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May 2020

"Question to self: When is it too late to change one’s default state?"

The title of this post comes from an essay I'm eager to share with you. Click here to read the full article.
It was written by Charlotte Wood, originally for The Griffith Review, a literary magazine from Australia; and now published by The Guardian. 

This essay's title is "What Are We Really Afraid of When We Think of Old Age? Ms. Wood writes from the POV of a woman in her mid 50's, and begins her essay with this question:

"In a black-and-white thinking culture, how should we consider the richness of who we are in old age?"

I really like thinking about "the richness" of old age. Mine is proving to be so.
Not far into the article, she mentions an elderly gerontologist she met at a dinner. He recounted tales of some of his patients and at one point..   I quote her here:

"Later, he asked me: “How many years of your life would you trade for a Booker Prize?”

“What?!  None!” I replied. I was surprised at the vehemence and speed of my answer, and that I knew it to be absolutely true.

Then he asked, “What if they were the years between 85 and 95?”

Hmmm."


Would you trade some of your years for anything?  Would you if you could pick the years?

She writes:
"
Our predictions for old age foresee an epoch of physical incapacity and psychic misery, in contrast with our vital, flourishing youth. But last night on my couch I spent five minutes scribbling down a list of the troubles that plagued me and those in my social circle – middle class, well educated, well resourced – before we turned 50."

She follows this with a list of illnesses, conditions, and other frailties that she knows of among her younger friends. The list she came up with is about 3-4 times as long as the quoted paragraph above. 

Attitudes about aging vary widely. This is clear in her article. What is also clear is that most of the harsher attitudes come from the Youngers among us. We old folks tend to take it much better, "finding greater contentment, more peace, more comfort with ambiguity, deeper gratitude, and a focus on more meaningful engagement in the present."

I'm tempted to quote more, but then you'd have nothing to read! 


May 22, 2020 no meeting; no minutes; plenty of Missing.

I last posted minutes on March 13, 2020, after our last IRL (in real life) meeting. We were already talking about Covid-19.

You'll no doubt remember our two Skype meeting. We were never successful at getting everyone on the calls.
We gave up after those calls on March 27th and April 10th. Zoom seemed too risky, so we agreed not to meet in person for the time being.
Who the Hell knew it would be so long, and still...there is no real end in sight?

I'm likely to wander around and find a safe way for us to try again.  I miss you like crazy. 

Here is a very cool song by an artist I was recently introduced to: Carrie Newcomer.


A Woman Living Alone

Subtitled "Seven Stories of Solitude During the Coronavirus, from ages 24 to 86",  this story comes from the Washington Post
and is written by Caroline Kitchener.       

I'm not going to reprint it here, though I recommend it to you as an interesting read.
Our group includes four women who live alone:  Jessica, Angie, Irma, and me. 
Irma is without pets, too; Angie, do you have animals?

I'm not sure if or how that might make our experience during this social isolation different from
the experience the rest of you are having. But I think it might be interesting to explore.
(and sometimes I'm just fishing for stuff to do...)
  


 

 

 


MAID: Medical Aid in Dying and/or Death w/Dignity (and a mention of Death Doulas)

Ronni's blog post today... titled as above without the parenthetical phrase.

I'm not going to reprint it here; it's an easy jump to her page. As you may remember, she has pancreatic cancer and COPD. She is THREE years past the cancer diagnosis and surprised to be here still. She expected death much sooner.

She has had the 1st conversation with her doctor about the options and requirements of using that law, and discusses that conversation openly, clearly and, in her style, without emotion. She has broken much ground in sharing information about aging and now about dying. I hope you'll choose to read this and other posts from her.

I want to comment on the terms being used by the lawmakers. I'm with Ronni on this point: 
With the possible exception of sudden violent trauma (accidents, wars, etc.), ALL deaths are accomplished with dignity.
To name such a compassionate law Death with Dignity implies that other deaths are somehow less dignified, less noble, less than. 
That irritates some bone in the back of my brain!!
Might just be me and semantics, again, but I believe the words we choose carry a certain energy.

Some states use the other phrase: Medical Aid in Dying - MAID. The acronym is not thrilling to me, but the whole phrase seems more appropriate. That is also the terminology used in Canada, though one comment on the blog post did say that finding doctors willing to follow the law upon request is difficult, because many Canadian docs refuse to prescribe the legal drugs citing religious conflict.
It's heartless and ridiculous that we in the US treat our pets better than our families. 
(I make an intentional distinction between pets and livestock.)

She also mentions Death Doulas for the first time... or perhaps that was a commenter. I'm curious about your knowledge of that field. Have you heard of Death Doulas? I'll include a link or two I've been following recently if you're interested in learning a little about it. Do you think that a doula would be a welcome part of your dying process?
Going With Grace   a website by Alua Arthur   Read about her on the 'About' page at the link. 
YouTube home of Going with Grace. She has many 1 minute videos you might enjoy.

A Minute on the Life Lottery  a video by Alua Arthur. This is literally 58 seconds long. and joyous! and a wonderful POV on life.
Watch it now:


Deathbed Planning is a 9.33 minute video done by Mortician, Caitlin Doughty of YouTube's Ask a Mortician. She's spotlighting Alua Arthur's work showing what Caitlin's deathbed might look like and what might be done. Caitlin's website.  

NONE of these links or videos are remotely depressing. Caitlin is a practicing mortician and is on the front lines of what is known as the Death Positive Movement.
I'm definitely interested in the possibility of a doula for my own death.

I hope you'll read and comment on the post.  (I might have a tiny crush on this woman!)
Thanks. 
  

 

 


Distance and Solidarity a poem by Chase Beach

Kate H. shared this poem with us by email today. It seems like a good fit here. 

 


Distance and Solidarity

This puzzling reality we are all facing, 
that in order to stay safe 
we must stay away. 

We stay away 
in order to remain, in a way, together.
 
If we are afraid enough
of one another, 
or FOR one another, 
we may be able 
to save each other. 
 
Love and fear, 
distance and solidarity 
have never been 
so obviously conjoined. 
 
Thanks, Kate.