Tag: health

The Candle or The Mirror

🎯I think many of us have difficulty “living on life’s terms.” How often do we complain about the perceived misery that appears quietly in our path? Someone we care about is sick, our car needs repairs to make it safe to drive, or our home requires maintenance. Sometimes, our health is in jeopardy, and many doctors and nurses are needed to correct the problem. 

Often, it’s hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. I’m guilty of lumping all my problems into one basket, making them all equally serious when some are not as pressing as others. So, I have changed my outlook and turned my troubles into challenges. By making that simple change, I have changed an unfavorable view into a positive one. Admittedly, having a cheerful outlook on severe health or financial problems is challenging. Still, the options are whether to approach them with eagerness and determination or worry.

I must admit that two of my neighbors fighting cancer brought on my change. We all know that cancer is a severe and life-threatening battle. From my observations, these two people are living life on life’s terms and accept their daily struggles with courage and determination. I had carotid artery surgery a few weeks ago, and I used these two ladies as inspiration. By doing so, I’ve been able to remove any lingering worry about what could go wrong after surgery. My doc says there is a 2% chance of complications, and those odds are good, but what sustains me is my Christian faith and the inspiration of my two neighbors. Edith Wharton said, “There are two ways of spreading light: be the candle, or the mirror that reflects it.” My two neighbors are the candle, and I’m gonna be the mirror 😊.

🎯 A resident of our retirement village started a “Writers Club” a few weeks ago, and I joined it. About ten of us are eager to share our writing talent and learn something that will make us better at scribbling our thoughts on a blank piece of paper. My friend, Jane, wrote a story titled “I Am Still Me,” for the class I attended, and I was so moved by the thought and emotion she put into that beautiful article. I enjoyed it so much that I posted it on my website for everyone to enjoy (www.tommyhale.net). Of course, I asked her permission before doing so, and she politely gave it.

Many of us write letters to friends and loved ones, keeping open a line of communication that lends value to our relationships. All of us write, some a lot more than others, but we all express our thoughts on paper. Often, it’s a card that shows our joy at a special event (birthday, anniversary, etc.).

I have a cousin back home (Grundy, VA) who sends my wife and me a monthly letter. Mike always warns us his writing is not perfect and that he hopes we can read it. My good friend does not realize that we warmly welcome his thoughts into our lives. He provides us with updates on what’s happening within our family and other tidbits of interesting information. He keeps me connected to an extended family that’s far away. I hope that what I’m doing with my writing is keeping in touch with family and friends far removed from my environment but with whom I still want to be involved in my life. The most unfortunate thing about writing is that you seldom get feedback. There is a smattering of responses, but mostly, few do. I think that’s something writers get used to, believing that those we write to are enjoying our thoughts and opinions; they just don’t have the time to respond. I’m guessing it’s a little like when I buy something from Amazon, and they continually want me to rate their service 😊. I often ask my readers if they want to be removed from my mailing list, and few have requested that be done, so I’m encouraged by that. Oh, I forgot to mention that in the Writers Club’s last gathering, we were tasked to write three short stories of about 850 words for our meeting this month. I’m gonna try to squeeze in two 😊. Maybe, I should follow Joan Didion’s advice, “Do not whine… Do not complain. Work harder. Spend more time alone.” Geez, I thought I had spent enough time alone!

🎯 My wife and I went to the Seafood Festival of the small town we used to live in (Poquoson, VA). Because of Covid, they have not held it for a couple of years, so we were eager to attend. It started on a Friday and ended on Sunday. People came from many miles away to attend, and everyone had fun. There were food tents everywhere, and art & craft tents abounded. There was entertainment, usually a big-name band on Saturday night, and a place for the kids to cavort. We always purchase something while there, and this visit was no exception. We had planned to eat lunch, but they didn’t have the fried oysters we enjoy, so we wandered over to the soft-serve ice cream tent and plopped down $15 for two plastic cups of their delicious offerings. The young woman working behind the counter said to my wife, “What do you want, sweetheart?” and she promptly told her. She then turned to me, and I calmly asked her, “how did you know that’s what I call my wife?”. She replied anyone could tell that she was a “Sweetheart.” I agreed that was indeed a correct statement.

