Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘aging

Weird Night

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Last night my feelings went through a bit of an unplanned roller coaster ride as a result of two different hours of television. Cyndie and I have settled into a routine of late where we turn on PBS Newshour during our evening meal. I think it’s a bit of a nod toward acting our age. The last month has been thick with political news but, thankfully, coverage has swung away from the outrageous insurrection and toward the refreshing articulateness of the new administration.

I sat down to a remarkable plate of boneless barbequed ribs and sides that rivaled fancy restaurants while listening to analysts and an incoming cabinet member speak clearly and intelligently about the issues of the day. It was delicious in every way.

Watching politicians who are able to speak without hyped manipulations of reality, instead, talking comfortably, concisely, and without animosity, is so refreshing it made me downright giddy.

Maybe I was just delirious over the incredible meal Cyndie had prepared.

It was bliss.

Unfortunately, about the time I should have been turning in for the night, Frontline was on with an episode about “Trump’s American Carnage.” I knew it would be horrific, but presented with Frontline’s high quality of documentary production, I couldn’t resist.

It was so incredibly opposite of the glee I enjoyed earlier, I almost forgot how good the new administration feels.

On the bright side, I didn’t forget about the great food I enjoyed.

When I stop to think about the last four years of enduring the 45th President, I am amazed I survived with my wits only partially dimmed. But I understand why I find myself feeling so emphatically thrilled over the contrasting ambiance of the entire administration that has succeeded him.

It’s a lot like that sensation you have when you finally stop banging your head against a wall.

The roller-coaster swing last night from high to low made for an unexpectedly weird Tuesday night.

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Written by johnwhays

January 27, 2021 at 7:00 am

Fading Clarity

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At the very same speed every day, twenty-four hours transpire. It’s our perceptions that produce the variable which makes time appear to pass slower or faster. I’ve described many times that I perceive my years of living in 20-year blocks. I’ve lived to twenty 3 times. For some reason, it is easier for me to process that perception than grasping that I have been alive for over sixty years. (61-and-seven-months at the time of this writing.)

It just doesn’t feel like sixty, except, never having been this old before, I wouldn’t really know how sixty is supposed to feel. The most tangible aspect of aging that I have experienced is my loss of perfect vision. Getting used to wearing glasses has been an arduous and frustrating adjustment for me.

Given lenses that offer a static level of correction for my continuously waning clarity, I add imperfect handling that constantly fails to keep them free of clouding smudges.

There is a benefit to my new norm of experiencing a fuzzy view. I don’t need to spend money on the latest and greatest high-resolution ultra-crisp display screens because they all look a little blurry to me anyway.

If I didn’t have a camera with auto-focus capability, I’d be sunk. Unfortunately, I now have a difficult time discerning whether the resulting images are worthy or not. Auto-focus is a far cry from flawless and I am now a weak judge of the resulting level of success.

Yesterday, we were out walking with Delilah at the moments of both the sunrise and the sunset. The morning was really cold and the wind-blown snow was mostly firm enough that our boots didn’t break through the crust. Delilah, being much lighter and trotting on four feet, had no problem staying on top.

In fact, we could see in her tracks that she was walking on her tippy toes to keep her pads from the stinging bite of the extreme cold.

I suspect that image could have benefitted from better focus.

I have a little more success with the long focus of vast landscapes. Sunset was a pleasure to experience and just enough warmer by that time of day that our urgency to get back inside was reduced.

Still, I perceive that image as falling short of my preference for a much snappier crispness.

There is an interesting dynamic in our house with regard to my slow decline from the glorious pinnacle of 20-20 vision and full reading-distance clarity, because, while this change is new to me, Cyndie has lived with blurry vision and corrective lenses her entire life.

It’s hard for me to ask for sympathy from her, although yesterday she admitted that she sees the difficulty I face since it’s a new adjustment for me that she has dealt with forever.

In the grand scheme of challenges we face in life, my learning to cope with fading clarity is a rather small one and almost universal for humankind. As the saying goes with all things aging-related: It beats the alternative.

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Written by johnwhays

January 23, 2021 at 10:32 am

RS Interview 4

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Picking up where yesterday’s post left off, the Relative Something interview with *The* John W. Hays continues on the topic of love and more…

RS: Love seems like a worthy topic!

