Retirement 2.0

I retired in 2014.  I was only 55 years old, which is young to be retired.  I somehow never connected the idea of retirement, which just sounded like a long-term “staycation,” with the idea of aging.  I know that seems irrational, but I did not feel old or dilapidated or on the downhill path of life.  Physically, I did not feel any worse than I did when while I was working.  In fact, my health improved once I left the ranks of the employed.  Mentally, I had lots of activities to keep my mind spinning around in my skull.  Some would argue I had too many activities spinning around in my skull.  At any rate, I did not feel that my brain power was becoming slower and creakier.  Emotionally, I did feel some separation anxiety over leaving my friends and the life I knew in California.  When my mother’s stroke decimated my world, I suffered more emotionally than I ever had in my life, but that suffering had nothing to do with retirement.  In fact, if I were not retired when the situation occurred, it would have been much more difficult. 

So, retirement never felt like a reflection of my aging process.  I left my job and, for the most part, I was at least as healthy, intelligent, and happy as I was while working.  I congratulated myself that I did not let my career define me.  I celebrated my ability to live vibrantly and richly even without a job.  I looked at other people in my life who retired and immediately seemed to turn from “movers and shakers” to “sitters and steadiers.”  I just did not get it.  I felt a little smug that I escaped that fate.

That is, I felt a little smug until recently. It occurs to me that some time ago- maybe as long as two years ago- I seemed to enter a new phase of retirement.  I did not want to acknowledge it, but I think it is time to draw back the curtain.

I now understand those people who seem to equate retirement with age.  I am definitely in retirement 2.0 now. I see clearly that I am old.  I seem to always be somewhere on the exhaustion spectrum.  There is something in my body that flirts between discomfort and pain just about every day.  I was never the most agile creatures, but I see that now I cannot even do the same things I used to be able to do- things as simple as sitting on the floor and getting up under my own power.  Close friends, who I think of as my contemporaries, are facing serious health challenges that will likely never get better.  Some members of my circle are dying.  There is no doubt that my brain is moving more slowly and cannot efficiently process multiple ideas at the same time.  It is not that I feel like I am leaking cognitive ability like a sprinkler leaks water, but I do notice a sort of slogging tendency in my thinking.  It is like thoughts do not flow smoothly, but get caught and hung up on clogged, corroded, and pitted places in my brain.   

None of these phenomena is very pleasant, but I am also struggling with a piece of retirement and aging that is even more scary.  I am stumbling over my place in the world, grasping to create connection.  When one has a job, especially in a leadership position, there are many connections built into your day.  Forming those connections is organic.  I did not have to try to find connections; they came to me.  Too many of them came to me if truth be told.  Managing those connections could be exhausting, but the lack of them can be soul-killing.  For many retirees, even ones like me who are not exactly alone in the world, the absence of built-in connections can be even more debilitating than physical decline. 

I have worked hard since my mother’s death to find ways of building connections.  I am about as extreme an introvert as they come, but I still knew I would crumble without a small, tightly bound group of people with whom to live my new retired life.  It took a lot of energy to find ways to do this when I was not being randomly exposed to people all day every day. It is not just finding anyone with whom to connect; it is finding the right people with whom to connect and figuring out the right balance of giving and receiving.  I think I am a pretty awesome friend, actually.  I have a lot of love to give and am generous with it.  I do not want to be more trouble than I am worth, though. I know I can be a little needy and insecure.  On the other side of that self-knowledge, I also know that it feels good to give and it is selfish not to let loved ones give to me in the same way I enjoy giving to them. 

My efforts at connection have born fruit.  I know I do have a group of soul-level friends in my community, in my church, and from my past.  I am absolutely secure in that knowledge on an intellectual basis.  I still struggle daily, though, to feel it all the time.  I often feel isolated, alone, and unworthy.

I struggled the most with this feeling during the pandemic.  I took the initiative in finding strategies to advance connection and communication.  It was arduous work partly because I had to create opportunities to connect rather than just react to my everyday interactions. At times, I felt like I was trying too hard to solve a problem that didn’t exist.  I thought I was taking up this “connection flame” for other people. I worried about people who were truly isolated. I wanted to show them that someone cared.  I came to understand that my actions were not just for other people.  They were just as much for me. 

Aging is not easy and sometimes the burden of it knocks me to the floor.  On the other hand, I have learned many new skills during the aging process.  I have learned to be more accepting of myself and others.  I have learned much more about being happy.

