Friday, September 26, 2014

Why Dying At 75 Is Worth Considering



Image by: Nicole Pierce



By now most of you have probably read Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel’s highly riveting and thought-provoking article on why he hopes to die at 75. Based on some reactions I’ve read, I know that the ideas he put forward are contentious and made a lot of people uncomfortable and even enraged. However, I admit that this essay earned a huge nod from me.



Emanuel hopes to die by age 75, but by no means is he advocating euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide.



He emphasized that our culture's manic pursuit of youth (or what he calls the ‘American immortal’) doesn't really prolong life but instead only prolongs the dying process.


The author cited studies showing that physical and mental capabilities decline as we age and that "...by 75, creativity, originality, and productivity are pretty much gone for the vast, vast majority of us." 

In the personal sphere, Emanuel discussed how the desire to live long places huge financial and emotional burdens on our children, and how living well into old age goes against his desire to be remembered by others as someone vibrant, active and engaged.

One of Emanuel's most important points is his discussion on how he wants to approach healthcare as he ages, admitting that he'll see it more as palliative rather than curative care; that he won't actively end his life but won't be interested in prolonging it either, which means rejecting preventive tests, flu shots and any life-sustaining interventions.

I don't agree with everything Emanuel wrote, especially where it concerns vaccines, though I admit I feel somewhat validated and comforted. I agree that after a certain age, the need to prolong life is unnecessary. And I most certainly agree that it shouldn't be denied that aging translates to a decline in physical and brain health. It's just how nature is. 

People criticize Emanuel for choosing what seems to be an arbitrary age of 75. I don't believe it's as arbitrary as some may think, in the same way that some may think my chosen age of closer to 80 sounds completely random. But it's not.

It's 80 for me because I'm considering my son's age. By age 80, my son would've already turned 46 and by that time, I'd like to believe he'd be more equipped to deal with my passing. No one is ever really prepared at any age but by then, I think he'd be more settled in his own life, happy and hopefully with children of his own.

It's 80 because that was around the same age when my own grandmother's mental faculties started to significantly decline. She is suffering from dementia, and though not officially diagnosed, I wouldn't be surprised if what's causing it is Alzheimer's disease (AD). I fear ending up the same way, as I know is also true for my mother. Who am I to assume that I will be spared the same fate because of advances in technology now? Science admits that much of AD remains a mystery. Research says it could be genetic. If that's the case, then I'm pretty much screwed. On the bright side, you'd understand my support of Emanuel's sentiments even more.

Besides the decline in my mental faculties, I'm certain that the decline in my mobility and dexterity also won't take its sweet time. I know this because roughly five years ago, the process has begun for me. I have fingers that are slightly deformed because of osteoarthritis. There are days when they feel stiff and I fear the day when I will find it impossible to write. My knees creak and I've been told by a doctor to avoid walking in incline and that I shouldn't run so much anymore, if at all. 

So yes, if I could have my way, I want to die before I get too old. It isn't aging I fear. It's the point of helplessness and uselessness. And it's not solely about fear but also love. I love my family which is why I don't want to inflict myself on them should I reach that point when much of 'ME' is already gone. I don't want to be an unnecessary burden to my child and don't believe I am his responsibility. I don't want to cause him unnecessary financial and emotional strain as he tries to figure out how best to care for me when I can no longer fully care for myself. 

Death is a very personal experience. We confront it alone, no matter how many others surround us. And the older I get, the more I become objective enough to admit that death happens way before it takes our last breath. 'To live', 'have a life', or 'be alive', means more than just having a beating heart and the capacity to breathe. What it truly means is to be productive, to be able to contribute something worthwhile, to still know how to look forward to experiences and learn, be enthralled, be curious. But if one gets too old or too sick and disabled to even have the capacity to move about, care for oneself and others, and have a mind clear enough to engage in valuable relationships, then isn't that not being fully alive anymore? And if that's my belief, and choose not to prolong my own life without actively seeking death but merely by embracing its inevitable arrival, then why chastise me? 

For most of my life, I never understood my mother's lack of desire to grow really old and die old. But now I do. I'm thankful to Zeke Emanuel for starting this discourse and forcing people to ask the tough questions about the nature of aging, death and even the meaning of life; for making the brave and honest among us confront HOW we want aging and dying to look like for us if we could indeed choose. It's not only the practical thing to do, but also the most loving thing we could offer those who come after us, those who we'll leave behind.



Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Drop-Off Zone Doesn't Mean Drop Your Manners



I'm an extremely rule abiding person. Chalk it up to eleven years of Catholic education or to having strict parents, or both, it doesn't matter. The fact is, when it comes to rules, I'm very compliant and you'd rarely see me challenging them.

This is why I always find myself shaking my head when I'm at the school car line. Always at the car line. For some strange, inexplicable reason, it's as if people either become stupid or turn into jerks and a**holes as soon as they enter said zone. I don't often find myself in this pick-up and drop-off area as my son is a bus rider. However, every single time I've had to pick him up, whether on regular hours or late dismissal because of some school activity, I've been exposed to this 'bizarre' behavior courtesy of certain parents.

