Poem from a reader

I have invited readers of the Second Wind blog  to submit their thoughts and works here. Ann Cooper of VT  kindly sent this poem. Ann doesn’t mince words about what it is like to be on the edge of mortality, but the poem ends in wisdom…with a way to approach the fact  we don’t live forever.

I also recommend Woody Allen’s thoughts: “I don’t mind dying. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

Here’s Ann’s poem:

My Stomach Hurts

My stomach hurts

and has since yesterday.

It gurgles, stabs, and spasms

whether I sit or stand or move.

And, old now, in my 80th year,

I wonder, as I do with almost any twinge,

Is this it—the beginning of the end?

My grandma was 70 when she died.

“A good life,” they said, as she yellowed

and wasted in intractable pain.

My sister, 60, died in ICU, entubed, immobilized,

amid monitors and bells and beeps and

the soft scurry of nurses’ shoes.

My father younger still,

isolated in his home and self

by cruel, but then accepted,

refusal to share with him

what we all knew (and he did too).

I see them all and project:

is this what’s now in store?

In the not too distant past this would become obsession.

Now instead I strive for mindfulness:

attentive silence, peaceful heart, 

and know that really all is well,

that fear and mental chatter

stymie life while I still live—

even though today 

my stomach hurts.

If anyone wants to add his or her own way of addressing these fears at this time of life, feel free to write them below. If you wish to get in touch with Ann, her email is ancoop@yahoo.com

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Your Reverse Bucket List….

OK, I guess we all have a positive Bucket List, things we want to do, places we want to see before we die. I used to have a list of 108 things… some tiny (get an African violet to bloom), some big (go to Greece). But as I get older, my Bucket List is down to one—keep breathing.

What has grown though, is a reverse Bucket List, things that no longer interest me, things I don’t want to do anymore. Here are five of mine and see if they match yours:

  1. I no longer want to go to big parties. Chat, not conversation, reigns at parties, but I don’t care what sign people are or what they think of the weather.
  2. I want to be in bed by 9 and not necessarily with Robert Redford. A good book rather than a good roll in the hay now that I am turning 80. My husband does not agree with item #2. Never has, never will. Testosterone is immortal.
  3. I don’t want to kill time. What is time that I should kill it? Hell, it’s the most precious thing I have, which gets me to #4…
  4. I don’t want to waste time with events, concerts, seminars, movies, lectures or lunches with anyone I don’t like, with people whose thoughts and behavior are now way outside my values radar. Gerontologists call this “social selectivity” and they observe it in older folks. We stick with family and people who have meaning for us and let the rest go. We have no social time to waste.
  5. I can no longer watch long newscasts, those daily doses of depression. It is much faster to keep up with the world by reading online papers, thus limiting the daily dose, but still keeping my aging head out of the sand.                                                                               So what’s your Reverse Bucket List? What no longer interests you? What do you now consider a waste of time? Please post and share. Thanks. Mel

 

 

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Red poppies

Oil pencil and oil on paper

For the girls….

  

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My Happy Mistake

Yesterday I was trying to add two paintings to a blog I am just starting: http://www.melwalshgallery.com.  Fooling with a new iPhone, I tried using the phone to add photos of my artwork to the gallery blog. Well, I checked the wrong box because those photos went here.

What a happy mistake. I heard from quite a few of you that my writing was missed and that you liked the art. Thank you.

There Is A Third Wind

Though I will be 80 next month, I decided it was not too late to try and teach myself acrylics, oils, mixed media and colored pencil. Again, I have no clue about any of it, just that I want to try and use the brushes I’ve been picking up at garage sales for the last 25 years. If any of you are interested, there are great YouTube videos that will show you how.

So never let age stop you from trying new things. One faithful reader, Cynthia, wrote to me this morning that at age 65 she has just taken a job as executive director of  an important agency in Oregon. Yay, Cynthia.

