you can’t win. Nobody does—though that of course is no comfort. As to managing the exasperations, frustrations, and angers that can attend old age, it’s okay to take moments to vent, like turning the air around you blue when you hit your shin against a drawer that you forgot was still open; or being ambushed by a loud fart at an inappropriate moment; or being caught short and dampening your underwear.
Don’t let these tiny sabbaticals from propriety bother you, as long as they are never allowed to morph into self-contempt, which is a major no-no.
Cherishing independence is a good thing but it’s important to enjoy the kindness of strangers, especially the spontaneous kind. Enjoying their kindness fertilizes gratitude, which can blossom in various flowers of well being.
You can also practice de-frustration. Some do it by “raging against the dying of the light,” as in Dylan Thomas’ poem to his dying father; or like John Donne, the most famous preacher in 17th century England, who said in one of his letters that he was going to resist death to the death (so to speak)—make it as hard as possible for it to kill him: Donne’s version of raging against the dying of the light.
Carl Jung said that the really human way of making one’s required exit down into death’s dark cellar is face first, not timidly backwards. Jung’s remark is a step toward a fundamental approach to one’s old age and inevitable death, namely to co-opt death—to consciously integrate death into the daily fabric of one’s life.
Live with death, rather than try to ignore it and suppress the knowledge of its approach. A death is an exit, the last act of a life, not a bushwhacking by some intrusive foreigner. That rascal, Old Age, can be sneaky but still possible to live with.
Tewler Decides Not To Renovate
I feel time treading my floorboards—
not even bothering any more
to tiptoe—and again I wonder,
creaking, how on earth did he lay hands
on living-room, bedroom, kitchen keys?
Renovation is big these days,
pricey extreme makeovers galore.
Once, I confess, I almost added
my off-true nose and sagging backside
to the approved shopping list of worries;
imagined tubes slurping cellulite—
this was during that panic uproar
over the Perfection Deficiency Syndrome.
But I’ve grown up. If my bum droops
I can still touch my toes and see my knees.
Barely a single cosmetic cut
can claim necessity: suctions or
remodellings, lifts or body sculptings
are hard to make a virtue of, whereas
I make some virtue out of no remedies.
I’m history, more cuffed around by weather,
joints on strike for better climate control.
I declare myself a Heritage Site:
summer cottage once, then autumn lodge,
now alpine shelter leaning against northerlies.
In this self-habitation mode
I’ll not tinker much with my abode.
Ian Sowton, 2011/2019
from Affordable Wonders
For those who…
is a series of poems and reflections offered by Holy Trinity as an inspiration and support for the community. Through this and other initiatives, we are trying to foster a local and personal community of mutual care and engagement.
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