It Isn’t A Tragedy

I over heard a conversation this morning between two women. It left me a bit gobsmacked and annoyed. It seems these two women have a mutual friend who had a kidney transplant via a relative. One woman said it was such a tragedy that their friend had to have a transplant. They went on to talk about how everyone needed to make allowances for her erratic behavior, and that she should be treated carefully as she recovered. After all, with someone else’s kidney in her she would never be normal.

I thought, “Tragedy?’ Not to me, it isn’t. That woman will live a long healthy life, she is not an invalid, she is not helpless, she is the product of the miracle of medicine and blessings. How can that be a tragedy? They acted as if having any transplant was something no one would ever want. What?

Tragedy is something that cannot be controlled, stopped, or overcome resulting in either an end of a life or constituting a complete change in circumstances for a survivor. Tragedy is losing a new mom to childbirth. Tragedy is a child with incurable cancer. Tragedy is a wounded warrior who has lost limbs, sight, ability to walk, or suffers brain damage or mental illness from serving in the war. Tragedy is a teenager committing suicide. Tragedy is a plane crash that kills 300 people. Tragedy is an old person freezing to death. Tragedy is the mentally ill on the streets of the country when they belong in a safe institution where they can be cared for, instead of suffering the effects of cold and heat, and the lack of food. Tragedy is losing someone to addiction to drugs or alcohol. Tragedy is having a funeral for a twenty year old girl whose death was sudden and unexpected. Surviving a kidney transplant is not a tragedy! It is, instead, an opportunity to celebrate a new and continued life!

What those well meaning women are doing is placing their friend in a box labeled perpetual victim. In pandering to her, giving her excuses for bad behavior, and creating a tragic attitude around her, they are making her weak, mentally, physically, and emotionally. In refusing to celebrate the miracle that her life is, they want to demean it. That isn’t friendship, that is an attitude of superiority. “Poor little thing, she will never reach her full potential,” one of them stated. The other agreeing and doing the Southern thing when faced with perceived tragedy, shaking her head, and murmuring, “Bless her heart.”

I don’t get it. I really don’t understand their attitude, especially treating her as if she is fragile and unable to cope with surviving. She isn’t one bit more special than anyone who has survived a horrific illness. Instead of encouraging her to be helpless, they need to stand behind and beside her as she moves forward into a strong, healthy life. Instead of lowering their expectations for her life, they should be the best of cheerleaders, celebrating each and every milestone in her recovery. And, the last thing they need to be doing is enabling helplessness. I repeat, she is not an invalid. The only tragedy in her life is that her friends see her as a victim who will never be normal instead of a survivor.

“Inaction is not an excuse for failure to thrive.”

“Inaction is not an excuse for failure to thrive.”

I’ve noticed lately that a lot of people my age tend to simply stop. They stop doing fun things, they stop being involved, they stop thinking and growing intellectually. They just stop. Then they sit about and complain about how boring life is, how hard it is to do things they used to do, how much they wish they had done such and such before they got too old. They are failing to thrive in the late years of their lives. And there is no excuse for that- period.

I know, things are a bit harder to do when knees hurt,backs don’t want to bend, and the body gets tired much easier than it did at the age of forty. We all have to slow down,but that doesn’t mean we have to stop. It may take longer, but there is no reason not to at least try.

Years ago there was a movie entitled Cocoon followed by another, Cocoon Returns. If you haven’t seen them, I suggest watching them at least once. It starred a lot of “stars” who were getting quite elderly. All stuck in a nursing home, waiting to die, fussing at one another, etc. Until things change due to a visit from the aliens. Look, I know it is really a sappy story, but what I loved about it was the willingness of almost all of the elderly folks to embrace that which was different. If their youth didn’t return, their joy for life certainly did. And, at the end of the day, their inaction became action, and their lives infinitely better.

Another movie I loved was Driving Miss Daisy, a stellar performance by one and all. Again, another character that defies the tendency to just sit down and stop. Fried Green Tomatoes is a fantastic film. Kathy Bates and Jessica Tandy were great together and the flashback between Mary-Louise Parker and Mary Stuart Masterson is equally dynamic. At the end of the day, we are still not sure which woman Jessica Tandy was as the elderly friend of Kathy Bates. Ambiguity saturates the film, while turning Katy Bates’ character from a meek doormat into a woman filled with confidence. And, of course, the character played by Shirley Mclaine in Steel Magnolias is just like I want to be when I get old.