JWH: Love is my religion. It is one common theme woven through all world religious beliefs. Love is universal. When situations require a decision, using love as a compass to guide that decision will make the world a better place. No dogma required. Love doesn’t necessarily provide certainty, it accepts mystery. Love is all we need.

RS: Is this a change for you, the focus on love?

JWH: Well, I suppose there has been a transition over the years. I think the primary significance for me was learning to love myself enough to overcome negative self-talk. A secondary shift came about as I grew weary of the abuses and hypocrisies that were being exposed in organized religions. The way political parties wield religious beliefs like weapons. The fact that religious faiths would go to war against other human beings who worship differently.
Humans defining a deity seems like the ultimate hubris to me. And a horrible construct the powerful use to control others and gain wealth. Especially horrible because it is usually masqueraded under a veil of love. Love deserves better. The best response I see to that is to keep the love and leave the rest behind.
I’ve learned to love myself in a more healthy way and use love beyond the confines of organized religion to navigate my interactions with others in the world.

RS: What is something people wouldn’t know about you from reading what you write?

JWH: Not much. I’m embarrassingly transparent. Basically, they won’t know what I don’t write. For some reason, I haven’t been writing about the fact that it’s been so long since I last played guitar that I can’t remember when the last time was. And I probably haven’t written about it because I don’t really know why I stopped. I wonder if it has anything to do with the way I am aging, mentally, and physically, but the influences are too intangible to explain it with one simple pat reason.
Thinking about it, which is what happens when I try to write on the subject –and not writing about it has meant I could avoid thinking about it– I suspect it is related to the amount of time I have been commuting to the day-job four days a week. Exhaustion saps my creative energy. It also leaves less oomph to want to pedal my bikes up hills and into winds. I did not ride a bike at all this summer. When the pandemic canceled the annual June week of biking and camping, I lost that incentive to do conditioning rides. My attention defaulted to property maintenance on our acres. There is always more that can be done than there are hours and days.
The good news is that I have been incredibly happy to do that. I question myself about the health risks of not making music or riding my bikes, but maybe my version of aging is one of working on our property and then nestling inside our gorgeous home to type out my thoughts on a computer.
I have an inkling that a day in the not-so-distant future when that thing called retirement happens, my recreational pursuits could return with a vengeance. I think that would be absolutely lovely.

RS: Amen to that.

Thank you, JWH for agreeing to be the first interviewee in what Relative Something hopes will become an ongoing occasional feature in the years ahead. *This* John W. Hays’ take on things and experiences involves and is influenced by innumerable others. This will provide an opportunity to expand the narrative. Because, why not?

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Written by johnwhays

October 18, 2020 at 8:46 am

Change’s Sake

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My immense aversion to changes in software that was working just fine for me leads me to think that perhaps I am getting old.

Is it a problem for you, dear readers, that I don’t have little icons on this blog for sundry social media sites of the latest trend? Has my neglect to format the appearance to best suit the portrait orientation of mobile devices left you frustrated?

Ever find yourself wondering why my blog doesn’t include links to sites for purchasing products I promote, or a button allowing you to donate money to sustain my lifestyle?

These are all features that I have chosen to ignore, despite frequent WordPress marketing messages encouraging me to incorporate.

In March of 2009, I searched for a platform to publish my “take on things and experiences” and found a template ‘theme’ that matched my tastes. I’ve seen no reason to change since.

The word-cloud I selected for the side margin of my posts slowly changes over time, not always to my ideal, but it’s simply a reflection of what I write about the most, so I let it go.

Truth in advertising.

After some trial and error tinkering, sometimes requiring mystery clicks on vague icons with unclear popup titles, I have reached a mostly functional equilibrium that reasonably matches my previous editing experience.

I do miss the running word-count information that previously displayed at the bottom of my view as I typed.

With time, I will learn whether or not that’s a feature I can add back, as I explore the myriad other repackaged ways WordPress has changed my blogging experience to make it so much better.

Okay, never mind. I just clicked the “help” icon at the bottom of my view and learned I can click an information icon at the top of the screen to find that information.

That was at 308 words, if you care.

