Alice D. Outwater, Ph.D., Contributor
Sometimes I feel as if I’ve become two people: half feels beyond elderly, and the other is youthful, self-assured and full of energy. There’s nothing I can’t accomplish. For six glorious hours yesterday my former vitality nearly swept me off my feet. My body was tingling with nary an ache, and my mind brimmed with new ideas. How could I hold onto this superb shift? The aging process is unpredictable. When I’m overtired, my spirit shuts down and feels depleted; it’s cranky and isn’t about to be pushed around. I stretch out on my window seat until it rejuvenates, then get up and continue with my day. Sometimes it takes half an hour or even several hours.
Lonesomeness is a condition with which all ages deal, in one way of another. I remember as a 10-year-old surrounded by five vivacious siblings yet feeling totally lonely and confused. Our beloved English bulldog, Duke, was my favorite comfort. I would sit on the oak steps to the second floor and throw my arms around his wrinkled neck, crying and crying until his fur was damp from my sad tears. His big brown eyes looked at me with sympathy. He was the only one who understood. This lonely stage eventually passed.
All through life desolation can loom; some people are more prone to it than others. Being widowed, John is no longer by my side; unexpected events or complicated choices can be overwhelming. Everything takes longer to figure out. I have various trusted people: financial, medical, friends and my children. I can run things by them before making important decisions. They are dependable and care about me.
New research shows that extended loneliness can affect your health. Often those living in communities or with others, deal with less loneliness. Continued deep isolation can drag any of us into a dark hole and it may be difficult to climb out.
Depression on the other hand is a medical condition and may need professional help, medication or counseling. Sometimes it has a genetic component.
Examine your beliefs and values. Line them up and adhere to them in your daily life. Prayer or belief in a higher being can add an anchor. I spot friends thriving as they adapt to change and create a new life for themselves. They may even be surprised by their own resiliency.
Gather your powers to create a safe climate around you. The human spirit has a basic need to be around others and to share.
We are drawn to participate in something larger than ourselves. So, socialize, laugh, place yourself in a wider spectrum. Sometimes I watch with wonder how bravely others are managing challenges such as a sick spouse. Life hands us unpleasant tasks with which we must cope.
Be grateful for the impulse to keep going, be sure you share your life, and don’t forge to find some humor and lightness along the path. This can be a potent addition to any situation and will keep rippling on, and on, even increase. If you search carefully, choices emerge, even in bleak times.
You may find a new niche popping into your vista. Give it a try, because it may offer gems you hadn’t noticed before. Nothing like enriching yourself and embracing others with your generosity to elevate your vigor. Sprinkle in your unique grace and style. Can you imagine a more powerful mix? Your footprints might even lift others.
I fret at not having enough energy and then reexamine the many pleasures that come my way. Sometimes it’s luck, other times I almost trip over them. On my evening stroll I watched the clouds pass by and felt as if I could jump into unknown adventures. By the time I finished fantasizing I had enough material for a children’s book.
I realize it’s downright ridiculous I can enjoy the small things in life so much. Be alert to untapped amusement!