 I think many men have pet names for their wives & girlfriends, but I haven’t noticed that so much with women. Maybe men don’t take too kindly to being called pet names. Perhaps it, somehow, takes away from their masculinity? My wife said the soft-serve lady called me “Honey,” but I was unaware of it. Three hours later, having walked over two miles, per our Fitbit, we headed for our car and home, exhausted from weaving around several thousand people, all determined to have a good time. On our way home, we quickly calculated how much we had spent while there, and it was close to $100. Regardless of how tired we were or the money spent, we had a good time, and that was the purpose of the trip.

I think it’s essential that we have something to look forward to, if not every day, then at least every week. Sometimes, that’s hard to do, but we must not forget to make it happen. The past month has been a whirlwind for us, with each of us having surgery. But that’s behind us now, we have a one day trip planned for next week and a trip up north (PA, CT, NY) to visit family and friends at the end of the month. We know the time will come when we’ll be too old to travel, but it hasn’t arrived yet thank goodness. Richard Restak (neurologist) said, “We are what we can remember.” Richard should know that we are really trying to make memories, and so far, we can remember most of them 😊.      

What’s Behind The Curtain?

🎡My wife and I have made a lot of new friends recently. Last year, we moved to a retirement center with about 450 of us old people strolling around a vast compound. We have been here for ten months, which has given us plenty of time to create friendships. It took me a long time to figure it out, but I realized one day that what I know about someone is only what they want me to know, and the same is true for them. They only know about me the information I give them. They have absolutely no idea of what goes on “behind the curtain.” I have friends who are caretakers of their spouses who require their attention 24 hours every day (I read recently that one in five people are caregivers). I know people that are fighting cancer, have eyesight problems, and like me, deal with the difficulties of getting old. Sadly, the health of caregivers fails to get the attention it needs.

After dinner the other night, I sat down beside a woman in the lounge that is 101 years old. She looks terrific to be that age, but she complained she was bored most of the time. Her day comprises watching TV, eating, and sleeping. I know she is always waiting outside the large room set aside for nightly entertainment (which happens several times weekly). A few weeks ago they had a seventeen-year-old boy singing songs by Frank Sinatra and other well-known singers from many years ago. He made a splash with the women, stopping to sing to them personally. When he stopped to sing to my wife, she had the biggest ole smile on her face. I love watching her smile, it always warms my heart ❤️. There is also a room used for movies and most of them are at least 20+ years old. One night “The Birds” by Alfred Hitchcock was on. I watched that movie while in high school in the late 1950s 😊, but for many of us, we don’t remember, so it doesn’t really matter.

Anyway, back to only knowing what people want you to know about them. Very few people know I grieve almost daily about losing my only son three years ago, or that I worry about losing my only remaining child because of her health problems. Many of us have secrets we hold close to the vest, seldom letting them see the light of day. A friend told me recently that she was ready to pass over to the other side. I was shocked, not understanding that her life at this stage was so unfulfilling. I think the disbelief was because she seemed happy, appeared in good health, had an interesting personality, and a caring attitude. The fear is if it could happen to her, could it happen to me?

I know that I have to look for happiness in the smallest places. A cup of Starbucks coffee raises my spirits, taking a trip back to my hometown (Grundy, VA) always makes me feel happy for weeks. Flying my drone in the common area behind our cottage makes me smile. Taking my truck to the carwash, then vacuuming the inside, brightens my day (I enjoy seeing my truck looking good). Attending the little resident get-togethers we have in the gazebo outback always brightens my day. Having dinner with our friends Jerry & Ruth helps make the day better. For some unknown reason, he always makes me smile. I think everybody needs a friend like him. Throw in our friends Nancy & Richard, and you have a recipe for a beautiful conversation.

