What Do I Do Now?

Learning how to live a fulfilling life after the loss of a partner.

Three Quarters of a Century

Living life with grace and dignity


That's how old I am. I just celebrated my birthday, and realized that I've really been 75 for two years because all I could think about when I turned 74 was... Egad! I'm going to be 75 next year!

The realization of how long I've been around... or more correctly that there's more behind me than ahead was a real shocker. It started making a big noise in my head when I was about to turn 70. I was trying to write a chapter on aging for my book, Moving to the Center of the Bed. I had written and torn up several tries. So I took a walk around the reservoir in Central Park, a place where ideas seem to lie in wait when they see me round the first bend. I wrote the chapter in my head before I got home. Of course I couldn't remember half of it when I did, but I think what stayed was what needed to be written.

I was not raised in a society that reveres age, but one that suffers it, sometimes in silence, sometimes not. What I learned as I grew up was that our "Elders" are not wise to most of us, only wizened. That, in the main, we no longer take care of our own; we assign them to assisted living facilities and nursing homes. I was furious with my parents for putting my grandmother in a ‘home' after my grandfather died. I wanted to have her with me and my young family, though I know now that it would have been disastrous. Her needs and those of my family would always have been at odds.

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I don't know that I'm 75 until I look in the mirror. I am, luckily, healthy and strong. But as much as I try not to let them... my thoughts stray to a time when I may not be so. I can get carried away with the ‘what ifs' and ‘uh ohs' of tomorrow. After all, things fall apart. And, if they do, then what? Well, I'd like to keel over playing a concert in Carnegie Hall; or writing a hot chapter on what ‘sexy and seventy' feels like... or eighty or ninety. However, chances are it won't happen just that way. And then... I am surprised to find myself smack up against the opposite of what I thought was ‘right' when I was young: I don't want to be taken care of by my children or grandchildren. Young lives can be ruined by the needs of an elderly and sick parent, no matter how much they are loved. My plan is to stay the constant mother, wise grandmother and caring friend, to be lovingly remembered, not as a nuisance over whom someone will breathe a sigh of relief when I slip off the planet.

When I sit down to write a blog, a chapter in my novel, or whatever I'm working on, I am never sure where it will lead. Words have a life of their own and lead me down paths I would never have had the creativity to envision. So to what conclusions has my unbound mind led me in this blog? Well for one... that I haven't learned anything new about myself since that chapter I wrote on Aging. I believe now what I believed then, only more so: That to live my life to the fullest before the big black curtain comes down and the show is over, I want:

     To accept with grace and dignity the life that is mine.

     To befriend the fear of aging and dying, making it serve me by helping me to live in this moment  and  the next and the next.

     To do everything within my means to fill myself with all the things I love.

     To be loving and giving to everyone I meet each and every day, including animals who are people  too.

     To remain creatively alive. To finish the work I have begun, and to do the next thing I want to do.

     To be with people I love and who love me.

     To be able to say at the end of each day: "Thank you for another day. I've done all I could do."

I can't know whether, to paraphrase Dylan Thomas, I will go ‘gentle into that good night' or ‘rage, rage, against the dying of the light.' I tend to think it will be the latter, as I think I will always have more I want to do, and besides, I like it here. But, until then, I intend to continue forward, my glass raised, reciting the wonderful French toast: "Pour la vie... come il vient!" To LIFE... as it comes!

 

 

 

 

Sheila Weinstein, writer and pianist, reinvented her life after the death of her husband of 50 years, which led to her book, Moving to the Center of the Bed.

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