Monday, April 11, 2016

Toothless or Teethless That is the Question?

In my experience getting old is a good thing.  I know, I know, I've heard all about how, "Getting Old Isn't for Sissies."  That assessment is correct.  Things become challenging as your brain power fades, your eye sight fades, and you may be faced with living with dentures.  One of my beloved sisters of choice, is coping with going blind and deaf at eighty-nine.  No, getting old is not easy.  It is, in fact very difficult.  Does that mean that life is miserable on a sliding scale of sorrow from 29 to death?

I was born old.  Yessiree...not being able to breathe will make you feel old in a quick hurry.  I didn't relate well to the kids of my age group.  Well, there was that adorable little boy that lived around the corner who was in love with me.  Ronny McClure, Irish Catholic, and as cute as a five year old boy could possibly be.  He could ride a bicycle with NO TRAINING WHEELS!  That achievement was ever so powerful to me.  His eyes were blue as the bright sky, and his sunny blond hair was rumpled and tousled with curls.  That was 54 years ago now but I can remember him clearer than I remember what I ate for dinner last night.

Science says that long term memory clarity and short term memory deficit are another sign of age.  Or maybe my mind chooses to retain the best of the best in my memory?  I mean dinner last night was pintos n cheese from Taco Bell.  Not the most memorable of meals.

As a tiny child in a giant, adult sized bed in the hospital I heard clinicians whispering around me, "She won't live very long. She's too severely allergic.  Her asthma is too severe, and she has very little immune system."  Now that is a long term memory that I would LOVE to erase.  AND that memory comes the realization that I not only lived...I found ways and means to THRIVE while I lived!!!

As I have moved through forty, fifty, and soon it will be sixty...I am filled with wonder.  I am STILL ALIVE!  I still AM alive.  I awaken every morning to that lovely realization, I have more opportunities to live, grow, and experience!

I do not hesitate to give my true age when asked.  I have earned each and every single year.  Some of the years were hellishly hard.  In fact, I jokingly say if I die and I'm ascribed to Hell, at least I will have seriously awesome coping strategies in place!  (This is where we all typed laughter the same as canned laughter on a sit com)?

When we are speaking singularly of one dental bone that sticks up above the gum we call it a tooth.  When we refer to more than one dental bone it becomes teeth.  The title of this post refers to the loss of one tooth?  Toothless?  Or all teeth, teethless?  Or some how when all your teeth are gone you are now toothless?  Even though tooth is in reference to a singular item in your mouth used for chewing, in the plural form now it is called toothless?  Ah....the vagaries of the English language.

Yesterday I had a miserable experience.  I had all my teeth pulled almost a year ago.  I had to have implants placed in my lower gums.  Two implants that are affixed so that they will attach my denture to my bones.  One of them was healed properly...HALLELUJAH!  The other nasty, miserable, little beast decided to heal incorrectly!  RATS!!!

I kept trying to tell myself that it wouldn't be too bad...I mean, my mouth was numbed and I had nitrous (laughing gas) on board.  It was bad...VERY bad.  It felt as though the dentist was trying to drill to my foot through my chin.  (A fanciful idea, granted, but that's what it felt like).  TAKE CARE OF YOUR TEETH!  What a precious gift it is to be able to chew your food with strong, healthy teeth.

The only good thing about days like yesterday is that they don't last.  Today, the sun is shining, I was able to dance.  I didn't dance a lot, but it was lovely to move.  I'm ALIVE!  Those that love me think I look adorable without teeth.  I don't necessarily share that opinion but I don't have to look at me.  They do.

Back to the beginning.  I AM still grateful to be alive.  I still can reach out and love all those that are dear to me, and make new friends as well.  I still feel well enough to dance, or go for a walk some of the time.  On those days that I don't feel well enough to do active things that I enjoy the very most, I can still play on the computer, call dear ones, and sing.

Every day above ground is a cause for celebration!  Even for those of us who are now rocking the toothless, teethless, look!   



