Mental Health Monday: Stage 5, “Target,” continued….

Back in August I ordered this wonderful coloring book of mandalas. I’ve been slowly working my way through the book, and through the stages of “Insight, Healing and Self-Expression” set out in the book. The author, Suzanne F. Fincher, explains the various traditions and meanings of the mandala throughout history—in Native American healing practices, in the Egyptian myth of creation, in Tibetan rituals, in medieval Christian churches, and even in the traditions of Europe, where mystics have used them for contemplation. (My next mandala to color will be a design by Hildegard of Bingen, a twelfth-century Benedictine nun.)

Jung used mandalas to help people find the true center of their psyche, which he called the Self:

The Self functions both as your potential for wholeness and as the energizing force that nudges you toward fulfilling your possibilities. Mandalas symbolize this pattern of wholeness in each of us.

This past weekend I had an upsetting interaction with someone, which resulted in a painful evening followed by a contemplative day. On Sunday afternoon I found myself returning to the book of mandalas.

Mandala 18

Mandala 18

Mandala 18

During stage 5, Target, you may feel like a soldier patrolling your boundaries. Vigilance seems the only option when your perceptions make you feel as if you are the target of others’ attacks—even when you are not. Mandalas here can sometimes look like wall after wall of protection and defense. Feeling safe is very important to you during this stage.

I didn’t find Mandala 18 to be very “pretty,” but it does feel strong.

Mandala 19

Mandala 19

Mandala 19

Personal habits and other rituals help you feel safe during stage 5, Target, when emotions intensify. Like the strong walls of a castle sheltering a garden within, this Celtic mandala has mazelike bands of designs protecting tender leafy vines in the center.

My emotions were definitely intense this weekend. This mandala is another image of strength and protection, but with a softness in the center. I know there is much I need to protect there, and coloring this design brought me a measure of peace.

Next I’ll complete stage 5, “Target,” with the mandala designed by Hildegard of Bingen. Stay tuned.

Faith on Friday: The Longing of the Lover for the Beloved


Saint Augustine of Hippo

Saint Augustine of Hippo

Posting early this morning because I’m off to Saint John Orthodox Church to celebrate the Feast Day of our patron saint, John the Evangelist (and Theologian) at 9. We are so blessed to have this amazing saint watching over our parish. The one who was both strong and gentle. The one who said, “Little children, love one another.” But today’s post is about another saint.

I’ve been receiving weekly poems and reflections via email from Roger Housden for a while now, and they are often inspirational. Like yesterday’s treat, “I Came to Love You Too Late,” by Saint Augustine of Hippo. Housden usually introduces his selections with a few enlightening words. Here’s what he had to say about this poem by Saint Augustine:

Such searing lines of longing Saint Augustine writes here—such a poignant description of the self-willed individual, the one who wants to take the life by storm, only to fall at last to his knees and see that what he has been seeking has been there all along. Augustine’s use of the term Beauty points to the deep influence on him of neo-Platonic thought, which was so prevalent in the early Church. It might seem ironic that Augustine, who railed so vehemently against the sinfulness of the body, should use such erotic terms in passages like this to describe the longing of the lover for the beloved. But then he had a deeply passionate nature, and while he led something of a dissolute youth, the same forces of desire were turned in another direction in his religious life.

And now, “I Came to Love You Too Late,” by Saint Augustine of Hippo:

I came to love you too late, Oh Beauty,
so ancient and so new. Yes,
I came to love you too late. What did I know?
You were inside me, and I was
out of my body and mind looking
for you.
I drove like an ugly madman against
the beautiful things and beings
you made.
You were inside me, but I was not inside you. . . .
You called to me, you cried to me; you broke the bowl
of my deafness; you uncovered my beams and threw them
at me; you rejected my blindness; you blew a fragrant wind
on me, and
I sucked in my breath and wanted you; I tasted you
and now I want you as I want food and water; you
touched me, and I have been burning ever since to
have your peace.

