I’ve Misplaced My Derring-Do

Great Aunt Beulah said, “People think old folks like me are daft and feeble.” Then she decapitated a chicken.

Her words stuck with me; and since my retirement, I’ve realized their truth. When I attend meetings like those I used to facilitate, the other participants allow me to sit in silence and look wise. On crowded buses, parents tell their children to stand up and “offer that lady your seat.” Teenagers with spiked hair hold doors until I totter through.

When I took a bowling class, fresh-faced classmates offered one another advice: “Start your release sooner,” or, “ Move a couple of boards left.” Their feedback to me was “Nice try” and a vacated seat so I could catch my breath after rolling two gutter balls. When I walk with younger family members, motorists who stop for directions address their questions to those with unlined brows, as though my wrinkles mean I no longer recognize my neighborhood.

I notice these age-based reactions without letting them disturb my peace of mind or nap. I do, however, worry that I expect less of myself. During the years I worked as a consultant to small school districts in northwest Colorado, I drove alone through the darkness of winter on narrow, two-lane roads curving along rivers and through ranch lands. I maneuvered steep passes buttressed by frozen waves of snow, made lonely by the absence of homes and fellow travelers. I sang with the radio as sparse snow thickened and fell with increased determination.

Now I hesitate to drive three miles in full daylight if a skiff of snow is blowing across the highway.

I used to anticipate the challenge of walking into a workshop filled with seventy-five professionals sizing up the stranger who would instruct them. I liked convincing skeptics I had content knowledge, could make training meaningful and was serious when I said we would keep the break to fifteen minutes.

Now when a friend asks for volunteers to tell stories of the past to first graders, I avoid eye contact.

In my personal life, I thought nothing of cleaning bathrooms while doing laundry, scrubbing floors while making a shopping list, re-potting houseplants while calling my sister, cooking dinner while preparing to party.

Now I feel unduly burdened by one such task, and it takes most of a day to prepare for an evening out — there are so many more problems to disguise.

I used to fuss about my growing reluctance to engage, to rush from task to task, to agree to do things I don’t want to do. But I slowly realized it is permissible to do things I enjoy, not those others expect. It’s O.K. to relax into the rhythms of the life I have rather than trying to maintain the cadences of my younger self.

Living more slowly allows me to recognize my growing need for simplicity: a cluster on the back fence of sweet peas I grew from seed give me more happiness than watching the latest hit movie. As autumn advances, sharing a homemade meal of soup and bread with Joel pleases me more than dining in a restaurant, and sitting in the backyard surrounded by chickadees doing their flighty thing while I read or write seems more satisfying than a trip abroad.

Simple things refresh me, soothe me, fill me with wonder because I now have the time and wisdom to notice them.

Advertisements

69 thoughts on “I’ve Misplaced My Derring-Do

  1. Thank you so much for putting into words my thoughts. I still sometimes struggle with allowing myself to accept this new rhythm. K

    Like

    • On occasion, I too, become obsessed with accomplishing something unimportant, Kay, and have to remind myself the task isn’t worth my self-imposed stress. As my mom used to say, “The dirty windows will be here tomorrow; right now I need some quiet time.”

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh for the remembrance of sweet peas that my grand-dad grew. I have never grown them but must .And chickadees…well that is
    another story straight from Heaven.
    I am so glad Cobweb introduce us. I will enjoy sitting with you.

    Like

  3. As usual, this is a beautifully written post that rings so true AND made me smile. I’m loving this time in my life, for all the reasons you enumerated. (I think “derring-do” could possibly be overrated.)

    Like

  4. I adore you, Janet. Living a simpler life is so rewarding. I know I appreciate it more in the “slow- moving lane”. When a new friend in a community marketplace asked if my husband and I would be stopping back there for an evening of live entertainment recently, I smiled and said, “We don’t go out much in the evenings anymore.” She shook her head and whispered, “I wish I didn’t have to either.”

    Liked by 2 people

  5. goodness you have made me laugh-“Misery loves company” rings true for me-Ha! We are so alike it is scary. Gosh if I forget a detail, I am apt to get that “look”-from others! oh well-like you I will watch the sweet peas ramble and be quite content. What a lovely post! thank you! love Michele

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You have captured so much of the “getting older” experience, Janet, but you’ve given us reasons to not worry about the downsides. I still catch myself thinking “I’ll do this after work” when, i fact, I dread the idea of even going shopping after work. I did last week, and it felt good, but I owuld really rather come home, talk to my wife, pet the dog and finish the evening slowly.

