"Winter is on my head, but eternal spring is in my heart."
When we are young, we think we are immortal and invincible. Youth is, what can I say, youth. There is energy and innocence. As we slowly age, we become aware that life is challenging, that not all our dreams come true, and we slide or trudge or step or skip our way through life.
By the time we come to the winter of our lives, many of us have been beaten down by life, and some of us thrive and become older and wiser. There are not many people I know in their eighties who embody fullness and growth and whose minds are vibrant even though their bodies are failing in different ways and to different extents. Those that continue to grow and share and see life in its fullness are inspirations to us all. Some people think that choice is not a part of their fate. I tend to believe and know through my life and experiences that there is always a choice.
How we deal with life is a choice. Some people have trouble with change and so as they age; difficulty gets even more ingrained in them. Some people think they are what they do and they are their work, and so when they can no longer work, they don’t know who they are and have an end of life crisis.
I am privileged to know an older woman who does know who she is and continues to think and grow and be as she ages. She is an inspiration. This woman is eighty something. When she turned eighty, she began to have one health problem after another. First she had cancer and underwent biopsies, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. She lost her hair, she lost her energy, and yet she never lost her zest for life.
She is an avid swimmer, loves to challenge herself with new things like the gentle martial art of Tai Chi, volunteers at the Botanical Gardens, hosts her children and grandchildren when they come in town, and more. The treatments slowed her down, but her essence and spirit were unchanged.
Then she underwent surgery for a hernia, and after a couple of months of recovery she was back to her usual life and activities. About a year after her recovery she had a heart event where she had open heart surgery for repair of an aneurysm, and was then in a rehab facility for quite a while. During that time, I didn’t see her and didn’t know if I would see her again, and if so, what shape she would be in.
When I saw her again she was making her way down the steps for a treatment, and navigated the way herself. Her body is frailer with tremors, more aches and pains, weakness in her legs and chest, and yet her spirit is still active and vibrant.
I asked her how it was for her in her rehab and recovery. She was very frank with me and told me there were times when she thought she wouldn’t recover and also was wondering why she was still alive, and kind of wishing she hadn’t survived that event. She didn’t know how much strength and physical abilities she would recover, and the time and pain involved in her rehabilitation were daunting.
Now she and her husband are considering relocating to an independent living facility near her children in another state so she is closer to them. Also, many of her friends here have passed. She can no longer swim safely as she is sensitive to cold, and passed out in the pool recently. Yet, with all of this, she had decided as long as she was here, to live. And live she does. Her mind is active and acute as ever.
I know many older folks in the winter of their lives that don’t make such choices. She is truly an inspiration. Our minds and our souls can be strong even as our bodies begin to fail. When we can allow us to flow with the changes of life, living, even with the pain and difficulties, can be a vital, and light filled choice.
I recently saw a movie which didn’t get a good critic rating and I fully enjoyed. Maybe we have to be over 50 to really get it and enjoy it; I don’t know. The movie is with Kevin Kline, Morgan Freeman, Robert DeNiro, and Michael Douglas. These men in the movie are 70 and have been friends for life. Each one embodies a different spirit and attitude as they cope with aging. And each in their own way they find ways to really live and not just survive. The movie is funny and also poignant at times without being sweet. It is called Last Vegas. Go ahead and see it or rent it, and see who you might most be like in your aging attitude towards life.
As in the toast, L’Chaim; to life! It ultimately is a choice.