Triumph: a condition of being victorious, a significant success or noteworthy achievement, a feeling of exultation resulting from victory; joy over success
Thankfulness: recognition, acknowledgement, appreciation, gratitude
Triumphs are often associated with heroes who accomplish mighty deeds. But, for those of us surviving into the latter years of our lifespan, our victories over difficulties tend to be frequent and small enough to seem unworthy of celebration. Still, what they lack in visibility and size pales in terms of the number of them occurring throughout each day. And, when we overcome them, it smooths out our days. We’d be helpless in so many ways if we weren’t victorious in regularly finding doable ways to manage our changing capacities and overcome the hurdles we face daily.
We agers realize that our capacities are changing and know that they will continue to do so. Knowing this, we sometimes are able to make advance preparations to smooth the way.
In my mid- eighties on a trip to Hawaii, one son came to my room the first morning with a wheelchair he’d rented. “This way you’ll be able to get around and really enjoy the place.” Initially they used it to push me on walks, to distant restaurants and other places. My little granddaughter delighted in pushing me as fast as the chair would go. I was sure I was going to be pitched out of it and become a plant in one of the gardens.
I began to wonder if walking around holding onto the back of the wheelchair might not allow me to walk about more easily on my own. It did! Hours later, I put my book and water bottle on the seat and braved others seeing me walking behind the wheelchair to the ocean shore and along it till I found a palm- shaded spot. I met people of all ages both ways, but no one using any form of a walker, much less such a strange one. People “looked”, but none commented (to me at any rate). I noticed the looking. When I found my spot and sat there reading my book, I became normal and nobody “looked”.
The Monday after I returned, home I ordered a walker. I could still get about, but realized I needed to get used to the idea of seeing myself with it and having neighbors see me. Good thing I did. The first time out, my next-door neighbor exclaimed, “Doris what are you doing with a walker!!” I smiled and said, “I’m walking . . . . safely,” and sauntered off. Since then, I’ve screwed up my courage and used it in a variety of places (even restaurants where I sit on its seat because normal seating is too low). I’d find the space at the table with the least traffic and warn waiters about the protruding wheels. I behaved as if it were the normal thing for an old person to do. I noticed others “looked”.
Does taking preventive actions feel like a victory? Well, they’ve been noteworthy achievements. I’ve overcome my fears and been proud of the outcomes. So yes, prevention offered both triumphs and learning. Challenges once again led to control.
Of course, most obstacles tend to rear their heads suddenly in the midst of an activity when something abruptly becomes impossible. The lid on a jar I need right now is stuck. The button won’t go through this buttonhole in a crucial place. Fingers can’t tie the shoe laces this morning.
Unaddressed, these sudden failures make me feel helpless, impatient, even angry. To say nothing of raising fear for what they foreshadow. Addressing them, and finding new ways to do them or ways to work around them offer me a sense of control, mastery. And there’s a bonus. I find that the creative effort to manage, in itself, makes me feel even stronger than when things were easy.
Whether I’m celebrating overcoming a single hurdle or conquering several, it’s a great way to feel stronger, more confident in the midst of uncertainty. I’ve worked for my little triumphs, earned them. Thanksgiving is a time to be truly thankful for them—more ready to face the next ones.