BAD IDEA BITES THE DUST

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I’m a copycat.  Not a thief, exactly.  But always on the alert as to how I can adapt someone else’s good idea.  One such “inspiration” has been the idea underlying the past 365 daily posts over at Catching Days, Cynthia Newberry Martin’s blog about reading and writing books.  In January 2015, Cynthia decided she would devote a year of blogging to setting down “one true thing” about herself every day. As I understand it, she made this commitment because she was uncomfortable about revealing anything private (possibly even to herself), and thought this daily practice, as she called it, might address those feelings, or at least make her more comfortable with those uncomfortable feelings.  Four days ago, she reached the 365th post, entitled “Hallelulah!”

I followed along faithfully — not only as a nosy reader but also, as the year progressed, as a fellow-blogger with mixed emotions about the endeavor.  One emotion was increasing admiration for Cynthia’s disciplined stick-to-itiveness wherever she found herself (she travels a lot) and whatever else she might have been doing as the mother of four, grandmother of two, wife running a house, writer attending multiple writing conferences all over the country. The other was envy. She didn’t need to think up something new to write about periodically; she had her subject matter right there inside herself wherever she went. And one or two sentences every day would do it. (“I like red!” for instance.)

Why couldn’t I do something like that? Well, of course I could — but about what? I’m certainly not uncomfortable about revealing private aspects of my life and thoughts, as faithful followers of TGOB must surely realize.  Yes, it has at times seemed wiser not to write about some subjects in a venue where the entire English-speaking world can read what I say.  However, after twenty-four years of psychotherapy at various times in my life, I’m pretty sure I haven’t been concealing much from myself so far.  So a simple monkey-see-monkey-do wouldn’t work for me, even with full credit to Cynthia.

And then I had it!  A year of daily blogging, beginning six days from now, about how it will feel as getting older moves me, over the course of the coming year, into what is going to be the last phase of life. (Don’t say, “No, no!” Why mince words?)  I was going to do it as a separate blog, in case all that doom and gloom might drive away followers of this one. I even had the title! But wouldn’t a separate blog be too complicated? Daily dedication to the new one would undoubtedly lead to neglect over here. Still, no need to decide that right away when I still had six days before starting.

So I drafted the first post:

THE YEAR OF CROSSING OVER

365 truths about how it feels to be moving towards the end

January 23, 2016: 1/365

If I’m still here on July 23, six months from today, I’ll be 85. That’s the age at which geriatricians and other persons professionally knowledgeable about the latter years of life consider that you stop being “young old” and enter the ranks of the “old old.”

I don’t believe I won’t be here six months from today. I don’t believe I won’t be here a year from today. If I really thought that, I wouldn’t be undertaking this year-long daily record of what I’m thinking and feeling as I pass out of that stage of life generally illustrated in brochures for the retired by photographs of handsome silver-haired couples swinging a golf club together or leaning happily over the railing of a cruise ship.

I’m not a golfer, never took a cruise, and don’t regret either of those things. But I do regret that my 86th year is coming up. I’m not ready. (Is anyone not in excruciating pain or misery ever ready for the end?) I’ve always wanted to have things my way, and my way doesn’t include slow but sure physical and emotional decline into loneliness, weakness, dependence, and palliative care – all those things my head, which does still work properly, knows very well lie ahead unless I am carried off in the night while sleeping, a thing even a betting man wouldn’t put money on. Yes, I am selfish. Yes, I am childish. Like everyone else, except that I’m closer to it, I don’t want to suffer. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to be dead.

So if I am honest — and I intend to be, or  why would I be making this record? – this new one-year blog will probably not be “nice.” Nice and honest are a contradiction in terms. I have another blog where I do try to put my best foot forward. That means there’s a lot left unsaid over there about getting old. Not that all of Salome’s seven veils will necessarily drop in this one. But if I’m going to try to resign myself to what’s coming, I need to tell it like it is, including the hateful, the self-referential, the dehumanizing, the schadenfreude moments. Even if it turns out I’m writing only for myself.