I now understand retired people who always are tired, confused, not in good health, or lonely.  I am experiencing those feelings.  My age is catching up with me.  However, I do not intend to go gentle into that good night of aging.  I think the secret is to acknowledge that I am aging and accommodate it to the extent it serves me to do so, but not surrender to it.  When I am tired, I may decide to push through that tiredness to enjoy something I want to do and cut out something that does not sound as fun.  When I have a sore ankle or aching back, I may decide to spend a little longer in a hot shower and go a little easy on the housework so I can merrily traipse around Disney World.  When my brain is moving a little more laboriously than it used to, I may slow down and take on fewer responsibilities so I can succeed without as much multi-tasking. 

Aging is something that is happening to me, but it does not have to define who I am. 

How do you deal with the aging process?  What strategies have you found to increase your satisfaction with life without a job?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Have a lively day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Just Plain Growing Old

A couple of months ago, I posted a blog called Growing Old Together In The Old South (Growing Old Together In The Old South – Terri LaBonte- Reinventing Myself in Retirement). In that post, I discussed Max and me celebrating our 25th anniversary in Savannah.  That was a fun time.  Today, I want to address a more sinister topic…. Just plain growing old.

We all understand that aging is a natural process and, unless we die young, old age will have an impact on our bodies.  I think I got complacent, though.  For years, even though the number in my age increased, I did not feel any different.  Aside from a momentary panic upon reaching each milestone birthday, I truly did not feel any older each September 30 when I blew out the candles on my cake. 

I think I am being realistic when I say I think I went about 15 or 20 years with no significant aging.  Even when I look at home movies and pictures from days gone by, I think I looked pretty much the same from age 35 to age 55.  Certainly, there were differences if one looked closely.  Still, I think I always looked to be in my late thirties. 

Then, sometime around my 60th birthday, nature seemed to catch up with me.  It is as if all that aging that should have happened in the first 15 years of the new millennium happened in a matter of two years.  My skin is dull.  My face has wrinkles, which might be a good thing.  Without the wrinkles keeping some of my features in place, my cheeks and jowls might be sagging down to my waist. There is certainly extensive sagging around my previously taut jawline.   My back and legs tend to protest more vociferously when overexerted… or, maybe more accurately, exerted at all.  My knees, always a weak point, seem to have locked up tighter than a maximum-security prison cell.  Picking up items from the floor is suddenly much more difficult.  I am surprised it is not an Olympic sport.

It is not that there is anything really wrong with my health.  Certainly, no new illness has cropped up in the past couple of years.  I am a pretty healthy person.  If anything, I am healthier now than I was prior to my descent into agedness.  My diet is better than it used to be.  I exercise every day.  My lab results are excellent.  I am fortunate that the only malady that seems to plague me is this mutated version of the normal aging process.  I am not complaining.  It is just that the suddenness and fierceness of my elderliness is alarming.  At this rate, my body will be eighty-five before I am chronologically sixty-five. 

Do you think it might have something to do with senior discounts?  I did qualify for some discounts when I reached 55, but many did not kick in until age 60.  Does every 10% off come with a corresponding hit to my physical being? Or perhaps it is the decades of hair dye.  Maybe dying my hair is like donning a pair of Spanx.  When I put on Spanx, the fat does not, unfortunately, disappear.  The Spanx just shoves it to another location.  Maybe coloring my hair does not make me more youthful.  Maybe the hair dye just shoves the aging to a different position. The dye covers my gray hair but causes other parts of me to age more.   I will have to think about that one.  I think I would rather have gray hair than joints that do not cooperate with my inclinations. 

My brother and my cousin, bless them, tell me that I look as young as I did in junior high.  My brother and my cousin are clearly liars.  On the other hand, maybe their assertions bear some consideration.  Let us ask ourselves a question.  Do any of us really want to look like we did in junior high?  I certainly do not.

Maybe aging is not that bad.

Me, as an incredibly awkward fourteen-year-old… let’s not go back in time!

Have you aged suddenly or has the process been more of a slow burn for you? What do you to keep healthy and functional as aging starts to catch up with you? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you may email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a youthful day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

How Did I Ever Get To Be 60 And Other Mysteries Of The Universe

Do we call a group of flamingos a “flamboyance” because flamingos are such an effective demonstration of the quality we call “flamboyance” or do we have a quality called “flamboyance” based on the name for a group of flamingos?  What came first… the flamingo or the flamboyance? 