Roger Housden

Roger Housden


You can sign up for Housden’s weekly poems and monthly newsletter, “Living and Writing Wild,” here.

Have a great weekend!



Writing on Wednesday: Agent Update and Mid-South Book Festival!

editorcatIt’s been two months since I sent my novel revisions back to the literary agent who asked me to work with an editor to make some improvements. I’ve tried to be patient, but yesterday I decided to squeak the wheel a bit. I sent an email asking if they had read the new version yet. Here’s the reply I received from one of the agent’s assistants:

Dear Susan,

We hope you are doing well and we apologize for the delay.

Cherry Bomb is currently going through the process of reading. [The agent] and our readers are evaluating your revised manuscript and we will be in touch shortly. 

Thank you for your patience, Susan, and we hope you have a lovely day.

Best wishes,


Assistant to [Agent]

I breathed a sigh of relief. They’re still reading. Of course I’m anxious for their response, but I’ll try to practice patience. Writing and publishing—it’s a slow business.

If you’re wanting to polish your writing skills, two of my friends (who are also in a Memphis writers group with me) are leading workshops this Saturday at the first ever Mid-South Book Festival at Memphis Botanic Gardens.

Emma French Connolly

Emma French Connolly

Emma Connolly will be leading a Creative Writing Seminar from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturday. Emma will guide writers using writing prompts and fun activities. Emma is a writer, artist and clothing designer for little girls under the label French Boundary. She is also a deacon in the Episcopal Church currently serving at St. John’s in Memphis. Connolly’s award-winning stories include fiction and creative non-fiction, and one of her novel manuscripts was a finalist in Amazon’s Great American Novel contest. As founder of WriteMemphis (now a program of Literacy Mid-South) she loves writing with others, especially teens, and facilitates a spiritual writing group on Saturday mornings. She blogs at Welcome to Emmaville. 

Ellen Morris Prewitt

Ellen Morris Prewitt

Ellen Prewitt is also leading a writing workshop, from 2-4 p.m. on Saturday, called “Better Writing Through Writing Groups.” Learn how to set up both traditional writing groups (write on your own; critique in groups) and alternative writing groups (creating new work in the company of others); how to get the most out of your writing group; also, attendees might meet others who are interested in keeping the Festival enthusiasm going.

Ellen Morris Prewitt’s fiction and essays have appeared in literary journals (Hotel Amerika, Barrelhouse, and Gulf Coast Literary Journal being her favorites); won contests (both the fiction and nonfiction contests of the Tennessee Writers Alliance, as well as the Memphis Magazine Fiction Contest); and received recognition (two short stories were nominated for a Pushcart Prize; one received a Special Mention). Her essay “Tetanus, You Understand?” was included as an example of metaphor in Fearless Confessions: A Writer’s Guide to Memoir by Sue Silverman, and her nonfiction book was published by a small press (Making Crosses: A Creative Connection to God, Paraclete Press). Morris also recorded and released online her short story collection, Cain’t Do Nothing with Love. Ellen founded and created a writing group for the homeless at the Door of Hope and has been facilitating writing groups for several years. Ellen just edited a collection of stories published by the Door of Hope authors, Writing Our Way Home: A Group Journey Out of Homelessness (Triton Press, 2014).

Ellen will also be on a panel at 11:30 a.m: Agents for Aspiring Writers

Do aspiring writers need an agent? How does a person get an agent? What should one expect from an agent? Chris Tusa, Writer-In-Residence at Southeastern Louisiana University, and author Ellen Morris Prewitt will provide the answers to aspirating writers in this great panel discussion. Moderated by Darel Snodgrass from WKNO-FM.

lms_msbf14_printads_poster_12x18-page-001_categoryYou can see the full schedule for Saturday’s events here. There are also events on Thursday – Sunday, which you can see on the schedule menu button on the festival web site. It should be a beautiful day to be at the Botanic Gardens and a great time to check out the regional authors who will be speaking, reading and signing books.