There are so many places to look for happiness. We all, as kids, had Easter Egg hunts and as adults, we need to have Happiness” hunts. It’s not a challenging game to play, and the rules are simple; find something to do, someone to talk to, someplace to go. Life cannot get any simpler than that 😊.

Havelock Ellis famously said, “The promised land always lies on the other side of a wilderness.” Sad, but true.

⚾ I was recently encouraged to add chess as another hobby to enjoy as a pastime endeavor. Never mind that I haven’t played that challenging game in 50 years. As I recall, the year was 1972 and my young family of four were headed to Alabama on vacation to watch the NASCAR race at the new Talladega Superspeedway, and then on to a small town outside Dallas, TX, where my 12-year-old son was born. During that trip, I taught him the game of chess, and within six months, he was soundly thrashing his dad. He eventually became a chess whiz on his high school chess team, winning many tournaments. I have not played chess since then. Currently, my record is one win and three losses. I’m hoping to get better. The good thing about the game is that it makes me think hard. I haven’t had to do that in a long time, so I’m guessing it’s good for me.

I think the following quote applies to my situation: “Hope is the only good that is common to all men; those who have nothing else possess hope still.” ~ Thales. That probably describes me pretty well 😊!

⚾Joan Didion said, “You have to pick the places you don’t walk away from.”  I gave that some thought, trying to determine what she was talking about, and concluded that it’s about picking fights carefully. I’m certainly guilty of failing to do that very thing. Or, she may mean not walking away from important things to pursue. Our church constantly needs financial support, and they ask for money often. Sometimes, I get annoyed that they aren’t monitoring their spending carefully. Still, it is a worthwhile cause, and we put aside our grumblings and help. It is difficult to ignore our preconceived notions about how an organization should be managed, or how our family and friends should make the same decisions we would make. I have concluded that you most likely aren’t doing much of anything if you don’t make mistakes. That may be overly simplistic, but there is a kernel of truth there. If I dared to look back over the mistakes I’ve made in my lifetime, depression would set in, and I would stay there for days. Joan is right. Pick your battles carefully and only engage when the stakes are high.

🎡 Winter is almost over, spring is just around the corner, and I’m relieved that in a few short weeks, flowers will bloom, the grass will turn green, and the temps will start warming up. My spirits always rise just a bit when that happens. I no longer take the seasons for granted because I’m more aware there aren’t an endless number of seasons left for me. That critical fact makes them more meaningful and enjoyable. Aside from that, the upcoming spring/summer allows us to resume our travels. Covid cases in our town dropped from 1,000 weekly to 30 this past week. Our retirement community no longer requires us to wear a mask in most places, making life much easier. It is so much more enjoyable to hold a conversation when you can see the entirety of a person’s face.

Are we getting to where we can treat Covid as an endemic instead of a pandemic? From all I have read and been told, that is a possibility. What a joy it will be to get back to a semblance of normal, but we have to be careful. We thought the same thing last summer and then everything changed for the worse, and we went back to face mask mandates and a booster shot. Heaven forbid that happens again! My wife and I have been fortunate during this fearful and depressing time. So far, neither of us has been exposed to that dreadful and deadly virus. We feel blessed, and we love the life we live, even as the restrictions of the past two years required us to shelter in place. We will wear a mask when we have to enter an airport, people from all over the world come and go, or when we are in an area with high transmission rates. I think that is mostly places where the vaccination rate is low. We also will also wear one when we are around friends and family that are immunocompromised. Somehow, we will get through this terrible time, but I do regret that at our age we have to give up so much of the measured time we have left to stroll around on this beautiful planet.

That brings to mind a Tom Waits quote, “All that you’ve loved is all you own.” This pandemic has reinforced Tom’s sage advice.         ….Tommy

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