Observations, Learning, and Activities for the New "Over 21s"

Posts tagged ‘Aging’

Feeling Ancient

The years are slipping by, and I have accomplished nothing in my life. Not one single thing I can look back to and feel proud of–as though I have left not the slightest mark on the desert sands of time. 

Of course, that is not entirely true. I have two children and eight grandchildren, and two wonderful “in-law” children of whom I am very proud. There is an estranged sister and her family, including two wonderful nieces and three nephews. And I love my sister-in-law and her daughter and husband. But, aside from my own children and their progeny (part of my peso al genetic pool) there is nothing personal–no personal accomplishment or contribution–I will leave to the world. 

My husband, a work-preoccupied professor, does not understand how I feel. He does not understand how and why I have plunged into an agoraphobic state. He does not understand how our move to this island paradise to which we moved over three years ago when he took this job has left me feeling alone and isolated, feeling homeless and homelandless, and insecure and scared–very, very scared. I am too old to get a job on this island, so I did not even bother to apply for a work permit on this island. When we moved here, I was just beginning to build up students in an online program; I had to give that up because the university does not allow even online tutoring of their American students from a foreign country. So I arrived on this island feeling resentful and irritable, and promptly made a mess of any further possibility of making a mark even on this small island. 

Although I did some volunteer work, I was beginning to feel the stress of the cross-island traffic problems. Thus, I failed in my obligation to both the program I volunteered for and the kids I was working or help. What I did was hide. I burrowed into my home–especially the “new” one we were buying–and have not come up (or out) for air. 

To be fair to myself, many things happened at once between mid-December of 2015 and early May (2016). In December, my husband underwent unanticipated surgery for the removal of a kidney. Shortly after our return from the Mayo Clinic, I late January–I received word that my mother was hospitalized directly from her physician’s office, then that she was going to hospice care. In my mind, “hospice” was synonymous with rehabilitation, and my broth-in-law’s words of “resting comfortably” meant recovery. I was shocked when I received a call in early February that my mother had died. I was angry with my mother for allowing herself to get so I’ll so quickly. I was angry that she had left my parentless. Even though I am in my mid-sixties, I still relied on her to offer advice or words of reassurance. I changed my flight reservations from Miami for scheduled cataract surgery to New Jersey, and arrived in my East Brunswick hotel alone and weary. The flights to the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, had maxed out our credit cards, and I was hard-pressed to come up with money for one ticket to Newark International, much less two. Thus, I arrived alone, letting my husband continue his recuperation from surgery and getting back to work in Sint Maarten. Alone. Truly, now, alone. 

My drivers license had expired, so that I was left isolated at the hotel during the funeral proceedings, even though my son and daughter-in-law flew out from Texas to New Jersey for the funeral and provided transportation as needed. Josh and Raven were staying in Pennsylvania with my former husband, and were going out of their way to support me during this time of stress. Although I already held both in high esteem, their acts of kindness raised them to saint-like status. I next spent 2 weeks at their Texas home, setting up my retirement and going through all the necessities of obtaining a new drivers license, including a road test which made me feel like the 17-year-old I had been the last time I was tested while behind the wheel. I felt very sheltered in my son and daughter-in-law’s home, very much at peace with all except my mother’s death. 

Next, I flew to Miami and and took a train to Delray Beach where I stayed with an old friend and her husband while undergoing cataract surgery and it’s after-care. Spending almost three weeks in my friend’s very gracious company, I arrived home at the very end of March to chaos in regards to the purchase of the condo from which I write this passage. My husband was suddenly too busy at work to help with the financial end of things. I found it necessary to fly back to Miami for a day trip to transfer funds. I was feeling tired and put-upon, as I had still not recovered from Mom’s death ( although I don’t think I knew that at the time). 

Slowly, I began to realize the finality of my mother’s passing, and the sense of isolation bore down on me harder than ever–my son’s family in Texas, my daughter still under the misimpression that I do not care for her mate and his family, my husband once again deeply entrenched in his work. I withdrew further into myself and my new home (photos above are views from the patio). And that I am growing older–ancient, in fact–and more frightened of the future to which we have mortgaged our retirement. Literally. 

This passage marks my decline into agoraphobia. I still go out to pay bills, sometimes to pick up items from the grocery that my husband cannot get from the little store he passes on his walk from work. Occasionally I make phone calls–locally because we still do not have adequate Internet access to use the Vonage phone with our US number. Mostly, I am finding consolation and solace in writing one blog or another, but that has been recently, as I have burrowed into learning more about oil painting and Zentangle. That I am blogging again and sharing my “art” may be an indication that I am slowly emerging from my inner-facing world. That I am sharing my attempts at artistic endeavors, written and graphic, may indicate more that I am trying to leave a mark on the world than that I am emerging into that sunlight almost ever-present here on the island. 