And yay to all of you who won’t let the stereotypes of age hold you back. Actually, your feedback from my mistake in posting may actually get me writing again on Second Wind. I do miss taking news of interest to older people and presenting it in a way that presumably will not put you to sleep. Some of you were even kind enough to put my past columns on your refrigerator doors. No higher praise.

Countdown to 80,

Mel

Disclosure…this photo was age 75. Have to get Mac to do another one. You who were readers of Second Wind know him as Cranky Pants. CP is still going strong at almost 84.

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Mel Walsh by Mac Small

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Sunset 1

Acrylic on canvas

  

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Burst

Acrylic on board

  

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When Retirement is a Pain in the Posterior

by Mel Walsh
Though retirement is stereotyped as a geezer Garden of Eden furnished with recliners and a flat screen TV, it can be tough. You’d never know it, though, from the ads. You’ve seen them—beautiful Botoxed models with silver hair, riding bikes on a country lane or sitting in seaside bath tubs waiting for the moment to be right.

In reality, retirement is no chocolate truffle. It’s a mixed bag. Some people love it, some hate it and some just struggle, trying to understand who they are besides unemployed and what they should do now since they are finally in charge.

Sounds good—being in charge of your life, but if you’ve invested total energy in a job now gone and in a family now departed, facing the future is scary. What will you do with yourself? Who will you become? The silly old person of the stereotypes? A super senior who skydives and makes the news? A grandpa who babysits and loves it because he missed out on his own kids’ childhoods? (Too busy earning a living.)

Maybe a grandma who starts a new business? Or someone who never retires—who works as a consultant or at a part-time job to make money or to feel useful? (The biggest poverty of the later years may be the lack, not of money, but of meaning.)

How to get a grip

First, go easy on yourself. You don’t have to get the new you in place tomorrow. A good first thing to do: practice some personal archeology. That means digging out the interests you used to have. Did you always want to raise orchids, sing in a choir, be an artist, take photos like Ansel, help abused animals?

You may reply it’s too late for all that and I will reply it’s only too late if you don’t start now. Actually, that’s the title of a book by Barbara Sher—It’s Only Too Late If You Don’t Start Now: How To Create Your Second Life At Any Age. Sher is a genius at getting people off the dime, out of their fear freezes and into new lives that fit. Certainly her books helped me go back to school in my sixties and get an MA in Gerontology, the study of older people. So any Sher book on Amazon would be number two on my get-going list.

Third: Find a retirement buddy, someone who struggles with the same issues. This could be your mate, a former co-worker or a neighbor. It helps to know you are not alone. Exchanging ideas may result in a new perspective on retirement issues. Sometimes others can see you better than you can and might share what things they think you could do and enjoy.

Fourth: Test out some ideas with classes. Take classes in your interests at community colleges or adult ed classes in your area. Also look online. I got my degree from USC totally online. If you don’t care about credit—you just want the subject matter—-take free online university courses.

A major wakeup call for the brain

Free online courses from major schools are a treasure chest of ideas and information and a good way to get your feet wet in any subject. For a list of high-quality courses, go to http://tinyurl.com/2xr7sd.

MIT excels at this, and not just in science, but in the humanities with a wide offering of music courses. Carnegie Mellon is a leader online with many science courses. Tufts has wide offerings and excels in nutrition and medicine, both human and veterinary. UC Berkeley is not to be outdone. I had to stop writing this column just to listen to a computer class. All the links to these universities are at the website above.

Fifth: Don’t wait for the perfect thing to magically come your way. It takes effort and bravery to go down unknown paths. To his credit, Cranky Pants ventured forth to fall in a river after a fish, to suffer through golf lessons in the heat of an LA summer and to spin out on a race track going over 100 mph. He decided who he was not: a fisherman, Tiger Woods or Sterling Moss. He found civil grand jury work instead—interesting and done on cool dry land at zero mph.

So, again, we salute him and others who get out there in retirement as test pilots of their own lives. Fly on.

Mel Walsh is a columnist, blogger, gerontologist and author of HOT GRANNY, Chronicle Books. She lives in Carmel CA with Cranky Pants.

