On Monday's post, long-time TGB reader Salinda Dahl made reference to one particular way her life has changed:
”My life, though so much 'smaller' than in the past...I stand smiling, befuddled, feeling somehow less-than. But when my secret life is in sway, oh the inexplicable wonder and beauty, and sometimes terror! Big, very big.”
(I'm inviting her to expand on that thought in the comments below today.)
Although I'm not certain, I think I know some of what Salinda means. My life has become smaller for reasons that can all be filed under one header, “You Got Old.”
Even before the cancer diagnosis in 2017, I had begun slowing down my life. It's not that I made a decision to change my activity level exaxtly; mostly I just followed inclinations as they appeared.
Fewer social evenings out. Internet purchases and delivery instead of shopping trips. And I generally gave up entertaining at home and on holidays because my energy and stamina began going south in relation to my intentions.
I had some earlier practice at cutting back social life after I took a job that involved a four-hour, round-trip commute which. If you've never done that, you might not realize that although you can get a lot of reading done, it is all about work and sleep during the week and chores catch-up all weekend.
There is no time for much else when you lose 20 waking hours from a week.
During my three years at that job, I think I became accustomed to having a smaller social life and some friends disappeared when I so regularly declined invitations because there was simply no time for a social life beyond a quick coffee date, for example, among weekend chores.
But that's not an excuse anymore. All kinds of things change as old age settles upon us. Certainly less energy in general leaves me tired but there are other reasons too.
Sleep overtakes me much earlier now. It's hard for me to follow a conversation let alone participate after 6PM. My brain seems to stop parsing language by then. Mostly, nowadays, I see friends for lunch.
For some reason too (I think we've touched on this one previously in these pages), more than one trip out of the house per day is all I can handle. If I've done the grocery shopping, stopped at the pharmacy and driven to the cannabis dispensary, I'm done for the day.
Sometimes I'm stuck doing all those things in addition to rehab or seeing a doctor. On those days, there is not a chance of budging me from home once I get back there.
Another important contribution to a smaller life: Old age is greedy – it wants all the time it can steal from you and even more if you plug in a disease or ailment.
Our bodies are wearing out as we reach late life and force us to slow down almost everything we do. Household chores I once did for myself require a handyman or specialist – more time gone. For decades, I cleaned the house on Saturday morning. The goal was to finish by noon and most of the time I did. Now? It's a joke. I do a little every day but I don't finish everything every week anymore.
More doctor visits. Weekly pill counting into little boxes. If you don't live in a big city and give up driving, trade in that half-hour trip to the dentist for 60 or 90 minutes each way on public transportation.
COPD has cut my normal walking speed at least in half. Something in my condition or perhaps a medication has weakened my hands so I cannot carry as much weight – e.g. groceries – as I did not long ago. More time gone. And so on.
There is no telling how many books I haven't read, movies I haven't seen and blog posts that are not written because life's boring maintenance, which I hardly noticed for 70 years, takes so damned much time now.
I feel the walls of my life closing in, making the room - life itself – smaller.
But here's the great surprise: For all this shrinkage, my life doesn't feel small. It feels huge, much larger than all those years I worked in a glamorous media business, traveled the world and was always on the go when I was home.
Let it be said that I'm no stranger to lots of time alone. I've always needed more of that than many people but now my inner life is so much richer, filled with new curiosity, understanding and insight to life and to myself almost daily discovering my truths, if not universal ones.
Maybe that's the purpose of old age, to slow us down just so we can have the time to savor and delight in the realizations that become available to us now if we pay attention. To quote Salinda again,
”Oh the inexplicable wonder and beauty, and sometimes terror! Big, very big.”
What a splendid thing to have happen when all the rest of the world believes old age is a bummer. This has become the best time of my life – just as I believed every earlier time was the best when I was living them.