Thursday, March 28, 2024


      It’s funny, isn’t it……how so many of our life experiences have two sides to them……the good and the bad, the hopeful and the depressing. Just a week ago I was on these pages preaching about the need to be grateful. And here I am today dwelling on what might be considered the other side of that coin.

Near as I can tell my rather abrupt change of course was spawned by continuing thoughts of an earlier cancer diagnosis, and the resulting treatment…….thoughts that were quite different than the ones I addressed in my Attitude of Gratitude piece.

Life is that way, you know. Sometimes our fuzzy thoughts can lead us off on unexpected detours? I suppose that becomes all the more true when we stumble through our October years into November and beyond. Though we have learned our share of lessons along the way, by this stage of the game we are aware that some late-life questions require their own unique late-life answers.

I like to think I had the necessary answers when I was in my prime, those glory years of my fifties and sixties……a time of smooth sailing and satisfying outcomes……which probably says something about my retreating memory. 

But today, in my octogenarian November years, (at least I hope it is November.) my personal reality is changing. I keep bumping into the sad realization that I can no longer do what I once could. Truth to tell, if I let myself dwell on that dour understanding it can take me places I would rather not go. 

There are days when it is hard to shake the notion that I am on a one-way street, worn out and used up, descending a long, slippery slope to an inevitable end. In those moments it feels like the positives of my life, and I have certainly had my share of those, have come and gone. Here I am, old and alone……looking ahead from that perspective, trying to imagine what awaits me. There are times when it is hard to be hopeful.

It was with that reality in mind, still dwelling on the impact of the Big ‘C’ I mentioned last week, that I revisited my journals, turning to the pages from 2017, and what I had titled ‘Living With Dying.’ There I was drawn to a couple brief paragraphs that sent me off in a new direction.


         While I wait for the doctor to determine how effective the immunology therapy has been, I want to sort through some of the options I have in mind for the future. 

  I plan to start that process with the hopeful assumption that all of us late-life folks have more resources to work with than we sometimes realize. We have spent a lifetime gaining our own hard-won elder wisdom. The things we have learned along the way ought not be dismissed.……especially in our ‘down and out’ moments, when we feel our potential slipping away. At times like that we must not give up on ourselves.


So, when life weighs heavy on me, what sort of ‘elder wisdom’ do I have to draw on? Do I turn to the culture-shaping giants of times past……the revered dispensers of theological or/and philosophical wisdom? I know some folks do that. But that seems not to work for me.

Near as I can tell there is nothing mysterious or esoteric about my search for the truth. In fact, it appears that my operating version of ‘elder wisdom’ looks a lot like the common sense I have relied on to get this far in life……the kind we too often overlook when intimidation and uncertainty raise their ugly heads.

Chief among that common-sense inventory ought to be the realization that the less-than-primetime fellow I have become must remember to pace himself. That was true in the May and June of my life. It is all the more true in October and November. 

Today the question has become…….what level of activity amounts to an appropriate ‘November pace’? That was part of the continuing conversation that Roma and I rehashed as a couple. Now, in her absence, it is the same dialogue I have with myself. “What is a sustainable pace for the ‘me’ I have become?”

Most of our late-life peers understand the need to slow down and create an activity level in keeping with their declining capabilities. Though we may be inclined to resist those unwelcome realities, at some point we are forced to accept what we can’t change.

Though the challenges faced and the resulting accommodations will vary from person to person, a new, less-demanding level of physical activity is likely to be required. No matter how much we love our gardening, or long to take on the pesky home improvement projects that need doing, there are some things that will not be done by us. That has become a given.

What is not ‘given,’ however, are the particular activities each of us chooses to include in our ‘age-appropriate’ profile. I am not sure I understood the importance of that freedom to choose when I first addressed ‘the need to make the most of my remaining years.’ Since then I like to hope that I have learned a thing or two about that existential freedom.

