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Aging Mindfully

While walking with my friend Keri last weekend, I told her I’m struggling to accept the fact that I’m getting old.

“We’re not old,” she said. “We’re sixty-three and that is not that old.”

The key phrase that jumped out at me was “that old.”

Old, yes, but not “that old.”

I told her I’m trying to embrace aging.

Trying is the key word here.

Until now, I’ve been in outright denial about it.

The pandemic, however, has done an excellent job of reminding me that I am in the “vulnerable population.”

I’ve decided to try harder to gracefully glide into the golden years even though 63 is “not that old” and it doesn’t feel that golden.

My friend Stacy has been telling me we need to “age mindfully.” I’m not even sure what that means but she has been dealing with aging parents and believes we need to be realistic about what’s ahead and have a plan for how we want things to go when we hit certain, shall we say, “milestones?”

A Psychology Today article defines aging mindfully as “aging in a way that doesn’t deny the negatives of getting older but doesn’t blow them up either.” Instead, the author recommends turning the mind to the benefits of aging with “realistic positivity,” which is defined as “seeing and accepting what is—both inside ourselves and in the world—and then shifting our focus to what we would love.”

If I’m going to have to age, which apparently is inevitable, I’m going to opt for the realistic positivity approach.

You may think this is not a revolutionary thought but coming from a woman who thinks she’s a solid 10 years younger than I really am, this is a big step.

I blame others for making me feel old — like the CDC with all that vulnerable population talk. (Aren’t you so sick of the CDC? We went along for years hardly knowing it existed and now, we can’t get through a day without hearing several mentions of it.)

And I certainly can’t forget what I’ve labeled “The Parable of the Irises,” which is a story about that time I ruined my shoulder while GARDENING from pulling out stubborn iris bulbs.

My doctor kindly pointed out that the chances of tearing a rotator cuff are commensurate with your age. If you’re 50, you have a 50 percent chance of it tearing. If you’re 60, you have a 60 percent chance, and up it goes as you age.

So, there’s a helpful piece of aging trivia for you.

I’ve done some deeply embarrassing things during my age-denial phase.

Like the time I ran into someone who claimed we went to high school together.

“No way,” I thought. “We are not the same age. We absolutely did not go to high school together.”

And then — I can’t believe I’m sharing this story — I said these words: “Oh, maybe I went to high school with one of your kids.”

Yes, I did.

I said that.

As soon as the words fell out of my mouth, I felt completely embarrassed and all the blood vessels in my body felt like they were on fire. I wanted to run and hide and never come out again.

My family slinked away in utter humiliation, slowly backing up as if they didn’t know me.

I wish I could say I learned my lesson through that experience, but that would be a lie.

I have been going to a water aerobics class (good therapy for the shoulder) and I told Doug that it’s a class full of oldsters – people who are there to soak and socialize, not exercise.  Then, one day, a lady asked how old I was and after I told her, she spritely said, “Oh, so you’re just six years older than me!”

I think this is called age dysphoria, a condition when people don’t identify with their chronological age.

Scientists claim that 60 is the new middle age. We know that can’t be true because how many people do you know who have lived to be 120?

So, maybe I can blame the scientists, aging experts, and the media for my age denial because they’ve contributed to this idea that I’m much younger than I really am.

Since I’m choosing to age with “realistic positivity,” I need to see and accept “what is.” That is going to require some work.

I also need to focus on what there is to love about this stage of life. The truth is there are so many things. One of them is apparently not caring about what other people think which frees me up to write things like the time I thought I was the same age as my classmate’s child.

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COVID Chronicles

Doug and I tested positive for Covid over the holidays.

Our symptoms started out quite mild — feeling tired, a little achy, a small cough, and a scratchy throat.

We went to be tested just to be on the safe side.

The next day, we received our results. Doug tested positive and I tested negative. We had the same symptoms so I was quite sure I had it. Then, later in the day, I received another notice that I tested positive, followed by yet another message that my test was negative.

I made a few phone calls to clear up the confusion and finally was told that my test was absolutely positive, which explained my worsening symptoms.

We weren’t sure what to expect from the famed COVID, and we honestly wondered what our experience would be like. We know of people who have died, others who have been hospitalized, and some who have reported they’ve never been sicker in their lives. Then, we know many who contracted it and had very mild symptoms and some who had no symptoms at all.

So, we weren’t sure where we’d fall in that spectrum.

Just before we were diagnosed, we were notified that a sister-in-law who had the virus ended up going to the hospital, Then, she was told she probably wouldn’t make it through the night!

We were shocked and devastated that it progressed that far so quickly.

Miraculously, she made it through the night for which we are all so grateful. But she spent several weeks in the ICU and is just barely being released to go to a rehab center. Her struggle is not over.

