Monday, January 16, 2006

Driving in Snow

It’s January and the only real sign of winter here in San Diego is frost on the lawn and the rooftops. We aren’t even getting much rain this year.  It’s been unseasonably warm, and we chuckle that this is why we pay the big bucks to live here.  According to CNN, much of the country is freezing cold.  Born and raised in NY, I spent 21 years in a four-season climate.  For reasons that I now recognize as lack of confidence and low self-esteem, I didn’t get my driver’s license in high school.  I took drivers’ education but never took the test.  This was no small inconvenience in my early twenties, but back in the day, I was a hitchhiker, as they say, through the galaxy of my early adventures cross-country in the US, Canada and in Hawaii.  I also managed on the “loser cruiser” the bus.  It didn’t seem to hold me back a great deal, but those alternative modes of transportation required the tolerance of youth.

In the late 1970’s when I was about 28, due to some boyfriend crisis, I went back to Lynchburg, Virginia where my parents were living in their first retirement.  I had matured enough or somehow the planets aligned so that I took a driving school class and actually got my license.  Virginia does get some snow and I do recall my several-months-long visit was during the winter, but the weather there is much more moderate than the northeast.  So I got a pass on learning this advanced driving skill, and went back to Hawaii, where I lived until 1982.

Watching CNN this morning, Martin Luther King Day 2006, where the temperature is hovering at 0 degrees in NY, I try to imagine myself handling a regular life in that sort of climate.  After ten years in Hawaii and almost 24 years in San Diego, despite developing personal strengths in various ways, I am admittedly a wuss in the weather department.   I find myself reordering my schedule here when it rains!  Partly that is because people in Southern California, just like me, don’t now how to drive even in the rain, and there are hundreds of accidents.  

Seems like driving on ice is a metaphor for life, sitting behind the wheel with white knuckles, moving forward fast and feeling out of control.   I find driving is a sort of a laboratory for other emotional states - it is a real opportunity to learn detachment, and not to take things personally.  I constantly remind myself that other drivers aren’t doing things “to me”.  Even on a good day, hard to come by, even in sunny Southern California, driving is another less than welcome opportunity to develop patience.  

As I get older, I find myself “tsk-tsk-ing” at the kids today.  Many of the younger drivers seem so rude and aggressive and clearly possess the youthful feeling that they are indestructible.  Not to mention the all important cell phone conversations that hold their attention, rather than the road.  I’m glad I was not self-centered and irresponsible in my youth!

Since I live in a 55+ senior community, I also see a number of elders who should no longer be on the road.  For this population, driving equals living independently, which understandably, they cling to fiercely.

At 56, my biggest fear of death is around car accidents.  I don’t obsess over it, but it is much higher on my “worry list” than getting sick.  I guess I feel I have some control over my health because I live a health conscious lifestyle.  I’m a careful driver, not a perfect one, but I don’t drink and drive, I am cautious about night driving, since it has been compromised after LASIK eye surgery.  I use candy, gum and music as distractions in traffic, not my cell phone.  I try not to drive when I’m very tired although this is increasingly an issue with me, as middle-aged insomnia has become normal.

Instead of driving in snow, I will get in the car this morning, and drive through a massive road improvement project in my area.  This is a three-year much hated disruption.  The freeway here in suburban, cookie cutter San Diego looks like the Bronx or a war zone.  There is heavy equipment all along the shoulders, or what used to be the shoulder.  Now the borders of the freeway and ramps are temporary concrete and orange plastic barricades that seem to shift overnight into new configurations.  So much for control.  The population explosion here over the last few years I can’t control either, making me take a hard look into moving somewhere else.  Which brings me back to the topic of weather.  Life in the Sunbelt seems to attract us like moths to the flame.  So I’m driving in snow now metaphorically, moving fast and feeling out of control, into the unknown future.

Friday, January 06, 2006

My Two Old Boys

A girlfriend recently sent around an e-mail asking three of us if we wanted to have a garage sale.  I replied that I had a 95-year-old man and a 12-year-old cat I’d like to sell.  Both of them mess up the house, and neither of them listens to me.  

My two old boys - I think they are both bored.  I spend loads of time doing FOR both of them, but I’m sure I don’t spend enough time doing things WITH either of them.  I make tasty meals for them, and clean up after both of them (my hobby).  The cat I can tell is bored when he walks around under my feet meowing.  I realize he can’t sleep all the time, but throwing the furry mouse holds my attention like 30 seconds.

Periodically I get some great article or book on activities for a person with dementia.  I set it aside, and tell myself “I am going to do this with Dad.”  Well, lately I have been trying to set some goals for my own activities - writing, journaling, goal setting, reading, meditating, and expanding my exercise routine.  It has been a HUGE struggle to incorporate even ONE of these activities into my own day, let alone multiple activities!  I guess I just need a wife so I can enjoy a clean house, tasty meals, errands and desk work all completed PLUS my own activities.  Then I also would be able to better entertain my two old boys.  Meanwhile, the cat gets to watch birds, sunbathe on the warm furry throw blanket and sniff the air outside his favorite window.  Dad gets to do his Jumble puzzle, and space out in front of the TV when he is not at the adult day care program.   Days gone by I used to be quite social with Dad, taking he and his lady friend to the beach, the park, special events etc.  That’s when we all were younger I guess.  I read this morning that after 50 it becomes more difficult to multitask.  At 56, I consider myself just on the cusp of aging.  But clearly, as a girlfriend said, I just don’t get that much done in a day.  Two old boys and one getting older girl  -- around here, we are just muddling through another year.   Not complaining, just not doing cartwheels and jumping through hoops.  At some level, I need to adjust to this, so my brain doesn’t turn it into stress and guilt over things undone.