Automaticity, How I Miss It! But . . .

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As the old saying goes, “You don’t know what you had until it’s gone.” I‘d had no idea how much I had been able to take for granted, nor how much I’ve been able to do on auto pilot. If I was going to make breakfast, all I thought about was what I would eat. Then my automaticity took over. It knew where the items were and how to put them together. To dress, I had to decide what to wear, but the rest of the process followed without purposeful thought about how to put the pieces on. And so it would go through much of the day. All this automaticity freed me to address issues, ideas and activities that required purposeful thought and effort. (I read recently that it took only one side of my brain then, but takes two sides now.)

Then ARCs (age related changes) sneakily but surely began taking automaticity away from me. I found myself having to think about how to lift a glass or a jar, depending on its diameter and weight—one hand or two–grasp around the sides or with one hand underneath? For a while, I had to think about how to tie shoelaces until one morning I couldn’t tie them at all. Time for slip-on’s. My comb flipped out of my hand when it encountered a snarl. Adopt a simpler haircut. Stairs required me to rely heavily on a railing or wall in order to climb them and knees threatened to buckle when I descended. My family, standing behind me, finally couldn’t stand watching me and a son proposed (pushed for), a lift that now gets me safely from the house to street level and back. Supportive arms on either side help me manage stairs when no lift or ramps are available. A granddaughter took over the laundry tasks that had to be done in the basement (reached by a circular stairway with no railing). I now live on one floor of my home. A son noticed my difficulty in rising from my recliner, he placed 4” risers under it and later added another 2”. One day while on vacation with my family, I discovered for myself that putting my hands on the back of a wheelchair made me steadier in my walking. I ordered a walker that enabled me to take long walks for years and now keeps me steady here at home. I found that a shopping cart in the market served the same purpose for quite a while until recently that too became unsafe and a neighbor offered to take over the shopping.

And so it has gone from year to year, month to month and recently sometimes day to day. My capacities change and so do my adaptations. Sometimes I’ve been able to see and manage them on my own. Sometimes times others have noticed and stepped in (with my acceptance!) to help me manage.

And there have been times when certain activities simply are no longer possible automatically, intentionally or with adaptations. Then it has been time to simplify my life. I’ve enjoyed baking orange rye bread and Swedish cardamom rolls for me and my family. First I reduced the size of the recipe to weights and size I could handle. Recently that too was beyond me. Fortunately, I’d taught the next two generations how to do it. Now the time had come to pass the tradition on.

Do I miss the things I no longer can do or automaticity? Of course. Still, in the grand scheme of things I’m grateful for all that’s still possible, for family, friends and colleagues who support me and offer adventures within their view of my capabilities (often far more than I can see in myself). When all else fails I call on my mantras of “Sufficient unto the day. . . .” and “To everything there is a season.” And, so far, I’m feeling content with what I still have.

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12 thoughts on “Automaticity, How I Miss It! But . . .

  1. I just want to let you know that I just recently discovered your blog here and I look forward to every post. I’ve shared it with my girlfriend and we both love it! Thank you for sharing your perspective on the road ahead of me. I’m 48, but I feel old already, not only with aches and pains and loss, but my grandparents are all gone, I don’t have family nearby, and I don’t have aged voices in my ear. Thank you for being such an eloquent voice.

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  2. I too am going through some of these changes. I use a walker at home, and when I leave home if I have someone to help me get it in and out of the car. I can do well at the grocery store with a cart to hang onto, but I’ve noticed that some stores have battery operated “cars” with a small cart on the front. Hope that I’ll be able to use one of those when I need it.
    I do miss being able to shop for clothing and such by myself, but am very grateful for Amazon and other places which sell nearly everything else that I need, and can have things delivered right to my home.
    Some of these changes have been difficult, but I will continue to do what I can, and appreciate people who help out when I just can’t. When I feel like grumbling about my problems, I just have to remind myself that whatever calamity confronts me, it sure beats the alternative. Each day is a good day to be alive!!

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  3. With a number of your recent blog entries I have thought, “and what about when there is disease effects also. How nice it would be to age with just ARC! Your process for dealing with ARC applies also to disease/disorder effects. I know you want to focus on age related changes, and that is great, but that is not how many of us age. Any thoughts?

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  4. You’ve given a broad overview of age related changes and the ways you have adapted your life accordingly. I find this particularly helpful—as well as unusual. It’s more common for articles about old age to focus on one or two details than to give the big picture, as you do. Many thanks for your wisdom.

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  5. I always enjoy your positive point of view, and honest look at the real changes aging can bring. I hope I can remain as classy and upbeat, as well as accepting, as you are if I am blessed enough to live into my 90s! (Although, at 63 I am already getting a “taste” of what lies ahead!)

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom ❤️

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    • What a thoughtful and beautiful family you have. I can see where they get their caring ways. My friend’s dad just passed away at 102 and he was so much like you in his gratitude, kindness, and humor. You inspire me.

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  6. This last post was particularly interesting. What do you have to say about getting into and out of Cars? I am getting close to needing one I can get into and out of more easily.
    thanks!

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  7. Good day! I just found you and I feel like you have so much wisdom and joy to share with me! I too, am an aging nurse, but still working, still green. I just moved my mother closer to me and look forward to a new and wonderful relationship with her. She is in a lovely assisted living apartment where she can focus on living and not on the ARC’s. She is 85, I am 61 and we can both learn from your grace and positivity. I hope we can use your blog as a reading club and grow older gracefully, together.

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  8. I just love your blog!! I am a recently retired nurse and find myself nodding along with your comments. I have had some wonderful role models in my family and friends as well who aged with the same grace. My favorite was my Aunt Gertrude who lived to 107!! She was blinded by glaucoma but never let it slow her down with travel, her garden -the rows were straighter than mine- and her Tiger ball games on the radio! I hope i am following in these steps at the not so old age of 66. I have a new Golden Retriever puppy and am involved in all the training that entails and planning for him to be a therapy dog.

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