“Why does the English language not have gender-neutral third person singular pronouns?  Isn’t it really irritating to have to keep saying or writing “he” or “she” and “him” and “her?”  Wouldn’t it be so much easier to be able to use one pronoun? Since I am thinking it up, I think I should get to create the words.  I propose the words “te” and “ter” in honor of… well, me. 

How can a state claim to be in the middle of a drought when my feet are regularly died the color of my shoes because of the torrential rainstorms I must navigate to get from my car to the grocery store?

How did I ever get to be 60 years old?

Yes, I turned 60 the other day.  I can’t believe it.  I don’t feel 60.  As much as I identify as Tinker Bell, I admit that there is some Peter Pan in me, too.  I never really grow up.  I guess that means I don’t really grow old, either.   At least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. 

I remember asking my father, thirty years ago, “How did I ever get to be 30?” He was less than sympathetic. He responded, “How do you think it feels to have a daughter who is 30?”  Maybe it is partly because I do not have children aging in front of me that I lose perspective about the passage of time.  I know it always jolts me into a cruel reality when I see kids I knew as youngsters “suddenly” graduating, getting married, or celebrating other such milestones.  I gave a baby shower for a friend of mine not too long ago.  That baby now has a graduate degree, is married, and has a baby of his own.  Could it really be that “not too long ago” was actually the mid-eighties?

I have school pictures of my godson and his older brother on my wall.  The pictures date from a time when you could articulate their ages with one digit.  Heck, you barely needed two hands to count the number of years in their ages.  I also have a family picture with them in it from around 2005.  They were two combustible packages of energy throwing themselves into the job of growing up.  I saw them a couple of years ago and they were both taller than I am.  They don’t even look like the same people.

Do I look like the same person I was 15 years ago?  I think I do.  I look older, certainly, but I am sure you could pick me out of a lineup today if you met me in 2004.  I probably don’t even look that different than I did when I was lamenting my 30th year to my father.  Older, wrinklier, and creakier, certainly.  I don’t claim that the ravages of time have left me unaltered.  The point is, I still look like the same person.

I feel like the same person, too.  If anything, I have aged younger in the last few years.  Free from the stressors of work and many of the expectations I used to impose on myself, I am much freer than I used to be.  My heart is lighter and I am much less… well… fraught

I hope to continue on my current anti-aging path for at least a few more years.  I think I can fool my body into believing it is younger than it is.  Some people try to turn back the hands of time with plastic surgery, trendy clothes, or social media picture filters.  I do it by mind control.  I celebrated my 60th birthday at the Magic Kingdom. That has got to count for something!

Where did the time go?  Do the years sneak up on you, too?  Tell us about it!  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Have a mysterious day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

The Greying Of America… Or At Least Of One Particular Head In America

Some time back, I proudly declared, “as long as I had a checkbook, my hair would not be grey.“ (http://www.terrilabonte.com/2016/11/the-anti-frump/) I have been coloring my hair since I was sixteen and I could not imagine a time when I would be abandoning that practice.

Recently, something happened that made me question my stance on applying toxic chemicals to my head.  My scalp started to itch. 

If I am absolutely honest and face the facts, it was happening for several months.  I go to the hair salon every four weeks or so.  I’d come out of the salon, feeling sassy and stylish, but also scratchy.  At first, it only lasted a day or so after my salon visit and I didn’t notice it much.  I thought it was a fluke.  As the months progressed, the itchiness seemed to last longer and longer.  It also seemed to get more intense, urgent, and severe.  I scratched my scalp like a dog with fleas bites her coat.  The discomfort was getting harder to ignore.  I thought about what could be causing the issue, but didn’t think about the hair coloring.  I’d been coloring my hair so long, I almost forgot that it was an unnatural process.  I was also doing a keratin treatment to make my unruly hair more sleek, straight, and manageable.  While that wasn’t anything new, it was certainly newer than the hair color. I decided to try discontinuing the keratin treatment to see if that solved the itchies.  It did help a little, but I was still scratching more than socially acceptable when it was time to go back to the hairdresser. 