My friend, Neil White, author of the best-selling memoir, In the Sanctuary of Outcasts, will be speaking at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

Both Burke’s Books and the Booksellers at Laurelwood will be on hand with all the authors’ books. Hope lots of folks can make it out to support Memphis’s first book festival, which benefits Literacy Midsouth.

Mental Health Monday: I Forgot to Make the Soup!

butternut_squash_soup-3I had invited a number of people to my house for a special event, which included lunch. About thirty minutes before they were to arrive, I finished moving the furniture around, setting the tables, and putting out fresh flowers on each table. The house looked warm and welcoming, and I was excited about the event. And then it hit me: I had forgotten to make the soup!

I was supposed to make the butternut squash soup the night before and keep it in the fridge to warm up for our lunch. It would take much longer than thirty minutes to prepare the soup with the fresh squash I had purchased earlier in the week. Panic-stricken, I scurried about my pantry and fridge looking for something else I could serve my guests. Nada. Checking the clock one more time, I decided I should hurry to the neighborhood grocery and pick up something from the deli. But what if someone arrived while I was gone?

And then my alarm went off.

I’ve been told at numerous writing workshops to never begin a book this way—with the protag having some exciting or stressful adventure to hook the reader and then suddenly she wakes up and it’s only a dream. It’s considered cliché. But I’m breaking that rule for today’s blog post because it’s Monday morning and I’m happy-tired from the wonderful week I just spent with my kids and grandkids in Denver and this is the mental material that’s easily available to me right now.

imagesI’ve always had active dreams. But I only began to pay attention to them about fifteen years ago when a friend shared a bit with me about how to interpret them. Since the 1970s, “dream work” has become more and more popular, so there’s plenty of lay material available for those who want to learn more. I even attended a dream work group a couple of times, but it didn’t hold my attention the way I thought it might.

Freud said that the content of dreams is often related to wish fulfillment.  More often than not, I really don’t know what to do with the interpretation. Dream expert G. William Domhoff says:

…unless you find your dreams fun, intellectually interesting, or artistically inspiring, then feel free to forget your dreams.

My husband never pays attention to his dreams and usually forgets them immediately, if he remembers them at all. I think that’s partly because he embraces the Orthodox Christian view of dreams as something to be wary of, because demons can lead one astray through dreams. As Elder Ieronymos of Aegina says:

It is better for us not to believe in dreams at all, because many have gone astray on their account. There are three kinds of dreams: those from God, those from our thoughts, and those from the enemy. If they are from God and we don’t believe them, God does not take offense, because we don’t believe them out of fear, lest we be led into deception…. If the dreams are from God, they bring calm; if they are from the enemy, they bring turmoil. Beware of deceptions. Better to protect ourselves and not believe anything outside of what our Church teaches.

(You can read more about why many Orthodox are wary of dream work in this article by Father GeorgeKonstantopoulos.)

I’ve never been very obedient to such warnings, possibly because I’m usually curious, searching, and open to new things. Or new ways of seeing old things.

Icon of Saint Sophia and her daughters, Faith, Hope and Love

Icon of Saint Sophia and her daughters, Faith, Hope and Love

September 17 was the feast day of Saint Sophia in the Orthodox Church. She’s the patron saint of my Goddaughter, Sophie Mansour. Yesterday after Liturgy, I walked with Sophie up to the balcony at St. John where the large icon of Saint Sophia and her three daughters, Faith, Hope and Love, hangs on the back wall. We venerated the icon together, and then I prayed that Saint Sophia would protect Sophie all her days, and that she would give her courage and wisdom.

Courage because living a life true to the Faith is difficult in any society. Sophie’s mother is from Iraq and her father is Syrian, so their family knows firsthand the suffering of the people in the Middle East. But even here in America, we often suffer if we stand firm for what we believe.

513TS502J0L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Wisdom because Sophia is a female name derived from σοφία, the Greek word for “Wisdom.” The name was used to represent the personification of wisdom. My friend Sally Thomason loaned me a book called The Web in the Sea: Jung, Sophia, and the Geometry of the Soul, by Alice O. Howell, which I’m enjoying skimming right now. I say skimming because I’m not up for a closer read but I’m gleaning a few nuggets. Like this one:

Behind every event in our lives is a purpose, and it is up to us to discover it. This means paying attention.

