People ask me if I paint much---my easel sets in the window---and I tell them not at all since I moved here which is mostly true. I've dabbled a few times but not enough to earn the "artist at work" sign the easel suggests. At dinner one night a table mate took a deeper diving, asking me why not. And I replied, I don’t have the time which I realized wasn't entirely true. From 7:00 to 10:00 PM I don't do much except lately fall asleep in my La-Z-Boy. “I never liked painting after dark," I explained "and there is too much to do here during the day.” I could try to switch my morning routine of writing on the computer with painting and try writing at night, but what I’d end up doing is skipping the social things on my schedule. With the computer I can just walk away but with painting I’d be saying to myself, I’ve already got the mess out I might as well keep going. In my old life I'd been known to start doing arty-farty stuff in the morning and let the entire day get away from me.
Yesterday---Wednesday---was a pretty typical day. I got up at 8:00, drank coffee and worked on the computer until 10:30 ish. Then I got a shower and dressed while listening to the news. I was at the lunch table by noon and at 1:30 there was a tea here for International Women’s Day. We had been asked by the Life Enrichment Director to write a little bio of ourselves and she made a slide show of our photos and bios. I say, “our” but I didn’t submit my bio because I knew it would only showcase how out of my league I am with my fellow residents. And I wouldn’t have been wrong. We have a lot of very accomplished women here.
By the way the L.E. Director paired the music from Meredith Grey's Superhero Power Pose scene from Grey's Anatomy with the video and that tickled the heck out of me. Whenever I'm on the elevator alone, which happens 2 to 4 times a day, I strike the superhero power pose against the elevator wall to stretch out my back and I hum that music. Haven't been caught doing this yet, but someday I will and I'll have some 'plaining' to do.
After the tea was our weekly Mahjong game which if I couldn’t walk over to the main building to play it, I’d crawl. We have a lot of laughs during our games and it’s a great mental challenge. I didn’t win either of the games we played but I was proud of myself for trying to build a hand I’ve never tried before that contains all winds and dragons. I was two tiles away from Mahjonging when I discarded a tile that gave someone else the win. I forgot to play defensively. Oops.
We finished playing at 5:30 and by 6:00 I was taking part in a dementia support group and didn’t get dinner until 7:30 when I stuck a TV entree in the microwave. After a full day like there is no way I’m going to get my brushes out and play in the paints. By 10:00 I usually start getting ready for bed and selecting a movie to watch on Netflixs.
The dementia support meeting was interesting and had me tearing up during a documentary they showed. A tall, good-looking young guy sitting next to me was crying too so I know I wasn’t just being a melodramatic marshmallow. The documentary featured a woman with Lewy Body Dementia who lives at our sister campus. It was just completed after eight months of filming and it will be in distribution soon. The woman was there and it was after the film was over when she was trying to describe what the hallucinations felt like that got us two bawl babies dabbing our eyes. My brother has hallucinations, too, and I presume the young guy next to me has a relative effected as well. He was the only person in the room who didn't say anything during the discussion.
The women featured in the documentary said she thinks it’s important to tell family, friends and neighbors about your dementia as early as possible and early on she developed a habit of answering, “good day” or “bad day” when ever someone asks how she is doing, which in turn gives her family a gauge on how to handle her on any given day and it gives her permission not to have to try to explain what is going on inside her head because some days she just doesn’t have the words or the will to do that beyond saying good or bad day. Dementia is a tough row to hoe no matter what part you play in the scenario.
When my brother's wife was dealing with Early Onset Alzheimer's she didn't want anyone to know and looking back I can see how hard and harmful that was on him. He had no one to give him support or help, no one to talk to about what was going on. After a few years of them turning down our invitations to go out to dinner, or to stop by for a visit, etc., we thought we'd done something to make them mad but it turned out it was just getting harder and harder for them to cover up her Alzheimer's. It was such a shock after the truth came out to see she couldn't even do things like button up her own coat yet it was a relief at the same time because I got my brother back. Secrets as important as that kind of diagnosis causes strain between people.