It never fails. Someone always ends up breaking the rule (which isn't unwritten, by the way, as we've all been given the same memo every single school year) and decides to do as he/she pleases. And actually, you don't even need to have read the prescribed procedure for the drop-off/pick-up zone because commonsense dictates what needs to be done. Well actually, commonsense and common decency,both of which appear to be not so common after all.

I mean, seriously, how complicated can it be? You drive to the car line zone where you will eventually pick up your child from. There is a stop sign at the end of this line, which is also the end of the building, where the first car that arrives is supposed to stop and wait until the children are dismissed. I understand that the doors to the school are in the middle part of this building. But that shouldn't matter. When you are in the car line zone, you're supposed to follow and keep the line. You drive up to the end of the line, which ever spot that may be in, whether it's close to the door or not.

It's a line, people! Not a freakin' parking lot! 

You're not supposed to stop and park your car wherever you want to. 

You are not to skip spots just because you want to be that car that sits right in front of the school doors.

Seriously, would it hurt that much to take about fifteen to twenty more steps in order to reach the school doors and pick up your child? And no, I've never ever seen any parent or grandparent with a disability picking up the student/s, so it's not like these people have any valid reason for breaking up the line.

The only real reason I can think of is their false sense of entitlement, which in common, angry language is best known as bratty behavior / arrogance / assholiness. It's inconsiderate behavior, and frankly, very narcissistic. When I see parents do this, it's as if I'm hearing them say, "F*** you people, and F*** the rules. I'm going to do what I want to do just because I can!"

What's sad and really unfortunate about this is that these are the same people who are taking care of our children, socializing our children and shaping the minds of these young ones. Should it still then be a surprise that a lot of children these days exhibit the same self-centered behavior and sense of entitlement? We often say that children are like sponges and they learn not so much through what we tell them but through what they see. If they see their parents having no empathy and consideration, no respect for rules and a solid sense of propriety, then how can these same children be expected to develop into kind, compassionate, and disciplined human beings? 

As adults, we all have the serious responsibility to think of the kind of ripple effect our actions create. And as parents I understand that we all make mistakes and are all just doing our best...mostly, hopefully. But it is unfair to expect from someone what we ourselves don't have in us to give. So the next time you feel the frustration over your children's unreasonably bratty behavior and decide to give them a lecture, consider owning it and ask yourself: How did I teach them to be like this?










Saturday, September 20, 2014

Blog Hopping with Midlife Boulevard

Today I'm participating in Midlife Boulevard's Blog Hop!  

Participants are supposed to share their most favorite post from 2014, and of course, as all blog hops go, we all need to do our part visiting, reading and sharing others' posts. I want to invite you to check out the other blogs because I promise you will enjoy it. These midlife writers are among the best!

For my part, it was not so easy choosing my most favorite post. I was able to narrow it down to five and then finally, I decided to share this particular one below because I think it echoes what most of us who find ourselves 'a little older' may be feeling. This post was also one of my Featured Member Posts at BlogHer. I hope you enjoy it, whether it's your first time reading it or your tenth! 


Friday, September 12, 2014

Perspective

Image by : Riley Briggs

I gain perspective when my child is sick.

Whenever my mommy gut tells me it's something more serious than the usual cold and cough, panic comes rushing in. 

I worry. 

I torment myself. 

My head tightens. My fingers can't stop clicking away on my phone or computer, researching for diagnoses and explanations. 

I drive myself insane.

A year or so ago, I would have just ended this post right here.

Fortunately, I gain a little bit more than just spots and wrinkles as I age. I now know that I have a choice. I know that I can step back, take a deep breath (or as many as is necessary), and look again. Just give my situation another look.

Refocus.

My son is the most important person in my world. When I'm concerned about his health and safety, nothing else seems to matter. For the first time in many, many weeks, all of a sudden, getting published at some big shot website doesn't matter. The countless tabs left open on my computer screen reminding me of writing projects I dream of taking part of, all get put aside as I find myself clicking the x's on these tabs. All of a sudden, I'm cut off from social media and my only active tabs are allotted solely for CDC, Web MD, or Kidshealth.org. Everything in my being is consumed by the desire to make him better. That is all.

And then I refocus again.

My child's illness has a diagnosis. He is behaving within a close proximity to 'normal'. The doctor thinks he should be well within the next three days. I don't know for sure if that will come true, but I can choose to hope for the best.

I think of all the other children who have incurable illnesses. I think of family and friends who are battling cancer. I think of parents who have lost their children all too suddenly. And yet these same broken hearts and hope-challenged souls still find a way to fight, to embrace the promise of hope, and see their lives with gratitude. 

Surely, I have no excuse not to choose the same way.

And then in that brief moment of exhaling, I accidentally land on a news website telling me that our sun has, and will continue to fire super solar flares in the next few days. Scientists assure us it's nothing to be concerned about but this surely gives me even greater perspective. And a perspective within a perspective even, when I reminded myself that though the flares can actually be threatening to life as we know it, they still create such beautiful northern lights which I have been dying to see!...(if only I didn't live too far south...*sigh*...)

It really just all depends on how we view it, right?

