Today is the day before my colonoscopy, meaning it's a fasting day. I've had nothing to eat since last night, other than a bit of sugar-free green jelly (jello), and lots of water, tea and of course the nasty drink the hospital gave me. I've always had my procedures in the morning before, which was nice - but this time I don't go in until 4:30 pm tomorrow. So it will be all day today and most of tomorrow that I'm fasting. Surprisingly I've not been hungry, just empty really - so before the PicoPrep kicks in I thought I'd come and share some of what I gained from the first chapter in "A Life Complete" by Sallirae Henderson - a book I mentioned recently on this blog, which you're meant to read in mid-life to help prepare you so your later years are more fulfilling.
The first chapter is called Befriending Yourself, and she gives examples of people who found their later years alone less than fulfilling for various reasons. In one case a woman "had lived her life by her intellect, ignoring her emotions. Widowed fifteen years earlier, she spent sleepless nights alone in bed with a person she didn't know - herself. She had no experience or language for knowing what she needed, much less what she wanted. She was a shell of mute despair."
Another woman, Eunice, had outlived every person she knew of her generation - family, friends, even acquaintances. Her family encouraged her to make new friends but how could she convey to strangers her 88-year history? She grieved the loss of old friends and no longer had any peer with whom she could share personal memories. The book says many new friendships made in later life are kept on a fairly superficial level as there's just too much history for each person to share, and no way to convey adequately the personal impact of important events.
Eunice's story made me think about the difficulties I had relocating to Australia. I've been here ten years, and while I do have several good friends, they're not the same as the friends I had back home, who have known me for many years. We shared our youth and did crazy things together, so they know me in ways no one else ever will. I could recant stories to people today but it's not the same as having lived through those times. My best friends from home are more like family to me than friends, and I miss them dearly. Most are not computer-users so occasional phone calls and letters are how we stay in touch now. The book reminded me that "long-term, close relationships always involve some maintenance, such as making sure not too much time passes from one visit or call to the next."
Being a best friend to yourself is very important. Sallirae says that includes paying attention to "the warning that applies to every part of our body, spirit and mind, which is, if we don't use it, we lose it. When you are old, don't expect to be in top form sexually if you've been celibate for many years. If you haven't exercised your spirit much, it's not going to be strong enough to support you. If you haven't pushed yourself to think and feel more deeply about life, including your own, or to nurture your curiosity and learn new things, then those facilities will be rusted shut by the time you reach old age. Your muscles will deteriorate if you don't use them; without exercise and calcium your bones will become brittle. The disabling weakness that is the result of a non-exercised body is a common cause for admission into a nursing home. Being a couch-potato - even when we're old - carries a high price of serious deterioration that could have been prevented. If we take care of our whole selves, we can reach old age and even chronic illness with some - or much - vitality left to us."
This part really resonated with me. I'm so glad I'm taking better care of my health and as hard as it is, that I started running recently. I'm still waiting for any indication that I'll love it and that may never come - that's OK. For now it counts as both exercise and as 'curiosity and learning new things' which is equally important. There are other things I'd love to learn to do, such as using power tools (I'm a big Halloween buff and have annual parties but props are harder to come by here and very expensive if you can find them, so I'd love to make my own). And of course I want to focus on singing again, as I've mentioned before, even if just for pleasure. I would like to meditate more - I do on occasion but not as much as I'd like. I do feel it's important to keep learning and growing throughout life, and that this will help me greatly in my later years.
Lastly, this chapter reminded me that "treating ourselves as a best friend is an important factor in the quality of our current living and will be crucial in our late years. Being familiar with - and able to articulate - our wants and needs gives us some control over our lives, and is absolutely essential when we are old and may have to rely on others to do what we can no longer do for ourselves.
"In late life, knowing yourself well enough to know what you need is the only way you will be able to hold your ground in the face of hierarchical care-providing systems. There are medical personnel who are exceptions of course, but ... a majority of professionals hold the firm belief that they know what's right for you, regardless of what you think. If we can not clearly state our preferences and needs and negotiate our situation - standing our ground with emotional strength - the likelihood is that others will make the decisions that affect us. And even the care providers who are compassionate and caring by nature often find it hard to appreciate the nuances of being old and tired. They tend to be younger, and often they have been better trained at 'doing' than at 'listening.' While they may mean well, their agenda will not always be the same as ours. If we cannot speak for ourselves in the face of their power, we will lose our own."
That is perhaps something I won't need to worry about, being as my husband is 8 years younger than me. But there are no guarantees in life. I could wind up alone and in a nursing home one day, and I hope that I'll be able to live my life graciously and not be bitter and unhappy, but also be able to ensure my needs are met and my wishes considered in all aspects of my care. Naturally I'd prefer to stay healthy throughout my life and never have those nursing home years, but as I said, there are no guarantees in life.
So being my own best friend truly is important for so many reasons. Since I don't have my best friends from home here with me every day it's even more important that I take the best possible care of myself, love myself, support myself and be my own best friend. It's also wonderful that I have a loving, caring and supportive husband. Anyway, that's what I took from Chapter 1. I'll be heading into Chapter 2 tomorrow, since they advised me to bring 'reading material' so I suspect I'll need to kill time until I get to come home and can eat solid food again. I sure hope this experience pays off on the scale! :)