Recent foot surgery up in Denver has truly humbled me to the plight of disability and old age.
I am home now with many weeks ahead of non-weight-bearing and getting around my house on a knee scooter. The scooter is amazing and has really made a difference in my ability to be at home rather than in a care facility. So has my neighbor, who is graciously available to help at my beck and call.
I can’t leave out the wonderful choir of angels who bring me dinners, take me out for little road-trip escapades and check in on me. My heart is full of gratitude. It’s difficult operating with only one leg.
Knowing I needed this foot rebuild for a while, I had the chance to plan for it. Before the big day, I investigated the information and many services that were available to me here in La Plata County. The Durango/La Plata County Senior Center shared all the nuts and bolts of Medicare and home health and what and how it is or isn’t covered. It also has a storage shed full of crutches, potty-risers, shower chairs and a great service of sending Bob to install grab bars on my shower.
Little did I know then, but now I am so thankful for these things. At the time, I was a bit overwhelmed, and shuddered at the sight of all these symbols of aging, illness and death. Bringing them all home and into my house, I noticed I felt embarrassed and humiliated in front of my neighbor who was out raking leaves. What did this all mean? Am I really in need of all this gear? I’m so strong and healthy and active, surely this is overkill.
A couple of days went by and I talked this out with friends. Then, proceeded to do some yoga with my yoga block and strap, props that allow me to go deeper into my poses. A light bulb went off: What was the difference between yoga props and these life props that would enable me to get into the poses of life more deeply; walking, toileting, showering, etc.?
What an awakening for me; what a shift in seeing and an acceptance of this next phase of life. Now, as I hobble around the house, I find utter necessity and even joy in these props ... and I feel I’ve gotten a taste of really old age and disability. Little by little, these “adjustments” come into our lives – they may start with reading glasses, hiking poles, then hearing aids and on and on.
There is a great difference between humiliation and humility. Humiliation is loaded with shame, and an expectation for how things should be. Humility has no shame; it is the freedom to accept what is and be comfortable with it. It takes some humility to acknowledge how we’re honestly feeling and treat ourselves gently.
Are these supports really symbols of death? Or are they symbols of initiation into the next life stage?
The experience has touched me deeply. I am so much more sensitive to friends with canes, friends who are losing their sight, others in walkers and wheelchairs. It is humbling, and I feel a deep human connection to know we are all in this aging process together and doing the best we can. Courage!
So my intention, or New Year’s resolution if you want to call it that, is to move into these next steps of elder years with as much acceptance, respect and grace as possible.
Martha McClellan has lived in Durango since 1993 and has been an educator, consultant and writer. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.