BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF
by Eda LeShan
It was a very busy week-Lots of chores to take care of, an article to type,
preparations for the visit of my daughter and granddaughter. I made up my mind I'd
have to get up very early in order to get everything done before they arrived. I
went shopping at the supermarket, and I found a plumbing supply company where I could get
a new stopper for the bathtub, and I bought myself a short summer bathrobe, and I found
three books to give to my granddaughter that I thought she'd like. I made up a
package of things to take to my father's house when we went to see him on SaturdayI
ran around all day and accomplished a lot, very efficiently.
And then I went home to wait for my daughter and
granddaughter to come. I figured with Friday traffic, they might arrive quite late.
When my husband came home for supper he said, "I've been trying to reach you
all day, but you were out. You got me all confused; today isn't Friday, it's
I was so well organized that I had done all the things I was
supposed to do on Friday, but I had missed all my Thursday appointmentsthe dentist,
the hairdresser, and delivering a manuscript to my agent.
I was devastated. This was something I had never done
before in my whole life. I have always been well-organized; in more than forty-five
years I had never missed a professional obligation even though my schedule of speaking
engagements was always very complicated. In my whole life I had never missed an
My immediate reaction was, this is the early-warning sign of
senilityor worse. It's all downhill to the cemetery from now on; all the
vitamins and minerals my daughter had instructed me to take aren't workingmy mind is
going. I was scared to death. Is there anyone over sixty who hasn't shared at
least a moment or two of such anxiety?
I was at a crossroadstwo possible choicesand I
think I made the right decision. The choice I rejected was to go on assuming that
old age was upon me and that I had become mentally incompetent. The choice I decided
upon was to see if I could figure out what other alternative reasons there might be for my
having lost Thursday.
It wasn't that hard to figure out. I was unusually
tired that week; I had been trying to do much more than anyone of any age could
comfortably handle. Too many demands were being made on me by other people and I had
allowed that to happen. The serenity and tranquillity I need at least some of the
time to feel good, had been set aside too long. I'd been stuck in the city, with its
brick walls and noise and crowds, too long and was starving for a day in the country.
And probably most of all, I was feeling ambivalent about my daughter's visit.
In order to hide my unconscious feelings, I turned Thursday into Friday to prove to
myself how eager I was for her arrival. On the one hand I adore both my daughter and
granddaughter, and don't get a chance to see them very often. On the other hand,
feeling so exhausted beforehand, the thought of the usual catastrophic changes that would
take place in my living room, with the sleeping bags and suitcases, and the number of
towels that would be lying wet all over the bathroom, and my darling granddaughter's
energy level from six in the morning to bedtimeI finally faced it: I wasn't one
hundred percent thrilled, as I felt I should be.
What I finally realized, even halfway through this exercise
in introspection, is that if I'd been forty and lost a Thursday, I would have known more
quickly the roles of fatigue and mixed feelings. At sixty-five, my first reaction
had been terror that I was losing my marbles. It behooves all of us who can no
longer fall into the "spring chicken" category to watch out for such
misjudgments. Far be it from me to suggest that aging doesn't bring with it some
physiological changes, but it is also true that many of us jump to the wrong conclusions
about ourselves because we are looking at the calendar too often and are not examining our
environment, our feelings, the circumstances of our lives, often enough.
Before we conclude that the mind is failing, we need to have
a long, serious, honest talk with ourselves. Most of the time the issue is not our
age but the fact that we are allowing ourselves to be exploited by other people's needs
and are not being as loving as we need to be toward ourselves.
P.S. Once I faced my ambivalent feelings, I had a fine time
with my daughter and my gorgeous granddaughter, and gave myself a day's rest in bed when
they went home. And I knew it was Monday.
From Its Better to Be Over the Hill Than Under It, by Eda LeShan.
Copyright © 1997 by Eda LeShan. Excerpted by arrangement with Newmarket Press. $11.95.
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