With that on our minds, we checked in with each other repeatedly… how are you? Any changes? Are you better or worse? Do you have a fever? Are you hydrated? Have you eaten? Are you breathing okay?

We are so grateful for our friends, neighbors and family who checked on us regularly, brought us meals, shoveled our driveway, delivered our groceries, dropped off Advil, hot soup, bread, and so much more.

We both had all the classic symptoms. I lost my sense of smell and Doug lost his sense of taste and smell. Over three weeks later, Doug still can’t taste or smell although he is making progress.

I think what surprised us the most is that the symptoms linger — especially the fatigue. We felt a gentle lift of the symptoms after the two-week marker but the fatigue, aches, and pains hang on and randomly reappear. Just as we start feeling like we might be moving out of COVID land, we experience a little setback, which we understand is quite common.

We had a few sobering conversations and asked each other some questions we never thought we’d be asking.

What if things turn south fast? Are we ready for that?

What if we have a sudden decline, have to go to the hospital, and get the news, like our family member, that we likely won’t make it through the night? Are we ready for that? Are our affairs in order?

While we honestly never really felt in danger of that, we couldn’t help but wonder.

We thought about all the people who have died during this pandemic and all of those who have had much more serious battles than ours. Did they see it coming?

The one thing we know is that despite what people say, Covid is real. It’s miserable, and it’s worth taking all the precautions necessary to avoid it.

My daughter, Sara, came to drop off groceries for us one afternoon. She rang the doorbell, left the groceries on the porch, and then walked back to the sidewalk in front of our house. We opened the door, picked up the groceries, and waved to her from the entryway of our house. We were all in masks and more than six feet apart.

That moment was a poignant one for me. I felt like I had stepped into the footage of a news program like so many we’ve seen of separated family members.

I hate COVID and all the chaos, confusion, heartache, loss, grief, sickness, fear, anxiety, and isolation it has brought into our world. But at the same time, I want to embrace the lessons I’ve learned from it and I hope that when it’s all over, I remember them.

In one of our conversations, Doug said, “This has been a wake-up call on so many levels, hasn’t it?”

Yes, it absolutely has been a wake-up call. But the question is what has it awakened? How will we be different now?

Since this virus hit me right after I had surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff, I’ve had a lot of time to think — too much time to think, actually.

One of the things I learned is that I need to build a better boat.

Let me explain…

I’ve discovered a few holes in my boat…

Kenny Chesney sings a beautiful song called Better Boat. Here are the lyrics:

I ain't lonely, but I spend a lot of time alone
 More than I'd like to, but I'm okay with staying home
 My how the last few months have changed
 I'm smilin' more despite the pain
 I breathe in, I breathe out
 Got friends to call who let me talk about
 What ain't working, what's still hurtin'
 All the things I feel like cussing out
 Now and then I let it go
 I ride the waves I can't control
 I'm learning how to build a better boat
 I hate waiting, ain't no patience in these hands
 I'm not complaining, sometimes it's hard to change a man
 I think I'm stronger than I was
 I'll let God do what He does
 I breathe in, I breathe out
 Got friends to call who let me talk about
 What ain't working, what's still hurtin'
 All the things I feel like cussing out
 Now and then I let it go
 I ride the waves I can't control
 I'm learning how to build a better boat

I hope that I can build a better, stronger, more resilient boat to help me ride the waves I can’t control a little bit better. I also hope I can trust God and let him do what he does and not lose faith.

What about you? What has your COVID experience been like? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

From the News, Personal

Playing the Glad Game

It’s time to play Pollyanna’s Glad Game.

I’m so over the pandemic.

I’ve been desperately wanting all the craziness in the world to just be over already.

You know it’s bad when you keep asking yourself, “What else?” Fully expecting there to be one more thing day after day.

We woke up early on Sunday morning to about 75 messages — some of them texts from family asking, “Are you okay? Were you evacuated?” and most of the rest of them in a neighborhood chat group that was blowing up with photos, videos, and questions about nearby fires that seemed to be heading our way.

I have to admit that I slept through all the danger.

While neighbors were watching the fires burn all night, thankfully, I was sound asleep.

And, just for the record, we are fine.

We were never threatened by the fires.

And, our neighbors to the west were evacuated but no homes or lives were lost thanks to some quick-acting always-on-the-job firemen who took care of it.

Then, last night, we saw another fire off in the distance from our deck, and found out some friends on the other side of the lake from us were evacuated for yet another fire.

So, what else?

That’s the question on everyone’s minds.

There are so many layers of unrest in our world that I’m losing track. There’s the pandemic, killer hornets, earthquakes and the aftershocks, protests and rioting, nasty partisan politics, and the list goes on.

Yet… there is something else.