Hope for a Bright Future

He is ever so handsome.  He's also young enough to be my son!  How odd it is to become old.  For
the first around forty-five years of my life all of my clinicians were older than I was.  Now that has turned backwards.  It's VERY rare for me to go to any type of clinician that is my age or older.

This particular, extremely handsome, clinician is an oral surgeon.  He only removes teeth.  What a modern wonder it is to have this surgery.  My Grandma, my Mom's Mom had to have all of her teeth pulled when she was just 19.  There was no Novacaine, no Nitrous, and certainly no general anesthesia.  Her father held her down while each tooth was painfully extracted.

I write Western American historical fiction novels.  I enjoy doing research on the history of that remarkable era.  On the other hand, if I could have been born then instead of now...NO THANKS!  I hear so many people speaking negatively of the time in which we live.  I wish to remind them that we have a smart phone that is also a computer, camera, recorder, calendar, notes, and oh so many more functions.  We can reach out to loved ones across the world in seconds.

Medicine has come a very long way.  Instead of doing exploratory surgery to see why someone was ill, now we have diagnostics like x-ray, CT scans, MRI scans, and they can be used to create a 3D image of your anatomy.

When my family was in a horrific accident my husband broke five levels of his back.  He also broke all twelve ribs, his right arm, and he broke his shoulder.  He also suffered a punctured lung, and multiple other damaged internal organs.  The trauma team was able to find his broken back by doing a 3D CT scan of his ribs. Since the diagnostic was 3D, they were able to roll it around his body, and that's how they found the back damage.

If you have chronic pain, there is a computerized pain pump, or an electrical stimulator to ease some of that least to make it more bearable.  Diabetics have specialty pumps and machines to continually judge their blood sugar levels.  There are heart and lung transplants, as well as most other organs.  The medical world has exploded with new knowledge just in the last 10 years!

Our grandparents only had expectations of living into their 70s.  Now?  One hundred is a fair goal to shoot towards.  Think of that...that's ten decades of one day at a time.  Somebody out in the cyber world can do the math.  How many days do you live to reach one hundred years?  How many weeks, and months do you experience to live that long?

I have a one hundred and eighty degree view of spring's lyrical loveliness from our kitchen table.  I sit here looking at the intense green of renewal.  A squirrel who is very chubby scampers about the backyard in grass that is taller than he is.  Puffy wisps of clouds waft along in a sky of brilliant blue.

How do we find the positive, a focus on joy, in a life that often seems crowded with trouble?  It's not denying that trouble exists.  No, it's looking beyond those troubles.  It's seeing the beauty that IS in this world.  It's being grateful for renewal in nature, but more especially in ourselves.

Today, reach past your troubles.  Find beauty, for beauty can lead to joy.  If joy is beyond your reach, then squeeze hope out of the minutes as they pass.  There is ALWAYS hope that things will get better!     

Friday, April 8, 2016

There is No Tomorrow...

One of my favorite hymns is "Today While the Sun Shines."  The lyrics have purpose for everyone.  "Today while the sun shines work with a will.  Today all your labors and duties fulfill...there is no tomorrow but only today."  Those three dots indicate a break in the lyrics leading to the final line.

Living with a disability of any type...something that limits your abilities and capabilities, is difficult on so many levels.  One of the worst is the feeling that you are ALWAYS behind.  As the sun wakes you up in the morning you must make decisions about how you will use the teeny, tiny, bit of energy that you possess.

For example:

1.  Need to do household tasks?  You may need to wash dishes, mop floors, and fold and put away the laundry.  Your energy may allow you to do one or two of those tasks, but that other task remains because your energy level is done.

2.  What if you are raising children, or grandchildren?  You need to find creative ways to have them help you with the day to day necessities of modern living.  Children are not neat and tidy...they are messy.  They have emotions, and ideas far different from yours.  So, just trying to shepherd them can take an immense amount of energy.

3.  What if YOU are caregiver to your spouse, or a beloved parent?  Just waking up and getting dressed may seem insurmountable.

