Thoughts of an Aging Woman after Anesthesia
Five Muses showed up (visible only to me) in the hospital room; or was it just one presenting as five because five is my favorite number of subheadings?
Anyway, they had five fully-rounded bosoms which told me that they were women. Dressed in blue medical scrubs, they seemed comfortably seated against the wall to my left. Without speaking, they assured me that they had come to keep me company.
As soon as the anesthesia wore off, they would provide me with content, I thought. Instead, they informed me that I already had access to the content I need. They had come to illuminate the thoughts which were likely to go unnoticed without their help.
The voice of the surgeon’s assistant ended my dream; but the Muses lingered. Below are the five subheadings they inspired.
Aging is the main reality when the doctor prescribes procedures solely because of age. Sure, there are happier thoughts than aging to dwell on: good food, singing and dancing, new social connections. Yet, the emphasis on these and many other positive aspects of life is motivated by their effects on aging.
We retire from the hustle and bustle of making a living, and gradually settle into the life we made. We are privileged to visit this new period of life. Call it longevity, the golden years, the autumn of life; aging by any other name is the reality that we arrive at the territory we set out to reach.
If we stay long enough, we may be forced to trade silky smooth skin for spots and wrinkles, and full heads of hair for thinning and balding. For a while, we may subscribe to the treatments which claim to help us reverse our steps. Eventually, aging wisdom dictates that we equip ourselves with the mindset to enjoy the journey forward.
Vulnerability in the hospital is lying on the bed in a split-through gown, and signing consent to a paragraph which states:
- Passage of the instrument may result in an injury with possible leakage into the body cavity.
- Bleeding, if it occurs is usually a complication . . . which may require transfusions.
- Medication used for sedation may irritate the vein in which it is injected, causing discomfort for several months.
- Instrument failure and death remain possibilities.
Well, it says remote possibilities, but at first reading, remote doesn't have any meaning.
It seems sensible to refuse the procedure and the risk of immediate death. Then, the voice of reason suggests that people do the procedure every day and live to tell about it. Another voice questions, “Who can tell when the instrument will malfunction for the first time?
Eventually, aging wisdom reminds us that vulnerability is a way of life. Whether we drive, fly, eat at a restaurant, or enter a building, death is a risk. Vulnerability warns us not to take life too seriously. Be careful, not fearful!
- Facing Aging & Mortality
What's usually overlooked is the tremendous storehouse of knowledge and wisdom . . . the gifts we can give to subsequent generations.
Thoughts of vulnerability, just before being put to sleep with anesthesia, will lead to thoughts of mortality—unless we struggle to avoid thinking about it. But why should we? Death is inevitable.
Many moons ago, someone told a story about a house servant who went to the market, and rushed back to his master, complaining that Death was at the marketplace staring at him. Immediately, the master sent the servant by train to a faraway city, and then went to the market to confront Death.
When the master asked Death why he stared at the servant, Death said he was surprised to see him at that market, because he (Death) and the servant were scheduled to meet that night in a faraway city—the same place where his master sent him.
Aging wisdom suggests not to spend our energies running from Death, but to put the effort into enriching our relationships, expressing appreciation for the treasures of life, spreading more joy than Death can ever take away.
How many mistakes can we make in a lifetime? Not enough to outnumber the ones we did not make. We tend to count the same mistakes over and over, year after year, all the way into our aging period. Some of them are remembered only by us. No one else cares.
Mistakes prove that we are fallible, a characteristic which proves that we are human. In the event that the thought of mortality conjures up memories of past mistakes, we should do whatever it takes to set ourselves free. We have won too many struggles with other people to lose the battle with ourselves.
The wise thing to do is: confess our mistakes to God for the last time, and accept His forgiveness (the same as forgiving ourselves). If the nature of our wrongdoing requires that we talk with the person we wronged, let’s just do it—in a spirit of humility, becoming of wise, aging people.
We realize that we are no longer sure of some things we accepted as facts, so we talk less and we listen more. Aging wisdom helps us decrease our chances of making more mistakes. We will never age long enough to be perfect.
As you grow older, which of the following gets more of your attention?
After personal reflection on reality, vulnerability, mortality and fallibility, we become more aware of our accountability. We know that we are alive for a reason; that there is always something more to learn and to do.
- We are accountable to ourselves, concerning our personal care—enabling us to carry as much of our own weight as we possibly can.
- We are accountable to relatives, friends and agencies who invest in our well-being. We owe them gratitude and appreciation, and the assurance that we will not take from them more than we need.
- We are accountable to our offspring. Although they have outgrown the qualifications which made them our dependents, they have not outgrown their need for our love, our guidance and our example. We become their teachers on aging gracefully.
- We are accountable to God, above all, for the gift of life, especially beyond our working years; for favor which helps us survive life’s difficulties; for discernment which helps us embrace new perspectives; for love which strengthens our resolve to live and enjoy life. In return for these blessings, we owe Him our worship.
This interaction with anesthesia was my third. Twice before, no Muse showed up or perhaps I was not aware. For aging wisdom enables us to see blessings—even Muses, which we ignored when we were younger. That's one of many good reasons to enjoy aging!
© 2014 Dora Isaac Weithers