Like the volunteer fireman who was helping with the evacuations and traffic control Saturday night who said when he arrived on the scene, “It was the perfect storm of bad circumstances all coming together for disaster…The flames were headed toward homes. Kids were hiking in the trails above the fire. The wind was howling and fanning huge flames. Then something happened. The wind stopped. It just stopped. For no logical reason, it just went calm…The wind should have blown this into a real tragedy, but somehow it stopped. Why it stopped is for you to figure out.”

Or like the fact that I hear things like this from my friends, family and neighbors:

  • Things are great for us. I don’t know what it is but my family is thriving.
  • My disabled son found an apartment and moved out on his own for the first time, and he’s loving it! I’m so proud of him.
  • I am getting more done in my home and yard than I ever have before.
  • I love working from home. It’s the best. I get to spend time with my family. I’m not sure I want it to ever go back to the office.
  • Our gospel study is deeper and more rewarding than it’s ever been.
  • I can go for walks because my older kids can take care of my younger ones and that has never happened before because they’ve always been so busy with so many extracurricular activities.
  • My husband lost his job but somehow, we’re okay. We’re confident that we’ll be fine and that he’ll find something when the world settles down. I don’t know what it is but we feel really at peace.
  • I have been trying to find a new, affordable apartment for a long time, and the perfect one just opened up.
  • I have experienced chronic pain for years and recently fell. I was afraid it would make everything worse. Miraculously, it made everything better. I can’t explain it.
  • I’m having Zoom calls with old friends, and it’s been so fun to reconnect.

The list goes on.

like having at least one daughter close by… 🙂
Or finding this beauty on my front porch from an anonymous neighbor (thanks Diann!)

Now, don’t get me wrong. I know bad things are happening. We’ve had a few of our own.

But, I keep remembering an article I read by Sheri Dew, who said, “Many of you have no doubt had the same experience I’ve had of late. Grocery stores with long lines, no paper products or bottled water, and eerie rows of empty shelves. There are areas in the world where this is not uncommon, but in the United States and other industrialized nations, that is not the case. I imagine that for many around the world, there have been recent moments that almost felt post-apocalyptic.”

I nodded my head about the post-apocalyptic part because that’s definitely how it feels.

Then, she quoted LDS leader Elder Neil Anderson who said, ““As evil increases in the world, there is a compensatory spiritual power for the righteous. As the world slides from its spiritual moorings, the Lord prepares the way for those who seek Him, offering them greater assurance, greater confirmation, and greater confidence in the spiritual direction they are traveling. The gift of the Holy Ghost becomes a brighter light in the emerging twilight.”

Image by Jorge Guillen from Pixabay

To me, that says, even when the world seems bad, if we do our part, God does his.

We took a short road trip to Yellowstone last week and the peace, stunning sunsets, wildlife, and natural beauty just took our breath away. We didn’t want to leave. It was a good reminder that there is still beauty in the world.

It reminds me of the book Where the Red Fern Grows when the little boy, Billy, desperately wants a pair of coon hound dogs. His grandpa says, “Well, it’s been my experience that God helps those who help themselves. If you want God’s help bad enough, you’ll meet him halfway.”

Maybe, for me, part of meeting him halfway is looking for the compensatory blessings rather than seeing everything as signs of the apocalypse, which you have to admit is pretty easy these days.

If you’re seeing some compensatory blessings during these upside down, crazy times, please share them with me! I need all the positivity I can get.

Pollyanna’s Glad Game needs to be in full swing.

Personal

Bush Twin Gems from “Sisters First”

I just finished reading the book Sister’s First — Stories from our Wild and Wonderful Life by Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush.

I picked up the book for two reasons — first, I’m a sucker for anything related to the Bush family, especially if it promises great stories about George and Barbara Bush.

Second, it’s the only memoir I know of that was written by two people, and my friend, Lisa, and I are having fun writing a memoir together, and we wanted to see how this book was structured.

The book did not disappoint on those two fronts.

A few gems that resonated with me:

Enjoy being in the game…

A couple of years ago in Maine, we were all sitting around the robin blue oval table that we’ve sat around for years having dinner — with Gampy at the head. The room was full of laughter. Everybody was talking, except for Gampy, and the conversation was ricocheting around the table. It started getting loud, and eventually he leaned over and in a hoarse voice, he whispered, ‘I miss this.’

And I asked, ‘What Gampy, what do you miss?’

And he looked around and said, ‘I loved being in the game. Don’t forget to enjoy being part of the game.’

Barbara pierce Bush

I loved this story because it reminded me of my mom toward the end of her life. When all of our family was together, the pace and volume of the back and forth conversation was too much for her.

It frustrated her until she learned to just soak up the love and energy in the room, noticing how everyone enjoyed being together. She loved just looking around the room and relishing that everyone there was “hers.” But, it was hard to see her gradually switch from being a participant to a quiet observer.

