Do you feel marginalized as you age? I do.

Perhaps you’ve heard about a new article in The Atlantic by Science journalist Ed Yong entitled:

“The Final Pandemic Betrayal.” Mr. Yong won the Pulitzer Prize in Explanatory Reporting for this “series of lucid, definitive pieces on the COVID-19 pandemic that anticipated the course of the disease, synthesized the complex challenges the country faced, illuminated the U.S. government’s failures and provided clear and accessible context for the scientific and human challenges it posed.

The subtitle of Mr. Yong’s latest article from April 2022 is:

“Millions of people are still mourning loved ones lost to COVID, their grief intensified, prolonged, and even denied by the politics of the pandemic.” I saw an interview with him this week that really hit home for me. At least nine million of us have lost someone we knew and cared for and yet it seems we just go on, ignoring the tremendous losses to so many. In just two years, COVID became the third most common cause of death in the U.S., which means that it is also the third leading cause of grief.

“Each American who has died of COVID has left an average of nine close relatives bereaved, creating a community of grievers larger than the population of all but 11 states. Under normal circumstances, 10% of bereaved people would be expected to develop prolonged grief, which is unusually intense, incapacitating, and persistent. But for COVID grievers, that proportion may be even higher, because the pandemic has ticked off so many risk factors.”

In his recent interview, Mr. Yong discussed what is for me the most important aspect of this horrible loss of life. The groups hardest hit were “marginalized” sections of our society. Who are they? The elderly, those chronically ill, the weakened, the brown, the black and low income groups who have less access to decent health care.

My experience in the past eight years, as I grow older and my own health declines, has been a movement from a “normal” person to one who definitely feels marginalized. First with the aging process we slowly become invisible in our culture, or worse, someone who should just get out of the way of the younger and more vital. Yes, it’s true some help me with doors and seem to feel some compassion for my difficult circumstances, but I have experienced a pulling away from others as I have become more disabled. I have found it almost impossible to make true friends in this rural area. It seems just about nobody believes I am worth their time and energy. I don’t think I would have believed it if I hadn’t experienced it myself.

In this way I have learned what “marginalized” means in this country. We have always put an emphasis on being healthy and able-bodied, and when I was also healthy I rarely noticed what happened to those who are not. Yes, I do have financial resources unlike so many Americans, but I do not live by bread alone. Thanks to those of you who have made an effort to welcome us here. And to the rest of you, I hope you don’t ever become elderly and need a friend.

Mid-May Colorado Foothills Garden Notes

At a little over 7,000 feet here in southern Colorado, buds are just beginning to pop out!

except for my crazy honeysuckle bush. She insists on flowering way too early!

The first flowers, the tiny irises and the Turkish Veronica, came out in the first week in May…

and our native penstemon and Catmint flowers soon followed.

I love the anticipation each spring. What will come out next and what have I forgotten I planted last summer?

Mostly I love sitting out in my garden in the early mornings, listening to the birds, watching the Rocky Mountain bluebirds feed their chicks, soaking in the sun’s warmth, and that unmistakable feeling of pure joy and peace. I find this to be the perfect antidote for the news and the general feeling of fear and anxiety in our world today…

I’m living one day at a time now. That is all we have.

Spring Gardening in the Colorado Foothills

I truly do pity those who don’t have a garden to observe in the spring! Every new day is an adventure out there. I put in new perennials every year and so I must then remember where I put what, and go out and see what made it through the winter. Sometimes very subtle signs at first!

My earliest bloomer this spring were some miniature irises. Regular irises to bloom later in May or early June…

The irises even beat the tiny creeping thyme flowers (Turkish Veronica) this year!

We had a small but wonderful rain last night and so all the plants look refreshed and ready to thrive...

…and the rain also cleared the smoke out of our skies for a lovely view of the Sangre de Cristos this morning!

Mike’s been busy with his new welder too. He made a cute, little wiener dog puppy for me yesterday!

Aging, Imaginary Friends & Transcendence

I mean, what could be more natural? Throughout human history and certainly since each of us first started attempting to create ‘relationships’, we have naturally projected our own needs, desires, and preferences onto anyone around we found handy and appealing. But reality can be so harsh. If we spend time to get to know our latest “possible friend material”, it’s always disappointing. “Oh no, this is just one more flawed, imperfect, lost soul. Damn, I thought I’d found someone more together than me.”

Then AI comes along and before long we had some fascinating new ways of (mis)communicating. Artificial-intelligence gone wild! Spring break for cheaters! Open season on imagining anything or anyone and then hoping for the best!

Databases like Facebook and most dating sites made it much easier to imagine others’ lives instead of bothering to get to know them… at all! Imagine projecting across the globe and so easily. It may well bring one of our worst traits to the surface, and then convince us that we have scads of imaginary friends. Oh well. I guess that beats no friends at all 😦

I marvel at the apparent power of Facebook. After decades of wondering (or not) we connect to a few we just barely recognized in high school, but back then most of us were too scared, self-conscious or self-absorbed to get to know anyone else. Or maybe just too high… I remember my high school self as a unique combination of shrinking violet and wallflower with just a hint of enforced invisibility. For me, being in public was painful, unless I was ice skating.

