The Joy of Aging


The second cup of coffee sipped quietly as the morning light strengthens
and we stretch out the stiffness.

A leisurely decision about how to spend the day in creative pursuits
nary a worrying about time-clocks and meetings.

Freedom to choose when mundane tasks are done
anytime between now and never.

Shared memories with loved ones only to discover that we lived different
lives together at the same time and place.

Comfort within ourselves as days flow from solitude to companionship
with friends who fill us for more solitude.

Laughter over things gone wrong when once
we were filled with blame and shame.

Comfort in being mortal as faith promises that a worn out body will be
replaced with a new non-titanium being.

Favorite places and times indexed in our brain to visit when current
place and time become too complicated.

Bitter-sweet memories of people who influenced our minds and our lives
but who are no longer walking the earth.

Being who we always have been even as we are different in so many ways.

I’ve been a bit morose as of late. Maybe the noise from the condo above has rattled loose my brighter side. Whatever is going on, I’ve been fretting about roads I wasn’t able to travel, opportunities I couldn’t seek out… and time has run out. Last Sunday in church, the phrase that stuck from our public prayer of confession was, “We look back with regret, rather than with gratitude.” I tried writing an essay from the depth of my morose — hoping to write my way out. It didn’t work. This is my attempt at gratitude because I really do enjoy who I am and where I’m at. If I like where I’m at, the path here couldn’t have been that bad.

An Attitude of Gratitude

The U.S. is celebrating Thanksgiving this week, a time to gather around the table with friends and family to celebrate the harvesting of crops and to remember all that we are thankful for. I think our neighbors and friends, the Canadians, have a more appropriate date in October when crops are actually harvested. Here in Michigan we are pretty frozen over and anyone harvesting now needs to take it straight to the freezer without any processing.

We have learned that expressing gratitude is good for our health – both physical and mental. Most of the time I am very thankful for the beauty of my world and the wonderful people who inhabit it. There are periods, however, when life is just plain hard and there doesn’t seem to be much to be grateful for. As Tawny posts – sometimes we feel blue and just can’t see life without the blue tint.

I like to smile and laugh and feel good inside so here is my adjustment of my attitudes along with some reflections about life.

My sister died this week and that sucks. BUT: How wonderful to have blogging buddies all over the world who have sent me loving and caring words of support. You are appreciated and have comforted my aching heart. I have been reminded of how caring and loving my children are. I have friends and cousins who fill my world and give me the security that help is close, if I ask. There are new people coming into our family circle. My son is engaged and she has welcomed us into her extended family and her two children have joyously entered our family circle. That is a three-fer! Both grandsons are finding their paths and are in long-term relationships, one of them getting married in June. My three granddaughters are growing up to be beautiful, both inside and out. I smile big when I think of my family. We can easily fill the house with laughter and love on holidays.

Our five-year-old frig took a dump. BUT: We are fortunate we have the funds to buy a new one without having to forego paying another bill. We found one, after a day of shopping, that is even more perfect than the old.

I just discovered that the new frig isn’t magnetic so I can’t display my collection of magnets from all around the world. BUT: (Editorial comment: Pull up your big-girl panties and deal with it Pat. This doesn’t even deserve space on the post.) I realize that my frig is full of food and that is more than the majority of the people of the world have.

The chronic condition that leaves me in pain and fatigued most days, can only be controlled not cured. BUT: I have a good doctor that helps me control symptoms and I have more than adequate insurance to pay for what I need. There are medications that have made it possible to gain a whole lot more functioning and I have learned how to control my lifestyle to ease symptoms. My husband, children, family and friends understand and are sensitive to my needs. I am still doing some pretty amazing things – when I want to.

I sometimes miss the excitement of work and the income. BUT: Retirement is wonderful. I am thankful that I could afford a DSLR camera because I am energized by the world of photography. I am now able to travel to places that are exciting and fill my hard drive with photographs. I discovered the world of blogging and have met so many wonderful bloggers who fill my days with interesting images and words. I have enough resources to be a snowbird in southern Florida, leading to new friendships and a reduction in bad-body days.

I am also grateful for:

Beautiful music like the Messiah and Granddaughter plucking out Worried Man Blues on her guitar.