I realized, with growing horror, that I might be having a reaction to hair dye.  As I said, I have been dying my hair for years with no apparent ill effects.  Still, I know people can develop allergies over time.  I scoured the internet looking for a solution.  I talked to my hairdresser.  There did not appear to be any remedy except to swear off coloring my hair.  I found that idea so distasteful, I could barely talk about the possibility.  My hairdresser sketched out an exit plan for me to stop the coloring with the least amount of angst, but it boiled down to her proclaiming, “no matter what, it is a process.”  You see, if I stop dying my hair, not only do I have to deal with my real color (which is presumably two shades greyer than “old”), but I will have to endure many, many months of the oh-so-attractive “skunk look” that happens when my roots become visible. 

I told my hairdresser that I wasn’t ready to stop coloring my hair just yet.  For one thing, I was getting ready to leave on vacation and I figured I could put my head through the chemical wash again in order to ensure one more batch of vacation pictures in which I did not look like something the cat dragged home.  It was in the back of my mind, though, that I would probably have to start that “process” my hairdresser so appealingly described at some point in the near future.

As it turned out, my itchies disappeared.  I am not sure why it got better.  I changed conditioners at home and went back to using the heat protection cream I discontinued using some months ago.  I’m not sure if that was the solution. I typically was most itchy right after the salon, where they presumably coated my hair with every luxurious potion known to woman given the price I was paying. Whatever the reason, I am pleased to report that my scalp is no longer itchy. 

The whole episode did start me thinking, though.  What was it about the notion of going grey that was so repellent?  Why was I willing to suffer constant, desperate itching… to say nothing of whatever other health risks I undertake when I let toxic chemicals seep into my skull… simply to avoid it? 

It isn’t that I think gray hair is intrinsically unattractive.  I see woman all the time who have gorgeous silver and gray locks.  They still look polished and youthful by taking good care of their hair. It isn’t the fact that my hair has always been the only aspect of my looks to which anyone could remotely apply the term “pretty.”  I never felt that some reasonably attractive hair could overcome the general unattractiveness of my appearance.  Being vain about my hair would come under the heading of “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.”  I can certainly leave the deck chairs be.  It isn’t even the months or years of “skunk look” during the growing out phase that terrifies me.  That is a self-limiting condition and will eventually pass.

I think what really bothers me is that, if I stop coloring my hair, I won’t look like “me” anymore.  It is not that I am afraid that the person in the mirror will look old.  I am afraid the person in the mirror will look unfamiliar.  Will I think about myself differently when I see the grey hair?  Will I behave differently?  Will other people see me anymore or will they just see grey hair? 

I know that the answer to all these questions is probably “it depends.”  I think the answers are probably at least partially within my control.  Maybe I should not be spending so much time wondering about whether these things will happen and spend more time on figuring out how to prevent them from happening.  The truth is, I am the same person whether I have brown hair or grey.  If I want the world to believe that, it is up to me to do some marketing of myself.  More importantly, if I want to believe it, it is up to me to develop a sufficiently strong sense of self to withstand the greying of my hair. 

When we discussed this subject before, many of you mentioned that you were fine with your grey hair.  Did any of you “go grey” after years of coloring your hair?  What obstacles or difficulties did you face?  How did you overcome then?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Have a silver day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Damn The Ma’am

Okay, I’m traumatized.  I have been stewing over an incident that happened a few weeks ago. I’ve decided to go public with my story, in the hopes that sharing my experience will mend my scars. Also, if I can save one senior citizen from the tragedy I experienced, the pain of reliving it will be worthwhile.

I traveled to Orlando to see my endocrinologist.  That wasn’t traumatic.  Everything was fine.  He said, as he always does, “You are too healthy to come here.”  I decided to visit a store near the doctor’s office that sells bulk products.  They have barrels of loose goods, like nuts and grains, that they sell by weight.  You simply pick what you want, fill a bag with as much as you desire, and attach a tag with the item number on it.  They always have interesting things. I appreciate being able to buy a little of several different items. 

Still, no trauma.  I filled a few bags with goodies and went to pay. I chatted with the cashier while I dug out my credit card.  My transaction completed, I gathered up my purchases, credit card, and handbag.  My car keys were laying on the counter. 

That’s when things went south.

“Ooops,” I laughed.  “I won’t get very far without these,” referring to the car keys on the counter.  “I just have too many things in my hands to keep track of, I guess.”

The cashier, who looked like she was about twelve or maybe twenty-two (if you squint), smiled at me.  I thought she was going to laugh with me about how easy it is to get scatterbrained when you are busy and have to juggle numerous items.  Instead, she gazed at me with a kind, concerned, condescending expression on her face.  Then, she struck the fatal blow.

