The thought of touch brings the hands and fingers to my mind. I remember in a writing class I once took where the instructor had us put our hand into a paper bag and feel what was inside it without looking at the contents. We were then to write what that sense of touch felt like. It was cool, silky soft, loose and yet it felt as if it glided off my fingers or maybe it was flowing. It was kind of hard to tell. My mind said it couldn’t be liquid because it was in a paper bag so whatever it was felt like smooth water running through my fingers. It turned out to be flour. The experiment wasn’t meant to test if your senses were working right. It was a practice on how to use the senses to help the reader feel what you’re trying to portray through your writing. Now as I get older describing what something feels like to the touch is not much clearer to me than my lack of hearing can often describe. So, I have to depend a lot on my memory for that in my writing.
But the body itself from the inside out responds to touch beginning at the skin level than beneath that to the nerve endings that send a signal to the brain. All we have to do is look at our skin how it’s thinning, less taut and the lack of elasticity plays a big part in how we once determined our sense of touch. This loss occurs immediately below the skin where there is less fat protection and decreased numbers of nerve endings. All this contributes to the inability to detect pain to a certain degree. One of the things I’ve noticed is that I bruise easier. I don’t even remember hitting anything that hard to create a bruise only proving that my own lack of sensitivity to pain has decreased. Another thing to take into consideration is that we don’t always realize that the heating pad we’re using is too hot or the shower water. Lowering the temperature to 120 degrees F is recommended.
As with all the sense there is some loss but many other factors can play into it as well such as poor blood circulation, diabetes or other diseases, neurological disorders and certain mental illnesses, and of course certain drugs and medical treatments. Sometimes we suffer with things that we don’t have to. If we just discuss what we’re feeling with our doctors maybe a few changes could help.
Finally, there is one other kind of touch that older people often don’t get enough of, it’s called “touch hunger.” I often hear friends who have lost a loved one mention that what they miss most is being hugged, embraced and touched. Often too there’s a feeling that comes with age as if you are disappearing in the background of life. Maybe people think we are too fragile to hug, pat on the back or squeeze our hand, yet the simplest of touches can remind us that we are still alive and we do matter in this life. This is were having a furry friend can be very helpful too. There’s nothing like having the unconditional love of a pet.
One of my kids asked me what I was doing for Mother’s Day? I said, I didn’t even know it was coming up. I never thought much about my own Mother’s Day celebration. I was always focused on what I could do for my own mother and mother-in-law. It is after all a day set aside to celebrate the mother who raised you. It’s not supposed to be about celebrating yourself as a mother. They’ve both been gone a long time now. But we still think about them on this day remembering who they were and the things they did for us. Most of all how we wish we could still put our arms around them and wish them a happy Mother’s Day. There’s no one else to celebrate and thinking of myself feels selfish. But then I started thinking about it. Why shouldn’t I? I mean, if anyone were to ask me what the greatest accomplishment of my life has been I’d say without hesitation…raising my kids and being their mother. Maybe it’s part of embracing the many years of our life and the things we’ve accomplished. Maybe this is what my Dad meant when I turned 50 and he said, “this is your time now.”
So, as I’m contemplating the question of what I’m going to do for Mother’s Day. I’m also looking out the window at my gardens feeling overwhelmed by all the work I have to do yet. Then it came to me. There isn’t anything I want or need, but I sure could use some help this year getting my gardens weeded, mulched and planted while I’m still nursing my tennis elbow. Why not ask for the best gift of all…the helping hands of my own kids. It won’t even cost them anything, except their time. Doing what Mom’s do I even made sure to plan it on Saturday so my girls could enjoy their own Mother’s Day with their kids on Sunday.
Us Moms are known for being good party planners. But being the caregivers we’ve been has taught us best how to find ways to problem solve too. Leave it to a Mom to find a way to make everyone happy, but maybe part of learning to embrace our age means it’s time to include ourselves in the equation.
It’s not as easy as it sounds to do what Dr. Roizen teaches in his book “This Is Your Do-Over.” Creating a do-over in your life is literally what you have to do. Most importantly for it to work you have to be committed to the changes you need to do.
I start off with all the best intentions but it never fails that something happens to sabotage my efforts. Something like an injury, surgery, sickness or even a vacation. You’d think it would be easy enough to get back on the train to good health once you’ve learned all the tricks, but it isn’t. When you don’t feel good you sit, and when you sit too much that sedentary life begins to feel comfortable. Soon your back to feeling lousy and let’s face it…old again.
When I get like this it’s not long before I hear the words of my mother echoing in my head, “Well, you know, I am in my 60’s now, what do you expect.”
Okay, Mom, I can understand to a point what you were talking about now, but I also understand that I could have another good 20 or 30 years to live. I’m not ready to give up yet. As I keep reminding myself, aging is not for those who don’t have the fight in them to live. The bottom line is, if you want to live, you have to keep moving. That’s where living exists in the things we do, and you can’t create your do-over without doing the work it takes to do. “So, Just do it!” is what I tell myself, doooooo it!
Man, listening to Ella Fitzgerald singing that song makes me want to go outside, sit in the warmth of the sun with my gin & tonic, and a good book. The truth is I can’t lay in the sun anymore. I never should have all those years back when I lathered up with baby lotion to get a tan. I’ve been lucky so far that I haven’t had skin cancer, but I’ve had a few big scares. I’ve read that the older we get the longer we’ve been exposed to the sunlight which is one of the many reasons we’re at higher risk for skin cancer.
