Downslope of Life

One good thing about being on the downslope of life is that after so many years of living, it’s easier to take some things in stride, such as the weather. I wasn’t able to be out in the warm afternoons the past couple of days, and yet as lovely as it would have been to go walking and enjoy the sun, I had other things I had to do. I consoled myself with thoughts of other such days because the truth is, they will come again.

First, of course, will be another spate of winter weather, and that too, is inevitable. Weather, especially weather in Colorado, is ever changing. I remember one year in my childhood when Christmas was sunny and warm enough that we were able to play outside without wearing coats or even sweaters. That Easter, it snowed, so I couldn’t wear my new Easter hat and shoes. (If I remember correctly, Easter was when I got new shoes for church. September was when I got new shoes for school, and if the old shoes still fit, they were relegated to play shoes.) Some years were like that. Other years, we were inundated with snow at Christmas and sweltering heat at Easter.

Something that doesn’t change with the years is . . . years. They keep adding up. Unlike weather, one’s age doesn’t go up and down, though health and feelings of well-being do fluctuate. But even those fluctuations are easy to take in stride because . . . well, because that’s life. That sense of the inevitability of aging seems to disappear when one is truly aged. I remember my father wondering when he will get “better.” He didn’t seem to understand that he wasn’t sick; he was old. And he wasn’t the only old elderly person I’ve encountered who had that same mindset of needing to get better; it seems quite common. (I use the seemingly redundant term “old elderly” because “elderly” covers a vast range of ages from a relatively youthful elderly age of seventy to an extremely old elderly age of close to one hundred.)

It’s hard to know, of course, what I will be like at that age, but I suppose I will lose my sense of taking things in stride and become as querulous as so many other nonagenarians.

But I’m not there yet. For now, it feels good to be able to take life as it comes, knowing that for every down there is an up and, unfortunately, for every up, there will come a down. Nothing lasts.

I remember as a child thinking that it would be eons before I ever grew up, and yet, here I am, eons beyond childhood. At least, it feels like eons. The actual number of years falls somewhat short of an eon.

Time passes.

Things change.

For now, I am grateful I can take such changes in stride and oddly, for today anyway, I am content to be on the downslope of my life.

This is an old photo because although I might figuratively be on a downslope, literally I live on flat prairie land with not a slope anywhere in sight.

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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.

Happy or Sad — It’s All Part of the Adventure

Sometimes I wonder if it’s time for me to stop talking about the ups and downs of my life, just stick with . . . I don’t know . . . upbeat thoughts, perhaps. I won’t, though. I do not believe it is either healthy or wise to always put on a smiling face. Life is good, but it is also cruel. Life is happy, but it is also sad. Life is easy, but it is also hard. How can we ignore the parts of life that might not be comfortable?

The truth is, although I can handle the downs of my life, the emotion lows, most other people can’t. It makes them uncomfortable. And rightly so. People who are smug in their couplehood don’t want to have to think of being the one left behind. People who own houses do not want to admit that some people might be homeless (not in a disfunctional sort of way, but in simply a roofless and rootless sort of way) through no fault of their own. People who are surrounded by family don’t want to know what it is like to be a generation of one.

Perhaps oddly, I have never considered happiness something to pursue. It seems more of a hindsight sort of thing, realizing after the fact that one was happy, which makes happiness a thing of the past, not the present, and therefore irrelevant. Being unhappy at times in the present is not a crime. Sometimes not being particularly happy is a proper response. Most reasonable people, in a hurricane, try to get out of the wind, not revel in the devastation. And above all, I am reasonable.

It is not just the loss of the brother closest to me in age ten years ago, the loss of my mother nine years ago, the loss of my life mate/soul mate six years ago, the loss to mental illness of my older brother two and a half years ago, and the loss of my father one and a half years ago. It’s also the loss of my livelihood (my life mate and I were in business together; although I am a writer, I am not one of the lucky ones who make a living at it). The loss of my home — twice (once six years ago when I came to the desert to take care of my dad, and then again a year and a half ago when my dad died.) And the loss of the feeling of purposefulness more times than I can count. (Lost the feeling of purposefulness that came from building a coupled relationship, from taking care of the sick and the dying, from grieving.)

Considering all that pain and loss, I do not think it is unreasonable to still have times of sadness. To still have times when death makes me cry. (I ran over a snake this morning, couldn’t stop in time, and I cried over the pain and eventual loss of that beautiful creature.)

I do not need to be cured. Happy or sad, I am perfectly fine. Happy is easier, of course, but why does life have to be easy?

I often mention my difficulty finding a place to live, but it only bothers me sporadically. Like when the outside temperature is over 100, and I am exhausted. Then life gets daunting. Meantime, I am staying in an incredible part of the desert, at the foot of the Ord Mountains. I have to drive the worst road imaginable, but I have made new friends, hiked some glorious terrains (and gloriously hot terrains), will go hiking tomorrow with a woman who can show me hidden trails. I am negotiating with a fellow for a room in his house for next month (and space in his garage!). And if that falls apart, I will stay here on the road from hell another month. And if that becomes impossible? Well, something else will come along. Or not.

Happy or sad. Comfortable or uncomfortable. Easy or hard. It’s all part of the adventure.

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(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

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