It is my hope that this post also marks the beginning of the end of the decline into the lonely world of agoraphobia. It seems so important that I emerge back into the world, although I am not certain why. 

Only more time will tell.

#educ_dr

Growing Older…and older…and

During the past month, I have not been on my computer much.  In fact, I haven’t even been home this whole time.  First, I was in New Jersey for my mother’s funeral.  Next, I traveled to Texas, where I visited with my daughter-in-law and son, got to see my three grandsons, and managed to get my driver’s license (I had allowed my old one to expire).  Finally, I am in Florida, primarily to have cataract surgery so I can drive at night.  A friend had offered her home for the procedure, as both her husband and she herself had the identical procedures at the recommended eye institute.

My friend and I are the same age, and her husband is about 4 or 5 years older.  They live in a beautiful ocean-side community in southern Florida.  A good deal of the population of this community is well into retirement age.  I have been getting a good look not only at myself and where I am in the aging process, but also at the different ways people age.  What I am seeing is that there is no such thing as “normal aging.”  Each person progresses toward the end of his/her life  in a manner unique to the individual.  For example, I have seen a man in his 90s who is doing remarkably well by my estimation, but who those who know him say has slipped a great deal physically and cognitively in recent months–so much so that his friends are concerned.

So far, during the week or so I have been here, I have met a lot of wonderful and vital individuals who are twenty years older than I am, yet seem to have fewer health issues and much more energy.  Others are younger than I, but look and act older (I think–I don’t really know if I look and/or act my age).  I have met 90-somethings who look no older than my conception of people in their 60s (that is, my age), and 60-somethings whose skin looks like crumpled and smoothed paper grocery sacks; octogenarians with straight backs and 60-somethings like me who resemble question marks; 70-somethings with acute hearing and those like me who ask a speaker to repeat him/herself three times before understanding (maybe) what was said; over-60s with general outward symptoms of diabetes and 80-somethings with no signs of ever having suffered from any disease.

My point?  There does not appear to be any way to predict how each of us will age.  It appears that genetics determines whether we can live longer; knowing our genetic affinities may help us to plan our lifestyles to extend both our years and the quality of the later years.

Relating to quality of life, I think I may be behind on modifying my lifestyle.  For reasons I will not share, I did not properly exercise after surgeries during the past 10 or 15 years.  Actually, make that 20.  Had I been physically able to pursue a more active recovery after each major surgery (especially the 3 back surgeries), I would have fewer difficulties with back and abdominal musculature.  I am certain of this.  However, I also believe it is not too late to make changes in my lifestyle, and I am beginning to take advantage of every opportunity to strengthen this old body while I still have the motivation.

Motivation to become more fit is just one of the reasons why I purchased a Fitbit Charge HR this past holiday season (just over two months ago).  I am monitoring primarily my steps, general activity level, overall heart rate, and–something more important to overall health than many of us believe–sleep, especially quality of sleep.

Being away from my physical therapist and having limited access to walking and stretching environments, I have been feeling the effects of a lower level of physical activity.  Being away from my own bed has affected both the quantity and quality of sleep.   Being away from my physical therapist leaves me too “scrunched” and susceptible to pain to follow through on some of the tougher abdominal and back strengthening exercises, too.  These, in turn, make it more strenuous  (as well as more painful)  to stand up as straight as I would like for longer periods and during evening hours.  It is a terrible downward cycle that I am in, and so I monitor steps, stairs, heart rate, and sleep much more earnestly than I would when back home.  I am, after all, away from all things familiar.

Thus, I am more anxious to get back home to the island, back to a place where I can feel more comfortable about getting in the exercise program I had nearly “perfected” when I had to pack up hurriedly to attend my mother’s funeral.  Soon I will be back to a place where I can perfect my lifestyle modification program.

Okay!  Time to get some extended walking time into my day!

—–

#educ_dr

So Much Life Happening Right Now

Yes, life is happening all around me right now.  Some are good, some not so good.  Some…well, who knows.

Finally, after months of having to put it off again and again, I scheduled cataract surgery–got appointments set up and flight reservations made. All together, it takes about three weeks to get both eyes done from initial consultation and exam through actual procedure and follow-up, one eye at a time.

Not an hour after I get everything scheduled, I see an email message from my brother-in-law that my mother is in the hospital.  We must have been on the phone for the better part of an hour, talking about how she has been, what she says to me versus what she says to my sister and him.  You would think that because she lives with them, she would share more information with them.  But you have to know my mother.  She’s a real handful at the best of times.  At age 88, she is still kicking around and refusing help from anyone unless absolutely, positively necessary.  And she doesn’t like being “in the way.”  She has gone out of her way to avoid allowing herself to feel that she is home.  I can guarantee that this is not how she is treated; this is just the way she is.  So she also does not tell her family everything that she is feeling physically, either.  Easton Hospital

Until about a week ago, that is.