I see many older folks off and doing things all over the world. They travel, explore, serve missions of compassion – regardless of sore knees and aching backs. They move, act, and they live every minute of every day. That is what I want to do too.

When our youngest son went off to college, my husband and I decided to work our way around the world. Eight years later, we finally returned to the US. As we were raising our granddaughter, she went right along with us. We lived in London, Hong Kong, and New Zealand, and only came back to the US due to health issues and the awful Socialized Medical care in NZ. We traveled all over each region and were enriched many times over by our experiences.

But I was in my forty’s when we did that. Now I am sixty, and it is going to become more difficult to do some of the things we did. So, we chose other things to do so we could travel. A cruise or four, a road trip across the US, and our big adventure this year is to travel across country by train. I don’t hike for miles any longer, but I sure can sit and enjoy the view from the train.

So there is no excuse not to thrive, people. Just get up, take a few steps, find a hobby that fulfills you, volunteer as a surrogate grandmother to rock babies at the hospital. Volunteer at the schools or libraries to help kids with their reading skills. Go help out a nursing home if you have a talent like playing the piano. There are a multitude of things you can do to overcome the lack of inertia and sedentary inaction. For me, being with my grandchildren is one of my greatest motivators. I write, I hang out on social media sites, I keep up with friends and work on my family history, and I am planning on taking art lessons. I have always wanted to learn how to paint. That will be so much fun!

So, you are old, so what? Inaction is not an excuse for failure to thrive. Just because your body is starting to creak and moan, it doesn’t mean your brain isn’t functioning. (Unless you have a serious condition, of course.) With all the medical miracles out today, most of us will live well into our eighties or nineties.

I have a friend who is ninety-eight. For the several decades, she has traveled the world following the performances of the operas of Wagner. All on her own, she would jump on a plane and off she would go to Italy, France, Germany, or any place in the world that the operas were being performed. What an amazing lady

who just kept on going like an Eveready Battery. She is running down now, but she is still in control of her life and decided to go home until the end of her days. It is heartbreaking, but at the same time, what a life she has had! Even now, she keeps busy with doing her family history and chatting with her friends and family.

Even if you are homebound, unable to walk, unable to drive, so what? There are a million things you can do to keep your brain healthy and busy. Never just stop and wait to die. We all have a finite amount of time here in this life. I could spend it worrying about death, or I can just get on with living while I am still here.

The more we let inaction rule our lives, the less likely we are to live a long life. Not just because our bodies need to move to function well, but because our brains atrophy at an alarming rate. Inaction is not an excuse for failure to thrive. But it is only you that can take that first step. I can’t wait to become a feisty old woman who says exactly what she wants to say about everything.

Come on people, get up, find a cause, reason, purpose, or passion to fill your life. Go on!


Sniffle . . .

Did you know that the highest recorded speed of a sneeze was 102 miles per hour. The Guinness Book of Records has it listed at 115 miles per hour. It is a wonder then, that I haven’t scattered half of my brain matter all over my house. I have a bad cold and sinus infection. Hence, the constant sneezing. This isn’t a new thing. I get sick like this every year about now. But it sure is getting to the point where it wears on me, like a gigantic, annoying, never ending hum.

Why is it, I wonder, that something as simple as a bad cold feels so awful. People survive the most horrendous injuries and illnesses, and they suffer a great deal more than someone with a bad head cold, but they don’t whine nearly as much. I ought to know, I’ve been on both sides of that argument, and I whine much more about my piddly little illness.

I whine because I feel poorly, not desperately ill, but miserable enough not to feel like doing anything productive. I whine because I ache, sniffle, sneeze, cough, sputter, and run a fever. I feel chilled, then hot, then freezing, then boiling, and back to the general malaise of blah. I’m not dying, not even close, but I think I may, just because I feel so rotten.

Some things make me feel better for a bit. A warm blanket, cup of herbal tea, medication, soup . . . but in no time at all, I am right back to the normal moan and whine mode. I don’t want to be like this. Honestly, I want to act like a grown up, standing up to the whole thing, and being brave. I’m not.

