Attention-Getting ARCs Create Challenges … Quiet Capacities and Assets Await Our Attention

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As my ARCs (age related changes) accumulate and progress, they increasingly resemble the attention-demanding behavior of two year olds. Impossible for me and sometimes others to ignore. On the other hand, my steady, silent capacities and assets just seem to patiently wait their turn to be acknowledged and attended to.   And this seems to be true, not only for me, but for those who help me manage my daily living these days. (Perhaps it’s the same way that more attention is given to our pathology than to our quiet immune systems.)

There’s no question that I need to continue to acknowledge and come to understand each ARC. But (better late than never) I’m seeing the need to pay more attention to acknowledging, understanding and creatively using my capacities and external assets. They are so essential to my well-being. I need to understand them as thoroughly as I do my ARCs. I need to value them. A slight variation on a current chant “Equal pay for equal work” may just need to be my motto as well.   Equal attention for equal work.

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By increasing my underlying knowledge about my capacities and assets in the same way I have my ARCs I may well be able to use them more creatively . In “The Mature Mind” Cohen examines the way agers’ brains change and what is there, available to be used. Some neurons are still growing and so are some connections between areas of the brain.

Obviously I’m at an early stage as I share my thoughts in these areas and plans . What I can share now is that:

I believe I have a responsibility to offer care providers accurate, crisp descriptions of the status of my capacities and assets (strengths and weaknesses as they are relevant to the presenting situation). This way they can anticipate how I will manage what they are asking me to do. e.g. If my physician changes my medication regimen, I need to offer the current status of my short term/working memory. If he were to expect me to change a dressing, I’d need to bring up the status of my clumsy, weak fingers and their potential inability to manipulate tape or dressings.   With my support figures (professional or otherwise) I need to offer data on what I can and cannot do as it is relevant to their desires or expectations.

I’m working on identifying (putting into words) and treasuring specific capacities and assets as they come into play in my adaptations. In my thoughts, I actually talk to them. When they do well in preventing a problem I praise them warmly, put gold stars in their crowns.   I sympathize with them when they try, but have difficulty. When they goof off, I give them black marks of the size and blackness warranted by the degree of failure.

I’m discovering that capacities and assets are like ingredients in my cooking—highly adaptable to be used in multiple ways. All my brain needs to do is figure out how success or lack of it in using them in one situation can be applied to another.  That means I need to know them, well.

As you can see, understanding and using my capacities and assets with greater creativity and effectiveness is a work in progress (like so much of my EWAing has proven to be).

If you readers have any ideas, please comment and share them with me. I can promise you that they will be well received and put to use.

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One Task, Five ARCs and Chaos!

All I had wanted to do was continue my tradition of making cardamom buns for my family’s Thanksgiving dinners. Just as I’d done for decades and my mother and her mother had done before me.

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But somehow this time it was no longer smooth. I was clumsy, forgetful, messy, made missteps. As it was all going on, the idea began to emerge that there were ARCs that were changing my former skill and confidence. Once the baked buns were at last resting on the cooling rack and sending their aromas throughout the house, I collapsed in my recliner. Eventually my brain came back to life and I began to think about ARCs and bread baking. I realized that five of my ARCs were the culprits.

Short term memory : risks of omitting or doubling ingredients, failure to set (and turn on) the timer for yeast related, proofing and baking times

Balance: precariousness with all the turning that was needed; and when (rather than being available to support me) both hands were needed for activities or carrying containers, a pot, mixing bowl, etc. from one place to another; being pulled off-center when carrying heavier items.

Arm strength: for carrying or manipulating the mixing bowl with a heavy bread dough in it; kneading the dough, lifting the 10# flour sack.

Hand grasp: lifting and opening containers, manipulating small objects, removing heavy, sticky dough from the mixing bowl for kneading.

Stamina:   running “out of steam” before the bread was out of the oven, despite resting as the dough proofed.

As I sat in the recliner recuperating, I thought that perhaps it was time to pass the torch to the granddaughters. I’d already shared the recipe and procedures and even done trial runs with them. But then as my energy began to rise, so did my Engaging with Aging thinking mode. This time “Adaptation” came front and center. With each ARC and Impact Area, I thought about alternative approaches that would be not only doable, but acceptable, even satisfying.

So now the Christmas season is approaching and I’m once again looking forward to the tradition of making the family’s “gramma’s buns”. I may spread it out over two days, I’ll use my trusty walker with a tray on the seat to transport ingredients and the dough and pans about the kitchen, and I’ll continue to be a bit slower, clumsier and probably a bit more tired than normal. But I will be doing it and feeling triumphant in the process.

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What Do I Have to Offer?

What can I give Him, Poor as I am?
If I were a Shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him? Give my heart.

From A Christmas Carol, Christina Rosetti, 1872

As the effects of aging gradually erode my capacity to do things for others (knit, sew, bake things, even shop and then wrap and tie gifts), I find myself increasingly uncomfortable with the situation. I’d not seen myself as a needy person who wanted others dependent on me, but I do like to feel useful. And I’d been brought up to reciprocate. With growing limitations on “doing capabilities” how can I fulfill my need to feel useful to others and reciprocate all the kindnesses I receive?

I’m not like the little boy in the poem who could just give his heart. The only option that occurs to me as the alternative to “doing unto” was the possibility of “being unto”. I wonder if or how that might be an adequate alternative. “Things” are so concrete and finite — you know when you’ve done it as does the recipient. “Being” is so ephemeral. I’ll know what I’ve tried to offer. Would the recipient recognize my offering? Does it matter?

As I pondered, I began to take inventory of the resources I had that could make me useful in the “being” realm. I am richly endowed with time and availability these days. I have a welcoming, casual, comfortable house. A living room with two swivel rocking chairs (also a recliner, but that’s mine). The rockers rotate so one can look out the wall of windows at the busy bridge, the bay and its marine traffic, the cityscape and beyond a craggy mountain range.   Or, when it was gray and nasty outdoors, there was a reliably cheery fireplace. The kitchen holds both coffee and tea pots along with the fixings to put in them. And the cookie tin is usually reasonably full. I can manage to set a table and probably one dish for a meal if others bring something and don’t mind pitching in. So, I have an environment in which one could share a meal, unwind, chat, or just sit with a companion.

Beyond that what do I think I personally have to offer? A genuine pleasure in people, their lives and ideas; and a pretty nonjudgmental attitude. I enjoy chatting and listening (if you don’t speak too softly).   I’m comfortable with periods of silence. I think I can be a sounding board , a listener who will just take in the message, help explore but not have ready solutions. Or go on joint exploration expeditions of thought and planning. I’m pretty good at putting nebulous things into words. I can trust others with my ideas for their critique and exploration. I have stories to tell and enjoy others’ stories.

I also have two arms that are still capable of hugging should the occasion seem to arise (as long as I center my body or have a handy solid support nearby before the encounter.)

I’m not able to do hand written notes or letters any more, but my keyboarding is still speedy. I can initiate or respond to emails promptly with thought for what might be of interest or appropriate. I can offer editing skills of writing with whatever expertise and creativity I have.

As I think about it I realize that I’ve already been doing this whenever it happens to occur. So what might be different? Obviously I wouldn’t announce “This is a gift because I can no longer wrap one in a box for you.”  It would just have to be a silent offering given with awareness and care. It remains to be seen if it is enough to satisfy me and those involved.

There will be no blog post next week – Merry Christmas to all!