July 21, 2021
Do you recall the “Mother Goose” nursery rhyme titled “Monday’s child?” Here it is:
Monday’s child is fair of face,
Tuesday’s child is full of grace.
Wednesday’s child is full of woe,
Thursday’s child has far to go.
Friday’s child is loving and giving,
Saturday’s child works hard for a living.
And the child born on the Sabbath day
Is bonny and blithe, good and gay.
I have to wonder if that nursery rhyme is a case of life imitating art. I was born on a Wednesday, 67 years ago today. For the first part of my life, I was indeed “full of woe”. There were reasons for that, added to which was the fact that I seemed to be naturally inclined that way. While I didn’t know it at the time, I thought “half empty” was the only way the glass could be. But I eventually got over it, for the most part. Not that I no longer feel down, and sometimes even with little provocation. And not that troubles no longer come my way. I still feel down from time to time and hard stuff still manages to find me, occasionally, but I learned to deliberately think lighter, kinder, more positive thoughts, and to focus on my own reactions to the troubles rather than the troubles themselves—and the combination of those two actions have, for the most part put paid to being “full of woe”.
I checked a calendar for the year in which my husband was born, and I’m not surprised to discover he was born on a Saturday. One of the many fine traits that he has possessed for all the years that I have known him, has been his solid work ethic. Having become a retiree hasn’t actually changed that propensity within him, and sadly, that has made life a challenge for him now. Because he has COPD, he doesn’t have much stamina. It hurts to see his frustration, because he wants to be busy, physically. He wants to start a task and get it done. Let’s go! Time’s a wasting! There’s work he wants to do around the place, if only he could do the work around the place. But he can’t, because along with stamina being lacking, so is his physical strength. Any task he takes on takes him a lot longer than he ever imagined it would, and there are times when that reality really upsets him. I’m trying to get him to see that while he can’t cure COPD or getting older, he can cure his frustration. But all I can do is show him how that works for me. He has to choose whether or not he’ll tackle those feelings. He has to choose to be positive.
Of all the changes wrought by aging, by far the most difficult to deal with is the change in what we are physically capable of doing, day to day. Though I don’t have breathing problems, I, too, can only do a fraction of what I used to be able to accomplish in a day. Not that many years ago I would spend two to three hours and manage to clean my entire house. Now, I can manage a couple of tasks in that time—if I’m lucky. It means one has to adjust one’s expectations, and for some people that can be a hard step to take. Neither of the two of us have tended to be lazy in our lives, with the codicil that of course there were always the odd days that simply cried out for that degree of relaxation.
It's hard knowing we’re as good right now as we’re ever going to be again. But that is life, and maybe it’s time to realize that having worked hard all our lives, we have earned the right to slow down, even if that isn’t what we want to do.
I’ve often noted in these essays that getting older is not for the faint of heart. It really isn’t. But even with the adjustments and the added aches and pains, I still choose to believe it’s better than the alternative.