“Never mind,” she simpered.  “I just think it is great that you can get out and be active and vibrant as you get older.” 

I wanted to smack her.  I consider it a sign of incredible self-restraint that I did not.  If I had, could you really have blamed me?

I am 59 years old.  I am younger than approximately 24% of our nation’s presidents were when they took office.  Only 10% of the American workforce retires before age 60, so it follows that somewhere around 90% of people my age in the United States are still doddering around at a job.  

When did I get to be so old that going to a bulk goods store qualified as active and vibrant? 

I knew I was getting older, of course.  Still, I didn’t think I’d entered another demographic quite yet.  It is easy to forget your advancing age when you live in a community where the average age is much older than yours.  I look fairly young.  I feel very young.  In fact, I feel younger now than I did when I actually was young. 

I should have known the jig was up, though. It started innocently enough.  When people started addressing me as “ma’am,” I had my first twitch of antiquity.  I always felt that being a “ma’am” was a hallmark of old age.  When anyone called me “ma’am,” I felt vaguely embarrassed as if I had been caught masquerading as someone much more grown-up than myself.  I don’t think I’ve EVER seen myself as a “ma’am.” In my head, I am still that fresh-faced, naïve kid that first stepped into the adult workforce in 1981. That was when people started to call me “ma’am” occasionally.  It always felt artificial.

The “ma’ams” started multiplying when we moved to Florida.  At first, I was able to rationalize them away as being a “southern thing.”  And indeed, it is a “southern thing.”  Everyone female, even a two-year-old, is a “ma’am.”  After four years of living in Florida, I, too, am pretty footloose and fancy free with the term.  I kind of like that people here use the terms “ma’am” and “sir” as routinely as they call perfect strangers “honey,” “darling,” and “sweetie.”  It feels gracious, cozy, respectful, and intimate all at the same time. 

Still, after my experience with the cashier at the bulk goods store, I wonder if there isn’t some insidious connection between the ever-increasing number of “ma’ams” I am generating and my ever-increasing age.  Rather than being a gentle and gentile southern convention, maybe the “ma’am” is a slippery slope to old age. 

I’ll never know for sure because my active and vibrant self might break a hip if I ever slid down a slope.

Have you ever been taken aback by the way someone reacted to you because of your age?  What was that experience like for you?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Have a vibrant day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Changing Leaves

It is not a coincidence that fall foliage is the same color as the sunset.   

I learned something about the changing leaves during my recent trip to New England.  Autumn leaves are simply breath-taking.  We describe them ubiquitously as “vibrant.”  Merriam-Webster’s first definition of “vibrant” is “pulsating with life.” Despite that perception of vitality, the changing leaves are more about death than life.  The process by which leaves change colors is not as much about creating something as it is about destroying something.  Time’s weathering strips the tree of the chlorophyll that allows the life-giving green color to flow into the leaves. It is scarring that robs these trees of green… of life. The colors we see during the autumn are the “real” colors of the trees.   The fall leaves are the essence of the tree, all that is left visible and beautiful in the aging process.   

Before my mother’s illness and death, I never used to think much about my own mortality, nor, by extension, my own aging.  I never felt terms like “old” or “elderly’ or “senior citizen” applied to me.  Even when I retired, which is probably our cultural definition of “aging,” I never felt myself to be “aged.”  I saw my retirement as simply compensation for fulfilling a contract. I knew that there was an age qualifier on that contract.  I simply chose to concentrate on the fulfillment of 30+ years of hard work that I promised to complete for the government as opposed to the number of years in my age.   

After my mother died, I think that changed.  Suddenly, the idea that I will die within the foreseeable future came sharply into focus for me.  I began to lose interest in dreams because it seemed like nothing really mattered- I was going to die anyway.  My gut turned over and threatened to escape whenever I contemplated life events and opportunities that I will likely never get to experience or experience again.  I will never be a parent.  I will never get to live in an environment, like New England, completely different from anything I have ever known.  I will likely never see some of the places I have visualized going.  When I start thinking about major purchases, like cars and computers, and vacation trips, it disturbs me greatly that I can see the “lasts” in my future.  I am getting nauseous just writing this.  It feels really terrifying.   

I am only 59. I am sure some of you are wondering what right I have to be so morbid at such a comparatively young age.  I don’t know, but my mother’s death seems to have been the catalyst that reminded me that my life, like every other life, is limited. I still feel some futility and impossibility when I look at the future. 

