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Just as we may be slowing down with August heat comes this lovely message from one of our ElderChicks reader/sisters, Connie Goldman. How are “the gifts of slow” affecting your life? Tell us.

Connie was an award winning radio reporter and producer for National Public Radio. She now devotes herself to programs and projects concerned with issues of aging and caregiving in America. Her most recently published books are The Gifts of Caregiving: Stories of Hardship, Hope and Healing, 2nd edition, and Wisdom from Those in Care: Conversations, Insights and InspirationFor more information, visit congoldman.org.

Again I find the need to re-prioritize as I enter my second empty nest phase. My next-to-last grandchildren are heading out into the world of college. Now, no more plays, concerts or activities. No more Sunday breakfasts or birthday get-togethers. I have started by enjoying the quiet times, something I have done for years, appreciating my health and the good years left with my husband. I am trying not to look ahead too far and worry about what may lie ahead that isn’t so wonderful.

For several months, I’ve been going to my local YMCA in the early morning to exercise in their large swimming pool. I used to go when they opened just after 5:00 AM but now that I’m in my mid-80’s, many of my usual activities have been starting at a considerably later time in the morning. Many people that still have work obligations require them to finish their routine in the gym or pool are no longer limitations for me. That means that I can arrive for my exercise routine anytime in the morning that works best for me. Without having a regular group that I meet with, I always seem to find an empty lane in the Olympic sized swimming pool. Many circumstances in my life at this time allow me the advantage of no firm plan.

I well remember the days when I needed and appreciated the energy to do things in a hurry and maybe accomplish three or four things at the same time. I’ve heard so many people in their 80’s and 90’s talk about their slowing up that leaves an emptiness and big loss in their lives. Some say “I can’t do what I used to do as quickly as I once could” and others admit to eliminating some activities from their routines altogether. Some of their comments indicate that they are referring to their slowing down as another loss at the stage of life they are in now.

One day last week when I was sitting in a park and watching the kids play and enjoying the beautiful gardens, I remembered that I used to say something about how being busy and active never gave me the time or pleasure to do such a thing.  At my current stage of life, it really doesn’t matter how long I sit in the park or walk in my neighborhood. There is always some pleasure and satisfaction of doing such things for me. It seems not having a regular and often rigid schedule is a difficult thing to unlearn.

Accepting the slow up in my life has allowed me to have a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment by focusing on doing one thing at a time. I no longer listen to my radio in the car, when I am safer keeping my whole focus on the driving. Listening to the current newscast can be a distraction from what needs to be my immediate concerns; the traffic around me, the other drivers and the current weather conditions. By turning off my radio, I arrive at my destination feeling more relaxed and safe, protecting my own life and retaining my ability to hold on to my driver’s license.

I have an increased appreciation for my patio garden now that my life has slowed up. In my younger years, I would spend my meal times, reading the newspaper in between bites of food so I was unable to fully appreciate the meal or my surroundings. I’ve found that sitting back and just watching the multitude of birds that visit my backyard can be an enjoyable experience.  Reading the newspaper can wait a bit along with thinking about what plans and commitments need to be accomplished today or in the days ahead.  I’ve truly discovered that doing and concentrating on one thing at a time can be considered as a gift, not a limitation.

Many of us have different stages of our life when we have the necessity to reprioritize what needs to done first, deciding what chores are most important or taking care of someone else’s needs. With the time left over before another commitment arises, we can attempt to complete what needs to be done for ourselves. There are so many things that are necessary to do at certain times in various periods in each of our lives. When our 70’s, 80’s and 90’s include celebrating our current birthday and our individual physical condition has specific needs and limitations, then old priorities need to be reconsidered.

It’s not based on what decisions other people make but what is useful and appropriate for me at this specific time of my life. I have to remember to keep reassessing the changes in my own energy and physical condition in the days ahead.

For the first time in our history, we are calling a moratorium on this month’s topic. Although the response has been heavy in number and high in passion, we reserve the right to never refer to human beings as “illegals” or suggest that immigrants are “crawling into our country.” If you detect a bias here, you’re absolutely right. We confess to seeing some issues less as dividing “Right” and “Left” than as matters of “Right” and “Wrong.”

We’ve tried to honor opposing views, but the outright cruelty and general ignorance of the law expressed by so many have no place here. The general disregard of human suffering and callousness toward babies and children is hard to fathom, whatever one’s political persuasion. The ignorance of our country’s history and values expressed is disheartening, to say the least.

So we are choosing now “to say the least.” Thanks to those who have written from the heart and the mind, and attempted genuine discourse without rage. To the rest:  while I appreciate your participation, I wonder how many of your immigrant ancestors would agree with your feeling of “I’ve got mine; to hell with anyone else.”