lessons from the elderly

Today has been an interesting day. Not one that I expected, and for various reasons I am glad. I want to tell you a story, about my day.

I've been ill. Maybe it's the Lyme, maybe it's the weather or getting older, I don't know. But I've felt awful for the last week or so. More than that, I've been preoccupied with how I feel. I feel old, my body tired and painful. Angrily I shout that this is my body getting old, but I'm 45. Is 45 old?

A few weeks ago my doctor reminded me that I have had cardiac issues for many years. Not that I wasn't aware of that, but for some reason, I've been hung up on it and haven't been able to push it out of my head. I've been referred to a cardiologist and I will go in next week and have everything checked out. But I've been struggling, I've been scared, and it's been getting the best of me.

Change of pace

I went down to DC to get out of the house, get my mind off things. Honestly, I wanted to skip it and stay home where it's warm and maybe feel sorry for myself and my issues. It seemed like a better idea than going down to DC and wandering around aimlessly while my Hubby finished his meetings.  But I didn't. Not today, I need to fight harder.

After a few last second changes to things, I landed in a small Starbucks trying to get some work done at a community table. I started to get my earbuds out and ignore the chatter around me when the guy next to me asked a question which led to a short conversation and ultimately led to something unexpected – a lovely conversation with a woman who has inspired me to write a series of future posts about Aging in America. ( More about that coming soon.)

She asked me what I write about, what my focus in writing is. She told me her daughter is a journalist who writes about feminism. So naturally, she was curious about my focus. This is where I paused.

My Imposter Moment

The woman in front of me, sweet and friendly, is world-renowned linguist Dr.Beverly Hong-Fincher.  However, I had no idea of this when we began talking. I had only seen this small lovely woman come in, sit down and almost instantly take command of the room. As much as I had wanted to put on Brandi Carlile and write a blog post for you, she started asking me questions from the next area over.  She is hard to ignore, and once she began, even harder to forget.

She pointed to my laptop and asked what I was writing, then quickly explained that she had written a few things. My introvert self wanted to retreat and work, but she drew me in.

“What did you write?”

Beverly said her first publication was “The Phonemic Status of Navaho Stress” in Anthropological Linguistics. Huh… yep, she's a writer and I'm finding myself suddenly feeling like I have nothing compared to THAT. 

What do you write?

I explained that I am a freelance writer, and I often write on topics that others suggest and pay me for. That she understood and told me about her daughter who is a journalist. But she came back to me again. “What do you ENJOY writing about?”

I looked down at my laptop, Dancing With Fireflies stared back at me.

This is what I told her:

“Well, I write about living beyond a diagnosis. So many people are handed a diagnosis and then it consumes them and they don't know how to live outside of that. Everything becomes about that label that is now added to their name.  Jane Doe- Cancer survivor.  Crysta Icore – Lyme Fighter.

It's hard to see life beyond that diagnosis. But this diagnosis isn't your life, it is the beginning of a new life. This new life includes medications and appointments, but it isn't everything.  This life is about living beyond that label and LIVING.

I want to grow a garden, make great food, live the best life I can!

I don't want to think of my life as doses of pills and days of pain. Today, I want to think of my life as pushing happiness farther than I ever imagined and sharing that demand for a better and fuller life with my readers. And no, I don't have a cure and I don't know how long this life will last, but that doesn't matter.

My writing has changed and moved from place to place as I've searched for the direction, ran from my own diagnosis, and came back around to see that I'm not alone in the dark and there are others out there also looking to know that they are not alone in this quest to find a life beyond counting heartbeats.”

Did I just say all of that?

I surprised myself at the passion, and even more, I was surprised when I looked around and found that not only Ms. Beverly was smiling and listening, but everyone around was as well and nodding in agreement. Some asked for this URL and my email address. And for a brief moment, I had this moment of pride in the direction I'm going.

She said when I finished, “That is how I feel about getting old. The elderly in the United States are the Lost People. Ignored, shunned, and often left alone to die. We must do more to embrace our elderly community.”  She is right, and I know that we can do more.

Our conversation lasted another hour, and in the end, I felt myself needing to wrap my head around the whole afternoon. She renewed my energy in WHY I blog and gave me a direction I never expected as well.

So often the elderly are ignored, talked to like they are children, handled softly and pushed away. We are missing the opportunity to learn and be inspired by our elders. In America, the elderly are ignored and treated like a nuisance. It's awful. Today I took a moment to stop my day and listen, and I was granted a rare and magical moment to speak with someone I will admire for the rest of my life.

This year, will you take more time to listen to our ancestors or turn away from the opportunity of a lifetime?

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