Thoughts on aging with grace

Happy Birthday Old FriendLet’s start with two common definitions of grace:

  • simple elegance or refinement of movement
  • (in Christian belief) the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and bestowal of blessings

I’d be quite happy if both of these definitions could be applied to me as I age but, since I’ve never been accused of having simple elegance or refinement of movement before I doubt that I will suddenly develop it. I should probably focus on the second definition.

When I think of someone who is aging with grace I think of a person who confronts physical changes and limitations with cheerful acceptance. They appreciate the difference between sharing troubles and whining and complaining about them. They smile often and take great pleasure in the simple joys of life. They are interested in people and events in the world around them. They find ways to offer kindness to other people. They do all they can to maintain an active and independent lifestyle but, when they are forced by circumstances beyond their control to depend on others, they accept help with gratitude. They filter out unpleasant memories and choose to remember only the good times they’ve had.

Wow, I have some work to do if I hope to meet my own definition of aging with grace! First, I do not confront the physical changes and limitations of age with cheerful acceptance. I hate how my muscles ache and my joints “snap, crackle and pop” when I work in the yard for a couple of hours. I hate how much my feet hurt when I’ve been on them a lot – I also hate bunions, corns, calluses and blisters! I do not like the wrinkles and sagging and other skin changes. On the other hand I am grateful that I made it this far without any serious health issues 🙂

Despite what you might be thinking after reading the last paragraph, I don’t whine or complain very much and I do smile often and appreciate the simple joys of life. I’m interested in interesting people but, I do not suffer fools or bores lightly so I struggle with being more tolerant and patient. I’m very interested in national and world events – almost obsessively. I’m pretty good at finding ways to offer kindness to people, through volunteer work and my everyday interactions. I think having good manners is simply treating people with kindness and respect and that’s the way I was raised. I’m very independent and don’t like to ask for help because it feels weak (I like to be in control) but, I hope I will learn to be more gracious about asking for and accepting help as I age. Pain and medications can greatly affect our mental state so I hope if I’m dealing with that I will be able to show appreciation to the people who are there to help me. As for unpleasant memories, I admit I used to dwell too much on mistakes I’ve made or struggle with feelings of guilt and regret but, I’ve done a lot of work in those areas and I’m happy to say that I usually focus on the good times. Forgiveness helped a lot – both of myself and those who have hurt me.

Old age is that foreign country none of us has ever visited and each of us will experience the journey differently. Just like every journey we’ve taken so far, much of how we experience it is up to us. I’ve had the opportunity to observe a lot of elderly people and I’ve seen a few who were wonderful examples of aging with grace but, not as many as I’d like. I don’t think it’s easy. It is much easier to focus on your complaints and fall into the habit of negativity, although I think that’s true of any age. As Bette Davis once said “Old age ain’t for sissies”.

To keep the heart unwrinkled, to be hopeful, kindly, cheerful, reverent – that is to triumph over old age.   ~Thomas Bailey Aldrich

Liberty and new toy 9-22-14

Part of me will be young forever!




Dream Tweaker

A Star to DiscoverA friend, who recently turned 70, made the comment to me that it was difficult for him when he realized that he’s not going to be able to do all the things he once dreamed about, or live all the lives he wanted to live. I don’t like that thought either but, I understand what he means. He’s not saying that you can’t have adventures or new experiences, it’s just that, at some point, the awareness seeps into your mind that time is no longer on your side. Possibilities are no longer endless and some of your dreams will probably never come true. We’re so used to thinking that we have plenty of time ahead of us to achieve our dreams – when the kids are grown, when we have more money, when our  responsibilities to elderly relatives are fulfilled – but eventually we’re confronted with reality.

This is where dream tweaking comes in. I’ve had a dream for a while about traveling all over the country in a small RV with my dog, Liberty. I’ve spent many happy hours over the last few years looking at maps, researching different types of RVs, and doing lots of armchair traveling on the Internet. I’ve planned the routes I would take – hop scotching across the map from one national park and historic site to another. I’ve had a lot of fun with this dream but recently I’ve started to look at it through a more realistic and practical lens. For one thing, this dream can’t become reality as long as my mother is with me. I treasure her presence in my life and hope she lives many more healthy years but, the reality is that I will probably be quite a bit older by the time I’m free to roam. I’m 65 now – is it realistic to think that a woman in her 60’s (or 70’s) with no mechanical abilities could travel the country alone in an RV? Maybe, but I’m beginning to have doubts. I haven’t completely abandoned the dream but, I am tweaking it. I’m thinking about alternate ways to achieve this dream, like doing my wandering in a comfortable car and staying longer in places I like.

