"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

Tag: things

viewpoints . . .

IMG_6027I noticed yesterday in the NYTimes  that the author of “How We Die”, Sherwin Nuland, died at the age of 83. In his book, I gather that he decries aging in general, the frustration of our bodies not being what they were when we were, well, younger. This has never made much sense to me: it’s like railing at the weather when it snows a lot in a winter (like this one,) or the temperatures dropping, or drought even. I mean, what can we actually do about it? Unless I’m missing something, it seems that our role is to figure out how we’re going to deal with it, or make provisions for getting through it.

So, we will all get to an age if we’re lucky (so many people dying young,) when we have to make adjustments in how we get around. I thought I was doing a pretty good job of it until I stepped off the stairs before I was on the ground level. That feeling of exasperation to me was as sharp as the sound of bones cracking when I landed.

But back to the topic at hand, what’s the use of spending time and energy being unhappy about aging? Especially if we take ourselves in hand and are mindful about what we eat, and mostly about what we don’t eat or try not to eat too much of. . .  Stay off the crutches of medication, over the counter or otherwise. . .  Maintain one’s health (I have taken Pure Synergy, a green algae powder in tomato juice for years) with natural supplements. Drink plenty of water and be regular. Get enough sleep.

I can also describe the conclusion I have drawn about “things.” That’s right, all those things that when acquired, you’d think, “oh, so and so will love this later on.” Well, guess what? people have different tastes. They have small houses. They have enough stuff. They like different things. Whatever the reason, all the fuss and hoopla that is made about being specific about bequests is nonsense to me. When one is dead, you can’t keep people from misunderstanding, re-inventing or in any other way not doing what you had intended for them to do. Just stop and think about all of the time, energy and money spent by people going the Courts to get what they think they deserve from the estate of the dead. It is so meaningless, as far as I’m concerned. In the end, trust and integrity are the only things that matter. If it’s there, fine. If it’s not, there’s nothing you can do about it anyhow because you won’t be around to see what happens. So, why worry about it?

So, that’s conclusion number two: things don’t matter. The first one is that none of us can stop time nor our bodies aging. Number three is that it’s up to us individually how good or positive each day is going to be after you wake up. It’s truly remarkable how being immobilized as I am now levels the playing field down to just about nothing, except perhaps taking care of myself to get dressed and clean, preparing a few meals, straightening things up a little. The rest of the time,  I am lying in the sun and basking in its warmth from the skylights; appreciating the help that is extended from many people who come in and out to lay down a sheet of plywood so the wheelchair moves more easily; install a handle at just the right angle for it to be most useful in the john, propping the cushions high enough with knee support so my foot is higher than my heart. Yesterday, I felt for the first time that there was a space between the cast and my enclosed leg–which I take to mean that elevating the leg has resulted in a reduction of swelling. A very different feeling. I’m buoyed up by that new space.

Even though I’ve looked over the abyss about what will happen (or may) after I’m gone, I actually think that I’m going to be around for awhile. Still have trouble learning lessons that I had thought I learned awhile back. So, I’m human too. I’m grateful for my family, who puts up with me when I am crabby and impatient.

Oh, and while It is flattering when the nurses and residents compliment me that I look so much younger than my age. I have to admit it makes me feel good. But, what is age anyhow? What’s the correlation between the way your body is and your age? More importantly, what’s the correlation between your age and your attitude? And finally, isn’t your spirit what matters most anyhow? I happen to think so. What do you think?

simplicity (again!) . . .

DSC_0003Here’s a link to an interview with Jess Lee, the CEO of Polyvore on keeping it simple in a corporate culture. Her advice is to make lists of what you are doing, weed out those which are not important and focusing on what is, in a more focused way. Sounds simple, right? Actually, getting to simplicity is not that hard to read or talk about. Think about things. Prioritize. Focus. Weed out.

But it’s not so easy to carry out in action, though. What I have found in my journey to simplify is that it’s usually easy to start out and hard to maintain as a lifestyle. Being human, we go up and down about buying and accumulating things, a pattern that humorously seems to maintain a stubborn stasis of how much stuff we have. It’s hard not to be tempted by a nice necklace in a shop when you already have a few that you don’t wear that often in the drawer. It’s hard not to want a pair of boots for the winter season when you already have two perfectly good pairs that you like and wear. It’s hard not to think about gifts and surprises for friends and family when everyone already has all that they might need and more.

Still, the idea of simplifying is still so tempting, a siren’s call to pare down, slow down, reflect in silence. Dress more simply. Take jewelry off rather than putting it on. Looking for gifts that are simple but still wonderful. Last year, I made small mince pies to give out during the holidays. Eaten with a little cheddar cheese or ice cream, they were welcome presents not easily found in stores. This year, although G. has reminded me I still have jars of unopened mincemeat, I saw a recipe in the latest issue of Bon Appetit for savory shortbread made with caraway and fresh rosemary. Sliced in long strips, they will look great in cellophane bags with white dots that I used for the mince pies last year, tied with a ribbon and a sprig of fresh juniper from the yard. Maybe I’ll make both and offer up some of each. Providing “simple” gifts still takes work and care, doesn’t it?

We are planning a family holiday in a rental on the Cape after Christmas and are inviting a host of friends, their children and parents to a “dumpling fest” on the Saturday that we’ll be there. These are friends my daughters have known and played with since kindergarten. Now, their children will have a chance to meet each other, take walks out on the private beach and then come back to the house to eat piles of hot asian dumplings with different dipping sauces. Two kinds of soup: a clear soup with winter melon and a miso soup will simmer on the stove. This may not sound simple to you, but we are doing one thing that makes the whole thing do-able: and that is rather than making Chinese dumplings from scratch, we are going to heat up frozen dumplings (Korean ones with pork and chives; Trader Joe’s Thai shrimp dumplings and vegetable dumplings; pork bao etc.) There was a day in the past when I would have made everything myself from start to finish. But having tasted the Kimbo brand pork and vegetable dumplings, I’m satisfied that they’ll do nicely–even the wrappers are kind of glumpy like the ones that are home-made. I do confess that I’ve still had flashes of thinking I might make some up in advance anyway and freeze them. Probably not though.

So, little by little, simplicity enters our lives. Or, to put it another way, a not-so-complicated-as-usual mode might be a first step. I’ve also noticed that the fashion of the day is ultra simple clothing with very little other adornment. You can actually see the person underneath without all the flashy stuff.

Still, human nature is by definition often changeable and fickle. Besides, the holiday season is upon us with a late Thanksgiving and a few more weeks until Christmas and other holidays that are celebrated. Maybe the simplest thing of all might be just not to struggle so much with anything: being simple, not so simple or whether to make or buy. Just do what feels right and let it go.

Simple, right?