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Aging Gracefully

I’m sitting at the dealership where I purchased my car because I collided with my garbage cans while backing out of my driveway (due to increasingly poor balance and failing eyesight) and broke the rear view mirror.

My pupils are totally dilated because I’ve been to the vitreous specialist who tells me the flashing arcs I see at the corners of my eyes are mostly aged related but I probably won’t go blind.

That’s the good news for the day, so far.

My knee went out on my walk yesterday and my back went out today lifting my bike onto the back of my car because I figured if I can’t walk I can at least bike.

Not happening.

Then I go to a support group meeting where this guy somewhat older than me kvetches, “How did I get to be this old? I just can’t figure out how it happened so fast. How?”

Then, after I share and kvetch, a retired 89-year-old fighter pilot who still travels the world, says to me, “Man, you’re a train wreck. Why do you have so many problems?”

Heaven help me.

This morning, I slammed my hand into the wall simply passing by it and bloodied myself. Then I dropped something on my toe and my whole foot became a bruise because, as the doctor tells me, your skin thins with age.

I sure hope someone invents fake skin in the near future.

You know, “aging gracefully” irks me about as much as “dying with dignity.” There’s nothing dignified about a baby screaming and pushing its slippery wrinkled body into this world and from what I’ve seen, we exit about the same way.

As for aging, it’s one degradation after another as we: misspell (sp?) simple words we’ve known for half a century; momentarily forget that we’re driving when we turn on our radios and it scares hell out of us but we don’t tell anybody because they might take our keys away; watch as our skin deflates and slides off the bone like a well done turkey leg; grab both a magnifier and our magnifying glasses to read the TV guide; in fact, spend more hours in front of the one-eyed monster than we’d care to share; laugh hard and then run pell mell to the potty . . . I could go on.

The “graceful” part of aging only refers to those of us who haven’t had (couldn’t afford) cosmetic surgery.

So, I’ve been writing this while on the couch for four hours at the dealership and the manager comes in and says, “I’ve got some good news and some bad news.”

The bad is that they couldn’t fix the blinking @!!$$ broken mirror; the good is supposed to be that they had the part in stock. Well, grabbed one they’d ordered for another customer because they felt so badly about my long wait.

And then, I do something that I swore I’d never do: I whip out my AARP card and plead, “I’m a starving artist and I need a discount. Please, please, please.”

The manager looks me up and down and says, “OK, I believe you.”

I get a $100 senior discount and quit complaining. Maybe there are a few perks to getting this old . . .

Holiday Leftovers

The blinding sun unrolls a sheet of aluminum foil across the Pacific just off Pebble Beach’s turnout at the iconic “Lone Cypress.” I seldom wear shades but this is a “wear them or burn your eyeballs out” day.

The place is lousy with day-after-Christmas tourists. It is actually heart warming to see families enjoying nature rather than stampeding their brethren at Macy’s do-or-die sales. Albeit, they seem more concerned with looking at the photos they’ve taken with their cell phones than watching the sapphire sea, lathering itself on the craggy bluffs below.

I, on the other hand, am genuflecting. In fact, a Christmas cold has forced me to slow down my monkey mind and go within for several days. And this was the mood I was in yesterday as I joined a fellowship of women and men who meet to talk about their quest to become their best selves.

The subject was “peace” and as we took turns speaking, one man told a story I will never forget. It goes like this: he was in a car accident. He hadn’t been drinking, rather, the roads were slick and he hydroplaned into a pole.

No one expected him to live. He had shattered bones, ostensibly his leg, and multiple deep lacerations. And while he did live, over the next four years he had countless operations to save his foot. The doctors were doing what they did best: trying to fix him.

The man was oh so weary from his constant battle of the foot when a young doctor, about age 35, appeared and said, “It’s time to let it go. Just let the foot go, don’t you think?”

A few months later, my friend was lying on the pre-op table where he’d been told it would be a five hour wait until surgery. Things were backed up.

“For the first time in my life, I was completely at peace,” he said. “I was totally ready to let go of control, to trust the surgeons, and deal with losing my foot. It was almost a relief that I was letting it go. It was an incredible spiritual experience.”

Well, this other meeting member must have been reading my mind when he interjected, “Su-u-ure you felt good. You were on Demerol. Ha, ha!”

Jaws dropped with the answer, “Absolutely not. They hadn’t given me a thing because it was going to be such a long wait. I wasn’t on anything.”

So, how can a person be at peace with tragedy and loss? It’s simple but often takes a lifetime to learn and then you have to constantly practice it: acceptance. Once we accept things exactly as they are a peace comes over us; a clarity of mind that allows us to take appropriate action or inaction.

Peace is a feeling that I had lost touch with. Dashing to and fro, running scenarios through my brain incessantly, mostly negative ones, had occluded the peace that is at my core - at the center of every living thing, in fact. It’s a peace you can access by becoming completely present to the moment, via prayer, meditation, simple silence, what have you.

In fact, until each one of us can find that inner peace, how can we expect to attain the lofty goal of “world peace”?


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