Which is more than enough to call for an end to my whining about change for change’s sake.

How about a bit of boasting about the other burden I so often face as the spouse of one who loves to bake?

I keep getting asked to sample and review the latest delicious morsels being baked under a constantly changing mix of ingredients and techniques.

 

My judgements might be influenced unfairly by the fact I usually enjoy the advantage of performing these tests on goods fresh and warm from the oven, but the taste analyses are probably universal.

Cyndie is gaining proficiency with each refinement she makes.

We make a pretty good team.

I credit our ability to change with the times, albeit sometimes kicking and whining all the way.

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Written by johnwhays

October 3, 2020 at 8:28 am

Mysterious Pain

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Every morning for half a year now, I have taken my temperature to monitor for changes that might indicate an onset of illness. So far, so good. However, that span of time hasn’t passed without a variety of other curious symptoms popping up every now and again. Every odd headache, bout of exhaustive fatigue, unsettled digestion, or passing light-headedness trips the mind to wonder, …coronavirus?

Yesterday, I began to notice hints of something amiss. Curious twinges of unidentifed nerves deep within that kept threatening to fire off a shout of discomfort, but never quite did. Why would I suddenly be having pangs that defied logic and emanated from such a nondescript part of my body? Probably from the strange virus that is ravaging the entire planet. Seems like a reasonable conclusion to me.

I have already endured two of the most intense pains in my life from the center of my torso: a kidney stone and bulging/rupturing discs in my lower back, both of which originated in parts of my body from where I had never previously noticed any sensations. I’m now well-familiar with that first little warning sign that something is beginning to invade the space of my spinal nerve roots. I also know what it is like to get a stabbing pain from well within the body where my ureter travels toward my bladder.

Yesterday’s looming threat of pain caused me at first to fear my degenerating discs, despite having happily executed all of my daily morning strength and stretching exercises hours earlier. I adjusted my posture and did some walking and stretching in response. My movement wasn’t hampered at all, but later, while seated again, the mysterious attention-getting pangs returned, always stopping short of really manifesting as pain.

Maybe it’s a small kidney stone, despite my lifestyle of high-hydration and almost exclusively choosing to drink water in place of all other options. I can’t rule that out. It wasn’t a constant ache, though. It came in spurts that would grab my attention as a warning that something worse could follow at any second. But nothing worse ever played out.

Just in case, I’ve been trying to stay extra-hydrated without straying too far into water toxemia. Pedialyte, anyone?

Trying to age healthily is not for wimps. I’m trying to listen to my body, but I am having some difficulty understanding what it is trying to tell me at this point.

If nothing more comes of this, I’ll consider the message one of prompting me to pay closer attention to my whole body, inside and out. Message received!

If something more does develop, I guarantee you will read about it here. When have I ever failed to keep you all informed of my each and every ouchie boo-boo?

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Written by johnwhays

August 14, 2020 at 6:00 am

Doin’ Lowertown

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Last weekend was all about the Lowertown district on the edge of downtown St. Paul for us. We attended a concert at the Palace Theatre for a Valentine’s date on Friday night and met our friends, Barb and Mike on Saturday for dinner at the Handsome Hog restaurant that overlooks Mears Park. The drive from home feels quicker than the 35-40 minutes it takes when we exit directly onto 6th street and instantly find ourselves at our destinations, with no other turns required.

The highlight was by far the food and company on Saturday night. The contemporary Southern pig-centric menu is incredibly well-executed, based on the variety of delicious selections we all shared family-style. The location worked as an exact half-way point between our two homes, with the Wilkuses coming from the west and us from the east/southeast. They are the bestest of friends!

The concert on Friday was a meld of Calexico (Joey Burns and John Convertino) and the endearing Sam Beam who performs under the moniker Iron & Wine. They are a good match and clearly enjoy each other and performing together for an audience. I am a fan of Sam Beam’s songwriting and performance and generally can appreciate the Americana Tex-Mex indie rock of Calexico.

Unfortunately, I’ve reached an age where I too easily let the peripheral aspects of going out to see live performances tarnish the ultimate impression of events. The music was good, and the performers wonderfully engaging, so I was happily entertained in that regard.

