The courage to change the things I can

Photo credit: Siskiyou County

I was looking at some photos this afternoon taken high in the Trinity Alps, a wilderness area in northern California with bristly granitic peaks and pristine Alpine lakes, rugged and steep and beautiful.

My kids went to a wilderness camp up there–one of them for years, and later worked as a counselor–where they learned to backpack, cook over a campfire, and drink from mountain springs.  You have to hike in six miles to get to the camp.  They sleep in tents or under tarps, no TV, no radios or Mp3s, no video games, and they’re out on the trail backpacking for three or four days at a time, some for as long as 10 days.  They learn how to tell a white bark pine from a ponderosa, where to find the rare carnivorous California pitcher plant, what to do when a black bear wanders past, how to take care of blisters and bites,  how to read a topo map and use a compass, where to go at 7000 feet in a lightning storm–lots of useful stuff.

My husband and I went up for a few days one year.  It was breathtaking.  I couldn’t do it now, and as I was looking at the pictures, a bunch of fresh-faced kids lounging on a high granite peak watching a brilliant sunset, I suddenly found myself choked up with longing so great it spilled over into tears. I loved those hikes we used to take into high country in the Sierras and Trinities–the granite basins and peaks against incredibly blue sky, the red fir forests, meadows exploding with wildflowers.  I’m so afraid I’ll never get there again.

I haven’t written a lot about age and disability here, but they’re having a major impact on my life.  I can’t do a lot of things I used to love doing, and it makes me sad.  It’s hard to accept, and it’s hard to know what to accept.  Am I just feeling disheartened, not wanting to do the work it would take to get better, or is this really where I’m at?  I think I’ve been a little too passive about the whole thing.  There are some things I cannot change, but maybe I can change more than I think.

A pledge:  I’ll do the work and see what happens.

Meet you next year on Mt. Tallac.

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5 Responses to The courage to change the things I can

  1. cleo says:

    Such a lovely post with pics.
    “I haven’t written a lot about age and disability here, but they’re having a major impact on my life.”
    I am “only” 50 but it seems this whole subject is so underreported. Maybe as more of the baby boomers age it will be more out in the open. I seem to be alone among my friends in thinking about aging and planning for – they all seem to be in denial and not want to discuss it. So I will always want to read about this – if you want to write about it. I can imagine its hard to know what to accept as you say and what to fight. I think your position on it seems right. Look forward to hearing more Cxx

    • sswl says:

      Agree with you about the underreporting, Cleo. So many of the media stories are about people starting new careers in retirement, running marathons, joining the Peace Corps, etc. Not that they don’t exist, but it’s not most people’s experience.

      With all the changes to Social Security, Medicare and public employee pensions in the offing (regardless of which party’s in power), I think you’re wise to do some advance planning. Doing what you can now to protect your health, mobility, and future finances makes a lot of sense. Isolation due to ill health or disability and poverty are major issues for most older people.

      Thanks so much for your response.


  2. Dawn says:

    I don’t even know where to start, what to say , , , which, for me, is extraordinary. Can’t even say how I journeyed over here – you know how it is, one blog leads to another and another . . . .

    But you see I have your heart. I so relate to today’s post!! A note about the photo – my family are all in CO and I travel there often; the notion of drinking from a fresh water stream is amazing. God bless America – I so hope our grandchildren can still do this. My time has ended for long hikes through the Rockies – I get that. This past summer I had to pass , once again, on the state fair, fan appreciation day at the Vikings training camp, and numerous craft/art fairs. You see, I can not stand or walk, the excruciating pain starts within minutes. I’m a couch potato and as you’ve suggested, it may be time to step up my options. I won’t bore you with the details, I have been doctoring at Mayo and certainly back surgery is an option; but not one I have been willing to entertain . . ,

    Why do we keep this a secret? I do not discuss it with my friends and not on my blog and until reading your post, I had not even realized that. WE NEED FELLOWSHIP AND SUPPORT in this regard. Really, there is mourning and sadness – I can’t even garden,, shoot, I cut my shower short. I have nightmares of being the fat lady on the electronic cart at Walmart. . No, this is the age of modern medicine. Time to rigorously explore my options.

    Adding you to my reading list, so nice to meet you!

    • sswl says:

      Dawn, I so appreciate your comment. It seems a lot of us don’t like to dwell on our pain and limitations. We smile happily and say, “Oh, just fine!” when people ask how we are, are dismissive of our sadness and anger–and all the time, they’re the elephants in every room we sit in. It helped me a lot to write that post, clarified what I need to do. I’m not at the back surgery point yet, and I totally get how scary and intimidating that prospect must be. Yes, that “fat lady on the electronic cart” could be us–but does she have to be? As you say, time to “rigorously explore” our options.

      Thanks again for your comment. I’ll check out your blog. Let’s keep talking about this, here and there!


  3. I am looking forward to seeing the pictures next year from your trip to Mt. Tallac.

    Here’s to changing the things we can. :)

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