Understanding Old Age

When young we may look at the elderly and wonder what it might be like. However that is only fleeting otherwise fear steps in.

Coming to terms with getting older  is a strange phenomenon. There is nothing in society to make one think of it as something to cherish something to look forward too. Each of us has to deal with it in our own way. There is plenty written, but for me none of it is relevant because it is a purely personal experience.

When young we  look at old people and cannot really know what it will be like. We watched the bent and slow aged folks shuffling through the shops ahead of us and maybe felt a tad irritated because as a younger person we were always in a hurry as if there wasn’t enough time  in the day. Why don’t old people shop in the week?  younger folks say. Why don’t they have it delivered? Why do they have to be so obviously old? Why don’t they just disappear from society all together?

Oh dear! Does that sound over the top? It isn’t because society is becoming ageist. Maybe it always has been. When young perhaps we tend to have a bit of a laugh at the aged parents. I can remember my mother in law coming to baby sit for us fairly regularly and we had to give her a set time when we would be home. She would be waiting for us at 10-30 with her coat on. Probably a bit aggrieved  if we were late. She seemed to have petty worries about her neighbours and her health and what that entailed. X-rays, medication and prescriptions and hospital appointments,everything seemed overly played out. To us, her family we saw it as a bit of a joke how much she seemed to worry and how important time and routine were to her.  Now at seventy-three, I am the same, anxious if I cannot meet my deadlines or if I feel taken for granted. My health and all its facets seem to rule my life, probably because I cannot control what is happening to me on a daily basis. My comforts and relationships with friends has become more important. Small things seem much bigger and my level of anxiety has become manifold. I realise that for all of my working life I wore and managed a band  of anxiety around my middle. Coping with it. Retrospectively I can see that this was something from childhood but that is another story. In order to make a success of my life this anxiety had to be controlled and managed and it was. However once released from the life of work after retirement and after ten years in I am aware of this feeling tugging at me daily. When something anxiety provoking occurs in the day there it is. So sticking to plans, keeping a fairly reasonable routine and opting not to place my self in too vulnerable a situation holds it back. I will force myself to do things I don’t want to do but when I do I am more vulnerable. I am not on my own with this and would be interested to hear from others in this aging process. I am sure there is much more to say.

Another aspect of aging at the moment is the controversy regarding state pension.  People are jealous or angry at the fact that we receive a regular income. Gone any idea that we have paid our dues in taxes and national insurance or paid into a private pension scheme. It’s costing the country millions say the media.  There are far too many old people sponging on the state say some of the young. They have stolen from us the young, and they don’t deserve what they are getting. Heating allowances should stop, they should lose their homes to pay for care in the community. This is Agisim isn’t it?

We  each have to find our own way through this. There are those who fight old age, constantly trying to maintain a young style. Plastic surgery if one can afford it.  If you keep your face reasonably free of wrinkles is that OK when the hands and neck show the signs. Next step body transplant because the skin and bones continues its losing battle against gravity.

For me it’s not about staving off old age it’s not about looking young, but more about acting ones age.  There is always the danger of closing in on oneself, too bad if you don’t know  you are, and are lacking in self awareness because that is the key. However sometimes self awareness can be just that bit too painful. Maybe finding interests  and changing them by learning something new, perhaps rotating them to keep them alive is the answer. I like painting watercolours, knitting, reading and writing down what bugs me or excites me at any given time and this is generally on the face book or a blog like this. I have recently become excited by politics and am an avid follower of Jeremy Corbyn and chatting on various groups. I would like to be more active but find my health and mobility are an issue so having joined the labour party movement I can have my say on various factions but am not as active as I want to be. I make plans about going to this or that labour meeting but find on the day I don’t have the physical where with all to do it which feels like failure. Also after a particularly stressful day and being pretty busy I pay a price in tiredness the next.

I don’t think this is just about me even though we are all unique there are many trials and jagged paths in this aging process but what is the alternative. Finally I would say, don’t expect those younger than yourself  to understand, they cannot until they reach that path themselves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Addiction to Food

Research has shown that there are psychological and physiological differences in the brain of someone who has any addictions.