Change of topic: I don’t know what is the matter with me lately. I'm having trouble coming up with blog fodder at the rate I need it. More precisely coming up with light topics to write about. My last post about hair turned out to be lighter than I thought it was, based on the comments. I thought it would spark a deeper conversation about race. I was worried for nothing and that worry almost caused me not to publish it.
Looking back though my archives I realize I used to write more topic-based or funny essays and a less "this is what I did today" dear diary-like posts. I'd like to get back to my roots but I don't think that will happen until I get another, topic out of my head. It's like a bee buzzing around annoying me. If you're guessing it will be about an old woman trying to make peace with the fact that she isn't immortal, you'd be right. That post might not come next week but its in my mental queue. ©
The Superhero Power Pose scene
Such a poignant scene you describe at the dementia support group. I am with you on sharing dementia or other medical issues early but my husband has the tendency not to want to bother anyone by telling. Irks our sons so much that he has finally been convinced to share in a timely fashion so they can deal with whatever is happening rather than feeling shut out.ReplyDelete
Telling or not telling is an issue I didn't have to deal with because when my husband had his stroke it was obvious, especially since he spent three months in various facilities in the beginning. I understand the mindset of not wanting to "bother anyone by telling" but it's hurtful in the end. My sister-in-law didn't want it to get back to her parents but they must have guessed something was wrong, It was such a long time ago, I don't remember the details but I'm guessing I was one of the last to know. After we kept getting turned down to do things with my brother (with no real excuse) we quit asking.Delete
My wish for you is that you can just settle in and allow yourself to enjoy the life you have created for yourself. The day you described sounds amazing to me, probably because I'm stuck back where you were a couple of years ago. Downsizing, figuring out how to dispose of possessions that mean something to me, trying to plan for where to live next. I know that you still feel a tug toward painting, but I think it's great that you have so many stimulating, interesting distractions. Someday you may feel a particular call to paint, or maybe not. It's not really important either way, as long as you spend your time pursuing things that make you happy and interest you.ReplyDelete
That's the rub in my life...I want to do more than I've got time to do so I'm picking the stuff that has me interacting with others because I've lived a kind of isolated life until I moved here. This much socializing is new for me.Delete
I can certainly understand why you haven't painted as much as you used to. Now that you're living in your new community, you have so doggone many opportunities to choose from. Plus, any time we go through major life changes (and you've had several) it seems we need to reorient ourselves. It's become clear to me (esp recently) that illness or injury in our senior years is a whole new ballgame. I'm learning that medications affect me differently than they used to. It takes me longer to heal, too. But hey, as long as we get better, it's all good!!!ReplyDelete
I love remembering the super hero clip from Grey's. What a great episode that was. A true life lesson. Sometimes it's tempting to compare ourselves with others. We reflect on the pathways we chose for our relationships, careers, possessions, hobbies, etc. Most of us might tweak a few things, but wouldn't want to trade places with anyone else. Remembering to stand tall, keep our heads up, clear our thoughts, and channel our super hero should help us face whatever comes.
Jean, I appreciate your blog posts very much and find your subject matter interesting and thought provoking. Thank you for the time and effort you dedicate to it--and all of us readers. I'm wondering how your ribs and ankle are healing.
Love what you wrote! When it's all said and done, I too, wouldn't change places with anyone else. And I'm glad to find someone else who really connected with the Grey clip. I love doing the pose in the elevator.Delete
My Mohl surgery site FINAL closed up and I know longer have to dress it daily. The area is still unsightly and I'll have a scar but I can live with that. My ribs still have a dull pain when I lay on my back in bed but not enough to take anything for it. And I'm still cautious walking. Thanks for asking.
