A friend of mine used the word adaptability the other day as the overseas conference she, and many of my friends were going to be attending was being affected by the ripple effects of the coronavirus. And as I read the word ‘adaptability’, I could instantly feel that this word is one that not only the world-wide family of humanity is being confronted with right now as life, as we have known it, is changing moment by moment, but a word those of us who are in the latter stages of our lives are also being confronted with regularly.
I have come to see that life is forever changing, nothing is meant to stay the same and if we try to delay or even stop change, the effects will be felt in our bodies and in the way we live, and not in a good way. For me, it’s become more about embracing what life is offering me in each moment rather than staying embedded in the way it has always been, fearing what might confront me in the future.
Our life is one big cycle from birth to death, with many smaller cycles in between as we make our way through our days. And I am coming to see that the ageing cycle is simply one of these cycles; one that is inevitable, but one that does not have to be approached with a feeling of doom, instead, one that can be embraced and lived to the fullest. That’s where being adaptable comes in, as the more we are willing to adapt – to say yes to the necessary changes – the easier, more enjoyable and fulfilling our lives will be.
At present, there is one person who is demonstrating this to me, and others, with such clarity and inspiration. This is my friend Dorothy who I wrote about in a previous blog called ‘You’re Never too Old to Change’.
Dorothy is in her 90th year and up till a few months ago living in her little unit in a small complex of similarly aged people. She was loving her independence as she scooted around town in her little car or, on some days, on foot which she loved the most as she could stop to chat with people on the way. She was still volunteering at her local Hospice shop for a few hours a week and regularly tapping away on her laptop keyboard to keep in touch with friends around the world. Life for Dorothy was so very full, and it showed in the smile on her face and the joy in the reflection she shared with all she met. Yes, she would have her ‘off’ days, but they never lasted too long.
Then a few months ago Dorothy had a fall while out walking and broke her right shoulder so badly that it had to be replaced. What followed was a five-week stay in hospital. But did the fact that the independence that Dorothy loved and cherished had come to a painful halt stop her from smiling her beautiful smile and connecting with people? No, it didn’t, as each person who came into her room was blessed by the loving reflection that she was still offering from her hospital bed. And she, in turn, appreciated everything that was being done for her, and the hard-working staff who cared for her. Now, that to me is the true meaning of adaptability. She wasn’t complaining about the fact that she couldn’t do what she wanted to do and unable to be back in her much-loved home, she simply appreciated the care she was receiving and what she could do in this painful situation.
When she finally returned home it began to be clear that she may not be able to look after herself as she had been doing so well; that she may not be able to drive again on account of the continuing nerve pain in her arm; and the big one, that she may have to finally move out of her unit into a care facility. This was going to be the ultimate test of her adaptability, something a few months before, she was totally opposed to; very strongly indeed.
In the last few weeks, Dorothy’s life has been turned upside down, but she hasn’t fought the process, instead, surrendering to where she has ‘landed’, accepting and embracing that this is her life right now. She has moved, with the wonderful support of some amazing friends, into a very lovely rest home and in the move she has let go of so many things; her home, her car and many of her possessions which she has loved; adaptability in action. But although she understandably has a few moments of sadness, the fact that she has surrendered to the process, that she has said yes to the inner knowing that this is the most supportive move for her at this stage of her life, the changes have not rocked her world. Yes, she is tired as her body is still in healing mode, but because she has said yes and is not fighting the changes it is obvious that the healing process is now able to flow much more easily.
Dorothy now lives amongst many others in the same stage of life and is being cared for by what she shares is the most loving team of carers. She has her own room, a few of her own things but most importantly, she has all of her. I can see that on account of her saying yes to being adaptable there is no tension being held in her body, but instead she is allowing life to flow, and in return, her body is able to support her healing while laying a strong and steady foundation for what comes next. The door of her room is usually open and those who pass by will always get a smile and a wave, and those who step in will no doubt be blessed by the joy-filled reflection from this most inspirational of women. As she once walked around town lighting up those around her, she now only has to walk around the rest-home to do the same. I know that Dorothy will be ‘working’ in this most loving way until she can no more.
At this time of my life when I can feel a few more aches, pains and stiffness in a few places, but at the same time feeling the most vital that I have ever felt in my life, I can see how it is so important going forward to saying a big yes to being adaptable instead of being stubborn and refusing to change the way I am living.
I have finally accepted that:
- I don’t have to do all that I used to
- I don’t have to feel a failure if I can’t do what I always have
- I don’t need to feel embarrassed if I have to ask someone to help me do something I have always done.
- it’s all about listening to my body and it will soon tell me if I am honouring and loving it enough – or not.
As the Cambridge Dictionary shares: “adaptability is an ability or willingness to change in order to suit different conditions.”
Well, I for one am saying yes to being willing to change as I age, to honour the changes in my body and the ability to do what I can do right now. I am saying yes to acknowledging and accepting that it is inevitable, that as I make my way into my 70’s different conditions will arise in my body and in my life. And while I am saying yes to all this inner wisdom, I am naturally saying no to being stubborn and stuck in any ways that do not support my body and my life and therefore, being unable to see the truth of what is being asked of me in each moment.
And finally, like Dorothy, I am saying a huge yes to surrendering to the ageing process as it is the most natural of processes, one that asks for a commitment to adaptability and by saying yes to it, I am saying yes to the last stage of my life being the grandest it could possibly be!