We were impressed that the opening entertainer, 22-year-old Madison Cunningham, started exactly at the time the show was billed to begin, regardless the many unfilled seats. The first thing I noticed when I sat down in the balcony was that the rows were so tight I would be breathing into the hair of the person sitting in front of me. Luckily, there was no one there for the opening set.

Cyndie and I were unfamiliar with Madison and were pleasantly surprised. It would be fair to compare her singing and guitar skills to Joni Mitchell. No wonder we both liked her.

When the headliners took the stage, the seats in front of us filled and the fog machine pumped a mist to better show off the lights. I’m not sure where the director of the light show was sitting, but it’s a good guess it wasn’t in the balcony. They kept turning the fog machine on so often it was getting difficult to see the performers through the constantly thickening haze.

To make matters worse, they too frequently turned bright lights on behind the musicians, shining the beam up into our line of sight.

While I was fighting to see through all that, my eyes started to water from the essential oil or exotic shampoo aroma the woman in front of me (right beneath my nose) was radiating into the atmosphere. Maybe she had just pulled her coat out of moth-ball storage. It was hard to tell. It evoked a blend of rancid spices rubbed into an old dirty rug.

Much as I appreciate Lowertown, and as fun as it was to hear Iron & Wine music live again, I’m afraid the return to comforts of home with tunes playing through my speakers seems just as good, or even better.

Definitely a sign of aging.

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Big Think

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I’m not sure about the trick of living in the moment while trying to make big decisions that have the potential of dramatically changing the rest of my life, but that is the reality that simmers beneath my every minute lately. As Cyndie slips ever deeper into focusing her time on caring for her parents, decisions being contemplated have the potential of defining whether we will stay on this property or go.

There is a challenging balance in a committed relationship of cultivating what we want together as a couple while also honoring each of our individual desires. That would be made a little easier if we both definitively knew what it was we wanted the rest of our functional years to look like.

I had no idea that our empty-nest years would lead to the gorgeous property we found that became our Wintervale. The seed for this dream originated from a supernatural meld of both Cyndie’s and my interests and experiences, but I would not have arrived at this point without her energy driving most of the outcomes.

That same inclination has me leaning toward following her lead again as her focus has changed, despite my heart increasingly being gripped by the sanctuary of the forests and fields, and beautiful log home where we’ve been living for the last seven years. If I could figure out a way to afford it, I’d stay here even if she moved in with her parents –sighting the year we lived apart when she moved to Boston as a case study precedent– but that might be at odds with achieving our best long-term joint effort.

Neither of us knows how well our health will hold out, how climate catastrophes will impact the coming years, whether our meager retirement accounts will protect us from the next recession, or what future life events will demand our attention, but those unknowns are all lumped into our thinking as we consider the big “what next.”

I want to also include the simple joys of standing still in the woods and listening to the natural sounds that surround me. Breathing in the forest aromas and feeling the reality of temperature and precipitation against my skin. Walking over the rise in our open fields to feel the wind when it blows, or the stillness when it doesn’t.

At the same time, I’ve lived in town and know the conveniences associated. I would welcome the opportunity to reduce our carbon footprint and return to riding my bike more than driving my car.

I tell ya, living in the moment of planning the future is one heck of a big think.

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Written by johnwhays

January 12, 2020 at 8:57 am

Learning More

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Last night we attended a community education class in River Falls on the topic of planning when to initiate receiving Social Security payments. As you might imagine, it was rich with fascinating detail and enticing facts. Yawn.

One of the highlights of the night was the series of images used for the presentation, collected from years of marketing literature received by the instructor for his financial planning business. He pointed out the universal themes on marketing materials from a wide array of retirement industry service providers shows happy, swooning gray-haired couples on beaches wearing light-colored linen clothes.

He seemed to have amassed an endless supply of these images and has devised a keen way of getting additional use out of the photos.

One aspect of importance he conveyed was the total amount of money ultimately available if certain choices are made. Make a different choice, you end up getting less money in the end.

So what? That parameter of maximizing the total dollars collected over time does not hold much allure for me.

If by the end of 25-years, when I’m in my mid-to-late 80s, whether my total amount received ends up plus or minus $20K seems an illogical parameter on which to prioritize. More important to me is whether I will have enough income month to month to cover my expenses.

