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The Mortality Club

Beware the Shrinking Comfort Zone

Last Tuesday I had an 11:00 appointment with my cardiologist. She’s in Seattle, which is ninety miles from where I live. A few years ago, I didn’t think twice about driving down and back. It was, as they say, “a piece of cake.” My husband, David, used to accompany me. We would use the appointment as an opportunity to get out of the house and do something interesting. Often, we’d go out to lunch and then spend the afternoon at the art museum. Or, we’d explore the new technology offerings at the Apple store. Or, we’d just walk the city streets getting what I called our “city fix.”

We scarcely noticed when we made the transition from voluntarily accompanying one another to medical appointments to the stage when it became necessary. Driving both ways and enduring the inevitable stress of a medical examination became too fatiguing for me. We got to the point when one of us would drive down, and the other, drive back. As that happened,I began to find it too physically demanding to see the doctor and then fill the day with other diversions, especially since those other diversions were located in the center of town, even further from our home. “We’ll see the exhibit next time,” I'd suggest to David. “After all, we don’t want to get stuck in rush hour traffic.”  Read More 
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It's a Shame

Shame afflicts far too many older people. What is shame? Humiliation and embarrassment are two of the synonyms that come to mind. When we feel ashamed, we begin to think that we are unworthy—unworthy of love, of respect or even of sympathy. Doubting our own worthiness, we begin to lose confidence in ourselves. Our self esteem decreases. We feel unempowered, vulnerable and exposed. A vicious cycle ensues. We start to behave like victims, thereby inviting disdain, disrespect or abuse at the hands of people who prey on the weak.

Why is shame an affliction of the old? Unfortunately, there are a number of reasons; so many in fact, that it’s surprising some of us manage to escape the affliction. In a culture that prizes youth, we can feel ashamed of having a body that is deteriorating and can no longer perform as well as it once did. In a society that applauds the strong and independent, we can feel ashamed of needing the help of others. We tough it out, pretending that everything is under control when, indeed, it is not. We can feel ashamed of getting sick, and even of dying.  Read More 
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