ANOTHER DAY IN THE COUNTRY: How about a do-over?
© Another Day in the Country
I’m over 80 and still haven’t quite figured out how to live my life. I have the basics down, at the moment: trying to be productive, taking care of myself, figuring out how to enjoy every minute to the best of my ability, practicing gratitude! I’m sure there are more techniques, but every day and every stage of life is different.
There are always challenges —you never get around that one —and they are always different. About the time you think you’ve got one hurdle figured out, even mastered, another one pops up. You’re the fortunate one if you recognize them for what they are: challenges and not mortal blows.
The advantages of being older than 80 is that I’ve run up against the majority of the difficulties humans face at one time or another on their journey.
But there’s a whole bunch that I haven’t encountered. Slavery is one I haven’t faced, in its most cruel and debilitating form.
I have experienced being discriminated against — even when I didn’t know what caused it.
I do remember times when I knew “I’d sold my soul to the company store,” but I haven’t experienced being judged negatively for the color of my skin.
When I was young, before I was even launched and living on my own, my challenges were feelings like guilt: a feeling of unworthiness and fear.
In my teen years my challenge was being accepted by my peers and finding a proper boyfriend.
Once I was married, working and putting my husband through college, my challenges were being married for life to this guy I’d chosen, and wondering if we’d ever get out of poverty while doing the Lord’s will. That was a big challenge.
Children came along, and my challenge was being a good parent, pretty much a single parent while married, because my husband was doing his career.
Would I be able to raise these children right? And in the background of my mind was, am I a good enough Christian and what does this even mean.
When my kids became teenagers, the challenges were presented by raising them.
Did I handle this situation right when my oldest came home late and had obviously been drinking? Was I too strict? Too lenient?
I immediately began reading another book, trying to figure out how to handle challenges.
Getting divorced was definitely a challenge. I wanted it and yet I didn’t. I hated the idea of being tied to this man the rest of his life, but I also had an idea of what a split-up family would look like.
Am I being too stubborn? Would it be better to strike out on my own?
In the end, that question was answered for me. He left.
And then the challenge was, how does a 50-year-old woman who hasn’t held a full-time job for 20 years make a living in today’s world.
I’ve often wished that my parents had talked more about the challenges of growing old. I encouraged them to talk by asking questions, but I still didn’t pick up a lot of tips.
“Someday this will happen to you,” my mother used to say, not always with a gracious look on her face, “then you’ll know.”
I was always a little surprised at this response because my mother was a cooperative, loving, positive-spirited woman. Could she really wish this infirmity —whatever it was, from weight gain to stiff joints — on me?
At this spot in my life — older than 80 — I catch myself thinking, Oh, that’s what Mom was talking about. Now I understand, after experiencing it, but I wish I’d known then.
“Do you ever wish for a do-over, Mom,” my daughter asks as we drive the winding mountain road toward the Valley.
“There really isn’t much that I would choose to do differently if I had a second run at it! I’m really fortunate in my life! Except,” I say, after thinking about it, “I wished I’d finished four years of college when I was 20, instead of two, and waited to get married until after I graduated. That would have put me on a whole new trajectory, come to think of it.”
For the rest of all those years, I’m not sorry for any of my big choices. I’d do it all again, including leaving Kansas when I was 14, spending the bulk of my life in California, and then returning to Ramona to spend another day in the country.
Last modified Aug. 1, 2019