Tag Archives: understanding

On aging, and gradually disappearing

432af0eea731d117bf5ac6181eea87abI missed my 40th high school reunion this past weekend. I was sorry not to see the gang, the people who had known me BEFORE – people who might have the memories I have lost over the years, the ones I dig for but can’t retrieve, unless I have them in photographs.

I’ve lost the old times, but now, since my MS has led me to retire early, I am seemingly losing form and shape of more recent years. I have people explain things to me as if I didn’t know about them – as if I hadn’t led a life of great activity in the work world, short though it was.

It’s hard when you see grey-haired, frazzled old me to imagine what I used to be – a nurse in a burn unit; a prenatal teacher; a home visiting nurse who saw people in dirt-floored houses; a campaigner for the NDP; an initiator of programs to benefit people’s health; a published writer and advocate; the woman who writes for Amnesty every year; the one who studied health policy amongst the socialists of the LSE and epidemiology amongst a team of students from around the world through the LSHTM. Someone who has travelled the world and read about places, read thousands of books, made hundreds of creative things, met with and engaged with thousands of people, one to one or in small groups, working to effect change for the positive.

Nope, people see me, the gal with the big words, the round tummy, the uncontrollable cartoon-happy-smiling-old-lady-senior-citizen-pink-dress-46821182hair.

I sometimes feel like screaming, “Look, look! It’s ME in here!” But, realistically, this happens to us all. I have a good friend whose life has led him all over Africa and to the depths of New Brunswick. I cherish the well-roundedness this life has given his thoughts and opinions. But to the outside, he is an older man, retired. He and I shuffle together. No one knows what fierce hearts beat or have beaten under our admittedly aging skins.

I have wonderful other friends whose lives would fill a book with adventures, but whose adventures I barely know, taken up as we are with the day to day lives of now. There’s a hesitancy in sharing as life experiences are so different, and what may just be talking may sound like bragging. I’ve had a privileged life; many others haven’t.

One of my sons worked on a project to go with people as they transitioned from home to care. It would tell the caregivers who that person was, how they liked their tea, what their background was, so they wouldn’t have to tell everyone over and over again what they did or were or valued. It would be like a much more informative nametag.

I like that idea, but the question is, who would read it? Would the busy care workers care that I once ran for the NDP nomination? Would they want to know about my poverty needs assessments that guided the development of services in Kingston, ON? Would they care that I change my preference for tea from time to time? Probably not.

And so we age and gradually diminish, becoming creatures of the present.

Unless. Unless we don’t go quietly into that good night. Unless we stick our necks out, risk things, do something new. Thats my plan.


My heroes. AKA the Persistently Annoyed

I feel like Rhoda Morgenstern on the old old TV show, who shouted, “New York, this is your last chance!” Time for me to throw my hat in the air, and even if it falls to the ground, pick it up and keep on going.



Empathy, or why people should choose to hang out with over 50 year old women

Fifty-year-old woman - looking empathetic?

Fifty-year-old woman – looking empathetic?

According to the latest email I got from Science news, women over 50 years of age (but under 60) are the most empathetic of all. Apparently we women of this age are more likely to understand the emotional situation you might be in and offer a soft shoulder to those who need one. There’s apparently a U-shaped representation of empathetic behaviour that is lower in the 30-40’s and also in the 60’s and older. We fifties are the stars…
The question in my mind is, is it the cohort of women who are 50 now who are so empathetic, or is there just a wee phase of woman’s lives where they are more empathetic than usual – the period when their kids are off and on their own, and hormones are changing, and life burdens are lessening, where they might just have more time to be empathetic?
I dunno. The writer seems to imply it’s this particular group of 50 year olds who are unusually nice, probably due to the times they grew up.
But then why does the same thing not occur with men?
Who knows….
A little further down the page, there’s another article, explaining that bonobo monkeys are also quite attuned to empathic response.

Bonobo monkeys, discussing life...

Bonobo monkeys, discussing life…

If you don’t know about bonobos, you should really look them up. They are one of our closest relations in the monkey world, and specialize in settling every argument by having sex. With whoever. It seems to calm them down, soothe their ruffled feathers, make them happy, and so off they go, in harmony again.
Now I don’t want to draw too many analogies between the bonobos and women of a certain age, but sometimes odd coincidences appear in nature, and in my science page. Any comments, anyone?