    Like

  7. Yes, exactly. Not long ago I realized what a joke, illusion, that whole thing was and I think I knew it, too, but I had to earn a living. I knew at the TIME the only “time well spent” was that hiking with my dogs. So strange. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • How wonderful you recognized walking your dogs was necessary to your soul even while you put so much energy into earning a living. And how glad I am that the same solace remains with you today.

      Like

  8. Wonderful post. And I’m right there with you, I am loving releasing the clutter of the past. Enjoying doing less but feeling it more. Happy that sometimes doing nothing is the absolute best thing.

    Like

  9. Wonderful post, Janet, although you’ve given me images of a chicken being decapitated! Even though I’m still working and consider myself active, I prefer slowing things up when I can on the weekends. I think it’s a good plan that you have for going through life.

    Like

    • I think when we’re working and involved in a variety of things, as you know, it is important to take time to breathe on weekends. As for the chicken, it was proof to me as a child that my old, old aunt was the farthest thing from feeble.

      Like

  10. Beautiful piece. I like how you use your humor to catch our attention at the beginning and expertly keep us engaged until the end….when you quietly “hit home” with what you want us to walk away with….<3

    Like

  11. Another thoughtful read. I, too, like Lucie’s analysis of this piece—couldn’t have said it better myself.

    I must say though, that I find it a little unsettling that it’s only in the twilight of life when most of us begin to appreciate the pleasures of living simply, slowly and with intent.

    As for the heroic courage of driving through desolate areas in raging snowstorms—been there, done that! And, with age, I realize that I don’t have to prove to myself that I’m capable of that feat any longer.

    You are the paradigm of successful aging, Janet!

    Like

  12. I’m so impressed by your ability to write about your experiences with younger people, your observations, and your disappointments with your own performance without bitterness or rancor. I’m challenged with the realities of aging too, and am trying to accept, accept, accept! My biggest trial every day is being able to do only a fraction of the things that took only a nanosecond a few years ago. But I won’t elaborate—you have outlined the problem so well!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for letting me know you can relate to my slowing down. I began to accept it when I became aware of the upside, those things I mentioned in my post. Still, when things must be done quickly, I miss my boundless energy. And thank you, Diane, for your kind words about the post.

      Like

  13. Oh AB I can relate to every word as I lie here wondering whether I’ll clean the house today or leave it until tomorrow when things are cooler. Perhaps I will heed the advice of the weather bureau turn on the aircon throw myself on the couch and watch Roger and his mates sweat it out on centre court instead. Once I would have been up at dawn to drive into the city to watch the Open. Now? Well who needs the smell of the crowd and box seats when you can have a cup of tea in front of ‘the box’?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your made me chuckle with this comment. Your mind seems to work much like mine when in such situations, both the housecleaning and the choice between TV and box seats. I commend you for your judicious decision-making abilities.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Janet, I really don’t think we expect less of ourselves, at least usually. Sure there are things we used to do that we would dream of trying now but those activities are rare. It used to be that so much of what we did was thought of as being so important. Looking back, I have to chuckle because a lot of it was extremely trivial. I think most people, as they grow older gain more common sense wisdom and we start realizing that stopping to smell the roses has more meaning than it used to.

    Like

  15. I’m afraid we live in an ageist world, and your observations capture that so aptly (humorously, as always!). I never did much thinking about how I would want to grow older, but if it means that I will have the time & space & wisdom to appreciate the unfolding of each new leaf on my Husband’s tomato plant, I don’t think I would want to be anytime else.

    Like

  16. I’ve noticed my rhythms and ambitions adjusting as well. I need a very good reason for a drive to downtown or out to Sparks. I happily travel to Carson for a hair appointment, writers group, or book club. Priorities! However, I have to admit that after a morning of writing or a yoga class, a lie-down with a book after lunch is a pleasure.

    Like

  17. Thanks Janet, You help me feell better when my Granny- Nap lasts all afternoon. I am cautious now where reckless in youth, consider my forties oddly never,and try not to fear the future. Be Aunt Beulah Bold! Chicken or no chicken.

    Like

    • My thirties seem to be my lost decade; don’t know why. I love the motto “Be Aunt Beulah Bold.” I’ll never forget the way she punctuated her statement with the thwack of a hatchet. I loved that woman.

