Marriage is not easy. I’m just going to say that. Even the best ones are hard work. They’re messy and often distressingly inconvenient. One in every two marriages ends in divorce today. Lots of folks don’t even try anymore.
It took me well into my seventies to finally, grudgingly, concede that yes: I was aging ..but not elderly. Not yet. After all, I could still swim a mile, keep up with the 40 year olds in my Yoga class – most of the time. My mental faculties seemed intact; I maintained a blog – played the piano – was at least as computer-savvy as my kids. My grandchildren were still in primary school – some of them anyway.
People said I looked young for my age. I felt young. To reinforce my mindset, movie stars, book authors and TV personalities offered endless advice about how they stayed young and beautiful, and therefore how anyone could. Media ads inundated us with products guaranteed to make us into super-active, beautiful, deliriously happy retirees. Memory failing? Arthritis pain? Chronic fatigue? Sexual malaise? Pills for that, lots of them. Wrinkles? Creams for that. Or surgery. So what you’re a little “older.” No worries. There’s an App for that!
But there were these nagging signs, milestones, I couldn’t ignore. My husband’s failing eyesight now prevented him from driving; we were a one car family for the first time in our 40 year marriage. Less than half of my high school classmates were still alive, and many that were, lived with debilitating, often painful and humiliating disease. Lately friends had been insisting they had told me something; I just didn’t remember. It was getting a little harder to walk apace my 40-something friends. Gravity was making a frontal assault on key parts of my anatomy. Walking in high heel shoes was high adventure. Bedtime was getting earlier. I needed a knee replacement.
Unacceptable! Clearly I had missed something: the right foods, supplements, exercise, meditation technique. Maybe I should go to a health spa, get some “work” done. I’d talk to my longtime friend and confidant; we’d figure this out together, like we always did. “Super-retirement” or a reasonable facsimile thereof, was surely possible. I just needed a strategy.
But incredibly, my friend didn’t have a plan. In fact, she seemed not a little exasperated with me. “Aging,” she told me with a sigh “is a process. A process of letting go”.
Not what I wanted to hear. At. All.
In my gut I knew she was right, but I wasn’t ready to accept it. It was probably true for her, but it didn’t have to be that way for me. I embarked on a mission to “fix” the situation, to make my husband’s landing softer, to keep up with the 40 year olds at the gym, to make excuses for my forgetfulness, delay my surgery. It was pretty ungraceful. It felt like holding my finger in a dike that threatened to crumble any minute.
I’m not sure what life event eventually penetrated the thickly insulated layers of my denial. Probably it was a series of little losses. A friend’s hospitalization, needing help with something that used to be routine, the growing number of medications in my pillbox. It took what it took. But slowly the stark light of reality broke through. And surprisingly, it was not the downer I expected. It was a relief.
It took awhile, but these days I smile at the money grubbing commercials promising the fountain of youth in return for hard earned retirement dollars. The famous personalities attributing the result of their cosmetic “work” to exercise, good food, or their favorite potion. Accept the door opened for me by the 30something. Do the exercise and eat the foods that work for me. Hang with my peers. Admit I forgot – and make notes. I’m no longer backing into the future. I’ve found the shoes that fit and can finally move forward.
Because letting go is not giving up, it’s just moving in a different direction.
Today I’m going to brag about my cousin Karin. Karin is an internationally recognized jewelry designer, winner of many prestigious awards, but more importantly, Karin is just an extraordinary lady. It’s been my honor and privilege to watch her grow from a shy little girl into the beautiful, accomplished woman she is today.
Consistent with her generous and sensitive nature, and inspired by the work of the Covid 19 frontline healthcare workers, Karin has designed “The Mended Heart Pendant.”
All proceeds of the sale of this gorgeous piece of jewelry go directly to the Frontline Families Fund, which supports the families of healthcare workers who lost their lives to COVID-19. The Fund was initiated by Dr. Michael Osterholm, Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota and a member of President Biden’s COVID-19 Advisory Board. Dr. Osterholm addresses the science of COVID-19 and its human toll on his weekly podcast
For more information and instructions for purchasing these pendants, please visit Karin’s website.
But hurry! They’re selling fast
I am so proud of you, Kin!
Last weekend the neighbors moved – and were not very neat about it. The day after they left, the street was lined with garbage, old furniture, broken appliances, bags of trash. But by midmorning a garbage truck arrived, and within minutes everything was restored to normal.
Another reminder of how much I owe frontline workers. As a retiree, my life has been far less affected than most. Of course I miss visiting family and friends, going to restaurants and concerts, all the “normal” activities in the pre-COVID world. But most of my shopping was already online, including groceries. The lawn was maintained by a landscaping crew, heavy housecleaning done by a cleaning service. But the people who bring my groceries, pick up the garbage, deliver my packages, maintain my lawn and clean my house are exactly those most affected by the pandemic. They are the reason for the quality of life I am privileged to have today.
Thank you is not enough. But thank you.