I don’t know if Howell meant paying attention to our dreams, but I suppose I’ll continue to at least give them a few minutes of thought upon waking. Maybe it will help me learn more about myself and grow into the person I’m meant to be. If not, I’ll at least gain some awareness.

Family on Friday: Last day in Denver

In lieu of a blog post today, I’m sharing some photos of my last day in Denver with my kids, Jason and Beth, and their families. We spent the morning at the Children’s Museum, then lunch at Ruby Tuesday’s. After naps we’re getting back together for more “cousin time” and dinner before I have to leave tomorrow morning. My cup runneth over. Enjoy!

Gabby on the rings at the playground outside the Children's Museum.

Gabby on the rings at the playground outside the Children’s Museum.

Anna drives the fire truck.

Anna drives the fire truck.

Gabby working with tools.

Gabby working with tools.

Gabby finger painting.

Gabby finger painting.

Grace the squirrel collecting acorns

Grace the squirrel collecting acorns

Grace and Anna as a squirrel and an owl.

Grace and Anna as a squirrel and an owl.

Gabby getting into her animal costume....

Gabby getting into her animal costume….



Writing (and Reading) on Wednesdays: It’s Not a Book Club

6a00d8341c69f653ef0168e9c2f533970c-400wiThanks to my friend, NancyKay Sullivan, for sharing this Wall Street Journal article on Facebook this morning:

“Read Slowly to Benefit Your Brain and Cut Stress,” by Jeanne Whalen.

Evidently there’s a movement afoot to bring people “back” to reading the old-fashioned way—slowly, thoughtfully, and for the sheer pleasure of reading. Groups are springing up in various places where they gather for 30 minutes to an hour just to read. Whalen talks about how reading from computers and tablets has changed the way we read… we skim quickly, click on links and follow them, which distracts us from the material we are reading.

These are not book clubs. There is no discussion of the books being read. Physical books aren’t required by the members of these new reading groups—some folks read eBooks with the internet disconnected—but the point is to slow down and allow the stories to permeate your brain. That’s what “slow reading” is all about. According to Whalen:

Slow reading advocates seek a return to the focused reading habits of years gone by, before Google, smartphones and social media started fracturing our time and attention spans. Many of its advocates say they embraced the concept after realizing they couldn’t make it through a book anymore…. Slow reading means a return to a continuous, linear pattern, in a quiet environment free of distractions. Advocates recommend setting aside at least 30 to 45 minutes in a comfortable chair far from cellphones and computers.

This really isn’t different from what I’ve been doing recently. My “reading time” is separate from my computer time. It’s usually when I get in bed at night, or sometimes when I take a rest break during the day. That’s when I get out whatever book I’m reading and immerse myself in the story, usually for about 30 minutes, maybe an hour. I enjoy it, but I do find it takes a commitment to leave the world of quick entertainment (internet and TV) and get back to the book.

Does it matter what the reading material is during “slow reading” time? Whalen recommends literary fiction:

A study published last year in Science showed that reading literary fiction helps people understand others’ mental states and beliefs, a crucial skill in building relationships.

But I think those same benefits can also come from reading quality creative nonfiction, which uses scenes to tell true stories and share information with the reader. It’s not really so much about what we are reading, but how.

The chart below shows some tips and benefits of slowing down our reading process. If you’ve lost the joy of reading, you might try learning to read like a first grader!


Mental Health Monday: Binge Watching, Continued…

Gabby Doc McBack in June I did  post about binge-watching Netflix shows, called “The Anatomy of a Binge.” At that time I was into “Breaking Bad” on Netflix. In August I moved on to “Orange is the New Black,” which I’m still watching. Great show. The acting is terrific, and also the writing. I love the way the characters’ back-stories are revealed with flashback scenes as the show proceeds. (More on that show another time.) This week I’m binge-watching “Doc McStuffins.” Just discovered that the main character’s mother is a real doctor, her father shows up a little more as the show proceeds, and her brother doesn’t know about her special healing powers. Mostly I love how kind Doc is to all her patients. And how much my granddaughters love her. I think she’s a terrific role model. And each episode delivers a great life lesson for kids of all ages… like me!