Especially when the length of time I will be collecting is not a given. Why set a goal to collect the most money possible by the time I reach 85-years when the timing of my demise is not guaranteeable?

I tend to spend within my means, so if I have less money, I spend less.

All this planning would sure be a lot easier if I knew what my medical expenses will be as I age. Something tells me the discs in my lower back won’t become less of an issue in my eighties.

When we walked out to the parking lot of the high school in the dark after the session, there weren’t many cars remaining. A woman in front of us climbed into the only car parked in the front row. That created a problem for us, because we had parked in the front row. Where was Cyndie’s car? It made no sense.

I walked closer to read the license plate on the car despite the headlights shining in my eyes and recognized them as Cyndie’s. About the same time, the woman was discovering the car she was in didn’t look anything like hers.

Somehow, though Cyndie claims she didn’t do anything, as we approached, our lights came on and the woman in front of us assumed it was her car responding to her fob, so she climbed into Cyndie’s Honda. The woman’s Subaru was out of view in the adjacent spot beyond ours, in the second row.

We all had a good laugh over the confusion.

This kind of thing happens when aging minds are preoccupied with planning for our eventual financial scenarios.

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Written by johnwhays

October 2, 2019 at 6:00 am

Mental Mixups

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I’m not sure how a person can know when they are actually at the top of their game, but I have a pretty good idea when I’m not achieving peak performance out of my mind. The shortcomings have come in series for me lately in a repeating pattern that is becoming difficult to miss.

Although, missing things is one of the shortcomings I am noticing. The thing with that is, it makes me suddenly wonder if there are other things I missed when individual errors pop up. It gets my mind all mixed up.

Is any of this related to the song stuck in my head since Sunday morning? While making breakfast that morning, I heard Kris Kristofferson’s version of “Me and Bobby McGee.” Later in the afternoon, while I was mowing the lawn, it was Janis Joplin’s voice “ear-worming” over and over in my mind.

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Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose…

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I found it interesting that my mind jumped to Janis’ version, but not that surprising. It’s the one I’ve heard the most. What seems odd to me is how long it has hung around.

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I’d trade all my tomorrows for one single yesterday…

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Then my poor brain got stretched into next year. Did you know 2020 is a leap year and Christmas will be on a Friday?

(Just to emphasize my point, while writing that, I asked Cyndie if she knew 2020 is a leap year. She said, “You already asked me that an hour ago.”)

One of my challenges with the day-job is the need to function far from the immediate moments and plan the future. Yesterday I was forced to print out a calendar for 2020 to assign dates into January. No wonder my mind gets mixed up.

It’s a wonder I ever know what day it is.

On the way home from work yesterday, I forgot to get gas in the car.

I sure hope I haven’t forgotten anything else important this week.

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Latest Observations

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Okay, I admit it. I am officially getting old. In the good ol’ days, my lovely wife luxuriated in the summer heat while I sweltered. We rarely turned the air conditioner on, preferring to let all but the most humid of summer days fill our living quarters for her comfort.

It’s no longer like that today.

I walked in the door yesterday and immediately sensed she had turned the air conditioner on again, after we had opened up the house on Sunday night. It was cold enough for me that I needed to put on long sleeves.

I am now the one who gets cold while Cyndie is too warm.

It reminds me of the decorative flowers Cyndie planted around the grounds. The petunias appear to be perfectly happy, but the marigolds haven’t changed since they were put in our soil. Maybe the marigolds were old.

Or maybe it’s just been too cold for them.

Last weekend was basically our first real heat of the summer. Progress for many of the growing plants around here is looking rather stunted, now that I think about it.

The old saying, “knee high by the fourth of July” is just not happening this year. Fields that did get planted are all maturing just about as fast as Cyndie’s marigolds.

Our wild raspberry bushes looked like they weren’t going to bear fruit at all until just recently. I haven’t seen it for myself yet, but Cyndie says they are just starting to blossom with hints that there might be a lot of berries. I love her optimism, but I fear the amount and size of berries are more likely to be less than impressive, given the stunted growing conditions.

Maybe I’m not getting old. It’s probably just the type of weather we’ve been having.

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Written by johnwhays

July 2, 2019 at 6:00 am