Back in 2009, when I adopted Stella, I began renting dog-friendly homes on for my vacations with Mom and we have stayed in many affordable, comfortable places. I have also rented smaller places for solo trips with my dogs so this might be a more practical way for me to achieve the dream of a cross country trip. There are many expenses involved in RV ownership – maintenance, extra insurance, increased gas costs, and storage fees (my town doesn’t allow RV storage on my property) – so, driving a car and staying in vacation rentals might be financially comparable to traveling in an RV.

Dreams are enjoyable and I happen to believe they’re good for you – let your imagination soar and then do what is possible at whatever stage of life you’re in. If you’re 85 and you’ve dreamed about learning a new language or taking up painting – do it!! You probably won’t become a famous artist and it might be too late to become an interpreter at the UN but you can enjoy the fulfillment of your dream even if you have to tweak it to make it work. It’s reasonable to accept the limitations of age or disabilities but don’t completely abandon your dreams just because the original version is no longer practical. Be a dream tweaker!

Cut not the wings of your dreams, for they are the heartbeat and freedom of your soul. ~Flavia         

Washington Oaks-Matanzas River 5-22-15

Life is but a dream

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Home is where the dog is

Congratulations on adopting a dogHome is where the heart is. I like the concept that phrase brings to mind. It is on one of my favorite T-shirts. My problem is that I’m not sure where my heart is so, I don’t really know where my home is. I like the town in which I live and I like my house – I’ve been here for 20 years, which is the longest I have lived anywhere, including the home in which I spent most of my childhood – and yet, I always have the sense that I could easily leave and like another town and another house just as much. In fact, the reasons I have lived here so long have less to do with choice than with responsibility and practicality. I don’t feel like I have deep roots here, but I don’t have them anywhere else either. Still, I know I’m blessed in many ways so I work through feelings of restlessness by practicing the “bloom where you are planted” philosophy. Appreciate what you have and don’t dwell on what you don’t have.

So, where does my mysterious heart reside? If we’re talking about love, which is typically synonymous with the heart, I love my mother, my son and my best friend. I’m working on loving God. I have deep affection for a few other people. I love my dog, Liberty, almost as much as (and in some ways more!) than any of these humans. She is my constant companion, four-legged best friend and excellent travel buddy. I start every morning with a smile because the first thing I see is her face peeking up over the side of the bed, tail wagging madly in anticipation of an exciting new day. I like to take her with me wherever I go, as much as possible. She isn’t boring, doesn’t annoy me, and is always happy just to BE with me. I like to see her happy little face in my rear view mirror.

In the two years since I adopted Liberty, we have become volunteers with Haven Hospice and PAWS to Read and today she passed the first part of a 3 part test to be registered with the Alliance of Therapy Dogs but, more important than that, she is MY therapy dog. She reminds me to appreciate the moment and enjoy simple pleasures. She takes me out of my shell and encourages me to be more open to people; to offer comfort and kindness to people I don’t even know. When I look at things through her eyes, the ordinary becomes special and new again. It kind of reminds me of when my son was a baby and I felt like I was seeing the world, through his eyes, for the very first time.

If you have never loved a dog or, if you don’t even like them, you probably think I’m nuts or that I have an unhealthy attachment to Liberty or some other psycho-babble. If so, I probably wouldn’t like you and I would definitely find it difficult to trust you. I do have room in my heart and life for a kind and decent man (if I should ever meet one) but, he must love my dog! Love me; love my dog 🙂

I have always loved dogs – they were my faithful friends through childhood and early adulthood and, although for a long time I only had cats as pets (don’t worry cat lovers, they were very special to me, too), I returned to the “dog life” in 2009 when I adopted Stella. She was a senior with many health problems but her sweet, quiet companionship and friendly, easy going nature were the perfect reintroduction into “dog life” for me. Now I can’t imagine living without a canine companion and I hope I never have to.

Crazy as it may sound, in writing this I have come to the conclusion that maybe my heart resides in the heart of a dog so, I guess as long as I have my dog with me I’m home.

If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went. ~Will Rogers

Fun in the ocean 10-15-15

Pure joy!

You can see more of my artwork and books at Lynda Linke Productions