Gabby Lego DocI’m in Denver this week visiting two of my kids and their families, which includes my three granddaughters, Grace (5), Anna (4) and Gabby (2). So I won’t be blogging much this week. Instead I’ll share some pictures which might show a little of the beauty of Denver in September and the joy of being with these three amazing little girls and their families! Happy Monday!

(The artful photos of Grace and Anna at the end were gifts they greeted me with on Saturday.)


ice cream

bubbles on deck

Gabby at a park near her house.

Gabby at a park near her house.

Gabby Susu biking


yellow tree Denver

Grace art

Anna art


Faith on Friday: “The Prayer” of the Scientist

Dr. Alexis Carrel

Dr. Alexis Carrel

Sometimes I find encouragement off the beaten path. This morning I picked up the Summer 2014 issue of The Burning Bush, the monastic journal of the nuns at Holy Dormition (Orthodox Christian) Monastery in Rives Junction, Michigan, which I have visited numerous times in the past. In it I found and read an article originally written in 1940 by a French surgeon and Nobel Prize laureate, Dr. Alexis Carrel, (1873-1944). It’s called, “The Prayer.”

220px-Nobel_PrizeAfter reading the article, I Googled Carrel and was amazed to discover that he won the 1912 Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology “for his work on vascular suturing and the transplantation of blood-vessels and organs.” Carrel designed the method for transplanting organs from one human body to another. He is the founder of modern transplantology.

4120BxVvESL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Why I am so interested in Carrel? Because he was not only a brilliant scientist and physician, but also a man of prayer. In his book Reflections on Life (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1952) he wrote:

We are loved by an immaterial and all-powerful Being. This Being is accessible to our prayers…. Prayer gives us strength to bear cares and anxieties, to hope when there is no logical motive for hope, to remain steadfast in the midst of catastrophes.

If ever there was a time when we need strength and hope in the face of catastrophes, surely it is now. Carrel talks about how many of us westerners consider reason superior to intuition:

We prefer intelligence over sentiment. Science shines while religion fades…. In all reality the spiritual is just as indispensable to the success in life as is the intellectual and the material. It is, therefore, important to revive in ourselves the mental activities that, more than the intelligence, give force to our personality. The most ignored of all is the sense of the sacred, or the religious sense, [which is] expressed mostly through prayer.

In his essay, “The Prayer,” Carrel goes on to describe what prayer is, how, when and where we should pray. But he isn’t writing about a system or a bunch of rules. He’s writing about a relationship with a living God who loves mankind. And about how the practice of prayer acts upon the character of the person. It changes us.

Real prayer represents a mystical state where consciousness is absorbed in God…. Prayer finds its highest expression in a soaring of love that transcends the obscure night of intelligence.

As a physician, Carrel called on his peers in the healing profession to “pay attention to the situations that are at their disposal.” To notice what happens when their patients—or their patients’ loved ones—pray. To examine the effects of prayer:

Among those effects, the medical professional has the chance to observe its, so called, psycho-somatic and curative effects.

I’m so glad to have learned about Dr. Alexis Carrel and his devotion to science and to prayer as a way of life.

Writing on Wednesday: One-Liner Wednesdays

"I gotta write a thing. Then I'll lie back down." from Linda G Hill's "One-Liner Wednesdays"

“I gotta write a thing. Then I’ll lie back down.” from Linda G Hill’s “One-Liner Wednesdays”

Last night I was with a group of Memphis writers who get together monthly to critique each other’s works in progress. I submitted a first draft of the synopsis and first 14 pages of a new novel. Their suggestions were nothing short of inspired. I’m so grateful for these brilliant folks who have also become my friends. Next we critiqued a query letter for another writer, and I don’t remember when I’ve had so much fun! Names were flying (for her protag’s hunky boyfriend) and fingertips were sailing across laptops as we helped her sharpen the letter, which was already point on. I came home inspired but tired, with no energy for a post today. So, I’m going to do something I hope you think is fun.

