3605– Tuesday, June 18, 2019 –  To Live in Gloom or in Perpetual Optimism, That is the Question!

Sometimes I don’t know whether to be depressed or ecstatic these days.  Yesterday, the library group started discussing suicide.  I had not realized that about a dozen states including the District of Columbia now permit doctor assisted suicide. The talk turned to different methods of suicide and what the various pros and cons of each were.  I interjected with the comment that “It is bad enough to have to hear continuous talk of the aches and pains that we all share, but now I have to hear about suicide.”  As usual, we gradually drifted off this subject and turned to such important topics as baseball, Frederic Family Days and when Trump would invade Iran and plunge us into another war.

DoomGLoom

If you talk to any old people, you will find that many of us are happy to be alive each day and the thrill of being “still upright.”  On the other hand, it is easy to deny the everyday difficulties of the infirmaries, operations and new conditions that routinely beset one past the age of 70 or perhaps younger.  The reality is that we of the aged category do not age like “fine wine.”  Similar to knowing when to hold them and when to fold them, each day brings a choice of attitude along the lines of “knowing when to be positive and knowing when to face the negative and gloomy realities of growing old.”  To be a Pollyanna or to be a Cassandra, that is the question?

What attitude will you have today?  Can you maintain a façade of enthusiasm, passion and zest for life or will you be the person who is pessimistic, gloomy and defeatist?  Easy to say that one should be happy and exuberant about life.  Not so easy if you have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, heart disease or macular degeneration.  Not so easy, if getting up in the morning is painful or going to the bathroom by yourself is impossible.  Raging against the dying of the light can be easier said than done.

It is not pleasant to talk of these things.  It is even more unpleasant to have to face them in your life.  But the most difficult thing about growing old is having to face these things in the life of your loved one.  As Jesus said: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”  Heroes and heroines lay down their lives in war, disasters and emergencies and many the man and woman who has.

But none of us can substitute our health for the health and well being of our friends, relatives and loved ones.  Inexorably, we watch one by one as they become sick, infirmed, pain ridden and diseased.  Helpless, we do the best we can to ease their lives and to help them cope with each day.  There may be no more difficult task for the aged to face than that of caregiver.  Would that we could but lay down our lives for the lives of our loved ones.

As we age, we will make the transition from caregiver to care-receiver.  Caregivers and care receivers, we will all become sooner or later. They say it is better to give than to receive and many of us will find out that it is perhaps easier to give than to receive.  Nevertheless, neither role is one that any of us would have chosen in our younger days.  I think most of the older people I know are ill prepared for either role.  Somehow, we tend to close our eyes to the harshness of aging.  Denial knocks on our doorsteps every day.  It asks us to ignore our aches and pains or to forget to take our pills or to skip our health exams or to eat more junk food than we know is good for us.  We avoid looking too closely in the mirror for fear that we will see our shrunken disheveled bodies.  When we do go to the doctor to complain of some new pain or infirmary, we are frequently given the advice “Well, you know you are getting old and may just have to live with it.”  Like we have forgotten that we are getting old.

Did I wake up gloomy or ecstatic today?  Too much salt or too much pepper?  The secret of life always seems to have been balance.  It is said that the Acropolis was engraved on top with the worlds “Know thy self” and on the bottom with the words “All things in balance.”  I guess it should be that way with aging.  Too much gloominess or too much optimism can both be bad for the liver.

“There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love.  When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.” — Sophia Loren

 

 

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jane Fritz
    Jun 18, 2019 @ 06:04:09

    Well said. Very familiar! 😏 However, there is a flip side to keep in mind. By having these frequent discussions and updates on health or lack thereof, we are being supportive of each other and also learning from each other how to manage these various infirmities. More positively, we no longer have the anxieties, stresses, and self-doubt of our younger selves. It may sound crazy, but I wouldn’t trade places!

    Reply

  2. Vic Nurcombe
    Jun 18, 2019 @ 08:10:00

    I’ve wondered a lot about why my dose of incurable cancer has singularly failed to induce any existential terror in me, and why talking openly and honestly about death isn’t done more often. I must have a screw loose somewhere. Maybe because I’ve seen a lot of it, including young children, maybe because I taught anatomy. But death itself will be like taking an anaesthetic…..one second your there, the next you’re not. The stoics had it right. You’ll be exactly in the same position as before you were born. Makes this life special….or rather, consciousness special. I’ve i knew I was going to get Alzheimer’s, I’d pop myself, to save people the agony and waste of looking after my meat and gristle. It wouldn’t be “me” anymore. I know how I’ll “off” myself when the cancer gets too bad. I intend for it to be on my terms. The Romans saw consciously decided suicide, suicide not as a result of psychosis or depression, as a noble act. So do I. Pain is much more scary than death. I find thoughts of an afterlife borderline grotesque, although it’s not my job to dissuade people; you have to do whatever gets you through the night. Reflection has been great. My sins are my own, nobody can absolve me of them. Nor would I want anybody, or any magic spell, to do so. To shirk that responsibility seems to me rather spineless and gutless. They are woven into my memory, as are the good things I’ve done. Becoming content, and reconciled, is the aim now.

    Reply

  3. Vic Nurcombe
    Jun 18, 2019 @ 08:14:53

    I’ve wondered a lot about why my dose of incurable cancer has singularly failed to induce any existential terror in me, and why talking openly and honestly about death isn’t done more often. I must have a screw loose somewhere. Maybe because I’ve seen a lot of it, including the death of young children, maybe because I taught anatomy. But death itself will be like taking an anaesthetic…..one second you’re there, the next you’re not. The stoics had it right. You’ll be exactly in the same position as before you were born. Makes this life special….or rather, consciousness special. If i knew I was going to get Alzheimer’s, I’d pop myself, to save people the agony and waste of looking after my meat and gristle. It wouldn’t be “me” anymore. I know how I’ll “off” myself when the cancer gets too bad. I intend for it to be on my terms. The Romans saw consciously-decided suicide, suicide not as a result of psychosis or depression, as a noble act. So do I. Pain is much more scary than death. I find thoughts of an afterlife borderline grotesque, although it’s not my job to dissuade people from such beliefs; you have to do whatever gets you through the night. Reflection has been great. My sins are my own, nobody can absolve me of them. Nor would I want anybody, or any magic spell, to do so. To shirk that responsibility seems to me rather spineless and gutless. They are woven into my memory, as are the good things I’ve done. Becoming content, and reconciled, is the aim now.

    Reply

    • johnpersico
      Jun 18, 2019 @ 10:32:19

      Hi Vic, thanks for the comment and reflection. Knowing where you have been, your comment is very insightful and inspiring. I only hope I will have the courage to follow your path if and when I get to a point that my life is more of a burden than a joy for either myself or others.

      Reply

  4. johnpersico
    Jun 18, 2019 @ 10:18:34

    No Jane, I agree. I would not want to be young again unless I could keep my knowledge and present state of mind in a younger body. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

    Reply

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