That was when she fell and couldn’t get up because, for the first time, she could not feel her legs.  She was near a wall in her room, so she was able to pull herself up into a sitting position until my brother-in-law got home.  When I spoke to her several days after this first happened, she told me she had been falling fairly regularly, but she was never hurt and she was always able to get up.  She also didn’t bother to share this information with the household.  As I said, she’s a handful.

Right now, she has congestive heart failure, pneumonia, and one or two infections that are being treated.  She is fairly strong, but she is in a semi-delirious state and keeps pulling out her IVs and pulling off her oxygen mask.  As I write this, she is being sedated, mostly to keep her from pulling life-sustaining equipment from herself, I think.

And while all this is going on–just after I made appointments for badly needed eye surgery–we are also trying to buy a house.  This is not an easy task at our age (66), and we need to dip into our retirement funds to make it work.  If we dip into them the wrong way, we will be left penniless into our old age, even though my husband is still working full time and doesn’t plan to actually retire until he is at least 70.  Basically, he wants to work as long as his employer is willing to keep him on.

So much is going on right now that can once again hamper something so important to me–arranging to be able to see enough at night to drive and maybe even read a physical book instead of using a reading device or a computer.  And I need to be able to drive at night, since my husband does not drive at all–doesn’t now, never did.

I wish I could be with my mother to provide some relief to my sister and brother-in-law, who are with her all the time.  But I’m no good to anyone without the ability to see at night.  And I am reasonably certain that my mother, despite this current setback, will be on her feet and being ornery again in no time.

And I wonder: will this be me in twenty years?  Probably not, but who knows?

So why am I worried that I may need to postpone my own needed surgery yet again?  Maybe it is because I’ve had to do it so many times before during the past three years…

No good dwelling on that too long.  What will happen will happen, regardless of my own needs and desires.  As always, I will roll like a shell in the ocean waves that surround the tiny island on which I currently live…

 

#educ_dr

Addition to “OK I’m Old”

In my last post, “OK. I’m Old,” I confessed to being off my computer for several months. I especially was upset with whatever is going on between Microsoft and Adobe in relation to Adobe Acrobat Reader. Mostly, I was miffed because I hadn’t seen any alerts that Adobe was both no longer a part of the Windows 10 basic operating system, and that Adobe didn’t seem to have provided any indication that a different version of Reader was needed for Windows 10. I assumed that there was yet one more conflict between Adobe and Microsoft, whether I addressed that directly or not.

Well, today I was cleaning up a lot of outdated unread mail from this period.  In my gmail account, I found all these messages from Adobe about this “new” product for Windows 8 touch devices.  I never opened any of them (remember: I wasn’t using the computer for much at all), and so never realized that there were upgrades that didn’t automatically occur through my Google Chrome browser.  I guess I was wrong.

Mind you, it looks to me as though someone at the Microsoft Store went into the app  description to state that it also works for all versions of Windows 10, touchscreen device or not.  So… I’m just letting you know that I should have checked all my old emails before complaining about all these new programmatic changes that are needed to keep our old favorites in newer and “better” operating systems, whether Windows based, iOS, or Android driven.

Mea culpa.

#educ_dr

OK. I’m old…

So I went to print a PDF document from my just-fixed Windows 10 laptop, and discovered that I no longer had a functioning version of Adobe Acrobat.  As far as I can tell, although I have read a bunch of PDF files, this is the first time I wanted to print.  I could read all the PDFs I wanted, as long as I didn’t want to save them or print them.  So I clicked on the Microsoft store, and up comes a new Acrobat for Windows 8.  Hmmm… was I using this version all along on my older Windows 8 laptop, and just now realized it didn’t come with my newest laptop?  Now I know for sure that I’m getting too old.  That is, the Windows software has finally moved beyond my ability to instantly (sort of) comprehend.

Here is the truth of the matter.  I have spent the past six months or so using my phones and iPads to communicate with the world–except for email, which I still find easier to navigate on an actual computer.  And I just discovered yesterday that one of my email accounts seems to want nothing to do with the operating systems on either my laptops OR my mobile devices.  I am trying to figure out if all these changes happened during the last six months, even though I was constantly allowing automatic upgrades; or if the New Year brought instantaneous changes to every app I have.  It is bad enough that all the technology has changed to small, easily portable devices; I just didn’t expect so many changes in the programs (apps–short for applications, which used to be the same as programs–to any of you who are youngsters.