Very happy you're healing!Delete
I think you missed an opportunity, not submitting your bio. You've done so many things! Your bio reads like a rainbow of jobs, hobbies, and pursuits. I think many, like me, would have been impressed (and entertained) by your busy and accomplished life.ReplyDelete
The lady who taught us all how to play Mahjong was a Major in the Air Force, head of a bunch of nurses during Vietnam. Another woman I know well won the National Teacher of the Year Award. PHD's here are the norm, Lots of college professors and women who were married to civic leaders and who ran all kinds of do-good organizations around town. We have several missionaries as well and three female ministers and most everyone living here are world travelers. I'm the only blue collar person here as far as I heard and any accomplishment I've made are more along the lines of personal growth---pushing past mild dyslexia, taking 25 to graduate from college. We even have three female psychiatrists and one woman how says she never worked a day in her life because she married well. But beyond that laugh line she ran a couple of big do-good groups in town.Delete
Hey, we don’t have to compare ourselves all the time, do we?? You led a fulfilling, wonderful life journey, isn’t that the best thing ever accomplished?Delete
I don't know the answers to the questions you ask. I honestly can't say I've led a fulfilling life because I did want more for myself. It's been a good life but I would have like to have more.Delete
Having just turned 80, I look forward to that blog stewing in your head.ReplyDelete
It's a rude awakening isn't it to find out that we have expiration dates whether we know them or now.Delete
I was surprised that you didn't submit your bio because you think you don't measure up to the other residents there. Why would you worry about comparing yourself?! You are a marvelous, talented, woman who has had a wonderful life and you should be proud of yourself. You have had so many interesting adventures and experiences. You could write posts about how awesome you are! Celebrate yourself!ReplyDelete
Read my reply to Nance up above. I am proud of myself but I'm also sorry I wasted so much time in my life trying to find myself.Delete
Oh my gosh it is never a waste of time trying to find yourself. I have seeing people in their 80s who have no idea who they are. Now that is what I consider a waste of a life.Delete
Who knows? Maybe you've just come to one of those life changes that are inevitable. Perhaps you're not painting because you don't want to paint; perhaps that's part of the 'sorting' that takes place for all of us. The socializing you do sounds like torture to me, but I'm still in a place where solitude for writing and roaming with my camera is what I want. In the future, that could change -- or the change could be forced on me by changes in circumstances, like no longer being able to drive. For a time, photography supplanted writing. Now, I'm trying to get back to a better balance, but it's because writing's appealing again in a way it didn't for a time. Interests are like the sea; they come and go in waves. Best to bob along with them, and enjoy it.ReplyDelete
I worked alone a good deal of my life and always required a lot of alone time to do my thing---like you with writing and photography. I gave up photography when my husband took it up and now my hand shakes too much to do it again or I would, in place of painting. Socializing is like a new hobby with me...figuring out how it works, how people interact. At this point in my life I like it but that would not have been true 20 years agoDelete
You're not immoral or not immortal? I suppose one is good and the other, well -- it's just the way we all are! As Ellen wrote above, I'm a little sad you didn't include a bio either. You've lived an amazing life. You don't have to be CEO of a bank or have traveled the world on the back of whatever native animal one travels on to have an amazing life. As for posting -- do you post twice a week because you feel you must or because you really, really want to? Because the blog shouldn't be a chore. If you've only got one post in you that week, that's fine... because another time you'll have two (maybe three?!) I love your posts, no matter what they are about but it's important that they feel right to you as well as us.ReplyDelete
As for painting, I really understand that dilemma. I don't paint well when the sun goes down. It's the light. I don't like painting in artificial light, even good light. The reason I look forward to DST is that I shut down in the dark like a phone on battery saver. No painting then. (That said, I finally painted some cards over the past few days and am doing the Sketchbook Revival thing this month -- or at least the ones that appeal to me. Finally getting my groove back!)
Thank you for the correction! It made me laugh out loud. See, this is why I still like to write....because no matter how hard I try I can't do it without making mistakes.Delete
I've been seeing the Sketchbook Revival things on Facebook. Some amazing work being produced! I can't wait until DST either. I was looking at my deck yesterday and thought about how last summer I did a lot water color experimenting out there. Can't wait to see what you do with the exercises.
I post twice a week because up until now I was prolific enough to write with a back log of posts in my scheduler. And I like and need the discipline of writing daily to keep words/spelling from scrambling in my head too much. Writing is the one thing I'm really disciplined at doing.
