Just a Kid

Working for a woman who is quite a bit older than I am makes for a rather surreal experience. I am struggling with age-related issues, or at least I think I am — the bum knee could be have come about from a simple injury, though I tend to think the poor thing is feeling its age. Even if my complaints don’t stem from age, I can tell I am slowing down — I don’t think as quickly as I once did, don’t move as fast as I once did, don’t make eye-brain connections instantly the way I once did. I also have to be more careful because of that lack of instantaneousness since danger can lurk in the lag time. If I remember correctly, I don’t I remember as well as I used to, either, though that could be a lack of attention rather than a memory issue. I do think I can still connect the dots as well as ever — i.e.: see the big picture from a scattering of images, draw conclusions from data presented — perhaps even better than ever since I’ve seen many more “dots” in my lifetime than I did when I was younger.

Very little if any of this “decline” is apparent to others. The few people I’ve known for many years are also slowing a bit, so my aging wouldn’t show up in relation to theirs. Most people, however, I’ve only met in the last year or two, so they wouldn’t be able to see those subtle long-term signs of aging. They can, of course, see the lines in my face and my graying hair, but those outward signs don’t show my true age; apparently, all things considered, I still seem younger than I am.

But whatever the truth, I am creeping up on the age where I will no longer be able to pretend that “elderly” only applies to others.

And yet, while all this growing into elderliness is happening, the woman I am caring for insists that I am still “just a kid.”

From her perspective, I am just a kid. Even though I often use a trekking pole to help navigate the decaying sidewalks (and sometimes use two when I walk to give me a full-body workout) and even though my knees stiffen when I sit too long, I can still get around easily, can still take care of myself, have no great dependence on doctors or medicines, can handle my own finances. Admittedly, I have no children to take those responsibilities from me — I know people my age and even younger who need one of their offspring to live with them and help them out, so my independence can be one of necessity rather than ability.

But I don’t think so. (Unless, of course, I am connecting the dots wrong and creating a false picture).

I try to take good care of myself, since what I do now will help me in those later years when no one, by any stretch of the imagination, will be able to think of me as “just a kid.” Unfortunately, too often, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. And the rest of the time, the flesh is willing, but the spirit is weak.

At least, if nothing else, I am back to walking a bit — nowhere near what I once did, but still, a mile and a half is not bad when one has a wonky knee. I have a tendency to want to do too much, and then I have to backtrack, so I am erring on the side of “not enough”. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I can get back to where I was a few months ago. I’ve noticed that a never-healed injury or a badly healed one is the first step into a serious decline, but I think that comes in later years rather than when one is still “just a kid.”

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Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

The Sun Shines Brightly on Me

I currently reside in the desert, so very few days pass without some sun, but this month has seemed dark to me. Admittedly, we have had an upsurge of winter-cold days, with lots of blustery wind and even some rain, but the sunlessness has extended beyond mere weather factors.

For one thing, I turned a year older. The years don’t matter to me — what difference does a number make? I never notice the wrinkles unless I look in the mirror, and sometimes not even then. The gray in my hair is not an issue except for my dance teacher who thinks I look good in the wig I use for performances and says I need to dye my hair that color (and except for my sister who thinks I need a purple streak). What does matter is that every added year now brings new aches and pains and weird afflictions, and I have struggled with some small thing every day since the birthday — a pop in my thigh, a cramp in my calf, a swollen eyelid, aches in my fake elbow, and on, and on, and on.

For another thing, March brings the anniversary of Jeff’s death. Like my birthday, the number means little, except to marvel that I have survived so many years of pain and change, but it is a time of remembrance, of yearning, of sometimes even of reliving the last days I ever saw my life mate/soul mate.

This March added another burden, my problem with Deb. Although I do not think I caused the problem, considering that possibility added a different layer of pain to an already untenable situation. For all I know, I could be the narcissist. Do narcissists know what they are? Supposedly they do, at least on some level, so if you wonders, chances are you are not the narcissist. (Narcissists love to make their victims think the problem is with them.)

Another small thing adding darkness to the month was the realization that I will not get as strong or as fit as I would like to be for my upcoming trip, but that’s really a minor blip in the March darkness.

I didn’t just lie down and let March victimize me, however. I’ve been taking shorter but more frequent walks with my backpack. Succumbed to the tears that honor Jeff and the anniversary. Dealt with each small physical infirmity as best as I could. Spent some time writing each day (except for the two days dedicated to grief, and even then, I wrote my blogs). And, most importantly, I did a cleansing ritual in the desert on Sunday.

I discovered this particular ritual on a website about dealing with narcissists. To break the energy and the hold the narcissist has over you, you imagine a thick cord of energy connecting the two of you. You visualize a big, bright pair of gold scissors, such as the ceremonial scissors used for a ribbon cutting event, and you snip the cord of energy. You envision her half of the cord snapping back into her, and you take your half of the cord — all that energy you’ve wasted on her — and send it up into the sun.

So that’s what I did.

Yesterday in class, whenever I thought there might be a possibility of her getting to me, I thought of the sun shining down on me, blazing with the addition of my own energy. How can one be sad under such an image?

Today was the first day I’ve been out walking since the cleansing ritual, and oh! The sun shone so warmly and brightly on me, it gave me new hope for the days that lie ahead.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.