Saturday, October 31, 2015

Tilting at the Fearsome Dragon

                        Tilting at the Fearsome Dragon
            How do I talk about something about which I don’t even want to think? Give me a good strong dose of denial. Cover my eyes with a blindfold. Bury my head in the sand.

            This summer I’ve had a good dose of talking with friends about what to do next, about down-sizing a life, about disease and death. Two of my friends lost their husbands. Two more are suffering the downward spiral of Alzheimer’s. One friend is struggling to maintain by herself a life she loves which feeds her passion for massive gardening. One couple made a leap from a home in the wilds to an apartment in a city. Another couple bought a travel trailer to see if they might enjoy the touring life. Another couple are waiting for their house to sell, then retirement and world travel.

            We all have unanswerable questions. I have already downsized. For me the wake-up call rang when I underwent surgery for a hip replacement and spent the following several months working hard in recovery and completely alone. I’m used to being alone. I treasure my solitude.

Daily, friends, people who cared about me, knocked on my door to see if I needed anything to just to say hello.  I doubt it would have made a tidbit of difference whether I lived in Mazatlan or in Havre or in Omak, Washington. Despite my general contentment, my perception of “alone” changed or expanded or shoved me against a wall.  

Like I said, I’d rather do anything to avoid digging into the depths of my fears.

When I flew into Montana this summer, perhaps the only thing I knew for certain was that I needed a strong prescription of friends and family. My people are more important than anything. I crammed friends, cousins, daughters, and grand-children into a much too short time period. I would take another month or two to see everyone I wanted (needed?) to see. Poor planning on my part.

It’s not physical distance that makes me feel this way. We all know that if we lived next door to one another, we might not see each other any more than we do when I make the trips back and forth.

Fear motivates me to strange actions. I crossed Montana picking up applications for senior housing.  “Covering my bases,” I tell my friends. “Just covering my bases.” Jason, my Washington daughter’s significant partner, tells me I should check out senior housing in Puerto Rico. Why not? It’s a viable thought.

Worst possible scenario: living under the bridge in a refrigerator box with stolen grocery cart for a storage unit. My children think I’m nuts when I talk this way. Best possible scenario: I win a gazillion dollar lottery and sail a yacht into the sunset with crew of, uh, never mind. Oops—I didn’t buy a lottery ticket! I never win so why buy tickets. If I bought enough tickets I might sooner end up living under the bridge in a refrigerator box with grocery cart.

Realistically, I’m nowhere near ready to move into a one-room living situation. My children tell me, “You are too vital!” That makes me feel good. Yet, age and physical disabilities has forced me to examine life through another lens, cloudy and smudged though it be. Add poverty, given the world financial situation, to this picture. So what is my fear? Is it fear of the unknown?

When I was young and strong and invincible, fears never intruded. I’d tackle any dragon without a thought. Unfortunately. When the dragon won the fight, I laughed and dusted myself and headed down the road looking for the next dragon.

The very thought of past dragons today makes me slightly sick to my stomach. If I stay out of my head, I’m okay. Almost daily I tackle unknown situations, though admittedly not dangerous ones, with nary a twinge. I prefer my dragons tamed and named.

What I know for certain is that life is full of surprises. I have no idea what today might bring, let alone tomorrow. The elusive future forecast (my crystal ball is cracked and chipped) is for paths lined with pussy cats and the occasional dragon. Looks like my fear of the day can be summed up in terms of alone, helpless and broke. I’m naming my dragon Melvin. I can live with that.

Sondra Ashton
HDN: Looking out my back door

September 10, 2015

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