Right now, everything is working pretty well.  I haven’t hooked this computer up to either Norton or Dropbox, as I still am not sure which of the two brought down my Windows 10 operating system.  The young tech who fixed my computer thinks it was Norton, but I’m more inclined to go with the user complaints about Dropbox.  Therefore, neither are touching this laptop until someone has a more definitive answer about what is going on with Windows 10.  And that’s a whole other kettle of fish to complain about…

 

#educ_dr

 

Feeling Good!

It is amazing how much power a little pill can have. Pritiq

About five weeks ago, I recognized that I was depressed. The next day, I went to see my doctor to discuss antidepressants. He prescribed Pristiq. For almost twenty-two years (since 1990), I was on one antidepressant after another, many of which just made me more depressed. A bit more than three years ago, my doctor took me off antidepressants and put me on Adderall for hyperactivity, since I hadn’t been able to keep my mind on one thing since I was a kid. And back then, hyperactivity wasn’t even a diagnosed problem–it may not even have been recognized as a medical issue.

In my early twenties, a doctor put me on Valium because he thought I was, in his words, “burning the candle at both ends.” The medication calmed me down enough so that I could increase my focus and do even more. What can I say? I tend to have paradoxical reactions to a lot of medications.

Anyway, the Adderall really helped with my concentration and focus more than the antidepressants ever had. But when I came here to St Maarten, the doctor sent me to a psychiatrist, since only they can diagnose and prescribe medications for hyperactivity here. And she does not believe I’m hyperactive. But then, she didn’t seem to notice how deep into depression I had sunk, either, so…

Whether or not I had ever used Pristiq in the past, I can’t remember–I had been on so many different antidepressants during those 22 years that I’ve lost track of which I had used, which helped a bit for a little while before depressing me again, which took me further into the abyss from the start. However, my response to this drug, this time was nothing short of amazing. Within two and a half weeks of starting it, I realized that I am happy and feeling like “the real me” for the first time in forever. So how have I marked this amazing transformation? I’ve thrown myself into all sorts of tasks, of course, with glee and the feeling that I might actually complete some of them.

For the past few weeks, I have been concentrating (well, on and off) on building a web store–not an easy task when one is not as computer savvy as one believes she ought to be, and is clueless about how to set up an e-commerce site even with tremendous tutorials. But I’m learning a lot as I’m building it, and will hopefully soon have it open for business. This was so much easier to do 20 years ago when I designed and set up my first web site for a friend of mine. Computing was so much more straightforward back then. Now I have to learn brand new stuff, as though I had never worked with computing before. (sigh)

In the meantime, I am still trying to focus some time each day on my art–drawing and oil painting–but having difficulty with that because the web store is constantly in my mind and nagging me to finish it. It may take some time for me to get back into the swing of daily art sessions, especially since my instructor is vacationing in France through the month of October, and there are no weekly “homework assignments” for me to meet. So you might say that I am trying to throw some “artistic endeavor” into the web site. I’ll write more about my store when I finally get it set up. Interestingly, since the theme comes with a blog attached to it, I also wonder if I’ll have enough hours in the day to keep up with all my blogging–that one and my two main blogs here at WordPress which I’ve been neglecting. It’s been weeks since I posted anything serious on my Write of Passage blog, and I’m way too far behind in the current plans I have for it. But I’ll be getting back to it soon enough, and hopefully feeling more of a sense of accomplishment as I actually complete one task at a time.

[Hmm. Maybe that’s the key–completing one thing at a time. I’ve never been able to do that in the past, but I can try again.]

Life is good. All thanks to that little pill.

Well, back to work on my shopping site!

…Or maybe I’ll take the time to do a painting lesson from a book I have first…

#educ_dr

Taking the Plunge to Windows 10

I’ve taken the plunge.

Yep. I upgraded to Windows 10. I don’t know yet whether I like it or not. Although I can’t get rid of the new browser (Edge) that comes with the package, I was able to download Chrome and set it up as my default internet program without the hassle that has been predicted by the PC literati. It took less than 5 minutes to do, and it was relatively straightforward. I just clicked on the “old” Chrome icon on my task bar, and was immediately directed to a screen that asked me if I wanted to download Chrome. I wasn’t sure what to do about that—I mean, there was Chrome sitting on my screen—but I went for the download and discovered that there is a newer version specifically upgraded to interact with Windows 10. The best part is that it came with a simple demo of setting up Chrome as the default browser. Piece of cake once the new version of Chrome was installed. And all my previous settings came right along with me! Hooray!! I may have problems with Google on other issues, but Chrome is definitely not one of them. See? It still looks exactly like it did before the upgrade (except when I first start it up, that is…).

Chrome Screenprint

Chrome Screenprint

So easy! Except that it took forever to download Windows 10, it is definitely an improvement over Windows 8. Time to play around with it–even with Edge to see if it’s an improvement over IE…

That’s all I have to say today.

This lil’ ole lady is feeling more tech-savvy today than she has in a long time!!

#educ_dr