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Reflections November 2016

Laverne's View

When the Life You Planned Backfires

By Laverne Bardy

My plan for aging was different from the one I’m living. I had hoped to be a shining example of what later years can and should be. I was going to parachute jump, throw rowdy parties and dance with abandon. I planned to be quirky and free-spirited. I would wear flashy costume jewelry, spike heels, travel the world alone, and dance barefooted in foreign courtyards.

I’m on the computer every day. I’m there to do research and to write. While I sit at my computer, people send me videos – videos with puppies and babies doing adorable things. Since I was born without the ability to ignore distractions, I’m always compelled to stop what I’m doing and watch. This accounts for why I never get anything done.

The videos that particularly hold me in abeyance are those that showcase limber, graceful, athletic octogenarians performing activities that people half their age might find daunting. They jitterbug at a brisk tempo with supreme agility. They run marathons, and perform flawlessly on parallel bars. They scale mountains like sure-footed mountain goats, and roller blade like fearless teenagers.

These videos inspire, encourage and motivate. They point out what I have heard so often: Age is merely a state of mind.

But, mostly, they piss me off. 

My plan for aging was different from the one I’m living. I had hoped to be a shining example of what later years can and should be. I was going to parachute jump, throw rowdy parties and dance with abandon. I planned to be quirky and free-spirited. I would wear flashy costume jewelry, spike heels, travel the world alone, and dance barefooted in foreign courtyards. I looked forward to shrugging off rules and being unconventional whenever possible. My goal was to galvanize senior couch potatoes into action.

I was well on my way to living my dream when the Universe yanked my arm and shouted, “Whoa! Slow down, lady. That ain’t gonna happen. Time to focus on Plan B.” Plan B? What Plan B? I didn’t have a Plan B. It wasn’t long before Plan B showed up and took over. All I could do was watch. It was nothing like my original plan. Fun was replaced with various levels of pain: debilitating arthritis, two knee replacements, one hip replacement, atrial fibrillation, and constant shoulder and neck discomfort.

I crossed zip lining off my list.

Plan B required a whole different mindset. There would be no traveling by myself, no roller blading, bungee jumping, or fast dancing. The most physical thing I would do is press the start button on my Jazzy Scooter. I could still throw parties, and wear party hats, but I would be more of a spectator than a participant.

It was during this self-pitying period of my life that a different type of video captured my attention: videos of severely disabled men and women triumphing over their disabilities, accomplishing tasks far beyond anyone’s belief. Some of them were missing limbs. One young woman was born without the entire lower half of her body. One man was without his upper left side — shoulder, arm and torso.

To watch the spirit and determination of these incredible human beings brought me to my knees. These super heroes had ignored naysayers, and with blind conviction, and belief in themselves, they forged ahead and made their impossible dreams come true.

I was embarrassed. It hadn’t occurred to me to attempt some of the activities I assumed I could no longer do. I had accepted my limitations as the final word.

How dare I whine because this latter part of my life didn’t turn out as I’d planned? Wasn’t it enough that I was still here, when many people my age weren’t any longer? Yes, I am always with a degree of pain, but wasn’t it fantastic that I had no debilitating illness that confined me to bed? And, even if I couldn’t do all I wanted, it wasn’t as though there weren’t activities I could still enjoy, such as traveling with my loving husband. I wouldn’t be jitterbugging, but I could snap my fingers to the beat, sing out loud and sway in my chair.         

So, yes, age is a state of mind. And, by mind I mean “Attitude.” The right attitude can be the difference between peace of mind and discontentment.

My father was a God-fearing man. When I was a child I would ask him, “Can we go to the movies Saturday?” or “Can Nancy sleep over Friday?” His response to any question involving the future was always the same.“If we live and we’re well.”

I never knew why he was so, seemingly, negative. Years later it made sense when I came upon a Yiddish proverb, “Man plans and God laughs.” My father understood that the outcome of any plan is not entirely up to us.

 

Laverne's book, "How The (Bleep) Did I Get This Old?" is available at amazon.com and other online bookstores. Website: www.lavernebardy.com - E-mail her at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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