Addiction means that the individual still goes for the thing they crave even though they are aware that following this path is dangerous and can lead to life threatening consequences.  Trying to break the cycle of addiction causes frustration, internal anxiety and distress and physical discomfort. As I have explored the issues around compulsive eating and problems with obesity I am more convinced that there is a problem with addiction to food. Not all foods just the ones one craves. Not many obese or over weight people crave carrots raw or otherwise, veg and even fruits nice and good as they are. Cravings are usually about favourite foods that are bad unless taken in moderation. Chocolate, cake and fatty foods are the most common. Crisps, nuts and savouries treats are on the list. Not many people crave salad and flat white fish these are the foods one is supposed to eat for a healthy life.

In the main my article is geared to those who are yo-yo dieters. Or serial  dieters those of us who diet on and off for a few weeks to lose a few pounds and then give up for no major reason.  Because the mind of a dieter is  preoccupied with food dieting or otherwise huge concentration is required. The serial dieter is always thinking about food whether on a diet or what to have for next meal. It is a way of life and comes in fits and starts throughout life. Each time a few pounds if lost it will be regained along with a few more.

Along with the preoccupation with food comes guilt and shame of failing. Seen as a loser without will power, even though  constantly thinking about what the next meal is going to be. What the portion size is,   scales at the ready, how many calories in a potato and so on.  Always the desire for the wrong food whilst eating the right food.

The food addict is a mindless eater and the breaking of the cycle of short-term dieting comes with eating almost unconsciously. Dissociating from reality to some extent.

I hear myself saying ‘why did I eat that’ or ‘wish I hadn’t eaten that’ because then I have slipped back onto the not caring the mindlessness around food usually going hand in hand with ‘it doesn’t matter’ and ‘fuck it’. However what it means in reality is ‘I don’t matter’/ I don’t love myself enough to care. Now comes the cycle of addiction.

  1. Must start a diet tomorrow.
  2. Food shopping for healthy eating
  3. Walking past the favourite things like crisps, biscuits, crackers and cheese and chocolate things for puddings.
  4. Good start and keeping diary feeling positive and weeks and a few pounds lighter something happens.
  5. A weekend away,out to lunch with a friend and then wham bam fuck it off the diet. However with this comes the guilt and a touch of secrecy. Motivation has gone and is replaced by contempt for oneself and some contempt for others. Mainly because one feels ashamed of not having enough will power so unhappiness follows.

If one turns to food for comfort in times of distress this is why one gains weight.

So if it’s hard for you to imagine what that feels like think for a minute what do you do when you need to comfort yourself. Some say jog or cycle or the gym. Knit, embriodery or anything you do to comfort yourself what ever it may be. Then imagine you cannot do any of it again that method of self comfort has gone. You cannot have it anymore. How does that feel?

If you are an alcoholic or a drug addict or a compulsive gambler etc you have to make a complete stop from your substance. With food that is not possible is it? I am not saying that somewhere in ones history is a valid reason where it all started. Maybe from being abused or hungry or shamed and so on?

Personally it began somewhere in childhood. Body image and family comments. AS a child I was different from the norm because I had longer limbs, more shape and was generally taller than the other kids in the family. In the north of England people were smaller generally because of poverty and living amongst tall factories where the sun didn’t shine rickets were in the plenty.  However even in spite of this I was physically different. Blue eyes and blond hair of viking stock it seems because as it turned out my father had been an American airman from an affair my mother had in the mid forties. During family events I would be paraded in front of relatives who generally were admiring of my stature but it didn’t feel like admiration to me it felt like shame.

I think this was the start of body consciousness and not in a good way. Regardless of all this I was generally hungry because in the late forties and fifties we were.

I do not know what my triggers are. A life time of dieting even when I wasn’t overweight. I just felt fat. Slimming pills and starvation diets were a regular event and in the sixties we could buy slimming tablets over the counter at boots chemist. Doctors didn’t worry about giving out   Dospan addictive I hear. Dieting in my twenties was a way of life. For special events do a diet of boiled eggs and salad for a couple of weeks and lose a stone. I am now seventy-three and still in this battle within myself when I should be relaxing into old age happily. Am I addicted to certain foods or am I crazy. I don’t know and maybe never will.

