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Relationships - August 2019

Rocks of Ageing


Maggi Stamp is a highly qualified relationship counsellor and trainer who writes each month about emotional and practical concerns and challenges that many of us meet in later life. For 20 years, as well as running a private practise, Maggi worked with the organisation Relate to help married and single people, cohabiting couples, same sex couples, families, young and old people and the bereaved to develop, foster and enjoy healthy and fulfilling relationships. No less important, as she is herself a wife, mother and grandmother, she brings a lifetime of varied and eventful experience to enhance her empathy and understanding.  

Many of her examples are based on concerns that clients, family and friends have presented over the years. In the monthly articles where she responds to issues raised by readers, she strictly respects confidentiality and never identifies those who write to her. But the individual worries they raise are invariably felt by others, so her responses can help many.

You can write to Maggi at maggi@laterlife.com 
for her to respond in the column.



Rocks of Ageing

It seems impossible that when I began to write for Laterlife I was still working with a thriving consultancy in London and Oxford, both of my sons were starting out in careers and serious relationships. How did I manage that?!

Then I blinked.

And here I am, (is it really 20 years later?!) still writing. Somewhere along the way I retired from counselling, bid sad last farewells to parents and a brother, saw my sons marry and - presto - there are four grandchildren, the oldest planning a year or two of travel before university and the youngest, at 7-years-old, excited at a world of possibilities, "I could be a scientist...or an artist like Frida Kalho". And let's not forget four step-grandchildren too. The oldest of these now a busy full time violinist and the youngest wishing he was old enough to compete in the recent Fortnite world championships.

A move from London to the country happened 11 years ago and I made new friends and found new interests to satisfy my curiosity. I am as busy it seems as I ever was? Or is it just that I get tired more easily?

But why am I gently drifting into a sad reverie more often? I'm healthy and relatively fit and enjoy my life. I am fortunate and as far as I can tell, happy.
But this sadness...

I suppose I am recognising that life is dramatically shorter than it was. Of course it is. I have a wonderful husband who is 14 years my senior and beginning to struggle with his health. Until recently he's been the healthiest of his peer group of 'Fleet St Originals' and is often mistaken for a much younger man, so his health has never been an issue for him. Now he is working hard not to fall into some kind of older person's acceptance of weaker health. Often he succeeds in sparkling form. Occasionally he seems immobilised by the prospect of illness. Then he walks our dog for an hour, or rages at the poor quality of modern newspaper reporting and his energy rises once more.

I am also thinking on this theme because I see many friends and hear of others picking their way across the rocks of ageing, some slipping, some skipping, some hesitantly stepping and others struggling and paralysed by fear.

I look back and see what we were...twenty years, even forty years ago, and we were never going to be how we are now! We were too busy, optimistic, absorbed by the thrills and spills of living and of feeling powerful.

Many of our younger readers will be living that way, living for today, not worrying about tomorrow. Good, nor should you...worry that is, but do think now and then about your health, physically, mentally, emotionally and financially. Sometimes we are blessed by some of these, and sometimes we need to nurture them and build them up. They are an insurance against a time when letting go tests you, whether for happy reasons, like watching your child waving goodbye on their way to a job in a distant place, or for more painful reasons, losing those dear to you through old age or illness, or through a breaking relationship.

Twenty years on I am aware of joints and basic physical strength not being what they were but I'm feeling as strong emotionally as I ever was, perhaps more now, thanks in no small part to such a stimulating career in counselling, and thanks to so many dear clients who trusted me enough to talk through their worries and their pain with me. As a result there is little that shocks me about life but I recognise when it pains me and I acknowledge it, but I remain as interested and curious about people and our world as ever.

There is plenty in the world to concern us when we stop to look, all the more reason to take care of your self and preserve as much health and strength as possible, so don't take anything for granted. Stop and look at your life. Look at your partner, your children and your friends. Sit in your garden or a local park and look - and listen. There's so much beauty too isn't there? Increasingly the beauty of life around me is what inspires and spurs me on. It can be the beauty of an innocent child, of the way our dog can gaze at us - even after he's been fed(!) - the loveliness of trees or plants, the scent of honeysuckle in the hedgerow, birdsong, the smile of a friend or kindness of a stranger.  It boosts my energy and I'm glad I have lived to know it.

So much is changing in the world that it can be overwhelming and gradually as our years increase change is harder to adjust to. As we age we can spot the changes that needn't concern us... and let go of the worry a little.

Keep an awareness of how you respond to change, look after those elements of good health, maintain your friends and your interests and they all help you to weather unwelcome change and to embrace other changes with open arms, now and in later life.......Arthritic joints permitting!

Now I can turn up my music and bop......

You can write to Maggi at maggi@laterlife.com for her to respond in the column.


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