My friend Kim is an amazing mom, cook, yoga do-er and instructor (she has only instructed me once and I laughed my way through the whole thing), athlete, friend, dog owner, wife, and lots of other things including being a master Reiki healer (though I won’t let her not touch me).
We often trade recommendations on books and, since we are at similar pondering points in our lives quite frequently, our suggestions to each other tend to hit the mark.
The other day, Kim said she was in the mood for something uplifting. I’d just read Rachel Carson’s, A Sense of Wonder (guided to it by another friend), and told her I loved it.
And with a nod to our mutual, and long-held, interest in end-of-life care (I’d recently stumbled across the idea of death doulas and am fascinated – and oddly joy-filled – that this concept exists), Kim recommended a book she was reading in preparation for her upcoming hospice class: Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal.
A Sense of Wonder is about igniting just that – a sense of wonder – for the natural world. In gorgeous prose, Carson shares her own experience of introducing her four-year-old nephew to the splendor of the ocean and woodlands, the starry nights and craggy shores of Maine. She – a trained biologist – takes a step back from science, and allows the young boy to take in the world through his own eyes and soul. Evergreen saplings become future Christmas trees for the smallest creatures. Spongy mosses transform into delightful squishy mats, perfect for bare feet to enjoy after the rain.
That these adventures took place around Carson’s cottage here, on Southport Island, makes me smile. I have walked the same woods and shores that they did and can attest that they are, indeed, wondrous.
And then there’s Being Mortal. I’m loving it.
Atul Gawande – a doctor – does a phenomenal job tackling the realities of, and alternatives to, growing old and dying with the medical profession at the helm.
He points out that his becoming a doctor required rigorous training, focused on keeping the body alive, but no training at all on helping human beings create lives worth living.
Medicine might, and rightly so, be along for the ride a bit more as we age – as we experience the inevitable physical, emotional, and/or memory declines that come from spending so many years in these bodies. But should we really put it in the driver’s seat?
It’s a very ‘whoa’ question.
Medicine has us dying on ventilators in the ICU…
Having invasive tests for afflictions that can’t possibly kill us before we die of something else (probably in pain, because we are still recovering from the invasive tests).
And if we fall and hurt ourselves, and we are eighty-two, Medicine says the very risk that we might fall again – even if nothing else is wrong with us beyond an unsteady gait – means we would probably be better off in an institutionalized environment, so we will be ‘safe’.
Yet that ‘safe’ involves a pretty heft trade off.
Our ability, as Dr. Gawade puts it, to be the ‘authors of our own lives’.
Also? Some of us are quite bingo and forced-socialization averse (I’m just puttin’ that out there).
None of these observations are meant to say that Medicine is bad – not at all. Medicine is just doing its job, which is all about health, and avoiding risks to our functioning bodies.
But, about those risks…
To run (sometimes with scissors) and bike, and scramble up and over rocks on cliff sides… to fly out of the house without a jacket on a frigid day to get that one great photo… to eat brownies and dip lobster in puddles of butter… to twirl in the wind and rain with my kids and, maybe one day, their kids…
Accepting the risks to do these things – and many, many others – have made my life worth living.
I may need some help focusing on my health and safety as I age, sure. Probably help with my finances too. Practical stuff, all.
But I don’t only need these things.
So, I have a problem.
To make sure I get the medical care I need if I’m no longer able to make those decisions on my own, I have a Medical/Health Proxy.
And to make sure I don’t give all my money to an exiled Saudi Prince who reaches out to me – over the internet – asking for my social security number and bank account information, I have a power of attorney thingie for a Financial and Legal Proxy.
But something’s missing.
Kind of like one of my heroes, Miss Norma, I need someone who knows that the experts and expertise found in medicine and law and finance matter only so much to me. In the end, and kind of always, it has to be about the magic of living.
I need a Wonder Proxy.
A fellow human who knows I hate board games and puzzles (and scheduled socialization), and will instead bring me lavender oil to remind me of the gardens at The Inn…
Who is willing to pour me into the front seat of a convertible, and drive me to the ocean… and sit with me as the sun warms my face and the cold water tickles my toes.
And who will bring me ice cream – black raspberry please – even if I’m a diabetic. No. Especially if I’m a diabetic.
My Wonder Proxy will make me a playlist with Bruce and Miles and Elton and America and Journey… and turn some songs way up, and sing them out loud with me (or for me) using all the wrong words in the places where we always sang all the wrong words.
Someone who knows I need dogs in my life… and a once-a-week visit from a therapy dog just isn’t enough. Bring me the rascals, the silly and scruffy and scrappy. I’ll love them, even if I can’t tell you I do. I promise.
I’m going to need a Wonder Proxy.
Maybe you want one too.
Maybe everybody does.
Let’s make this a thing.
Thanks for readin’.
You can comment below, or join fellow ponderers on just ponderin’s Facebook page whenever you want!