Suggestions welcome

Oscar is the boy

Taking on a dog is no simple task.Saying I want a dog sounds easy enough but after the wanting comes the need for structure and responsibility.  Making a choice of breed, puppy or full-grown? Pedigree or cross? Rescue or breeder.  I have had a few dogs over the years but my first encounter was as a child.

My mother loved animals all kind of strays would somehow end up in our house. Never less than two dogs and 2 cats, rabbits and birds. Once she brought home a magpie she had found flying down to people outside on the street. Sensing it was lost she brought it in and taught it to speak. Although she had this menagerie, care was random. Dogs watched, following her every move until she’d create a pan of food made up of left over. Maŕrow bone gravy, pilchards and Oates which cats and dogs alike scoffed each evening. Sometimes the smell of that mixture made my mouth water because of my constant hunger. It was generally something with chips for us humans.

Now I have Oscar, who I suspect will be my last dog, probably out living me. It’s written that Pugs can live for fifteen years. A thousand-year old breed specially adapted as a lap dog.

He is a black pug so tends to attract attention. A character in every sense of the word. Facial expression which is a permanent questioning look. What?

He snuggles which is more about food than love and when I am standing around maybe passing time of day with someone,he sits either between my ankles or  on my feet. Looking upwards patiently waiting for the conversation to end.

In the past my dogs have generally been rescue but for one other. Oscar  however cost so much I am too embarrassed to say. He is treasured not because of that but because of who he is. Funny, annoying too. Lovable and often serious and thoughtful. He ponders on life a lot. I like that.

Past, Present and Future

We cannot change the past but we can change our attitude towards it.

Do you ever experience the past   haunting you? When life is not going  well find yourself looking back for someone to blame or forward as a means of escape.

‘You will never amount to anything’ was my mother’s favourite saying. ‘A Jack of all trades and master of none’, was another directed at me. It crushed any confidence or dreams I had about what I might become.  I was 24 before I found some semblance of myself when I was accepted into nurse training. Happy days those were. Laughter, tears and good friends. I started as an auxillary and it wasn’t until some senior nurse asked me if I had considered training that I suddenly saw a world of opportunity opening for me. None the less, over the following years I carried a deep  sense of shame that I would be discovered as a fraud.  Even on the day of exam results I envisaged a tap on the shoulder and a whispered apology for a terrible mistake about my results.   In all the career moves that followed the anxiety never really left.  With each success came more confidence and my fear of failure somehow made me more determined to succeed.

That was in 1969 and now we are in 2017.

Looking back on life serves no purpose but it’s difficult not too. ‘If onlys’ can be painful and guilt ridden. If only I hadn’t remarried. If only I had not said this or that.

What purpose does it serve because we are where we are however we got here. As much as we desire it we cannot control the future. We make plans but the future is an illusion it does not exist and soon turns into memory. Here and now is the only reality and in that split second we often make decisions that can change life.

There are aspects of my past I would change and there are things I would like to happen in the future that are now unattainable.

I used to wonder if  life was  some kind of test for something better. Now as an older woman I  know it isn’t, we are here to do the best we can with what we have. It isn’t really a test it’s just life.

We are born, we live and then we die, in the  final maybe we all hope to be remembered for something good.

Loneliness

Isolation becomes more attractive the more constraints the other puts on one. The more demanding the more the need for seperation.

Is there still a stigma to a woman living alone in this day and age? If not through the eyes of others then perhaps  reflected back though ones own eyes.

