John Andrist: It's Not What You Can't Do, But What You Can


You can learn a lot living in an assisted living center.

One neat thing we mostly learn is to avoid complaining. People primarily complain because they are looking for sympathy.

But everybody in this place has plenty to complain about, and yet with whomever we sit down we can’t avoid reflecting how lucky we are not to have their problems.

It’s hard to expect sympathy when you wouldn’t want to trade places with the others sitting at your table.

My prayer in this process of growing old has been a plea that I might be lucky enough to have my brain outlast my  body.

Trouble is, for the most part, my prayer has been answered.

And yet the beauty of this place is that it appears to be so full of appreciation that for everything we’ve lost, there is something we have kept.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#000000″ txt_color=”#ffffff”]My prayer in this process of growing old has been a plea that I might be lucky enough to have my brain outlast my  body.[/mks_pullquote]

This life lesson can apply to all of us, young and old. Life is so much better when we think about our blessings, than it is when we’re dwelling on our hardships.

One bright young waitress, a favorite among favorites, came as a refugee from Iraq. She works two jobs, is separated by a thousand miles from her boyfriend. Many challenges to be sure.

Yet she smiles at me every day, and she finds great joy in having passed her citizenship test. I never had to do that. You either, I’ll bet.

Still another hard-working CNA who obviously finds happiness working here, laments that she has so much to do at home. Her bedroom needs painting, and she just can’t seem to keep up with the demands in her life.

Think of all the caregivers you know. Most of them seem so happy in their work. Do they know something we don’t know?

Last week I just sat here and watched the lady who cleans my room, wishing in vain I had such strength and energy.

She works so fast, and she does it all day long. Would you like to spend all your waking hours cleaning?

It’s not my cup of tea, but if you do, chances are it’s a chosen occupation. I hope you have the same kind of bright smile and kindness that she has.

When you find you are over committed and dragging when you go to work in a stressful mood, do you ever pause to think about how lucky you are to have a list of things that need to be done?

Most of us living here and in your community nursing homes and assisted living centers are searching for the same kind of purpose that is the challenge in your life.

Like so many other things, those purposes are just more difficult to find and to execute.

I  fill my day with a lot of time at my computer, mostly playing Free Cell. I lament that I struggle with this technology, at the same time I find pleasure continuing this column — and especially that you read it.

I went to bed Saturday for a mostly sleepless night of worry, because my monitor wasn’t working, and I felt certain it had failed. Then my grandson Levi stopped, and had it working in 10 minutes.

So I can be grateful that I am still one of the few in my community who is still somewhat connected, or I can lie awake and wring my hands at the things I don’t understand, knowing I’m dependent because handwriting doesn’t work and an eye problem prevents me from being able to devour books as so many of my neighbors are able to do.

Simply put, most of us, both young and old, do what we want to do or what we feel compelled to do, or whatever we are able.

Does that make us losers, or are all of us winners?