Note: This is a repost of a former column, but I meet so many people just beginning the journey, thought I would post it again.

Posted in Growing older, Retirement, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Your Experience With Joint Surgery/Replacements?

I’m writing a book about preparing for and recovering from joint surgeries on knees, hips, shoulders, ankles, feet. It will be a nitty gritty guide, patient to patient, with tips and hints for getting the best outcome from these surgeries.

Am especially interested in hearing about your knee and hip replacements.

Please write back with any experiences or opinions about such surgeries:

Here are some things to write about:

What difference did the surgery make in your life?

What made you decide to do it?

Would you do it again? Did you know what you were getting into? What, if any, were the surprises?

Did you have good pain control? What meds were used?

What, if anything, did you find hard about recovery? Was any equipment useful? Walkers, leg lifters, etc. What were the biggest problems?

What advice would you have for others?

Did anything really help in recovery? The kind of help you had? Friends and family? Physical therapists? How did you handle daily living? Food, getting around?

Did you feel you got good discharge instructions from the hospital?

Did you go to a rehab/nursing facility after the hospital? If yes, what was your opinion?

Did your family come in to help? Was there conflict about what to do, how to do it, etc?

How did you handle any frustration, depression during recovery? What got you through the post-op nights?

What are your observations about family and friends who have had joint surgeries?

Really, I am interested in anything you have to say. I will not use names if I use your quotes in the book. If I think your remarks still identify you, your family, your hospital or doctor, I will change your location and leave out those names, but I don’t change your opinions or experience! Don’t worry about grammar, lovely writing, doing it just so…just write.

I very much appreciate anything you care to send about the experience. If you want to forward this to anyone who has had joint surgery, please do so. Love to hear from them too.

Send privately to me at mel58@mac.com, or leave a public reply below. Thanks. Mel

Posted in Health, joint surgeries, Personal | 5 Comments

Two Valuable Free Subscriptions Plus Retirement Urges

Trying to keep up to date on every issue connected with growing older—well, that used to be a task. But one great free site makes it all easy. Subscribing to the free weekly newswire at http://www.savvysenior.com will convey everything you need to know about life after 60. (OK, it doesn’t tell you how to cut your toenails if you can’t reach your toes, but it will help on most every other front.)

Another favorite here at Our Geezer Home is http://www.peoplespharmacy.com. That too is a free subscription and is full of useful and up-to-date health information, both mainstream and home remedies. Subscribers will also get special health and pharmaceutical alerts when important items hit the newswires, such as a drug being taken off the market because of its harmful effects on consumers, one of whom may be you.

Subscribe to those two free sites and you will be ahead of the aging game.

Why Am I Telling You This? It’s the R word, Retirement

After almost 40 years of writing professionally, I am tired. I started writing professionally back in the 1970’s. I have written four non-fiction books for major publishers, been nationally syndicated for a few years, had regular columns in the San Jose Mercury News, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Huffington Post. I’ve also written for the Oprah magazine, Glamour and Working Women. Those things along with a ton of work for Silicon Valley corporations have kept me afloat in addition to with some surprise consulting jobs for Gallo Wines and the CA Olive Industry.

As for aging issues, I got an MA in Gerontology at USC when I turned 60 and since then I’ve written one book about aging, HOT GRANNY, and hundreds of newspaper columns about life in the geezer lane. Also on the aging front, I had one of the few weekly radio shows in the country that was just about aging at KVMR-FM.

I’ve had the honor of doing national book tours, doing interviews on national TV, one of which is on YouTube evidently forever, and you can find it if you Google: Mel Walsh CBS. (There you will find clueless me who forgot to take off her red socks and walking shoes before going on the air.)

Looking back at it all, it was more than I ever expected out of life—but now I want to do something different. I’m 77. Average age of planet departure in the US is 78. Now or never is the time to have fun, do some art, smell the roses and kiss my profession fondly goodbye.

