Reflecting on my 80 years, and writing about them, has been one of the ways I’ve devoted some of my time on this pandemic’s “lockdown.” Here’s a bit of my noodling on becoming conscious in saying “yes” and “no” in life.
During my first marriage, in my thirties, I said “yes” to a career opportunity that involved some travel, and “no” to my husband’s wishes that I not do so. And that was the beginning of several difficult years. Ultimately we separated and divorced, and painfully said “yes” to learning and growing into a clearer picture of what we each wanted in life. In my second marriage, in my fifties, I allowed a stressful situation to continue and affect my health. Without realizing it at the time, I was saying “no” to my own desires for a relationship capable of love and stability, and “yes” to my fear of change. Looking back, I regret my lack of clarity and bravery.
Life brings many ups and downs. The current pandemic, the extreme partisan politics, and the changes that keep on coming, raise and illuminate new challenges and choices for each one of us. It’s a stressful world. How will we manage? Perhaps clarity on the YESes and the NOes of our journey is worth seeking.
Changes, both those that befall us and those we initiate, demand that we adapt, adjust, and shift our routines. There is a loss of what was. Somehow we have to create for ourselves what will replace what we still require for a fulfilling life. We have to make peace with the losses, the no longer possibles, and recreate other ways to satisfy needs that remain. As changes occur, to what will we say “yes” and to what will we say “no”?
I will admit that at 80, scooter dependent, retired, and living in a senior residential community currently on semi-lockdown, I am removed from many of the practical displacements that many face, whether it be job and business loss, or working from home and managing children at the same time, or facing eviction. However, due to our no-visit policy, my older neighbors and I are isolated. While some haven’t adjusted well to this isolation, others keep going, even trying to be useful.
Jim takes out his walker and does 3+ miles a day and has lost 15 pounds. Shirley walks 5 miles a day, often with others (6 feet apart) in a walking group. Do you know that’s 150 miles a month?
Joan, over 90, knitted a gorgeous emerald green sweater, just to prove she still could. Others are knitting winter hats to be distributed through Providence Ministries. Others meet weekly in person, mindful of masks and social distancing, to share the family stories they are writing for their grandchildren. Others meet twice a week in a group limited to four, to follow a QiGong video routine. I, a solo ager, have used this gift of time to write 100 pages of my life history for my family archives, something I didn’t want to regret not doing. Two of us spend some time volunteering to “get out the vote.”
Swimming at the Y, going to rehab, had gotten me healthy and able prior to the arrival of the pandemic. But, in losing my former practice, I found myself in failing health and mobility.
Now I’m finally asking, “What’s most missing for my well being right now?”
While I’m neither feeling lost, lonely, friendless, nor purposeless, I am feeling slow and tired and stressed about the chaos in the world.
In the list of essentials, most important for my health and well being right now is a regular routine of exercise, and I hate to exercise. Yes, this persistent goal setter and goal getter, is finally willing to say “yes” to a serious and significant daily routine of exercise. It is something new for me, and now absolutely required. And I’m aware of the courage it is taking to even think about it.
I’ve started to say “yes” and mean it, to practice a program that will allow me to walk more confidently. I’m saying “no” and meaning it, to my habitual avoidance.
And now I toss the questions to you. Take them personally. What are your core longings during this time of uncertainty? What will satisfy them? To what are you now willing to say “yes” for yourself? And just as important, to what will you say “no”?
Caution: Courage required.