I think this is the scarring talking.  I am a Christian.  I believe this life is fleeting for all of us, regardless of our age.  I believe that the life to come will be eternal and eternally joyful.  There should be no terror in contemplating that future.  Still, it saddens me to think of what I will be missing.  When I was younger, it always seemed like there was plenty of time to start again.  There was plenty of time to pursue my dreams.  There was plenty of time to travel the world.  There was plenty of time for new experiences.  It saddens me that I now see that there is not plenty of time.  As the song from The Lion King says, “There is more to see than can ever be seen and more to do than can ever be done.”  

I am pretty happy with the priorities I have set in my life.  I’ve had wonderful experiences and beautiful relationships.  I always have joy somewhere in my heart. The problem now is learning to accept that I won’t have everything and to believe once more that whatever life I have left is valuable and meaningful and rampant with possibilities…. even though that life is going to come to an end.   

Just as the trees are losing their green, I am losing my youth in this autumn of my life.  Still, autumn is pretty wonderful.  The mosaic of reds and oranges and golds and browns is certainly more interesting and more eye-catching than the landscape of green.  My own landscape is more colorful, more interesting, and warmer than it was in my youth.  I don’t have to concentrate on the fact that my snapshot of the world is fading.  I can concentrate on the beauty that snapshot captures. My activities and dreams are not moot because the chlorophyll is dimming.  They are still precious and wonderful because they are made up of the stripped-down, primal essence of the beauty that is me.   

I’m trying hard to avoid dismissing the joy of my life because the day will come when that joy will cease to exist. First of all, I may not know what joy will look like in God’s kingdom, but I know it will be there. Secondly, I think we were meant to experience our lives fully, not ration some happiness “for later.” Thirdly, gifts are gifts, no matter when they arrive in our lives.  An awareness that those gifts are finite can increase our appreciation and enjoyment of them.  Also, the timing of those gifts can make them even more precious to us.  After all, we do not mourn the loss of the green when we gain the beauty of the fall foliage.   

Yes, the colors of the autumn foliage are the same colors as the sunset.  They do represent a loss. However, they are also brilliant and joyful and lovely.  They beckon me to immerse myself in life and create joy.  Fall is a time when I can experience some things I can experience in no other time of the year… or of my life.  

You know, the colors of the autumn foliage are the same colors as the sunrise, too.  And that is not a coincidence either.

How do you think about death?  Have you experienced any losses that have also helped you gain a richer perspective about life?  Are you living a sunset or a sunrise? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a colorful day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

 

 

 

 

The Skin I’m In

My body is beginning to betray me as I age.  Oh, we all know that our bodies do tend to get less dependable as we get older.  We see enough television commercials to convince us that our bones are brittle, our eyes are squinty, and our sex lives are lukewarm.  On the other hand, I didn’t really think about the little things that decline as the years advance.  For me, my body seems to have become a bit testy about substances it formerly tolerated with no complaint. 

About ten days ago, I purchased one of those cute little angel pins at the Hallmark store that come attached to a little romance card that shares some sweet, sentimental message.  I bought the angel because the message involved missing a loved one who has passed.  Also, the body of the little angel was made of a tiny white rose. Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while may remember that white roses at Christmas were a “thing” for my mother (for those of you who are newer cyberfriends or would just like a refresher, please visit http://www.terrilabonte.com/2016/05/the-white-white-rose-of-home/). Anyhow, I happily shelled out my six bucks for the white angel rose.  

The next day, I fastened the little pin to the top of a dark burgundy velour blouse.  Even though it was tiny, it was quite noticeable on the dark background.  Several people at church noticed and commented on it.  It gave me the opportunity to tell them about what a wonderful person my mother was and how the pin reminds me that I am lucky to have her love forever.   

Unfortunately, within a couple of days of wearing the pin, my skin exploded into a red, angry, itchy, hivey, whealy rash that covered my whole chest.   Any part of my body that came into even the slightest contact with the pin revolted.  Apparently, the pin triggered some sort of metal allergy that I didn’t even know I had.  As I scratched, I think the rash started taking on a life of its own, independent of the pin.   I started sprouting red bumps from my breasts to my chin line.  It wasn’t particularly painful, but it was pretty obvious that my skin was throwing a temper tantrum.  

