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  • Writer's pictureJane Leder

An Organ Recital

What a lovely thought: let's say J.S. Bach playing the "Opening From Toccata and Fugue in D minor." I can hear the music now as it wafts around and through a grand church or an opulent symphony hall. Its grandeur and heft take our collective breath away. Our minds fly -- soar -- to far-flung places.

But that's not the kind of organ recital I'm talking about. Nope, I'm talking about the conversation between older folks whenever they get together for dinner or a festive event, or an ordinary gathering on a warm summer afternoon. I'm talking about the inevitable litany of health problems that so many of us face:

  • A bum knee

  • A recent cataract surgery

  • Crippling arthritis

  • A banged-up arm and leg after an unfortunate fall

  • A new hearing aid that requires constant fiddling

  • A diagnosis of prostate cancer for the men and breast cancer for the women

  • Osteoporosis that is so bad that daily shots are required

  • Miserable allergies that seem to have developed overnight

  • Extreme fatigue and daily afternoon naps

  • Anxiety about "life" that requires ongoing sessions with a therapist

  • Foot pain that makes walking more than a few steps unbearable

  • A diagnosis of diabetes for the first time in your life

Let me see: is that it? Well, not exactly:

  • Constant doctor visits that cost a bundle but don't seem to heal whatever ails you

  • A recent bout of COVID 19

  • Waning muscle strength that makes it difficult to stand up after bending down. (Forget about pushups or planks.)

  • Heart palpitations, indigestion . . .

Okay, enough, already! Let's talk about the good stuff! You know, visits from your grandchildren or the virtual film class you're taking or the photo that won an honorable mention in a national competition.

Experts and common sense tell us that a constant, steady stream of complaining makes matters worse. We get stuck in the mud and find it harder and harder to move forward. We give ourselves and seniors, in general, a bad name. We personify the stereotypes. Certainly, not something we want to do in an ageist culture that gives aging such a bad name and puts unnecessary and often harmful hurdles in our way. We need to fight the battle, not make it harder to win.

I've considered attaching the above list in my emails to friends over the age of, say, 65--well, maybe 70, and handing it out when I get together with older friends.

"So, how are you?" I'd ask. "Why don't you take a look at this list and check off any item that applies?"

Once everyone has completed their organ recital, the party can begin.

Years ago, when I was the acting executive director of a Chicago-based dance company and studio, the staff and I took a day-long workshop on something called Appreciative Inquiry. One ah-ha that I've taken with me for over two decades plus is the concept of "Our first words are fateful." If we begin a conversation on a positive note, what follows will more than likely be a positive exchange of ideas and/or feelings. But if we begin with a complaint, things can go south in a hurry.

I wish I could say that I practice this philosophy with steadfast dedication. I do not. I'm as guilty as the next when it comes to spilling my "junk", particularly as the preface to a conversation.

But I try, I really do. That little voice in the back of my mind urges me to be positive, to share something good, even if it's something benign like the sun is shining or the rain that has stopped.

Give the "First Words are Fateful" a spin. Keep the organ recitals to yourself.


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