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Just keep on keeping on

Just keep on keeping on

What I’m reading
Vanguard’s guide to retirement withdrawal strategies.

[E]very conversation takes place on two levels. The official conversation is represented by the words we are saying on whatever topic we are talking about. The actual conversations occur amid the ebb and flow of emotions that get transmitted as we talk. With every comment I am showing you respect or disrespect, making you feel a little safer or a little more threatened. The Essential Skills of Being Human.

Deep thoughts
When the kids came home last night the first thing they both said when they walked in the door (1/2 hour apart) is, “You’re dressed! What’s going on!?” UGH. I need to get out more. In my defense, it’s been a lot of bedrest for medical reasons and once that was done, Mr. Tucker had condo stuff to do in his spare time so all personal stuff was de-prioritized as we ended up in survival mode. But it’s time.

Still, I want my kids to remember having an active mother who go out as much as she could despite disability. In general, I feel like I am way more active than a lot of other disabled folks. Some it’s due to the severity of their disability and for some it’s just plain giving up. If I was a researcher I would study the health trajectories/outcomes of people who had a positive, life-affirming attitude and those who give up once they’re diagnosed. I am happy to offer support, kind words and resources to people going through a rough time – sometimes you just need to complain to other people who understand what you are going through. But I’ve had to block individuals in online PLS groups because they were posting constantly about how awful they felt and how they can’t do anything and how all of their friends don’t want to hang out with them. It was a constant barrage of pity-party posts and it just exhausted me and brought me down. I think perhaps these people should reflect on whether or not it was disability that turned people off or if it was the constant complaining?

But truth be told, while I have experienced some of that, most of my good friendships got stronger after I was diagnosed. Sure, some people will always fall by the wayside but it’s difficult to tease out how much of that is just a natural progression in friendship and what is an inability to manage someone’s diagnosis. I keep showing up for them and in turn they keep showing up for me.

But back to last night’s astute observation by my kids. If I’m honest, pre-pandemic I went to the gym 3-5 days a week, did dragon boat, walked or biked around the neighbourhood more and did physiotherapy twice a week. Since then, I haven’t been back to my usual activity levels and my return to dragon boat was thwarted by my broken foot followed by a huge pelvic surgery (that went a bit sideways). It feels like since we have been back post-pandemic with some regularity, it’s been one thing after another. Having said that, I am determined to change that even as we head into winter. I think I have been focusing too much on what I can’t do and not really focusing on what I can. In other words, while I am not whinging about it on facebook, I am falling into the same trap of the people who constantly complain. I need to show up for me.

Next weekend is pretty social with games night and heading out for dinner with friends on Friday night. The following weekend is book club. These things remind me that I am still doing things but I am just not back up to the level I once was. I plan to change that.

What I’m up to
Mr. Tucker is at the condo today as the appliances have been delivered. He sent me a picture and they look FANTASTIC! He also replaced the vent covers, replaced the shower curtainrod and now he’s putting the doors back on and measuring a few things. The last things we need to do are: fix the window, install the microwave, replace the bathroom fixture and replace a curtain on the closet.

It finally feels like we are in the home stretch and are almost ready to put it on the market!

Oh, and as for last night: we went out to buy paint for the room switch! The Eldest is moving into the office downstairs and Mr. Tucker is moving the office upstairs. He plans to do most of the painting next weekend as it is American Thanksgiving and it’s super slow at work. That will leave him energy to paint at night. Then on the weekend, we will move her stuff downstairs. Damn, it will be good to be able to have a shared office again. I have a desk tucked into a corner of the living room and quite frankly – it sucks.

Since we’ve also used almost none of our pocket money this month, afterwards we treated the kids to dinner. It was a pretty lovely evening and it felt good to be out.

Bon Vindredi à tous!

On the dark unfairness of life

On the dark unfairness of life

(instead of A Jot A Day, you get this)

The Wheel of Fortune

When I first let people know my diagnosis, I had a very morbid thought: some of the people who were responding to me with kind messages of support may actually die before me. They may also become disabled. They may also have their lives rocked by an untreatable illness or major accident.

Of course, that prediction has come true. But I wasn’t particularly prescient: the wheel of fortune goes up and the wheel of fortune goes down. Whether or not you are a pauper or a king, death comes for us all.

Thankfully our brains are really good at shielding us from the inevitable. Most healthy adults don’t walk around constantly worrying about death. But when tragedy strikes it comes to the forefront of all of our minds and we are confronted by the reality that life is profoundly unfair.

We think that we will stave off the reaper by eating well, exercising, and practicing mindfulness. We take vitamins, get enough sleep and drink a lot of water. We hope that it is enough so that we can live a long, healthy life. Indeed, it is definitely the smart thing to do for sure: a healthy lifestyle is a great way to extend what Dr. Peter Attia calls “healthspan.” We all should definitely be doing as many right things as possible. But as much as we believe in the Just World Hypothesis – that the world is fair and we will be either punished or rewarded for our behaviour – it’s just not true. The universe is a random, chaotic place full of unknowns.

We can do all of the right things and hedge our bets thinking we will come out ahead – or at least come out even. But the house ALWAYS wins.

I don’t know if I mentioned it but Mr. Tucker is adopted. Because the universe seems to have a sense of humour, I actually went to high school with two of his biological sisters. Having them in our life feels natural even though we haven’t been able to spend a lot of time together since covid. They are very special, wonderful people.

Unfortunately, one of his sisters has a 25-year-old son who is very sick with an incredibly rare type of cancer. Although he has done all the right things, it has been abundantly clear that he is in his final days. It is profoundly unfair that this should happen to someone so young. He has two younger sisters who are still under 18 and the entire family is just in crisis right now. I cannot think of a more profoundly horrific experience as a mother than to watch your child slowly die…and there is nothing you can do.

My mother always used to say two things, “don’t wish your life away,” for when someone is impatient for the future and “old age is a luxury afforded to too few,” for when someone complains about the aging process. I feel these two things profoundly today as I think of them all at the hospital, eking out what last moments they can steal from death.

Life isn’t fair. We know it as a platitude and we know it as a truth. We pretend it is because it protects our mental health and allows us to go forward and live our lives. It gives us a sense of agency that we know intellectually we do not have. “When your times up, your time’s up” is another one of my mother’s favourite sayings. For some people it scares them: stay inside! Don’t take risks! Don’t endanger your life or security! For others that saying invokes the opposite response: go outside! Take as many risks as you can! Live life to the fullest!

For most of us, life is lived in the in-between spaces. The moments we steal between work and responsibility. The moments we get with our family and friends, to work on our hobbies or to do the activities we enjoy. The risks we take or don’t take depending on our temperaments, our financial situations and where we live and work. If I have one defining poem that I keep coming back to since my diagnosis it is Mary Oliver’s, The Summer Day:

The Summer Day
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean–
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down —
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?

– Mary Oliver

Tell me, what is it you plan to do, with your one wild and precious life?