I considered having a contest on this blog to name the rash.  However, I was hoping that I would be able to lose the rash before I could organize a contest, so I decided to do the honors myself. Given the season and the fact that my chest was the color of neon infused tomatoes, I decided to name my pet rash Rudolph. For a few days, I spread hydrocortisone cream on my chest.  Rudolph’s color didn’t change much.  The itch might have been marginally less uncomfortable…. for a little while until I thought about it again.  I kept thinking Rudolph was getting a little smaller, but Max looked at me in alarm every time he I wore a blouse that wasn’t a turtleneck so my “improving” assessment might have been wishful thinking.  

Yesterday, I noticed that the cream I was slathering all over my chest was 15 years old.  That may have something to do with the fact that it didn’t seem to be working very well.  I treated myself to a new tube of hydrocortisone cream.  Almost immediately, Rudolph is retreating.  The itch is not as compelling.  Rudolph’s color is more like under ripe tomatoes without the neon now.  Rudolph is occupying much less square footage on my chest.   

So, my rash is almost gone.  However, as I was inspecting my skin in the mirror this morning, I noticed that there was a hidden Mickey formed by three of the remaining hives.  Do you think it might be a Christmas miracle?

Have you noticed small, unexpected changes in your body that have come with age?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

Happy New Year!

Terri 🙂

Do Babies Ever Come Installed With Refurbished Knees?

The reason I ask is that I’m pretty sure my knees are older than the rest of me. I don’t know when it happened, exactly, but my knees seem to be protesting the passage of time much more vociferously than any of my other body parts.

I used to kneel in church with relative ease. I enjoyed sitting on the floor and could rise from that position without assistance. I was the designated “get down on my hands and knees” person to plug and unplug various computer connections to reboot them (since that is the only computer troubleshooting trick I know, it stands to reason that I would get lots of practice at it.) I am a fairly clumsy person and had infinite practice crawling around on the floor retrieving things I dropped.

Now, things are a little different. I kind of hope that elderly, immobile people will sit next to me in church services so I can use them as an excuse to remain sitting on the edge of my seat during traditional “kneeling” times in the service. I would never voluntarily sit on the floor unless I intended to die there because I know I could never get up again. If I have to reboot the computer, I either just push the button to turn off the power supply, get Max to pull out the plugs, or consider buying a new computer. As for the many things I drop, I shamefully admit to sometimes using one of those grabber thingies.

It isn’t that I am inactive or shy away from exercise. I do housework. I do yardwork when I really must. I participate in water aerobics classes. I walk over six miles a day. I’m actually a pretty healthy person, all in all. My vital signs and lab work suggest that I’m wearing well. There is just something about activities requiring excessive pressure on the knees that makes me suspicious that I might have come with used knees.

I think, before I was born, maybe God was trying to conserve resources and found a couple of used knees that someone returned knocking around in the body parts bin. He made a few tweaks to spiff them up a little and installed them in the new Terri1959 model baby girl. I’m sure those refurbished knees were “as good as new” at the time, but I think their patina is wearing a bit thin almost 58 years later.

Yes, the extra weight I’ve carried around in the last 58 years may have something to do with the wear and tear. Yes, the bare feet and footwear without adequate support may have contributed. Still, wouldn’t you think the rest of me would also be protesting if the problem was just ordinary depreciation? After all, my knees have had no life of their own separate from my hips, ankles, back, shoulders, etc.

Come to think of it, maybe my hips, ankles, back, shoulders, and my etc. are complaining too. I pulled weeds for forty minutes this morning and felt like I was run over by a truck. Let me clarify…. all of me felt like it was run over by a truck. So maybe my knees truly aren’t any older than the rest of me. Maybe all my body parts are feeling their age. And maybe the warranty just ran out!

What do you think?  Do you have a certain body part that seems to have aged way beyond the rest of you?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a great day!

Terri 🙂

Growing Up

My relationship with my mother has changed since we all moved. 

I knew about the phenomenon of role reversal that many adult children experience with their parents.  As the parent ages, the adult child becomes the caregiver.  The parent becomes more and more dependent on his or her child.  I have seen that happening gradually in my own relationship with my mother since my father died suddenly about twenty years ago.  The velocity of that role reversal has certainly increased since our move.  In our old home, my mother needed a lot of help with even simple physical tasks, but was very independent and competent when it came to arranging her own life and making decisions.  She always made her own medical appointments, decided on her own purchases, and even untangled problems like a glitch in her credit card billing on her own.  Up until a year before we moved, she was even preparing her own tax returns.  Since our move, she has had something of a crisis of confidence.  She is still perfectly capable of making her own decisions and arrangements, but seems reluctant to do so.  I am making her doctors’ appointments, overseeing her home improvements, monitoring her health insurance coverage, and, at her insistence, reviewing any research she does prior to making any decision. 

