My husband and I actually managed to have a .conversation the other night, tucked somewhere between picking up one child at gymnastics and arguing with the other about getting off the computer. "I'm discovering something about aging," he said. "The older I get, the calmer I get. I'm confident that I can handle the big stuff." His view was in sharp contrast to mine. As I get older, I'm becoming less serene, more, shall we say, a tad neurotic? It's not that I lack confidence in my ability to handle the big stuff. It's the realization that there's SO MUCH BIG STUFF!
I used to look at older drivers and feel superior to them. Why do they drive so slowly, I wondered. Can they not see other drivers? Are their reflexes slower? What pains in the butt, I thought as I'd smugly dart past their little grey heads which could barely see over the dashboard. I never gave a second thought to the fact that one day I'd be older. Now, as I inch closer to their ages (I'm guessing most of them were 70+), I understand why, perhaps, they drive so slowly. No, they cannot see and hear as well as they used to. Yes, their reflexes are slower. But maybe they're also aware of the sound metal makes as it collides with concrete. They may know the horror of screams as vehicles hit each other and bodies smack with an unanticipated force. Clearly they're doing something that many people on the road forget: driving carefully with the realization that being in control of several tons of metal containing your life and, sometimes, the lives of others is an awesome (and I do mean AWEsome) responsiblity.
That's big stuff. I am also cognizant of other facts like little germs can cause big problems, cautiousness does not always prevent disasters, and bad stuff happens to good people. Sure, preparation may not stop catastrophes, but it can help.
Two years ago, my state was hit by a freak snowstorm that left us without power for five days. There was little warning from the media and honestly, we NEVER expected that amount of snow. It was a difficult experience that left me jittery about the weather. But the following year, when Hurricane Sandy hit, my decidely neurotic tendencies proved advantageous. I remembered what we'd lacked the previous year and learned from it. I made sure we had the supplies we needed. Sure, I was a little nutty, but memories of the previous year prompted me to get a large cooler, cook all the food I could before the storm hit so we'd have provisions, and charge our computers and smartphones. My husband dragged out the generator he'd bought earlier that summer while the prices were low. Despite losing power, this time, for six days, we were okay.
Having a sense of how much Big Stuff is out there has made me appreciate the present much more. I've seen houses crushed, know people who lost everything in the blink of an eye. Iheld my children close in the basement of my home, and prayed as Sandy roared overhead. I've learned from it. I've lived through car accidents and hear, in my head, the crunch of metal when I see other drivers do stupid things on the road. If my eyes and ears start to fail, I have no doubt that I'll drive as cautiously as the old people I encounter. And I pray I have the confidence that my husband has that I'll be able to handle the Big Stuff ahead.
Stay tuned for my next post when I'll talk about some of the strategies and products that helped us through Hurricane Sandy.