4.  Let's understand one concept right now.  When you are disabled you can't PUSH yourself to do more.  When your body is can't move one more step, or deal with one more daily need.  YOU ARE DONE!

5.  Choices?  How do you prioritize your day and then make choices and changes as you move along?  It's very easy to become isolated.  How can friends depend on you when you can't depend on yourself, and what you'll be able to do from day to day?  Discouragement is an easy companion.  If you are already clinically depressed (which most people with any type of disability are), and then you're discouraged on top of that, it's a recipe for disaster.

6.  When I was Executive Secretary of Finance, I had to start my day by prioritizing tasks.  As I moved through my day I was often interrupted by phone calls, or personnel who needed clarification on this or that item.  I taught myself to be flexible.  The hardest thing about my job was that there were constant little crises to address.  It made it hard to stay on a linear path of daily, weekly, monthly duties.  That job has helped me in my life of day to day constant fires to put out, but still striving to achieve desired goals.

So what is this point of all these ruminations? important...this day...and there is no tomorrow.
Focus on what you CAN do today, and not on what you CAN'T.  This might mean that your house is a cluttered mess frequently.  On the other hand, it may mean that you teach your children teamwork.  After all, they eat on the dishes, walk on the floors, and wear the clothes.  There is no reason why they can't learn to assist you with age related duties.

In Portland I had an assistant who came in 3 or 4 times a week.  (Due to physical health challenges).  To receive this assistance I had to go through an interview with a caseworker every 6 months.  One of the questions that he asked was, "How many good days do you have and how many bad days?"  I HATED that question.  I did NOT wish to give any of my days away to "bad!"

I gave the concept a great deal of meditation, and prayer.  The answer came.  I needed to change the NAME of my days.  I no longer call days "bad."  Instead I have active days and quiet days.  This may seem like a small thing to those who have never had to characterize their days as bad and good.  To anyone who faces physical or mental challenge it's HUGE!  I made a list of "quiet" day activities.  On these days I can do the tasks that I rarely seem to find time for on active days.  I write letters, call friends, play on Facebook, write, write more, nap, (and oh what a glorious thing a nap can be on sunshiny day surrounded by my furlined friends (two small doggies, and one large kitty).  I do my very best to not let the reason for my quiet pull me down.  On the other hand if I need to vent, I call a trusted friend.  It never fails to amaze me how venting to someone who cares, lifts me.  When someone that I love vents to me, it also lifts me.

Now any of you blessed folks who don't face disability or challenge might think, what does this post have to do with me.  Luckily for you, I'll tell you!  Each and every human that is born on this planet has in common the framework of time.  We all have seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years.  I personally believe that it's extremely wise to recognize all the opportunities that we have for new.  Every second, minute, hour, day, week, month, year is brand new.  The moments of the past exist only in our memories.  The moments of the future will be gone when we arrive.  Tomorrow is an abstract concept.  When we go to sleep and then arrive, it is no longer tomorrow, it's today.

We all will face challenge of one type or another in our lives.  We can see the challenge as overwhelming, or we can see them as stepping stones to help us grow and improve.  Can you wake up in the morning, no matter what obstacles you may be facing, and think, "Wow, a brand new chance to grow and learn!"  If you can, renewal is reality.  Let me say that again, renewal is reality.

One last thought.  We are all born with a huge symbolic canvas bag to put our problems, trials, or challenges in.  If we keep putting those negative things in that bag it becomes heavier and heavier.  If we never remove any of those things by going through the healing process it will not take very long before that bag weighs so much that we can no longer more forward into renewal.  Now we're stuck, and every day seems to be a continuation of the negative from the past.

Today, do a visual exercise.  In your mind imagine all of those nasty, negative experiences, or problems, and dump them into a huge vast hole.  Watch them one by one go down, down, down, far away from you.  As you finish emptying the bag, feel how light you feel?  As a matter of fact, you feel so light, that you jump up and kick your heels together (remember this is NOT an actual physical idea, it's symbolic).

Renewal...I have not lived this next second yet...what new thing can I find to fill it with?