The grand mountains of the Pacific Northwest and the rolling farm fields of Michigan.

Virgin Redwoods in California, maples in the midwest, and palms in Florida.

Great gardens with exquisite plantings and the random plantings of Black-eyed Susans and daisies in my garden.

Great paintings in famous museums and the portrait of J & I done by our future step-granddaughter.

The people who shone a light to guide me, the privilege of guiding those who walk behind me, and the young people who are teaching me new ways.

Walking in the cold surf of oceans and lakes, and slipping my achy body into our hot tub.

And most of all sharing meals with the people I love. Wishing you many happy meals either in celebration of holiday or just of life. Blessings to you.


In this post I want to share with you the reflections of a doctor going to see her doctor. This was written in a creative piece entitled Kindness by Dr. Scholten, who provides healthcare to refugees in Canada, [i]. It is especially potent because she has experienced being both the doctor who is appreciated by patients and then a patient who feels gratitude towards her doctor. So often we wish that our doctor could be in our shoes, could experience the emotional turmoil we experience, that can only be touched through kindness. Sure we need doctors that are competent and capable but there are times when these qualities just aren’t enough.

She begins her story by saying that she had helped an Eritrean couple who were new refugees to Canada and facing an unplanned pregnancy. They come to her office for the last time before continuing with an obstetrician and the husband expresses his deep gratitude to her with a small speech. Obviously she had touched them deeply with her caring and help. She writes, however, that she is “embarrassed that I’m thanked for dispensing something that cost me nothing: no education, no honing of skill, no effort. I’d rather be thanked for diagnostic prowess or a deftly performed procedure.” It is clear in her statement that she underestimates the importance of her kindness and she believes technical skills and intellect are much more important. She writes that she forgets their gratitude as soon as she ushers them out. What happens next in her story, however, gives her a new perspective:

Seated in my doctor’s office, I’m in the chair tucked right next to his desk. This is the first visit that I haven’t sat casually on the exam table with my legs dangling over the side, the first time I haven’t popped in for something routine like a vaccination or contraception or a prenatal visit, where we talk shop and I ask about his daughter, a medical school classmate. This time, I’m here to follow up a disastrous ending to a second-trimester pregnancy. He knocks on the door, steps in, gives me a long, sober look as he slowly closes the door, sits down. He sits in silence. I can’t look at him. Finally I force myself to talk, exhausted, crying, despairing and he listens. He leans over his desk, arms folded on it, looking down. Eventually I look at him, at his solemn white-bearded face, and I note that he is flushed. His eyes are damp. And I realize that he is moved by my distress, and I am completely taken aback.

If we have a chronic illness, we have probably had a similar experience. We have sat before a doctor in all our emotional nakedness, overwhelmed by a mix of sadness, fear, shame – feeling very vulnerable and helpless. At that moment we don’t need “diagnostic prowess or a deftly performed procedure.” At that moment what we need, what heals, what has a lasting impact on us is “kindness.”

This encounter had an impact on Dr. Scholtens because she thinks about it repeatedly over the next few weeks. She continues to feel comforted by the fact that he just sat there giving her all the time she needed, that he was moved by her distress. She goes on to say, “His kindness is more dear to me than anything he’s done for our family over the years, even his delivery of my daughter.”  Dr. Scholtens seems to have been humbled by her experience as a patient, recognizing that she has “been wielding something powerful without any respect for it.” This power is the impact that doctors can have on us when they allow themselves to be drawn into our emotional pain for a few minutes.

We are deeply touched when our doctor hears and understands when we are experiencing the fear that comes when our body has failed us and we don’t know how to fix it – or maybe fear that our painful body will never be fixed. We become very attached to a doctor who we have seen when we were most vulnerable and s/he acted with kindness. We also can be deeply hurt when a doctor who has touched us deeply doesn’t recognize our gratitude; doesn’t understand the importance of the relationship to our wellbeing. Relationships end for a lot of reasons and the ending can be even more painful when the pain isn’t recognized and acknowledged by our doctor. I was left feeling very alone and betrayed. I just wanted to hear the words, I’m sorry.

[i] Scholtens, M. (2011). Kindness. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 467-478.

Copyright © Patricia A. Bailey and I Miss Me, Too/ 2012-2013.

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