      Like

  18. Such a lovely self-accepting post, Janet. I have to be honest that for too long I chastised myself for not accomplishing what had once been easy and routine. “What’s wrong with me?” And my old stand-by worry was that I was just being lazy. When I could no longer do marathon gardening, stopping only at dark, I was sad, but it helped me realize it wasn’t because I didn’t want to but because I couldn’t. “Oh, I’m getting older.”
    I sometimes miss the days of hustle and bustle but I’ve learned to apppreciate these quieter days with less expectations from myself and from others.
    That’s a lot of talking to say that you’ve once again put into gentle words what I’m also now living and loving and accepting.

    Like

    • It seems you and I, in aging as friends, have made many of the same discoveries about life and it’s twists and turns and have come to many of the same realizations. There is a certain amount of peace and letting go of expectations that is rather nice. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought, “Oh, I’m getting older,” with a certain amount of surprise giving way to acceptance in the last five years. I currently feel that way because I’ve embarked on a journey you undertook some time ago. As I watch the dye slowly grow out of my hair, I’m surprised every time I look in the mirror, but acceptance of my decision is slowly seeping in. Right now I’d say I look like a dirty spotted dog with a coat of varying hues.

      Like

      • Perhaps an Australian Shepherd? I was kinda disappointed to find I had silver hair when I was hoping for pure white. I know I look older, but last summer on an airplane, a woman across the aisle wordlessly pointed at her hair, then at me, and gave a thumbs up sign. I’m still warmed by her compliment.
        Janet, your thoughts about aging have helped me find peace about this getting older shtick.
        I know you’ll look gorgeous…. two thumbs up to you.

        Like

  19. What a lovely compliment that was, Mary. We women should do more of that for one another. Yes, an Australian Shepherd with patches of brass,100% dull gray, salt and pepper heavy on the salt in spots and heavy on the pepper in others and my natural brunette at the neckline. Joel is being quite stoic about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Oh what a lovely post! This is my first visit, but I know it won’t be my last. Oh the fast past world we all live in seems to get faster every day as we get older. I can’t wait to get off the main road and travel those slower paced roads and enjoy the beauty around me. In our younger days we want to experience everything and work at such a maddening pace we don’t often stop to enjoy all the little things. We are too busy with working and cleaning and cooking and car pooling and going to watch those kiddos playing their sports and just plain trying to put 30 hours into each day. I’m so looking forward to my retirement in a few years when I can just stop and catch my breath once in awhile. Enjoy the little things that keep passing me by. We’ve learned that those are the things that really matter. Thanks for sharing your wonderful thoughts. 🙂

    Like

  21. Hi Aunt Beulah
    I popped in for a visit and I am so glad I did..
    I love this story so much!!!
    Clarity, that is one thing I take away from it, also acceptance they go hand in hand. You just walked me through the fog into the beautiful sunlight. The warm sunrays ‘soooothed’ my flamin’ nerve wrecked, stress contorted body and my mind full of nonsensical anxiety and whats more nobody knows about it except me, Derr!! you clean flipped me on my head and Crikey me!! light came on.🙃
    It is only I who can take the foot off the accelerator and SLOW DOWN!! No worries ‘I will do or fix that’ can be a plain ol’ No!! (Truth being it is all just too hard now)
    It sounds like from what you have experienced that the thought process that everything and everyone must be be tended to at once, should just run a natural and expected course toward finding clarity and acceptance that this need not be the case.
    Brilliant Aunt Beulah, I get it, the time has come to accept all my Derring-do days are hard to muster, I need to smell the roses or sweet peas. I need to make time to plant them first, but I will, my goodness I will.
    Thankyou for putting it all into words so plain and clear Aunt Beulah. I am fast losing my Derring-do and I can’t wait until it buggers off for good. I know now it will take it’s course and I can understand how and why.

    You are my sunshine, a special sunshine, you make me happy when skies are grey!!!!! Please don’t take that sunshine away 😘
    Sending you lots of love and biggest hugs from
    Annie in Australia 🌴🌞🌊❤❤❤❤❤❤

    Like

    • And I love you so much, dear Annie from Australia. You bring sunshine to my life as well. I am sorry about your derring-do, because I know how much I missed mine when it waved good bye and slowed down to a snail’s pace. But eventually I began to think, “I’m glad that bothersome thing has gone on its merry way, leaving me in peace.” If my words have brought you any measure of help, of reassurance, then i feel blessed because that is exactly what I would want to do. I love, love, love you, Annie. Please keep me informed about how you are doing.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s