Sometimes I don’t know whether I am lonely or not. I like being alone and just ‘being’  and getting  to this stage has taken me a long time. In the beginning after living in close proximity to someone else perhaps one carries on as if there are two. Routine and structure are still a way of life. Meals at certain times, types of meals also. Bed times and daily activities. At the start I would still go to bed at the time we’d shared. Once living alone I would feel strangely uncomfortable for staying up late to watch a favorite program on the TV. It took almost a year to shift myself from the slavery of the past behaviours.  Guilt at wanting this space,  which became more obvious in my second marriage. We had met through a dating agency and there had been certain criteria laid down as prerequisites to a relationship. Example looking for someone to go out with, holidays and spending time with each other. Sounds good but eventually for me became somewhat stifling.

How this becomes apparent in the relationship is when this special other shouts out

‘You spend more time on that computer than you do with me’

Or ‘ you left me on my own at the party and went off talking to your friends’.

‘When we are with your family you play with the children a lot’.

Oh  dear! Guilt sets in because it becomes obvious you are expected to be responsible for the other person’s happiness and comfort which is suffocating. Or is it just me?

Isolation becomes more attractive the more constraints the other puts on one. The more demanding the more the need for separation. Thus eventual aloneness. I like being alone and have realised that I am a fairly independent, so I do not reach any of the criteria of loneliness which can be a sense of abandonment, forlorn or solitary  and withdrawn. It is true that sometimes I have hints and even days of this and if articulated  people may see me as having a problem.  Experiencing myself as isolated is more about aging than it is lack of people. Being away from people, as I am out in the countryside, is not a bad thing, just something to be lived through and learned from. I can see myself somewhere in the future wandering the fields with my dog perhaps becoming somewhat eccentric, with woolly hat and long mac flying in the wind.   Saying that,  as long as I have broadband and the internet and now my dog, and all my rantings I have nothing to fear.

Living Alone

 

I have lived alone now for three years after leaving my marriage of seven. I had been a widow for three before that when I decided to start dating. I was sixty and felt pretty good.  In 2007 I remarried and in 2014 divorced.  Leaving a relationship was my choice and very different emotionally than the enforced loss of my first husband.

Being plunged into aloneness after a death is a shock, destabilising and frightening. Devistated by the loss of your closest friend, lover and partner.  Within a very short space of time you realise that the someone in your life who you would share this terrible loss with has died. Your symbiotic other half has been torn from you and the raw wound of grief  is open to the elements.  At that time I was tossed about by      grief, unable to see ahead, crashing against unfamiliar obstacles and unable to recover. Of course I did because we do.  I  surfed the waves of grief coming up for air enough to survive and begin a new phase of my life after three years.

So here I am again  three years alone after a divorce .  I know that I am growing into being alone. I have my family next door, a lovely new bungalow surrounded by familiar things. Never having been attached to material possessions  starting over for the umpteenth time is not hard, having downsized at every move.

I have learned that I react slowly to the initial change. Floating above what is happening,observing from a distance and it’s only later that the reality sets. In the last ten or so years I have moved house more than five times for various reasons and they say that house moving raises stress to very high levels.

I’m not sure even now if I know what I want from life how strange that sounds even to me at 73.  I get ideas about what’s next but the enthusiasm is not enough to trigger a new path. Being alone and everything I do is my choice so it’s all without pressure. I am not forced to do anything and in some ways that suits me.

What now? I am floating again trying to find a clear direction but the ‘trying’ is a trap, an invitation to struggle again. Best just float for a while till life presents its next challange.

Life is like a wild tiger, you can lie down and let it put its paw on your head or you can get on its back and ride it. 

 

Chasing Time

‘Of time you would make a stream upon whose bank you would sit and watch its flowing. Yet the timeless in you is aware of life’s timelessness and knows that yesterday is but today’s memory and tomorrow is today’s dream’  (Gibran the Prophet 1923)

Growing old brings less anxiety about failing in life and more anxiety about the future.

Perhaps we become more aware of the passage of time as we age. When younger we seem to be forever chasing time, running after it. Work, appointments for this and that, fitting in leisure and love. Struggling up hill with everyday events and looking ahead for space.

Reaching seventy brings more time but small things in each day can become bigger than they really are.  One important event like a visit to the doctors or hospital appointments are the things to work around. Meeting friends for lunch, shopping and the simplest things now dominate . Walking the dog twice a day is part of the structure.