So, I loved George Bush’s advice, “Don’t forget to enjoy being part of the game.” We all need to appreciate being part of the game!

Sister Love Story…

I confess that I wasn’t sure if I would like the sister “love story” aspect of the book. In the acknowledgments, they wrote, “Sisters First isn’t a typical memoir, but rather a love story we wrote to each other.” That sounded a little too schmaltzy and contrived to me.

However, I was surprised to like it more than I expected.

A beautiful paragraph written by Jenna toward the end of the book made me stop and think about the power of sisterhood — whether by blood or by friendship.

She said she was reflecting on a day when she picked up her daughter, Mila, from preschool and Mila asked, “Where is Poppy? I want Poppy-Lou,” referring to her sister.

“That night, I held my girls closely and listened to the patterns of their breathing until they were in sync, until they were one. You have each other, I thought to myself, You can walk through this wild and wonderful life together. You will fight, yes. And you will adapt to each other’s quirks, but you will do it together. You will make your sister feel like she is enough. And for me, your mama, well, that is enough. More than enough. That is everything.”

Jenna Bush Hager

That really is everything, isn’t it? To have someone who makes you feel like you are enough? I thought of not just how my sister helps me feel that way, but how many of my dear girlfriends and now my daughters help me feel that way. I’m grateful that my daughters can write their own sister love stories now with not just each other but with their many female friends.

Live a life that’s worth it…

The last gem from this little book that I loved came from Barbara who wrote about a Burundian man who taught her that a birthday could be celebrated not just with a cake but by considering how, in the previous year, you had lived the best year that you could. And before you eat the cake, you have to share what you did for other people in that year.

You had to make a case that you were living in a way that was worth it, in a way that was giving to others. You are here for a reason, and you should be grateful for every year, and be ready to do the most [you can] with the next one.”

Barbara Pierce Bush

With yet another birthday around the corner for me, I love the idea of considering whether I lived the best way I could in the last year, and earning a slice of birthday cake by reflecting on what I’ve done for other people.

So, thank you Barbara and Jenna for giving me some beautiful words of wisdom and some stories to remember about creating and appreciating a beautiful life.

Personal

Perfect Moments

A wise friend of mine recently shared a thought that has made a deep impression on me.

She was talking about perfectionism and our tendency to beat ourselves up continually because we fall short of our expectations. .

She said that none of us are or can be perfect, and instead of berating ourselves for repeatedly missing the mark, we should look for “perfect moments.”

my life isn’t perfect, but it does have perfect moments

She described some of her perfect moments, including one that happened on a night when she felt particularly worried about her daughter. She knew her daughter was experiencing some trouble with a friend at school. She wasn’t sure how to help her through that challenge.

Late one night, she went into her daughter’s room and found her sleeping peacefully in her bed. She was overcome with the depth of love and concern she felt for that child. She quietly knelt down by her daughter’s bed and asked God to help her know how to help her child. She immediately felt impressed simply to tell her daughter, “I’m on your team.”

Her daughter woke up right as she finished her emotional prayer, and she was startled to see her mother in her room with tears in her eyes. “Is everything okay?” she asked.

“I just want you to know how much I love you and that I’m on your team.” It turned into a sweet, unforgettable, perfect mother-daughter moment.

Since hearing that story, I have been watching for the perfect moments in my life, and while my life is far from perfect, there are perfect moments every single day.

Yesterday, I went to the community pool for an early morning water aerobics class. As the sun came up over the mountains, and glistened all across the pool, it was like sun glitter fell from the sky and landed all over the water. Then, I noticed an elderly woman wearing a swim cap in another part of the pool. She was facing the sun and stopped to take a deep breath to soak it all in. Then, she starting jogging to the beat of the music, and for that moment, her life was perfect. She was absorbing the beauty of a perfect moment.

I asked Doug about a perfect moment he’s experienced. The first thing that came to his mind was our daughter, Sara’s wedding. Her wedding weekend was full of perfect moments — seeing her walk into the beautiful Salt Lake Temple to be sealed to her husband, watching her smile when she arrived at the reception venue and saw it all lit up and decorated with pink peonies just like she imagined, watching her laugh and enjoy time with friends and family, and saying goodbye as she and her husband walked under a canopy of sparklers in the night sky.

So many perfect moments in one beautiful day…

I thought of seeing the lace from my mother’s wedding gown tied around Sara’s bridal bouquet and seeing my daughters together savoring every moment of the wedding weekend.

There are perfect moments everywhere, and focusing on them brings out so many of the hidden beauties of ordinary life. I’m grateful to my friend for pointing out this truth to me.

What are some of your perfect moments? Think about them, notice how they make you feel, notice how they improve your mood and attitude, and if you want, share them! I’d love to hear about some of your perfect, beautiful moments.