I don’t know about you but I want to live, and a lot of that living has to do with being outside. I like to garden, walk on the beach, play in the pool with my grandchildren, watch them play sports, and walk my dog. So, how can I do that and be safe too?
I did my research, and while many of the things I learned I was already doing. The things I read made me sit up and take those things a little more seriously. I would encourage you to read them if you’re serious about taking care of yourself. I’ll have the site information at the end of this post. For now, I made up a reminder list of the important things we can do.
Be committed to the consistency it takes to be the best you.
Check your skin on a regular basis
Stay out of tanning beds
Apply SPF 30 or higher before you get dressed to make sure you don’t miss a spot.
Pay special attention to the ears, bald spots, hands and feet, and reapply exposed areas throughout the day.
Always use a lip balm of at least 30 SPF and apply several times throughout the day.
Sit in shade
As my friends would say moisturize, moisturize, moisturize.
In my last post, I talked about how much I enjoy playing in my gardens. I call it, play because it feels more like fun than work to me. Life’s too short to do things any other way at this stage of the game. I want to be able to keep doing the things I love. So, I go the extra mile by doing my warm-up exercises. Setting time limits, wearing my hat, gloves, comfortable clothes and sunscreen. I’m ready to dive in.
Like a kid with all my toys, I head out to my garden. Taking my hoe in tow I begin to loosen the soil. Right away a nagging pain around my elbow reminds me that it’s still in recovery mode. I hurt it the other week putting some elbow grease into scrubbing my oven. So, I put the hoe away and got down in the dirt. The soil was soft enough to pull the tender weeds. It wasn’t long though before my tennis elbow started screaming stop. Determined to keep going I switched to my left hand and when that got tired I went back to my right. Going back and forth each time until the pain started screaming louder. It’s okay, I tell myself. There’s plenty of other things we can do. So, I head for my potting shed. I open the door and there are dirt-filled pots piled up everywhere. I don’t attempt to pick them up instead I go for the smaller empty ones that I can scrub out. I pile them outside the shed. Grab a scrub brush and start brushing the dirt out, but by now even the simplest of things are causing pain. So, I give up and go inside for a drink of water. Even pulling on the refrigerator door hurts. I reach for the water jug but this time my left-hand moves in before the right one pick it up. I sit with my water, and an ice pack around my elbow looking out at my gardens. There’s so much work to do before I can begin to plant my flowers. I’m not going to be able to do any of it until my elbow has time enough to heal now. I am frustrated but most of all disappointed. Now I’m going to have to do the one thing no senior wants to do. Ask for help.
Lessoned learned, to play responsible, you have to prepare yourself its true. But none of that matters if you don’t use your common sense too.
I was working on my memoir and started a sentence off with the word senior. It was about reaching that final year in high school. I sat there looking at the word senior, thinking how surreal the moment felt. I mean, here I was a senior again going through some of the same feelings and emotions only this time it’s at the opposite end of life. But what could make two such different correlations of the word anything alike? It could only be that dreaded feeling that comes with the anticipation of the unknown. It creates a kind of dis-ease they call…senioritis.
So, I wondered, what are the symptoms of senioritis? Of course, it only applied to seniors in high school. But once again I couldn’t help seeing the correlation to those of us adjusting to our retirement and our senior years of life.
Loss of interest in your appearance Lack of motivation Increased irritability Difficulty reading things longer than a few paragraphs A drastic increase in TV watching Feeling rebellious Feeling superior Short-term memory loss Sleep too much or too little
Oh, those years of youth when I had my whole life ahead of me to look forward to. Another symptom of senioritis comes with the wonder of what’s left to come. Barbara Hannah Grufferman’s in her book, “Love Your Age,” reminds us that, “We can’t control getting older, but we can control how we do it.” Understanding those words gives us our power back. It takes us out of that senioritis mindset. We realize life is no longer about looking ahead or back, but about making the most of the moments we have right now. I’m learning that you can live a lifetime in those moments because it actually feels as if time stops and all that matters is where you find yourself.
So, there we have it. Another way to embrace this stage of our life, take control and do it our way.
If you’re looking for more ways to find out how to make the best of this time in your life check out Gruffermans’s book. She has lots of great ideas and insight.
“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it and join the dance.”-Alan W. Watts
As I search for answers to my own questions about getting older. I wondered why no one my age wanted to talk about it. Some would simple say, you’re only as old as you feel. Well it’s true, I mean when I hear an oldie but goody on the radio and I start to be-bopping around like nobody’s business. Next thing ya know my hip is out of whack, and I find myself having to take a time out for a few days till I can move around normal again. That is as normal as a 65 year old can. Oh I don’t want to say it like that. I sound like my mother who was always saying, “Well you know I am in my 60’s now.”
“That’s not old,” I’d tell her.
So now when I go away with my girls and they want me to go dancing with them they say come on Mom, live it up, and I have to bite my lip from saying the same thing my Mom did. Instead, I did go out with them, and I did live it up, and I did have a great time because I still can. All I want to do is embrace this stage of my life, but I don’t understand what that means. That got me thinking that maybe no one wants to talk about it because they don’t know what it means either. What I do know is that I want to live the best life I can with the years I have left to enjoy it. So, I thought I’d share with you the answers I find to my questions.
Maybe you’d like to come dance with me along the way. Maybe together we can figure out how to live the best life we can with what we got. As I said to a friend the other day, two heads are better then one, and who wants to dance alone, that’s no fun.