I recently had lunch with my friend, the fun La Jolla Light columnist known as Inga. We often eat together and, at times, send each other our columns for pre-publication feedback. I had a dilemma; I needed to talk to her and get her input and advice. When I finished telling her my woes, she said: “That’s a column.” So here it is.
Six months ago, I fractured my sacrum carrying 500 heavy books for a book fair for our White Sands staff. This required a three-month stay in bed, flat on my back. This resulted in loss of muscle mass, which in turn reduced my strength and stamina.
So here is my dilemma: I used to be the kind of person who said “yes” to everything and everyone and loved it. My motto: “Go everywhere, do everything, meet everyone, always say ‘yes, I can help!’” I now have become the kind of person who hesitates when asked to go somewhere or do something, preferring to stay home. It is a matter of energy—I don’t seem to be able to muster enough to make the decision to go, let alone to actually go. My mindset is: “I am too tired!”
Some of my friends have said: “You’re in your nineties; honor your age, listen to your body, don’t push yourself.” Somehow this does not help. I am still curious about the play, the movie, the luncheon. I have always suffered from a disease called “ATMS” (afraid to miss something), better known today as “FOMO” (fear of missing out). So I have lived my life in the fast lane and loved every moment of it.
Six months ago, before my fracture, I felt like a teenager. All of a sudden, I am an old woman and find that hard to accept. I shared this with Inga who responded in a forceful voice, “Absolutely continue doing everything as you always did, except that now you must pay attention in order to not aggravate a broken back; beyond that, don’t give in to apathy.” Somehow her words made me happy. It felt like I had just received permission to be my old self. I admit to having an image problem; it is all ego. I want to be an energetic 90+ woman, the opposite image of sitting in a rocking chair by a fireplace knitting afghans. There should be an in-between: between doing nothing and doing everything…but it is not that easy.
What I hate is the indecision—should I go or stay? It is easy if the invitation or the event is not that interesting or I am truly exhausted. It is difficult when it’s worth going, but I’m tired. I know that if I go, I will enjoy myself; I always do. In any decision one must look at the worst-case scenario: if I go, I might be tired the next day; if I don’t go, will my world start shrinking? However, if by refusing you let down another person, it becomes more complicated; some of us tend to want to please others. On the other hand, accepting requests may entail some form of sacrifice. The question is what price are you willing to pay and how often.
Over lunch, Inga and I did away with the old, indecisive woman who sat down wearily and gave me permission to resuscitate the energetic woman who gets out of a chair without pushing herself up with a groan. However, it is equally important to honor one’s age and consider one’s health and energy level and not push beyond what is comfortable and/or reasonable. We need permission to sit still, stop running, stop doing, and just be quietly reflective, and go within. Both permissions are necessary.
Listen to your friends. Be sure to get opposite views and contradictory advice and then pay attention to your gut reactions. What words make you feel “Yeah, that’s right” and look forward to attend that next event or accept that invitation or help someone out, or whether you sigh with relief and look forward to sitting in your recliner at home with a good book. There will always come a time when in fact you cannot and should not go, when you should honor your advancing years, listen to your body, and stay put; that is okay. But as long as there is still curiosity, a need to explore, a wish for the next adventure, and your body will let you, then “Go for it.”
Just writing this column helps me to have a healthier perspective on the many choices I have. I hope my readers, who have now suffered through my perambulations, will also gain a new perspective.
Natasha Josefowitz is the author of more than 20 books. She currently resides at White Sands Retirement Community in La Jolla. Copyright © 2019. Natasha Josefowitz. All rights reserved.