Sunday, October 10, 2010

Psychology of Limitations

One needn't go far to see a photograph to take
When I was about ten and my grandparents began to beg off some more strenuous activities with us, when I noticed how swollen my other grandmother's legs were in photos, I wondered how it would be if anything like that ever happened to me.  Would I, too, look like Nana looked in the bath?  Could I, too, ever have a vein break in my ankle, as Gramps had?  It seemed an unendurable thing to envisage, almost impossible to imagine.
Now that my little sister must use a walker, and I have myself taken the precaution of carrying a cheap aluminum cane, because sometimes a sharp twinge in a joint can threaten my balance, especially on stairs, and my single state recommends preventing accidents such as might threaten my prized life style, I am grateful that I sleep well, digest what I eat, and walk well, though not uphill and downhill and not all day, as I used to do in Rome or Athens.  I am doubly grateful for tolerable eyesight and good hearing.  I make sure to eat wisely, nothing to excess and almost no junk food.  I would not be the slave of my body, but neither would I abuse it.  Being retired means that I can put off till tomorrow what I cannot easily do today: compulsions and luxuries are unhealthy.  Nothing to excess, and know thyself.
At the same time, with half the time on media given over to attempts to frighten everybody with everything, in order to sell whatever possible, I turn it off most of the time.  Three scare-them ads in a row for "new" maladies reduced to initial letters is too nauseating.  Seven recorded phone calls per day, presuming that everyone on Medicare also can be sold more, when I pay for the telephone only in case my sister wanted to call me, and they use it to bully me, is not my America.  Abuses that were not perpetrated in the 1930s or even much later are inexcusable now.  Public assistance when needed or a new sort of WPA is, in a word, needed, but meretricious make-work (paying a young lady to telephone the elderly with scams) is not.
Back to the main idea, though.
I thought I'd like to tell the generation coming after me, that of my nieces and nephews and former students, that the limitations, duly acknowledged and not exaggerated, do not make one depressed or even much deprived.  One is glad each day to write, to read, to listen to music, to look at pictures, to study this and that as an amateur, to do the necessary household chores but not feel obliged personally to keep the do-it-yourself home-improvement industry in business.  One wants to stay on good terms with the man who comes twice a month to mow and edge the grass.  One thinks twice about long trips and stops for a motel without considering whether one has done a full day's mileage or not.
It is almost automatic.  One more and more enjoys the real delights that one still has.  It is actually a relief not to have them interrupted by unbidden sexual impulses, anymore than by a lust for over-rich foods, let alone Petronian feasts.  This is not the season for them, but neither is it the winter of my discontent.  That is not to say that occasionally I can't put Brie cheese on my whole-grain crackers.  And, not having seen them for more than two years, when the family with the four lovely children come to visit, on that day I certainly will eat whatever they want with them; it is for that that I am ordinarily fairly abstemious.  Where they are going, maybe they can taste pemican and tell me whether they like it.
I have enjoyed more adventures and pleasures of a rewarding kind that I value than I might have hoped as a child in the 1930s and 1940s in a moderately low-income family.  Now I have the rewards of my adult youth and middle age to cherish in a smaller compass.