I was at the doctor’s office the other day, it was filled with sick kids and parents. One little boy, about a year old or so, was being rocked in his mother’s arms. Every breath he took came out with a monotone whine of deep misery. It was obvious that the moaning helped him communicate how rotten he felt. Another kid, around four was being bratty and crying because he felt so awful. Parents all around me were trying their best to comfort their kids. It was OK for them to whine . . . totally not fair as I had to sit there and act like an adult when I wanted to throw a tantrum too.

So, here I sit on day four or five, I’ve lost count, of fighting this infection and head cold. I feel a bit better, but still worn out from all the coughing and the rotten headache. I have moved on from whining to feeling irritable and grumpy. Phase two has commenced, and people, it can get ugly from here on out . . . sniffle .. . hack . . . grumble.

Wooley World

Recently, I have been ill. I had a bad fall and ended up with cracked ribs and a badly sprained ankle. The doctors were kind enough to load me up with medication that stopped the pain while making it impossible for me to do anything more than hobble to the bathroom and kitchen from my perch in bed or on the sofa. When I get that loopy, the words tend to crawl around the pages of any book I want to read, so I end up staring at the television. I must say it is shocking how R rated the daytime soaps have become. I caught a quick glance while channel surfing for something worth watching. Holy cats! I didn’t know that sort of thing was allowed on regular TV!



I often woke up out of a drugged sleep in the middle of the night, and had to wait an hour or more until I could take more pain medication. I would flip through channels just to see what was on to distract myself. I have never seen so many odd things for sale in my life! And boy are the people selling the products enthusiastic about what they are offering the viewing public. Everything one could want for a kitchen, bathroom, house decorations, along with vitamins, jewelery, office organization, and get rich quick schemes blare at top decibel from the TV speakers. They even have stuff for pets ranging from keeping them flea free and well groomed, to training programs. Want to learn a foreign language? Just go on line or ring them up and they will fix you up as long as you have a credit card. Gym equipment and weight loss programs by the dozen are flogged by has been movie stars and muscle bound guys and gals to the tune of hundreds of dollars. Use their product and you will be magically thin, buff, and sexy. Doesn’t matter if you have the mug of a bull dog, you will be one of the beautiful people.



My family and friends were sympathetic about the misery I was in, but had to get on with life. So, I thought my dogs and cats would be understanding and fill in the love I needed to stop feeling sorry for myself. Dogs, while sympathetic at first, have short attention spans and forget that jumping in my lap, stepping on my foot, and expecting me to play tug of war are things that hurt me. After a bit, they wander off and take a nap, or find something to chew up. Cats, however, being the singular critters they are, have absolutely no sympathy at all. My job, after all, is to make sure their every need is met on their time schedule. The two mature cats just looked at me with disgust and went out to find their own food. The kittens, being young and silly, thought it was a great game to play chase me across, over, and around me. Not a problem until they hit my ribs and tripped me when I was using my crutches and carefully carrying a glass of milk back to the sofa. Come to think of it, they really enjoyed the spilled milk, so I think they were in cahoots with the dogs and they tripped me on purpose. The four of them had a nice snack after all.



One day it stormed, and I was shaken out of a doze by one huge half pit half lab dog trying to turn into a lap dog, the mini-pin was burrowing under the covers, and all four cats piled on the bed fighting for my lap too. Lovely, I get ignored until the sky booms and then I am the safety net? As the days wore on, the cats decided that it was cool if I was sitting still, my lap made a great place to nap. The dogs used my groggy state to sneak up on the furniture, and I think I fed them all the hot dogs by mistake, because they sure were happy to see me wobble into the kitchen on a regular basis.



I am glad that I am back on my feet. My mind is clearing, and I seem to remember that I let our 14 year old get away with stuff too. I don’t remember telling her she could wear black eye liner, but she swears I did. My husband got away with things too. I think he fed everyone mac and cheese for three days in a row, either that or the boxes grew legs and walked off. Next time I get hurt, I am going to stick with the Tylenol no matter how bad it gets. At least then I will be able to read a book, keep my brain working, and stay out of the fuzzy, woolly, world where word crawl around pages, animals laugh at me, and I don’t remember my own name.