For instance, I have learned that I can no longer manage everything on my ‘to-do list.’ There came a time when it was necessary to selectively reduce the demands on my shrinking future. That in turn meant it was more important than ever that I concentrate on the activities I really wanted to pursue.

Of course, there will always be those things that must be done because they cannot be set aside. But no matter what we have ‘always done,’ or what others think we ought to be doing……I believe that I have earned the right to devote more of my time to the things I find most comforting, satisfying, and fulfilling. At our age time is a precious commodity. We ought to use it wisely, without apologizing or rationalizing.


Of course, how we use that time is a very personal thing. No two answers will be the same, nor should they be. Within the constraints of health, resources, and safety each of us should make our own choices.

So what does that mean for me? How might I make the best use of my limited time? I ask your indulgence for a few moments as I offer a personal illustration or two. If my choices strike you as childish or escapism, I respectfully beg to differ. My intent is not to hide, or turn away from a less desirable destination. Instead, these are the destinations I had in mind all along.

Even in the face of health and lifestyle obstacles, which at my stage of life cannot be ignored, I claim the right to spend as much time as possible doing what really matters to me……things like helping others when I can, spending time with family and friends, and especially the care and feeding of the ‘inner me.’ 

Though I don’t have all that much in the way of worldly treasure, generally speaking I have enough. For 63 years Roma fussed over me like she did with our kids. In her absence I remain warm, well-fed, and blessed with family and health-care professionals to keep me going.

Still, there is at least one thing I would like to have more of……a larger dose of the afore-mentioned ‘elder-wisdom.’ That seems to me a worthy late-life goal……one I continue to work toward with sometimes dubious results. 

But where to look? Though my stumbling wisdom search has occasionally had me reading what I am told were the great thinkers of the ancient world, or immersing myself in learned theological doctrines……truth to tell, my intellectual/spiritual tastes seem not to run that deep. So where else might I turn for the wisdom I seek?

Surprisingly, what I found myself drawn to, and happily so, were not the libraries of ancient wisdom, but instead the esoteric and the not-so-ancient halls of YouTube.

You read that right. It is not a matter of calling up YouTube and watching whatever comes up. It is about using the “Search” feature at the top of the page to call up videos about virtually any subject, person,  place, or event you choose. It is all there.

That is where I find myself soaking up the contemporary wisdom of what I consider inspirational music, stimulating travel videos, and the helpful input of spiritual influencers like Dr. Brian Weiss, Wayne Dyer and other ‘modern-day thinkers.’ I will be the first to admit those choices will not fit everyone’s definition of ‘wisdom-seeking.’ Thankfully, each of us is free to do our own seeking.

Believe me, I am not being sarcastic. There are days when, in additional to my occasional visits with Roma and other friends, my personal seeking for what is real and worthy in life has me turning to YouTube videos, and the ‘wisdom’ they have to offer……revisiting favorite European memories and exploring destinations beyond my personal experience. Or perhaps that day’s mood will have me enjoying the melodic truth of Susan Boyle’s What a Wonderful World, Simon and Garfunkle’s Bridge Over Troubled Waters, Jim Croce’s Time in a Bottle, or Ian Tyson’s Four Strong Winds. When I feel the need to dig deeper, Wayne Dyer or Dr. Weiss are there to offer their insights. Those are some of my favorites. Your’s will be different, but you can be sure they will be found there.

Hey, I understand. I may be the only octogenarian on the block who indulges himself in such diversions. Fact is, I consider those quiet moments to be important means of ‘feeding my inner self.’ 

For years my writing, both blogging and storytelling, were an important part of that effort. Today I am inclined to settle for a more passive form of seeking……a pleasantly packaged format that settles easily on my mind. You may call it entertainment. I have decided to accept the best of that seeking as Elder-Wisdom

With that, I feel a sudden urge to lose myself for a few minutes in the wisdom of Alan Jackson’s Remember When?

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