Always best not to rush into something if you can possibly help it.  What looks like a sensational project in the evening, doesn’t necessarily look so hot the next day.  As many of you may remember, I had trouble hanging in there with only fifty daily blog posts last summer.  True, almost all of them were 400 words rather than a single sentence, but after a week or so it was really hard going.  How could I have believed I could possibly grind out a different post 365 days in a row?  Even if I put down something as short and monosyllabic as “I like red” — that would be just the beginning. I would need to qualify it (when, where, what kinds of red), give illustrations (the living room chairs, the dining room chair upholstery, how Bill feels about it, whether orange — his favorite color — can sometimes qualify as “red”); before we all knew it I’d be launched on a lengthy dissertation about redness.

And then the subject matter!  What was that “writing only for myself” business? Who writes only for himself? Actually, I wouldn’t want to read something every day about losing one’s contemporaries to terrible unjust diseases; about fears of running out of money, or of what the next ultrasound or cat scan will show; about gradual loss of mobility, breathlessness, easy fatigue, becoming increasingly stiff, not being able to keep up, feeling more and more left out of the currents and concerns of daily life, sensing oneself to be an afterthought, a burden. About the impotent rage and bitterness that accompanies such feelings. Or (God forbid) about finding one’s thoughts becoming fuzzy, one’s memory wobbly, one’s vocabulary beginning to disappear.

If I don’t want to read these horror stories,  why would I be committing myself to writing them? I began this blog — this one right here, not the putative “new” one — slightly more than two years ago, when I was still a relative youngster of 82, with the intention to live as fully as I can until I die, blogging about it as I go.  Was I whistling in the wind? “As fully as I can” should still be the operative words for me.  I may indeed in time encounter some, or all, of the matters in the preceding paragraph, which means mention of them will undoubtedly creep in here from time to time. They are, after all, part of getting old.

But I’m afraid you’ve just seen as much as there’s ever going to be of “The Year of Crossing Over” (YOCO), the blog.  It is that year, and I am on a moving walkway with no place to get off till it reaches the end. (As are we all.)  But let’s hope that end is a long way off yet, for me as well as all of you.

Stillborn new blog: RIP.

 

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26 thoughts on “BAD IDEA BITES THE DUST

  1. Hooray, Nina! I love the thought you put into this particular entry. Whatever you’re doing in TGOB is already about transitions and that doesn’t mean just about moving toward the end, as in the next CAT scan, but reflecting on all the dimensions of still being alive! Keep on keepin’ on!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, Kathy. And yes, you’ve got it just right. Since I already have TGOB up and running, a YOCO blog would have been in some ways redundant. The dimensions of being alive may (do) shift as we move on, but the focus must always be on living rather than on limitations age may impose.

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  2. As I mentioned before, Nina; We will all be lucky to get out of this alive. A great post again. Are you wonder-woman?
    The good thing about the final hooray is that in death we won’t be longing for things that might still enhance our present life.

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    • Thank you, Gerard. In light of your enthusiastic compliments, I hesitate to remind you that we are not going to “get out of this alive” and therefore should endeavor to stick around as long as possible.

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    • Thank you, Ella. Which undertaking were you commending? The one begun and abandoned, leaving behind only a nifty blog title? Or this one — TGOB — which occasionally consoles itself for the human condition with a pastiche of escape into the past (i.e., memoir), fantasy (i.e., fiction), foolishness (i.e. jokes), tittle-tattle (self-explanatory), outbursts of indignation, and an occasional trip to the opera? (Also cats. But you already know about cats. I hope Sadie’s condition stabilizes.) I suspect TGOB may be a special taste, but I do appreciate your reading. 🙂

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      • I did, but not every day. My thinking resolved itself into feeling I could be more open about aspects of becoming more and more geriatric as I experience them, at the risk of turning off some readers, although evidently not you. However, I don’t feel almost “old old” all the time, or even every week. Time enough for that when it comes. 🙂

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  3. Somehow I know that whatever you do or whatever you write will be interesting. You have a way of making anything interesting. They way I see you, there are no blog police so you can write whatever you want or stop whenever you want or not start. Just keep writing.

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  4. I know, whatever you write, and however often, I will look forward to reading it. It’s good to have a plan, but it’s ok to change your mind if you feel so moved. This blogging business is supposed to be… fun… after all.

