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Reflections August 2017

Senior Moments

Dealing with Diminished Life Energy

By Edward A. Joseph

Bill’s building that wall, despite his illness, a few stones at a time, inspired me to deal in a positive way with having less energy. I decided that whenever I needed to get something done that I didn’t feel like doing, I would do a “Billy.”

We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.
— Joseph Campbell, American author and lecturer

While getting closer and closer to my 75th birthday, I noticed my “gas tank” needle getting lower and lower. The vim and vigor of earlier times had left me to take what seemed like a permanent vacation. Thinking about painting the back door had me heading for the couch to take a nap.

One day, when I was avoiding even looking at the back door, I started thinking about my brother-in-law, Bill. An image of him building a rock wall in front of his house on Cape Cod flashed through my mind. When Bill built that wall he was close to the end of his life because of cancer. Every day that he could, he placed a few more stones on the wall, and actually finished it before he passed on.

Bill’s building that wall, despite his illness, a few stones at a time, inspired me to deal in a positive way with having less energy. I decided that whenever I needed to get something done that I didn’t feel like doing, I would do a “Billy.” I would work on a particular project for a set period of time, which would vary depending on what I felt I could handle that day. Eventually, I even started using a timer, which I found made it easier for me to start a task because it would let me know when I had reached my goal.

Hearing the timer go off was in itself satisfying, like crossing the finish line of a race. More often than not, when the timer went off I just kept working until my body told my mind that it was time to quit.

We human beings are different in many ways, so I know that my “Billy System” will not be appealing or useful to all of my fellow seniors, but I wanted to share it because it might help some.

As we age, diminished energy, to some degree, is unavoidable. Accepting this reality can be freeing, and can also be a catalyst to help us creatively deal with this challenge.

Having less energy in my eighth decade has been at times unsettling. But remembering Bill, and how he got work done during his illness, has helped me deal with my diminished energy. The video in my brain of my brother-in-law going to the front of his house each day to place a few more stones on his rock wall has motivated me to do at least one “Billy” a day.

I hope doing “Billys” will help some seniors deal in a positive way with having diminished energy, and if it does, it will also be a tribute to a man who did not give in to what life sent him, but lived that life with dignity and courage.

 

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