Thursday, July 11, 2013

Snakes and Ladders

I thought we were meant to get smarter as we aged.  Or maybe that was was spread around by older people when I was younger. Age brought wisdom:  it was a twofer kind of deal.  You got incontinence and gas but you were smart as a whip. Until the point of course when you forgot your door keys for the umpteenth time and they don't let you out on your own again.  Then you're not so smart;  you have dementia instead, and that trumps smart every time.

So recently I have been wondering what the signs are, you know, for either being wise and smart, or for possibly being not so smart and being a dementia candidate.  I conclude that it is a thin line, one of many thin lines in life.  I think of all the thin lines that have separated me from others, sometimes a single degree of separation.

Health from sickness — now that can be a very thin line.  Why did Marianne get cancer and not me?  She was the one with a healthy diet:  she was the one who ran every day and dragged us both off to yoga. That was a thin line.

Happiness from sadness — that's another thin one.  And it moves too.  One day happy, and the next day not so much.  Recently I have been keeping a check on my happy score every day.  It seems a reasonable thing to do — not a dementia risk there.  Just a sensible tracking of how things are going.  I seem to be getting a little happier, although I try not to resort to scoring in two decimal points in order to show progress.

Life is just one giant game of snakes and ladders.  Fall on a square with a life crisis and I slide back down the snake, three rows down and five to the left.  Not good.  Roll again.  When I was younger, I wanted the ladder that lifted me up three rows and four to the right.  Your internet start up has a successful IPO — that would have been a good square.  Mine wasn't;  it was one fat anaconda. And I still have not got over that one.

Now I just want consistency, no surprises.  Just give me one square at a time with nothing on it.  I just want to sit there, in the square and enjoy it, basking in the reasonable expectation that there will be another square to the right tomorrow.  I want some thick lines around the square, not thin ones.

Recently I landed on a snake, and that was quite a surprise. My first response was to stop playing.  Not helpful. My second response was distance.  Look for another board in another place and start again.  But this time, choose the board before I start playing. Now that make sense.  But sometimes new boards need some different skills, sometimes the rules change.

But one thing seems to be sensible and smart and worthy of being older.  in fact, it might even be wise:  make the game simple.  Stop complicating it with other stuff.  Simplify everything.  Downsize. Reduce. Give away. Become mobile.

The other day a friend of mine asked me for my advice regarding financial management.  How have I been able to move across the board, and arrive at this stage of my life, let's just say pre-dementia for the sake of argument, and be able to travel and seemingly enjoy life with such ease and lack of financial worries?  What are the brilliant strategies I used along the way?  What ladders was I lucky enough to land on?  And the answer is the same:  simplify, downsize, reduce, give away, become mobile.  It is easier to do that when you are sixty plus than when you are thirty, but maybe that is wisdom talking.  I wish I had known that when I was thirty.  Nowadays, I have no property, very few tangible assets and just a little storage. I pride myself on the fact that my stuff fits in two suitcases, maybe one if I squeeze.

Now I just want a new board, some squares with no snakes and no ladders, and a hand to hold as I roll the dice one more time.  I can see that happy score moving up.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

I will not let this day go by unmarked. So I will post this same message again, updated to reflect the passage of yet another year.  I miss her presence and I miss her love.  But I see a life ahead and a path forward. It has become easier.  Here are the words I have written before about these ten days.

For the past five years, I have reserved the ten days between July 1st and July 10th, I have put them aside as a reminder of the last ten days of Marianne's life in 2008. Ten days of hospice care at home; ten days of gradual increases in pain medication; ten days of withdrawal;  ten days of her body slowly shutting down, system by subsystem, bit by bit, until there was no room for her and no room for me any more. 

I like to think that her spirit didn't need her body anymore, and so slowly freed itself, piece by piece. In the Bahá'i faith is written "to consider that after the death of the body the spirit perishes is like imagining that a bird in a cage will be destroyed if the cage is broken, though the bird has nothing to fear from the destruction of the cage".  So like the bird in the cage, her spirit was freed, and remains free.

It becomes easier, year by year, to look back at those ten days.  The pain is eased a little - not quite so raw. Memory is selective, filtering the view, rounding the edges, allowing me to focus on those times when love was affirmed, when a kiss was shared, a hand held, a touch received.   

Much has happened in these five years: two boys have grown into young men, their lives filling, confidence growing and their futures slowly appearing, pixel by pixel. They are finding their way in a tough world.  I am so very proud of them, and I know for sure that Marianne is proud too.

And what for me? I am still reminding myself to be in the moment, to take another deep breath and start again. Life is lots of new beginnings after all.  I need to remind myself of that at times like this.