 At first, I was a bit disconcerted with this, as I thought it meant that her move across country had somehow triggered a decline in her general ability to cope.  After all, if she was doing all these things on her own and working full time for several months a year and doing substantial volunteer work while she was in her old home, why could she suddenly not trust herself to decide on a medical insurance plan once she moved across the country?  Then, a friend of mine suggested that it was very possible that my mother was managing all the routine tasks of her life the best she could simply because she had to do it herself.  My friend was absolutely correct.  My mother might not have been comfortable or confident in what she was doing, but didn’t feel she could ask for help because I was working fulltime at a very stressful job and lived 70 miles away from her.  Once I retired and we were living 15 miles from each other, she felt freer to show her vulnerability.  In reality, she has not declined.  In fact, quite the opposite is true.  She is feeling well and her blood pressure is under control, even without medication.  She admits to feeling happier and less stressed.  Now, my challenge is finding the balance between helping her continue to feel well and making sure she retains her sense of independence and competency.

 So, the real change in the relationship is not the role reversal.  It is more related to that living 15 miles from each other thing. 

 When I was living 75 miles from my mother, it was easy to seem like a supportive, compliant daughter.  I talked to my mom on the phone a couple of times a week and saw her every three weeks or so. I’m sure she thought I was pretty close to perfect.   If I made a mistake or did something of which I thought my mother would disapprove, it was easy to just not mention it.  Once we started seeing each other four or five times a week, it was more difficult to keep things from her.  She knows when I buy something she thinks is frivolous.  She knows when I give a homeless person money just because I don’t want to deal with his annoyance if I refuse.  She knows when I agree to something that Max thinks we should do just because I’m tired of arguing.  She also sees me get snappish and sarcastic when I am tired or hungry.  I am pretty sure she knows now that I am nowhere near perfect.  Even though she only voices her opinions gently and occasionally, I know her well enough to know when she disapproves.  If I basked in the sunshine of her approval for 55 years before our move, I fear I am now in danger of sinking into the mire of her disapproval.  And I care way too much about that.

 It has been an uncomfortable transition.  When I first noticed the shift, I felt sad and empty.  I mourned that, in trying to do a good thing by taking on my mother’s caretaking, I seemed to have lost my relationship with her.  I knew my mother still loved me and appreciated who I am and who I try to be.  She probably has a much better grasp than I do on the fact that it is perfectly okay that she disagrees with some of my decisions. Still, I tended to become overcome by anxiety by the fact that my mother might not always agree with me. 

If I am not the “easy” daughter who is never a cause for concern, do I cease to be lovable?

Of course not.

As more time passed, I remembered that love is a verb.  And so, in some weird non-grammatical way, is “relationship.”  It moves and changes and grows.  As I went about my regular routine of helping my mother and trying to maximize the joy in her life, I realized that I was starting to enjoy the same closeness I used to share with her.  As my mom and I “relationshiped,” we surfed through the turbulence.  While we may not always pull in absolute tandem, we do respect where each other wants to go. 

I learned that parental disagreement, even disapproval, is not a catastrophe.  Growing up should teach a child that it is safe to disconnect from a parent and live her own life without losing the love of the parent.  This education happens to everyone.  It is just that, for most people, it happens at around age 15 or 16.  It took me until I was 56.

 As my mom and I continue to come face-to-face with disagreements and no catastrophe happens, I think our relationship is becoming more authentic again.  Perhaps even more authentic than it used to be.  We are both coming to terms with the fact that we are each complicated, real people and not just our respective roles- perfect daughter and perfect mother.  Or more likely, we are just redefining what our “perfect” means. 

So what do you think?  Have you taken on additional caretaking responsibilities?  Has it changed your relationship with your loved one?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

As a side note, we had a bit of a “power surge” of new visitors this past week.  Welcome to all! I hope you enjoy enough to continue visiting, reading, and sharing.  I have been posting every Wednesday.  If you would like to be notified when there is new content, please send me an email at terriretirrement@gmail.com. 

Have a wonderful day!

Terri 🙂