Other Voices: When life presses down, try a quiet chair and poetry
There is certainly no shortage of advice for the elderly, and I can testify that most of us welcome thoughtful suggestions or helpful hints, especially the ones from our grandchildren about how to make our computers work. At this time of life we are not about to sneer at guardian angels. Being watched over is comforting since it suggests that there are those who still want us to stick around.
But along with the positive advice of family, friends, our doctor(s), dentist, gerontologist and the AARP, we are also deluged with unsolicited brochures and catalogs offering solutions to any age-related problem (including death) that could possibly arise.
For example, my mailbox on any given day, may contain a letter urging me to check into a reverse mortgage at once in order to ensure myself of a stable income for the rest of my life; a special invitation to an investment seminar, with limited seating, which will tell me not only how to protect my income, but actually augment it; a warning that I may not be aware of the full extent of my hearing loss and should take advantage of the enclosed offer of a free hearing test by a qualified specialist; a notice from my insurance company stating that my house is now nearly 40 years old and should be re-wired and re-plumbed to forestall a significant rise in my insurance rates; and a thoughtfully worded letter and brochure from a mortuary pointing out that it’s the responsibility of a considerate person like me to have a pre-paid funeral plan which will protect my family from having to make final arrangements for me at a time when they may be emotionally upset.
In addition, technology has identified me as being in the demographic group most likely to pay attention to catalogs advertising orthopedic shoes, elastic stockings, shoulder braces, and moisture-proof bed pads.
Such publications are replete with pseudo-reassuring pictures of smiling white-haired people using clever assistive devices.
I tell you, there are times when it takes a stout heart and a firm grip on reality to enable me to sort through my mail. Even so, a certain amount of depression is inevitable.
One way of coping with this is to engage in a stern inner dialogue. I remind myself that sometimes a person can be given too much advice; one must learn to be selective.
None of my current crop of problems is unmanageable. There is no point in conjuring up the most terrifying “what ifs” of life, especially when one is pretty imaginative to begin with.
After this no-nonsense conversation with myself, I seek out a soft and cozy place where I can prop up one of my heavy-weight poetry anthologies. Poetry has always been a comfort to me. Shakespeare, Longfellow, Wordsworth, Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost have seen me through some rough places in my life. So have Lewis Carroll, Ogden Nash and Dr. Seuss.
To my surprise, it turns out that what I thought was my own private antidote for anxiety is one shared by others. Not long ago I read a small book entitled “The Merry Heart.” This is a compilation of speeches given by the late Canadian author, Robertson Davies, when he was in his 80s. When this distinguished and compassionate man was pressed for the best advice he could offer to the elderly, he responded: Study poetry.
Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in his hand
Who saith: “a whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God, see all, nor be afraid.”
– by Robert Browning
Lucille Lovestedt lives in Grass Valley.
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