From one vantage point, my world and my worries are all there is. From another extreme, they completely pale in comparison.

I can choose to see my son's illness as just that, and one that causes me worry. Or my perspective could be viewing his illness as an opportunity for realizing many other perspectives.

The choices are always there.


Author's Note: To those who are wondering, the little one was initially diagnosed with strep.  However, after two days, his throat culture came back and it was negative for strep. He was seen again earlier today by his doctor and now it appears what he has may be viral. His rashes/ blisters look more like Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease. The sores are all over his throat, and there are red spots on his feet, hands/fingers, elbows and one on his ear. I am hoping he will recover more during the weekend and be ready to go back to normal by Monday. Keeping fingers crossed and accepting with much gratitude any positive vibes you can throw our way. Thank you for your thoughts!


















Thursday, September 4, 2014

I Fell In Love With My Husband When He Asked Me This Question...

"How was your day?

It's such a simple and seemingly innocuous question, but definitely one that I've learned to dread after becoming a stay-at-home parent. I'm quite certain a number of other SAHMs out there can relate to this feeling, and I think this is even worse for over-analyzers such as myself because really, how does one answer that question truthfully and yet still creatively, day in and day out?

"How was your day?"

"Well, I dusted, vacuumed, did the laundry, ironed some clothes, tried to write an essay, networked on social media, cooked, made snacks, monitored homework time, etc...." --- Repeat for the next 30 days, or until something more exciting happens.

But no matter how averse I am to this question, the fact is, it is this same question that has also probably saved a lot of marriages. For some, it may be the only opening for an opportunity to reconnect after a soul-draining day. And your relationship doesn't even have to be necessarily in trouble. It's just that every marriage could use as many of those moments when we say to ourselves, "I do feel our connection, and I feel less alone."

Image by:  Renate Flynn

The other night, I had one of those moments. My husband and I were in bed, preparing for our nightly pre-bedtime television.  Before tuning in to one of our recorded shows, he asked the dreaded question. This time though, I had a longer than usual response.

It so happened that it was one of my more stressful days as a blogger, and I was feeling overwhelmed with the social media networking demands of my work, as well as with my continued failure at having my writing be noticed by one of the bigger websites I've been sending pitches to.  I went on and on, sharing details of my blogging life to this corporate IT man.

I shared with him my realization that even in my world, just as in his, networking and meeting the right people can spell a universe of difference in getting noticed and succeeding, and that one disadvantage I have is that I've never been able to attend any blog conferences, mainly because of my social anxiety and introversion.  Those conferences also cost money and I'm never too sure if it's money he'd be willing to shell out for me and my writing 'job'. (And yes, I'd have to ask him to finance it since my writing hasn't exactly raked in any significant financial rewards).

At this point, I was already expecting him to have zoned out or just say that the idea is clearly a waste of resources.

But the shock of all shocks happened.

He said, "Maybe next time you should go."

Then I replied, "Well, it's always been so hard for me to consider going to any of those because I really don't know anyone; not in real life at least. And you have to be ready to network heavily if you want to get something out of the whole experience. You know how hard that would be for me to do, so....I'm not sure."

After saying that, I was more than prepared for a lecture on how I should be more bold and get myself out there and quit being an introvert. It has happened on numerous occasions in the past and so I've learned to sufficiently brace myself. (Of course anyone who truly understands introversion would know that such remarks also ultimately lead to full-blown arguments and possibly even sleeping in separate rooms for the night).

But the surprises just kept coming.  

He came back with, "Maybe we'll go with you,...not to the conference of course, but just on the  trip."


It is said that a lot of the times, when we converse, there are actually multiple conversations going on all at once. And the challenge, especially between married couples, is to pay attention to that subtext and try to develop the capacity to decode it as best you can. 

Having that simple conversation with my husband filled me to the brim that night, on so many different levels.  

I felt moved not because of his offer to accompany me should I decide to attend a blog conference in the future. It's because I felt he finally accepted me for who I am, reserved and introverted. No tone of disappointment or frustration. No criticism or a sense of desire to change me.

I felt moved not just because he actually wanted me to go to those conferences, but because it meant he understood its importance to my growth as a writer, and I felt supported.

I felt moved because he listened to every detail I shared with him about the work I do beyond my role as wife and parent.  In doing so, I felt that he validated that aspect of my identity and respected the dreams that I now hold, no matter how different they may be from his own expectations.

I felt seen, heard, treasured. He saw ME, and in his acknowledgment of who I am, our connection deepened.

In my marriage, there have been times when I just wanted to strangle my husband out of frustration, and have wondered if we are right for each other.


And then there are those times when a sense of peace just washes over me, as I hear the voice of certainty assuring me that I did make the right choice, that this is a man who will always do his best to love me and stay committed to our mutual growth.

By no means is our marriage perfect and perpetually blissful.  But the fact that the voice of certainty speaks more loudly to me more often than the voice of doubt (and the urge to strangle), means that we might just make it. I'm certainly not swooning and falling in love every minute of every day. But  I have a strong feeling that having those unexpected moments of real connection will help us more in staying on course than simple romance ever could.