Don’t worry, high school was just the pupa stage. We got much better!

Sometimes I like to compare our lifecycle to that of the butterfly. One of the reasons I enjoy this image is that it means that we were only pupa in high school and college, coming out of our pupa in midlife, and we’re now moving into our full butterfly stage, as free and beautiful as we will ever be! One thing is for sure, we are just about as authentic as we are ever going to be now.

I find that transcendent…

Such a refreshing perspective!
“I had to go through so much just to be here now.
That makes me feel so proud of myself!
I can’t believe I made it so far!”

Postscript: Perhaps death is such a relief because there is truly nothing else to go wrong.

The worst case scenario just arrived!

Aging & Accepting New Limits…

I am ever amazed at the distance between knowing how much my health has changed and accepting those new limits. In the past seven years I have gone from a healthy 60-year-old to one who needs supplemental oxygen to breath and help with balance and stability while walking. My highest priority now is to not fall again and suffer another head injury. I’ve already had one traumatic brain injury and several serious concussions.

Acceptance releases everything to be what it already is.

On my birthday this year I learned in no uncertain terms that I cannot walk more than a few blocks, and that is with balance assistance at all times. I have been an avid walker my whole life. I would love to know how many miles I have walked in my 65+ years. I was inspired by Thoreau’s essay on “The fine art of sauntering.”

Walking was always my best way to contemplate my doubts and troubles. If I was upset I would go for a long walk along the Big Thompson River in Loveland, or around my neighborhood in Fort Collins. There I worked things out in my mind.

This is not an option now. I fell down in my garden a couple years ago and split my upper lip badly. Even short walks are out of the question, even if Mike is there to help. I am depressed and frustrated with this change in my lifestyle, and acceptance has never been my forte. I am one stubborn person!

However, I heard something the other day which stuck with me. It was about how we may decide to focus and go deeper into our spirituality when our physical abilities wane. This has already happened to some extent, because I’m that kind of person and I am stuck inside most of the time.

Luckily I have a phenomenal view from my bed, an 180 degree view of the Sangre de Cristos!

OK, I guess I can live with this.

Find A Healing Environment For Retirement

In my last post I wrote about healing relationships, relationships that truly saved my life. But I have not yet shared one of the most important transitions I have gone through in the past eight years. I hear so much these days about Boomers who are trying to find the best place to retire. Of course, that will be different for each of us, but for me, retiring as close to nature as possible has transformed me. And the irony is that I was not certain at all whether I wanted to come here in the first place.

Eight years ago at this time, Mike and I was crazy busy preparing to sell our beautiful home in the Fort Collins suburbs so we could build a passive solar home on three acres west of Walsenburg, Colorado. Mike was always convinced that this was his ideal retirement plan. I was not so sure. Still surprised that I would even be able to retire by age 60, our options still hadn’t struck me. Then, after we moved into a rundown old miner’s home in town while we built our new home 13 miles west of there, I became really worried. I could not figure out where I was for a while. You try moving from a big cosmopolitan city to a tired old town of less than 3,000 souls, then you tell me if you don’t feel a whole lot of culture shock.

Our first year down here was difficult. So many disappointments and worker slow downs in construction, not to mention health concerns. But we did prevail and moved into our brand new home a little over one year later…

Oh, did I mention the view of the Spanish Peaks and the Sangre de Cristo Range from our new home?

When we first moved in, nothing seemed real. I felt like I had moved into a fancy foothills resort and the management would be coming soon to kick us out. After living in cities and suburbia for most of my life, this felt a bit like make-believe. To finally live in a naturally warm, energy-saving home that we had designed specifically for our needs and up to our standards with a view like that? Wow! But the best was yet to come.

The escape from the frenetic energy of cities was the best! I don’t know that I can properly describe exactly how peaceful this place felt after living with all of that crowding and traffic my whole life. The silence was astounding! I loved to go out in the morning, sit down and just soak it all in; the sunrises, the bird songs, the trees, the mountains. How did I end up here?

In the years since, my love of this place has grown and grown along with my sky garden, dedicated to my brother. How was I ever so lucky? With many new health challenges including head injuries and the need for permanent supplemental oxygen, I still feel so content to watch the sunrise each morning and look out over that tremendous view, knowing that I have finally found the place I belong.

In June 2014 we packed up or got rid of most of our worldly goods, sold our home in Fort Collins, and took off for an ancient rental in Walsenburg, Colorado. It was then we named ourselves the “NEW Old Farts” because we were barely 60 years old. I have been sharing our retirement story here on this blog since October 2014; the year long passive solar construction wins and losses, the big move in and our gradual adjustment to life in rural Colorado. We have fallen in love with living in tune with the sun and seasons, waking up each day amazed to find ourselves in such a beautiful, quiet, natural place. Good luck choosing the perfect place to make your own retirement dreams come true!

Please contact me at MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com to purchase copies of any of my books. Thanks!