Katharine Osborne column: Coping
I have heard that you are what you eat. I wonder if it naturally follows that we are what we read. I read a lot ó the comics for amusement, books for pleasure and information, the newspaper for a variety of current events and columns. I surmise that my attitude is definitely affected by the things I read.
Unfortunately, I am now at the stage of life that is reflected in Billy Collins’ poem, “Forgetfulness,” where he writes, “The name of the author is the first to go followed obediently by the title, the plot.”
When I pick up a book and flip through it, I can determine by the highlighting that I have read it at one time. But for now, it is new. This happened when I picked up “Wherever You Go There You Are” by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
The chapter that caught my eye when I opened the book is entitled “You Can’t Stop the Waves but You Can Learn to Surf.” I immediately recognized this as a simple expression of the process of aging. We can’t stop the toll of our years but we can adapt. We can change ó even though it may be hard.
I recently told a friend about seeing one of my daughters wearing a ring that I had given her. When my rings started really hurting because of my deformed arthritic fingers, I gave them to my children to enjoy. This way I wistfully enjoy them also.
The easy-open packages of items (such as cheese) are not easy for me. I am forced to cut it open with a pair of scissors. I then store it in a zipper bag that does work easily for me.
I also have great trouble with plastic containers. When I finally get these open, I store the ingredients in one of my dishes so that I don’t have the hassle every time I want some of the chosen item.
I can’t change my fingers but I can employ my mind to work out solutions to other frequent problems. With diminished finger strength, I use a pair of pliers to pull the tab on a bottle of milk. I use an under-counter V to help me open jars. I have a terry cloth cover for my steering wheel to give me a better grip as well keep my hands warmer in this cold weather. Gloves are impossible and now mittens are iffy. So the cover is a dual-purpose item.
I have found that I no longer have the stamina to go from one activity to another even when both are enjoyable. So I must choose. This is a better plan for me now than trying to do it all as I usually attempted to do when I was younger.
I use two hands to pick up a coffee cup or a book and it works. I type with two fingers ó who needs more to do this task. These are just a few examples of my learning to surf through the headwaters of aging. I wish there were a pool of suggestions or alternatives to help those of us who are in this learning process.
Until then, I’ll just carry on the best I can!
Katharine Osborne continues to be a patient in intensive care at Rowan Regional Medical Center. She submitted this column before her hospitalization.