That whole keeping it a secret thing is hard, so hard. My late husband wouldn't let me tell anybody about his mental illness and later, his cancer diagnosis. And my late uncle wouldn't discuss/accept his Parkinson's - we had to look away and pretend he wasn't struggling to eat his soup. There's a lesson there for sure and I will never do this to anyone should I come down with something like that.ReplyDelete
Denial is such a powerful force for some but it's a real hardship on those they drag into their secret. So sorry you had to go though that with your husband. You sure deserve the life you have now.Delete
Thank you, JeanDelete
You touched on a lot of different issues in this post. Interesting! I can relate to not painting at night, and worrying that the entire day will disappear if you start a piece in the morning. I tend to paint between noon and 3 pm. I only have enough concentration for about 2-3 hours at a time, and I stop when I feel myself getting sloppy. It's far more intense than people realize.ReplyDelete
Your comments on not knowing about your brother's wife's dementia struck a chord. I watched a neighbor lose his social life when he told people about his wife's early onset dementia. They said 'Let me know if there's anything I can do to help' - then promptly disappeared. Clearly not true friends, but he was crushed. Family and close friends should never be shut out because they're the ones who WILL help when needed. It's a tragic disease for everyone involved.
I love noon to three for any project or appointment. It's my most productive part of the day.Delete
After my husband's stroke he lost what he thought were good friends---neighbors he spent a lot of time with. It took me a long time to forgive them for disappearing but I came to understand when it came out that the guy had breast cancer that he didn't want anyone to know about so they pulled back for their own reasons. The secret hurt Don and cheated us all from giving each other moral support if nothing else. His wife was isolated by the secret.
The dementia support group sounds amazing as dementia is such a horrible condition my Nan lost so many so called friends when she was stuck with itReplyDelete
I think a lot of people actually form friendships going to these support groups. Now, it's kind of a small group of about 12 but before covid they said they could fill up the whole room up, then they went to Zoom meetings and are now trying to build the in person meetings back up.Delete
That's so sad when people try to hide things and avoid their former friends. It causes so much hurt.ReplyDelete
Isn't it. I'm sure they don't realize how much it it hurting themselves and others when they make that decision.Delete
Your final paragraph applies to me too, word for word. Why do we get so worked up about topics that are not relevant yet? I am terrified of having Alzheimers and I often think that my isolated existence is inexorably leading me towards that dreadful fate. I am alone, my kids don't much care and I would have no one to look after me.ReplyDelete
But I think you are ok in that respect, you have multiple ways of being sociable
available. Keep up with the brain stretching and you'll be fine.
I always enjoy your posts, even the ones that tend towards the serious rather than funny.
I Love your blog as well. That we could live on the opposite side of the world and still have so many of the same internal thoughts fascinates me. As for fearing Alzheimer's and Dementia I often think about all the time I waste worrying about that coming in my future. It comes with our age, to worry I think... except for the women in that documentary. She wanted hers document to leave a legacy behind of helping other to her very end.Delete
I think it's a good thing that Life is so Full for you that there isn't the time to pursue Art, even tho' it's a Passion, I too often Lost track of all Time and would sequester myself for ridiculous amounts of time Creating stuff. I think that the interactions with people you enjoy is probably more important in the grand scheme of things, we only have so much time here, what we leave behind will be our Legacy. I'd like to think I didn't just leave 'things' behind, but Memories that people will fondly recall and talk about as well. What we Create is a form of Immortality in a way, even if nobody would remember who an Unknown Artist was. I do think about and wonder about the Artist behind every Old piece of Art I come across. The Dementia thing right now is a topic that we're probably having touch our Lives yet again... I'm still convinced The Man has early onset of it and that kind of terrifies me, given how it so deeply affected my Mom and losing her in layers like we did.ReplyDelete
I know you're right about interacting with people being more important at this stage of my life. Everyday (but on Sunday) I choose that over staying in my apartment BUT I don't feel any deep ties to anyone here. It's just the stage of life I'm in and I'm built regarding having something to show for your time.Delete
It's really sad what is happening to your husband. Whether he's having the beginnings of dementia or the brain damage from his accident is extending beyond the original damage you've been dealing with it all long, it looks the same and probably from a family caregiver's point of view is treated the same. I lost my husband in layers so I know what that's like.