone already in favor of candy hearts.

Le Guin's blog is one section of a very large website and her formatting is very different from most blogs. I am interested in reading her book.

I appreciate Le Guin's realism.

Okay, I'm a pest, but here are some things I love about the holiday season.........I make two wreaths, complete with preying mantis egg cases, magnolia leaves, lotus pods, whatever is available. The RED berries on the holly trees. Renaissance and Medieval holiday music. For Solstice my friends told me they put offerings in the woods of apples, seeds, and biscuit pieces. Oh, and really good egg nog with a shot of bourbon. And the cold. And spending many days at home alone in a row.

Thank you so much for this information about Ursula Le Guin, who many years ago admitted to not liking that her eyebrows were turning white. I can't wait to read this book, which I didn't know about. And the blog too. Thanks so much for all the life enriching information you pass along to us, Ronni.

Salinda Dahl, what an alluring image you created. The bourbon eggnog and days home alone are particularly appealing.

Ronni, thank you for another wonderful entry. I so look forward to your blog posts. Thank you. I hope you are feeling well today.

Have not yet read Ursula K. Le Guin's new book but now after reading your comments will do so asap! Her thoughts on ageing added to all of your many posts on the subject is so valuable to your readers knowing we're all in this together. It means a lot, believe me.

And I too was charmed by Salinda Dahl's comment on favorite things at the holiday season: eggnog with a shot of bourbon, the cold, and many days at home alone in a row. Sounds good to me!

Happy New Year to all . . .

Thank you for the reminder of Ursula Le Guin's latest book. I'd seen excerpts from it but managed to put it on the back burner for way too long. I'll get it at once. Of course, she's been writing for a very long time, but as her earlier work seemed to contain a lot of "fantasy" as well as "science fiction" I tended to stay away for way too long.

Marketing: isn't it grand! Always nice of the marketing industry to tell us what we need to buy long before we want or need to.

Still, after putting away all my seasonal decorations on the first of the year, on the second day of the new year, I found some daffodil buds at my local supermarket that I could not resist.

Today they are in full bloom. Let's hear it for Spring!

My wonderful Mother-In-Law, who lived to 103, always said, "You have to be Tough to Grow Old." I am seeing now that she was right. :)

Will look for the book and read Ursula's blog.
Thank you!

Let's go easy on the Christmas decorations up before Halloween. We must remember family time is limited now with mostly, both parents working. It is easier to shop early than to try to fit everything in at the last few weeks, which might include Christmas pageants at school, visiting or entertaining relatives and trying to make Christmas peaceful for the family. Happy New Year to all and one more thing: I removed my two-foot Christmas tree from the side window and I am glad to put it away for another year. I will look for this book and blog, also

Great Blog!
I'll look for the book.
Ronni, Thank you.

Redstone

I share with others here the appreciation of moments like Salinda has described. There joy brought through nature, via wreaths, walks in the woods, or just the quiet moments, (with or without the bourbon laced eggnog) are special times that help keep me balanced in these frigid and dark days.

As far as aging, since there is no alternative, I try to make the best of it, but it's becoming more of a challenge. Five years ago, after nearly two years of taking total care of my mother-in-law, who had lived with Alzheimer's for about the last decade of her life, that chapter ended when she died at 93. My mother, who is 87, is now beginning to slip into dementia. Over this past year, she has lapsed into intermittent loss of recognition of even those closest to her, although her general health is pretty good and she and my 91 year old stepfather still manage to live in their own home, with minimal assistance. Two years ago, Mom looked across her kitchen table at me while we were having muffins and coffee, and suddenly said, "I never wanted to be 85." She doesn't mention age these days, and I'm not sure she has any idea of hers any longer, as she spends a lot of time talking about wanting a job. And so it goes.

"Old age is not for sissies. You know what the alternative is." (comedian Rodney Dangerfield) Right on target. I've had my share of serious health problems over the past twenty years and am of the attitude that I don't really care to put up a good fight when the next one shows up. After all, there comes a time to go away and make room on earth for the next generation. My husband is 83 and until recently always healthy. Now he has atrial fibrillation and his dry macular degeneration is slowly evolving into wet mac. deg. which means he will be totally blind. Except for the inconvenience of all those long drives to specialists and various treatments and tests, we manage to maintain a positive attitude. I immediately followed your link, Ronni, to LeGuin and am looking forward to reading a lot during this serious blizzard in New England. Thank you once again for your insightful information. Yours was the first blog I ever read and now I have a long list of blogs I read that take me all over the world and provide a connection that makes up for my not traveling any longer. Best of everything to you in 2018!

Dear Ronni, thanks for sharing the wisdom of LeGuin's book. I'm eager to see if our library has it. I now do only e-book reading because of vision concerns, but this book sounds like it's just what I need for these long winter nights of my 81st year.

I hope the new year brings you the manifestation of your deepest heart-wish.

Peace, pressed down and overflowing.

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