B & E cover


A couple of years ago Ron Borne put together this fun little book, Beginnings & Ends: A selection of favorite first and last lines in stories by contemporary Oxford writers (Nautilus Publishing, Oxford, Mississippi). Every now and again I pick it back up for inspiration.


And since today is commemorated by some as “One-Liner Wednesday,”I’m going to share 10 opening lines from nineteenth and twentieth-century literature. See if you can match them with their authors/sources (at the end). Have fun.


“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”

“It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.”

“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”

“Miss Brooke had that kind of beauty which seems to be thrown into relief by poor dress.”

“All children, except one, grow up.”

“The cold passed reluctantly from the earth, and the retiring fogs revealed an army stretched out on the hills, resting.”

“There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.”

“All this happened, more or less.”


The authors/sources:

Stephen Crane: The Red Badge Of Courage (1895)

George Orwell: Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949)

J.M. Barrie: Peter Pan (1911)

Kurt Vonnegut: Slaughterhouse Five (1969)

Charlotte Brontë: Jane Eyre (1847)

Sylvia Plath: The Bell Jar (1963)

J.D Salinger: The Catcher In The Rye (1951)

Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice (1813)

George Eliot: Middlemarch (1871)

Leo Tolstoy: Anna Karenina (1878)

Mental Health Monday: The War on Aging and the Worried Well

Mom Me Sept 5

Note: Read through to the last line to get a last-minute update that brought (happy) tears to my eyes!

If you read my post this past Friday, you know that my 86-year-old mother was in the hospital in Jackson. By the time I got down there to be with her, they were about to discharge her back to the nursing home. They had treated her for the bowel impaction, started antibiotics for the infections around her PEG tube site, and prescribed steroids for her (life-long) asthma, which had gotten worse. She was less alert than she is when I visit her in the nursing home (familiar surroundings since 2009) and her situation saddened me greatly. I could only get her to smile by singing, “You are my sunshine.” I almost didn’t include this photo in today’s post, but the expression on her face reflects the emptiness inside, and it’s an important part of her story at this point.

About 24 hours after I returned to Memphis, my cousin (a pulmonary physician who is treating Mom when she’s in the hospital) called with the news that the culture they did around her PEG site turned out to be a resistant strain of staph. She was readmitted to the hospital last night for a two-week course of IV antibiotics. Jimmy (my cousin) and I discussed her options. He is aware of her DNR status and advanced Alzheimer’s and her wish for no heroic measures, and how spending two weeks in the hospital increases her confusion and agitation. One option would be to give her an initial dose of the antibiotics IV and then send her back to take the remaining doses orally. But that might not be good enough to prevent the staph from attacking her retinas and she could end up losing much of her eyesight. From a quality of life point of view, having Alzheimer’s would be worsened by not being able to see. I agreed that the compassionate choice was the IV antibiotics in the hospital, although I’m sad that Mom has to go through this. I always try to put myself in her place when making these decisions, and I would not want to be blind once I had already lost so much mental capacity.

No one should have to be in the hospital without a caregiver and advocate there with them, if possible. But I’m having some medical issues myself and am waiting to hear from my own physician about possible tests I may need to have done, so I’m not up to driving back down and being with her right now. I have to trust her care to the medical professionals at the hospital—being so thankful for my cousin who will see his Aunt Effie daily and report back to me. This is a blessing I don’t take for granted.


All of this has me so anxious I’m having trouble sleeping. I’m worried that I have cancer, although my symptoms could be lots of other things. I’m worried that Mom will suffer unnecessarily. I’m worried that she will die when I’m incapacitated and can’t be there to take care of the arrangements. And I’m disappointed that I might have to cancel my week-long trip to Denver to be with my children and grandchildren next week, whom I haven’t seen since May. Of course that can be rescheduled, but it’s there, in with the multi-generational mix.

