Mind Over Aging

by James Wallace Harris, Saturday, October 31, 2020

We all lie to ourselves that we’re not getting old. Unfortunately, we sometimes encounter situations that remind us of our self deceptions. Yesterday I went to IKEA to buy some Billy bookcases. After marching endlessly through their giant showroom maze I came to the warehouse section. I went over to a young woman with a vest assembling an order and asked her if it was quicker to pull my own order or let the IDEA staff do it.

“About the same,” she replied looking like she was anxious to get back to her task.

“Where can I find a cart?” I said figuring I could be faster.

She immediately changed her mind, “Oh, let me do it for you.”

“I don’t want to take you away from someone else’s order.”

“That’s okay,” she insisted, turning more friendly.

“Well, then let me help you.” I said. I wasn’t used to letting girls lift heavy things for me. I knew the boxes would weigh 72 pounds each.

“That’s okay,” and she called to another young women and they immediately started looking for my items. I thought this was great customer service. But I felt bad watching two young females do all the manual labor. (I know, I shouldn’t be sexist.)

After I paid for my stuff I rolled my cart out to my truck. Another young woman, a customer this time, driving out of the parking lot stopped and asked, “Do you need help getting that in your truck?”

I thought that was rather nice of her. I’m about a year from turning 70 and I remembered a George Carlin routine. He said when he turned 70 he never had to lift anything big again. He could try but people would rush over to do it for him. I realized the young girl thought I was old. I guess I am. George Carlin had observed some kind of social dynamic that’s not just a comedy routine.

“I think I can manage,” I said, “but that’s awful nice of your to stop and offer.”

The boxes were heavier than I wanted to lift. After hurting my back carry 53 pound speakers a few weeks ago I knew I shouldn’t lift 72 pound boxes. But I hadn’t planned to pick them all the way up. I lifted one end of the first box onto the tailgate, and then lifted the other end sliding it on the truck bed. I had visualized doing that before I left home.

I then happened to look up and saw the young woman had pulled over and was watching me from her car. I quickly put the other boxes in the truck and waved to her that I was okay.

For most of my life women expected me to pick heavy stuff up for them and kill their bugs. I guess I’m old now when they rush over to do the heavy lifting. I wonder if they still want me to kill their bugs?

When I got home I knew I couldn’t carry the boxes into the house. So I opened each box one at a time and Susan and I carried the pieces inside individually. I had visualized that before I went shopping too. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Mind over aging. It took me two days to put the bookcases together and load them up with books. I wore myself out several times. But I got the job done. Mind over aging.

But I kept chuckling to myself that those young women saw me as a helpless old guy. I realized the store clerk probably thought I was too old to too, which was why she quickly offered to help. Someday I will be too old. Or maybe I’m getting there. I feel it’s important to have the right attitude about aging.

I’ve been studying aging for many years from Ronni Bennett and her website about aging Time Goes By.

Yesterday Ronnie died. She was just ten years older than me, and I always felt she was exploring the path of getting older just ahead of me. I felt it was important to pay attention to her because she was having the real experiences I would someday go though too. I’ve learned many things from Ronni’s wonderful posts, but I think the most important was: Don’t pretend we’re not getting older. My friends tell me I’m too accepting of aging. They want to believe if you don’t think about it, aging and death won’t happen.

All us fans of her blog knew Ronni was dying. She was in Hospice care these last several months. She blogged right up to the end. Here’s her last regular post called “Old Lady Fancy Pants” about getting her first pair of adult diapers. Ronni’s last two paragraphs:

It was my first chance to try this out on Monday with my first evening incontinence pill at bedtime. I yanked a pair out of the tightly wrapped package, shook the panties open and to my utmost surprise, found they they are trimmed in – wait for it – frilly lace. Yes, you read that right: frilly lace.

Is there anything else to do but giggle? So I pulled them on, pranced around in front the full-length mirror and had a big hearty guffaw at myself – old lady fancy pants.

That is truly mind over aging. Of sure, I’m scared of getting old and feeble. I’m terrified of dementia. But reading Ronni’s communiques taught me I’ll have to take whatever comes. Laughing at wearing adult diapers is certainly better than crying. I hope I can laugh when the time comes.

I thought Ronni was the Zen Master of mind over aging. Anyone over sixty should maintain a keen awareness of growing old. Oh sure, don’t give in easily. Being aware isn’t giving up. I’m reminded of something I heard Stevie Nicks say on CBS Sunday Morning last week. She said being forced to stay home from touring was aging her. I thought that was a keen insight. No one wants to age, but I think it’s important to notice when and how it’s happening. Those two girls taught me that I’m starting to look old.

Thinking about aging is a kind of conscious practice, a developing awareness, that allows us to surf the waves of declining powers rather than letting them drown us. We will all die. Getting old will be unpleasant. We will have to deal with an endless procession of experiences we don’t want to experience. The real goal is to figure out how to keep doing all the things we want to do – and chuckle along the way.

By the way, fans of Ronni will keep her website going, and maintain what she wrote. Visit Time Goes By.

JWH

2 thoughts on “Mind Over Aging”

  1. I suffered the same experience with a teenage checkout girl offering to carry the kitty litter box I had bought to my car. I just turned 77.

    I stood 6′ 1″ in my bare feet when I was young, and now I am 5′ 11″. I have gotten into elevators in which women looked down at me.

    What I notice most is the inability to twist caps off of jars because of severe osteoarthritis in my thumbs.

    The benefit is that dying doesn’t seem like much of a problem.

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