When young I always kept a diary for work and social events  which was a mass of scribbles fitting in and scratching outs. I could do several things in a day alongside working full time. Living on a map of life, a plan already laid out and worked into a structure that seemed essential at the time. Mustn’t miss this and must fit bla bla into the week. Chasing after something set somewhere in the near future. Filling life with must does, failing to notice how the days and weeks become years passing like scenery through the window of a fast moving train.

Having time in older age and especially retirement is a blessing and a curse. Blessing because now it’s possible to do the things you wanted time to do when younger. Curse because half of them, suddenly you cannot do because of various physical reaons. Perhaps health issues one didn’t envisage at even sixty have slowly taken hold of you by seventy.

It is easy to become negative about old age  so it is important to throw off the past and try not to allow negative thoughts to invade the subconscious. Stick to positive thinking and toss aside the idea that you cannot do something. It takes effort to even take on a regular mantra of positivity but on the days I do, they generally turn out to be good days.

 

 

 

 

Education, a ladder to hope.

‘You are as old as you feel’ they say. Well I am seventy three and by God I feel it.

Being old has crept up on me. One day I am 60 and then in a whirlwind moment I am 70 plus. I can’t quite believe it, here I am with a daughter of nearly 53, grandchildren and two husbands behind me. All  in the blink of an eye.

Childhood, school, and teenage years filled with confusion, spots and greasy hair. Falling om Love with all its intensity for 20 plus years, then children, career and work in that order. Each section a rollar coaster of up’s, downs and turmoil. Separate chapters with different paragraphs.

My title for today is about education and whether or not having one makes us who we are. I used to believe as a young mother that education of the young was more important than anything else ‘ one hoped to give children a good start in life’,

Offering them opportunities one hadn’t had oneself.

Nowadays I think not having a decent education is as important as having one. Either way we are influenced by the having and the not having. Going to a poor school as I did was a driving force behind most of my choices in life. What direction would I  have taken if I had been to a good school instead of some back street catholic dump run by the church.

A typical start to each day began with some form of religious study from the catechism.

A chain smoking headmaster presiding over us, a scruffy bunch in 1950 plus,  starting each day to the chorus of

‘Who made you?’

‘God made me’

‘Why did God make you?’

‘He made me to love him and serve him in this world and the next’.

Very educational to us kids from the back street terraced houses of the north of england where parents slogged for a few bob in factories and cotton mills. My mother was a factory cook and we waited on the street corner for her coming home from work with something to eat in her bag. She would sneak out an extra pie or steak puddings and then add a bubbling chip pan of chips along side. Corn flakes for breakfast if lucky and luckier still if we had school dinner but invariably dinner money was not forthcoming. Learning came secondary to a rumbling tummy by 4pm.

I had an education of sorts but it wasn’t about geography or history, maths or english no, it was more about survival through each day without getting heads banged together by some angry teacher or wearing wet knickers cos you daren’t ask to be excused. Teachers came and went from this brick box of a building towered over by the catholic church cutting out daylight to the school windows. In the main these were student teachers who didn’t stay long because they moved up. Those  who were permanent fixtures were there because they couldn’t get jobs in decent schools.

I did take my 11+ but no one enlightened me as to what it meant and nothing came of it, no happy day onto grammar schools or secondary. We were the forgotten few who stayed on and left for factory fodder at fifteen. I suspect my mother would have been relieved because she would not have been able to afford the uniform.

Can I say that my education or the lack of it was important? I slowly realised as those early years past that without it I was stuck in the mud of factory work and self-consciousness around those who seemed better than me. Watching from afar those who went on to office work, secretarial and comptometer operating. Those who went higher but not knowing what higher meant I couldn’t aspire to it. instead I went to the bottle washing factory at Whitbread beer. My education was life experience and slow and steady building bricks to climb out of the mire of Catholicism with its ten commandments. To find work in hospital, eventually qualifying as a staff nurse which became my stepping stone to a better life. Most of my post war generation hoped for a better life for our children and that included having a good education. Thus each generation does better than the last.