What am I doing to “handle” my physical and emotional reactions to all of this? Last night I went to Vespers at my church. Today is the Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos—the Mother of God. It’s Mary’s birthday. I knew I couldn’t go to the service this morning because I would be here waiting to hear back from my GI doctor’s office (I left a message over 2 hours ago and am still waiting.) So I went to the Vespers for the feast last night. At times like this the love of the Mother of God can help. After the service, our pastor made a few announcements about members who are in the hospital or sick at home, and then he announced about my mother. Several parishioners came up to me and gave me a hug afterwards and I had a chance to talk with them about my struggles. The human element is often the way I feel God’s arms around me, and I’m thankful for those hugs.


flowers and frogThis morning as I was waiting for the doctor’s office to return my call, I sat on my front porch and enjoyed the amazing “fall is coming” breeze and the beautiful flowers around me while continuing to read Sally Thomason’s wonderful book, The Living Spirit of the Crone: Turning Aging Inside Out. I can see Sally’s house from my porch and imagine her inside, having coffee and working on her next creative project. Or maybe she’s gone to Yoga this morning. Sally turned 80 this year, but her mind and body both seem much younger than mine. I’m learning why as I read about the work she did on aging when she was my age.

Chapter Four: The Scientific Paradigm, addresses changes in the medical world and how they are affecting our view of aging. In 1904 the term gerontology was coined, followed by geriatrics in 1909. As Thomas says:

Aging became, and still is, one of many pathologies that science would conquer. The official slogan of the American Academy of Antiaging Medicine, a new medical sub-specialty a group of physicians and scientists founded in 1993, reads as follows: “Aging is not inevitable! The war on aging has begun!”

Lord have mercy! Aging has been seen as a disease, leading many elderly folks to relinquish the care of their health to medical professionals, losing their independence and often getting sicker as a result. A study by Dartmouth Medical School researchers shows that during the 1990s, many more Americans were classified as having hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes or obesity because the definitions of those diseases were changed. As a result, not only were thousands of people put on medications earlier than many needed them, their minds were reset to consider themselves ill. As Thomason quoted in her book:

The medical profession’s term for these people is “the worried well.”

The worried well. That’s how I feel much of the time. Since allopathic medicine defines aging as a pathology, it’s hard not to feel that way! As Thomason says,

Scientific authority not only altered private beliefs and behavior, it shaped public policy.

So, how can I change my outlook? Thomason continues:

Aging is not a pathology—a compounding of chronic disease. Aging is a living process that must be understood from both inside (the body/mind/spirit) and outside (within a cultural context), with the realization that there is no clear dividing line between the two. The interworkings are ongoing and extraordinarily complex.

Crone postcards address erasedI won’t try to share more in this blog post, but as I continue reading, I’ll be back. If I’m not in a doctor’s office tomorrow morning, Sally and I will be having coffee together and discussing this. And I can’t wait to have her lead a gathering of women to discuss these topics in a “salon” setting in our home next month.

In the meanwhile, I’m going to try to withdraw from the war on aging and remove myself from the ranks of the worried well. I know this will take prayer, patience, and self-discipline to retrain my mind and my emotions to embrace a healthier view of aging, but that’s my goal today. I’d love to hear from any of my readers who are traveling this path.

NEWS FLASH: Just as I was about to publish this post, I got a text from another hospitalist (and also one from cousin Jimmy) saying that Mom’s infection isn’t what they initially thought. It’s a “skin containment,” not a “super bug,” and she’s being released back to the nursing home today! I am so thankful! And… the hospitalist who texted me is the same one who treated Mom when she was in the hospital for two weeks in January of 2013… a lovely woman who actually taught aerobics with me at my parents’ store, Phidippides Sports, in Jackson back in the 1980s! Mom is not alone there, and I’m weeping tears of relief and thankfulness right now. 

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