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    • Thank you, Julie. I suspect changing my mind IS the plan. (It seems to be the way I lived my life, so why not what goes into the blog too?) But fun? I’ve never thought writing was “fun,” although apparently it’s something I’ve always had to do or else I get the sense something is missing from the day. The fun part is when you finish, look it over, feel you’ve got it right, and then read comments like yours. 🙂

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  5. As always,Nina, a thought-provoking post. Yep, there’s a huge difference in one year moving into the old old years. Even though it’s just a number, the mind games kick in. I’d rather think live for today, there are no guaranteed tomorrows. Or is that paddling aimlessly in de-Nile. Chryssa

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  6. Nice to have you back Nina! Great post, as always. Your indomitable spirit is an inspiration (hand on heart), as is your skill with words. No passing of time can ever change that, or lessen the sheer strength of your personality. Happy New Year.

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  7. Rita

    Delighted dear friend to see you back and in great form. Your meditation on getting old and facing the end is something
    we all feel… and how well you have expressed it–but there is a bright side, believe it or not. When you reach 86, you will
    have had so many more years than many…my dear brother
    died at 54, my husband at 58…etc..so we have been
    gifted and perhaps that is the difficulty–we want MORE! When my father was 75, he couldn’t believe it…he said how did I get so old? You are giving us a gift in writing about how you feel…and us as well!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh gosh, Rita — is the fact that other, loved people died so much before what’s often called “their time” the bright side? Of course we all want more, however much we’ve already had of life. Perhaps part of the wanting MORE, at least for some of us (like me), is that we feel we haven’t lived fully, haven’t made the best use of past time. Bill (age almost 88) keeps saying, “If only I knew then what I know now, I’d have done it all so differently!” (The same sentiment was expressed, in French, in my first husband’s ashtray. See “Why Blog About Getting Old?”) But you’re a sweetheart for considering what I write about how I feel a gift. Let’s hope it’s a gift that keeps on giving, for as long as possible!

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  8. Nina, I would have LOVED to follow along on the year of crossing over. But if you had asked my opinion, I would have said trying to maintain another blog at the same time would have been the end of you! But what strikes me is that THIS is the perfect place for such a project, or for some posts more particular to the year of crossing over–this is the GETTING OLD BLOG after all. What about a series of 85 posts that tell it like it is–they could be sprinkled throughout the year–42 before your birthday, your birthday, and 42 after… This is so true; I discovered it this year: “Nice and honest are a contradiction in terms.” And I cast my vote for the truth. Please tell us what it’s like. And thanks so much for mentioning me, Catching Days, and my 365-day project. Although I’m glad it’s done, I am so so glad I did it. I’m a changed woman.

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    • Cynthia, this may be something on the nature of “Great Minds Agree!” I had just about come to a similar conclusion: that whatever I need to say about crossing over this year could be said as well on TGOB. In fact, I’ve probably already begun to do it with this post.

      However, your idea of 85 posts, though admirable and so much Cynthia (a lady with notebooks, and lists, and multiple projects) — truthfully, it exhausts me when I think about it, me who seems to just bobble along towards wherever I’m going, in much less disciplined fashion. 42 posts in six months is 7 a month, or slightly more than 2 posts a week devoted to what it’s like to be moving into “old old” territory. Since I’ve recently been averaging only about two posts a week anyway, not necessarily concerning aging, that would pretty much turn TGOB into YOCO all by itself.

      But what all this sturm and drang about “old old” does seem to have resulted in is that I shall likely be permitting myself to blog more often (and yes, honestly) about the dark side of aging than I’ve done before. Whether I should mark those posts YOCO doesn’t seem particularly important. A year is a year is a year, whatever we call the pieces I post as it passes. But thank you so much for putting all these thoughts in my head. I for one shall be sorry not to be reading Cynthia on the subject of Cynthia every day. I found you and your 365 true things absolutely inspiring!

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  9. Gwen Southgate

    Now I am the copy cat–
    I was just about to enter my comment on the short-lived YOCO, when the response from Cynthia caught my eye, and she had already said it: “But what strikes me is that THIS is the perfect place for such a project, or for some posts more particular to the year of crossing over–this is the GETTING OLD BLOG after all.”

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    • Well, Gwen, as I’ve just finished a longish reply to Cynthia, in general agreeing with both of you, I won’t repeat it all again here. But to sum up, I’m sure there will be some TGOB posts that come out of me during 2016 particular to getting “old old.” And some that go on reflecting daydreaming, ostrich-like me.

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