Do you feel like “old age” is “chipping away at who you are”? Who is that person in the mirror and why is she tired all of the time? Martha Nolan McKenzie wrote those words in an article she wrote for the Arthritis Foundation (www.arthritistoday.org) that was featured in the July/August 2012 issue of Arthritis Today magazine. Her story, of course, was about coping with arthritis, but I think the scope is much broader than that. Coping with aging, whether you have arthritis or any other chronic illness feels like a dream state. It is almost like you are an observer and it is happening to someone else. A solid support system and frequent attitude adjustments may be necessary if you are striving to regain or maintain a certain balance in your life.
If you are lucky you don’t have arthritis or any other chronic condition to drag you down. That doesn’t mean that adjusting to getting older is any easier. You can’t ignore it and it won’t go away. You look in the mirror and see someone else looking back at you. You still feel young and your goals and aspirations are as lofty as ever, but you find yourself struggling to keep up. The experts tell us to let go of what was, and focus on what is and what can be. It sounds good on paper, but I sometimes wonder how old these experts really are. Do they really understand? I find myself still trying to keep up with my daughter when we are out walking the dogs, and I will beat that 20 year old on the other side of the tennis net if it kills me. I can’t seem to convince myself that I should be playing with a group of seniors. I will admit that I am not as strong, agile, or flexible as I used to be, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
Older people often fixate on the past. My high school reunion newsletter arrives every week and is filled with ‘remember when’ and the ‘good old days.’ I seldom see any reference to what is going on today or about dreams and plans for tomorrow.
Margaret Baltes (World Health: July/August 1997) wrote that aging successfully is a process that requires self-mastery as well an environmental mastery. She talks about the importance of forward (not backward) motion. Learning how to cope involves a willingness to adjust and adapt, and this is done by changing your expectations, delegating control, and acknowledging that you can’t control everything. That looks good on paper but it is harder than that, or at least it is for me. I haven’t been able to let go yet so I continue to push myself and make huge to-do lists everyday. I know that I am not going to be able to keep on like this forever, but let me have one more day. When I have to I will take up golf and admit that I can’t keep up with the kids, but not today.
What do you think? When is it time to let go? How do you learn how to cope with change when you want to resist with every fiber in your being?