But and however, I just didn’t want to leave you all high and dry when it came to info about the later years. So consider subscribing to http://www.savvysenior.org and http://www.peoplespharmacy. They are gold mines of good information as is http://www.mayoclinic.com if you want to research any ailment or body glitch.

Thank you very much for subscribing here and I wish you all a very good New Year. My motto for the year is taken from my friend June who has this to say about aging and having fun in the later years: Eat the popsicle before it melts.

So eat your popsicles. Love, Mel

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Happy You, Happy Heart

I guess we ordinary people always suspected it—moods can effect our heart health. But we mostly heard this in a downer way, people dying of broken hearts.

However, what’s getting attention on the medical landscape these days is the opposite idea—-people can live longer because of a happy heart.  The Rx suggested here is joy, pleasure, contentment and yes, happiness.

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Is there evidence that happiness promotes heart health?

You bet. Just consider this: Researchers from Columbia University Medical Center in New York followed 1,739 healthy adults over 10 years, taking periodic measurements of their negative emotions—depression, hostility, anxiety—and their positive emotions—joy, enthusiasm and pleasure. They also monitored the state of individual heart health or heart disease. Without boring you with details about how they controlled for this or that, what they found was a correlation between the state of the emotions and the health of the heart. Happier people had healthier hearts.

Happiness Seemed to Ward Off Heart Disease.

This finding and others like it might have major implications for the treatment of heart disease. If heart troubles can be prevented by boosting positive emotions, will doctors prescribe HBO comedy specials, golden labs or whatever else floats your happiness boat?

The team’s leader, Karina Davidson, Ph.D., said the study was the first to examine the relationship between clinically-assessed positive emotions and heart disease. She called for more research, but said people should try and put fun into their daily routines, rather than enjoying life in short bursts.

Binge Funning

“Some people wait for their two weeks of vacation to have fun and that would be analogous to binge drinking, ” she said. “If you enjoy reading novels, but never get around to it, commit to getting 15 minutes or so of reading. If walking or listening to music improves your mood, get those activities in your schedule. Essentially, spending a few minutes each day truly relaxing and enjoying yourself is good for your mental health and may improve your physical health as well.”

Other studies came to a similiar conclusion. Julia Boehm, Harvard School of Public Health, did a meta-analysis of the many studies about health and happiness. Her findings? Optimistic people have half the risk of a first heart attack than pessimistic, negative people. The stress associated with negative emotions evidently harms the heart and vessels.

Tragedy: Get Outta Here

Which gets me to the subject of what we choose as “entertainment” at the end of the day. Call me a wanna-be Pollyanna, but since life can be tough, it’s a daily challenge to keep spirits buoyant and I don’t want my movies and TV to bring me down when I’ve worked all day to be Zen and pleasant. So count me among the people who will not currently be seeing the movie “Amour” about the disintegration and death of older people. Why pay to face death when you can get it for free in your own life? Me, I guard my moods and can barely take the passing of Michael Crawley on Downton Abbey.

Same goes for news. Almost all bad and depressing. I read newspapers just enough to know what is going on and it’s my husband, Cranky Pants, who keeps Brian Williams company at the end of the day.

Any Cautions?

Sure. While the Columbia study is regarded by the cardiac community as the one that most clearly suggests happier people have lower rates of heart disease. a correlation does not prove cause and effect. More research is needed to prove that happiness is an evidence-based Rx for heart disease. Also note: this study does not mean any of us can ignore established risk factors—smoking, high blood pressure, inactivity and wallowing in saturated fat—my once favorite form of edible entertainment.

So what to do?

 You probably already know what makes you happy. Unless you have a heroin habit, do those things more often. Some of us, though, have forgotten some of the simple joys of childhood and need to excavate them from memory. I am currently enjoying peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Benny Goodman and sunrises.

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Same to ya.

Thanks to Stephen Bowler and CarbonNYC for their photos and please post any hints you have for staying on the sunny side of the street after 60.

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