News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Counting blessings in the winter of life

As the last brittle leaves of fall skitter across the frozen ground, I stare out the window, lost in contemplation of my own journey, which finds me in the winter of my life.

As an adult, late fall and early winter have usually prompted some feelings of loss and sadness for me. No more long, leisurely warm summer evenings at twilight. Waking up to darkness that returns by late afternoon.

The end of the year is stuffed with holiday hype, full of commercials featuring smiling families gathering to celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. I used to be steeped in that prescribed gaiety, gathering immediate and extended family around groaning tables laden with copious amounts of food.

At this point in my life, I wonder in amazement how I pulled off Thanksgiving for 30-plus, while herding six children. Life these days is so markedly different from that of 40 years ago, and I was finally able to banish feelings of sadness or loss when holidays ended up being just another day on the calendar.

This Thanksgiving, a dear friend and I took in an early movie and returned to her house for an amazing turkey dinner with all the trimmings, compliments of Whole Foods. We reveled in the deliciousness of the food and the uncomplicated pace of the day. We even took a lovely walk before dinner, soaking in the majestic mountain views.

We are only at the beginning of hibernation season, and I used to wish I could sleep through it like a bear. But being in the last season of my life, I don’t want to wish it away, and I don’t want to waste my days being depressed with low energy.

How do I counter these feelings? First, I am kind to myself, not beating myself up for whatever I’m feeling. I make sure to take good care of myself with appropriate hours of sleep. Getting outside, no matter the weather, is the quickest way for me to kickstart my motivation. Out in nature has always been my place of peace, restoration, fun, and creativity. It began as a child in the large woods behind our house, where I built secret forts in the undergrowth and regularly dammed the creek to create temporary ponds.

Here in Sisters, healing nature surrounds us. A glimpse of the snow-covered mountains always lifts my spirits. The wildlife that uses the creek bed behind my house as their highway and resting place, and those that wander through my yard, always give me pause to be thankful for living in this special place. Of late, a flock of 17 turkeys have been a daily presence, along with the deer, the bushy-tailed gray squirrels, and all the flitting winter birds. The Central Oregon winter sunshine provides another boost.

I try to live with a spirit of conscious gratitude every day, and that helps crowd out dark thoughts and worries about my younger son. Staying in touch with those who hold an important place in my life also helps stave off feelings of isolation or sadness. Sharing a laugh, a memory, or a new highlight can do much to even my keel. Human contact is a necessary component for a balanced life. I am an introvert who needs time alone to recharge my batteries, but I do enjoy times of interacting with those in my life who feed my soul.

I hope to (or should I say I will) make this winter a time of clearing clutter, downsizing, completing my wishes for end of life, reading some good books, and seeing some good movies, while counting all my many blessings.

These blessings include those of you who read my occasional “Of a Certain Age” column and take the time to comment on it. Thank you for your thoughtfulness.

 

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