for release Friday June 25, 2004
by Melodie Davis
Even While Aging, Happiness Can Depend On Attitude
I rub the mottled skin of my forearm, and with despair see signs of age spots. Brown splotches (the remains of too many summers spent working—and yes laying—in the sun) run the length of it. Sound familiar?
The once-youngish pastor who married us has now had hip surgery and has macular degeneration, so that makes me feel old, too. He pulls out a magnifying glass to read to our small group and says with chagrin, “I have to get used to using this thing in front of you guys.”
The other month my doctor removed two newish moles from my back. When I asked him why I got them, he said these kinds simply come with aging. Not what I wanted to hear, but it was better than hearing they were melanomas or something.
I feel like I keep cutting back on what I eat, exercising more than I did since I was in college, but to no avail: the spread keeps spreading, and then I read I am fighting nature: female bodies in their late forties and fifties are preparing for the ravages of menopause; it is kind of like a body preparing for pregnancy, says one book. Well never mind, then, I think. Why fight nature? I will be thinner later, like my mother, now weighing 15 pounds less then me.
My own joints creak after just an hour of sitting. If I do my brisk walking three days in a row, I feel stiff in my hips, so I give myself a one day rest as a reward. Some pundits say, “Keep moving.” Am I getting arthritis?
It is enough to depress a person. Then I read this story. Maybe you read it, too. One day a 92-year-old, petite, well-poised and proud lady, who was always fully dressed each morning by eight o'clock, was waiting in the lobby of a nursing home. She had her hair fashionably coifed and makeup perfectly applied, even though she is legally blind. Her husband of 70 years had passed away, making her move to the nursing home necessary.
After many hours of waiting patiently, she smiled when told her room was ready. As she maneuvered her walker to the elevator, the person with her provided a visual description of her tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on her window. “I love it,” she stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy.
“Mrs. Jones, you haven't seen the room ... just wait.”
“That doesn't have anything to do with it,” she replied. “Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn't depend on how the furniture is arranged ... it's how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it. It's a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do. Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open I'll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I've stored away ... just for this time in my life. Old age is like a bank account: you withdraw from what you've put in. So, my advice to you would be to deposit a lot of happiness in the bank account of memories. Thank you for your part in filling my memory bank. I am still depositing.”
The author is unknown and this may be just one of those urban e-mail legends that float around but I have known people like this. In fact, my own grandfather, who died in our home when he was almost 92, modeled a positive outlook and attitude, working on our farm at whatever chore he was able to do right up until his last sickness. He preferred to be busy. It is probably what kept him going so long. My grandma on my mother’s side lived to about that age, too, all alone at her home, and doing sewing alternations for people well into her 90s.
Grandpa and Grandma helped to fill my memory bank. Kathryn, a woman at church who always literally had a smile on her face, helped to fill my memory bank. Allen was a work colleague who always answered any inquiry about how his day was going or how he was with, “Terrific!” That attitude made a lasting impression.
Aging spots—terrific! I’m still alive. Can’t read much without my glasses. Hey, I’m normal. I’ll probably never be as chipper as “Mrs. Jones” but as long as I have a fighting breath, I hope in old age to at least try to draw from the positive deposits so many people have made for me.
Write to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.
NOTES TO EDITORS: text =840 words; end material = 105 words
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