One of the hardest things we do is accepting the progression of age. We can’t do what we once could. Or work for long periods without feeling the pain.

Sometimes our memories are sieves and words are hard to come by.

Yesterday afternoon I sat on my little garden cart and started cutting back the dead branches of the gardenia in the big pot. They were at least one quarter inch thick.

I never should have started that job with my hands in the shape they’re in. But I did it and the whole thing is cut back now.

Then I rolled over to other pots that needed some cutting back and clean up in preparation for spring. After about four pots I was exhausted. My hands, necks and shoulders were screaming at me in pain.

So I got up and sat in one of the chairs and looked out over the patio. And just thought about it all.

Every year I’ve gotten out there and lifted those big galvanized containers full of soil and plants. I’ve dragged big containers across the patio. And done all the clean up.

β€œWe are our choices.”
― Jean-Paul Sartre

While I sat there I came to a conclusion. I’m either going to have to get help or I’m going to be limited in what my patio garden will look like.

So before I could talk myself out of it, I called Nathan. I told him I would pay him to do the things I normally do and just can’t anymore. So he came over and I sat in my chair and directed him.

There were the irises in two places that had the rhizomes covered in dirt. I learned from one or two of you that that’s why they never bloomed. Some of those were sent to me as far away as California.

I had stuck my spade down in the soil, but the soil was now covered in sedum that spreads like wildfire and acts as a ground cover. I found I couldn’t dig below that. So I had Nathan dig them all up and reposition them. 

“The wiser mind mourns less for what age takes away than what it leaves behind.” William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

I had him put top soil over areas in the blue container bed that needed leveled out. Then I had him move the galvanized containers where I wanted them this year.

Then he got the property’s grass blower and cleaned up before I had him rearrange my pots and other stuff.

He completely cleaned off the potting bench and hauled off ruined pots and such that I had put there for lack of anywhere else to put it. Some he kept for his own patio garden.

I gave him the smaller pot of sedum autumn joy that I’d divided last year and some of the irises and other starts of plants. Some of the many clumps of lemon balm I gave him too. I have an abundance of them.

People mistake their limitations for high standards.
– Jean Toomer

Once he had removed all that I wanted hauled out of here, he took the grass blower and cleaned up the patio again.

He took all the black trash bags to the dumpster. It is at the other end of the block, so he brought his truck into the alley and opened my gate so he could take them all at once.

Then I ordered a pizza and had him drive to get it because my ankle was throbbing from getting up and down.

At one point Charlie managed to get through my legs while I was standing at the storm door, and head off running.

For a 12 year old dog that boy can run once he has a big open space. Nathan ran and caught up with him and brought him back.

So I’ve told you all this to let you know what I’ve learned: Acceptance for what I can no longer manage alone.

All my life I’ve had people telling me they wished they had my high level of energy. But it can be a curse. It means I’ve done too much and pushed far past pain levels that were telling me to stop.

In other words, my modus operandi has been to go till I drop.

At 62, all that has caught up to me.

It helps having the new bed. I can sleep in comfort.

But as soon as I start going full tilt at something, my body now has a threshold I cannot seem to exceed. No matter how much I try to push past the weariness and pain. It just isn’t going to work anymore.

I had to sit in that chair on the patio and watch him do all the things I’ve always proudly done myself. And I wanted to get up and keep going.

But I forced myself to tell him what to do instead. It hurt my pride. That I’m to the point in life of paying someone else to take some of the load off of me.

I think of myself at his age. With boundless energy and little sense, I did things that has put my body where it is today.

We have to learn to make choices.

My choice was: If I want to garden and have a beautiful patio, I’m going to need help with the heavy stuff. So I can enjoy doing what I truly love. Which is to plant flowers and vegetables and herbs. Water them; tend to them. And call it a day.

The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.  – Nathaniel Branden


Note: This week I’m changing things up. Instead of frugal tips on Friday we’ll be discussing how we’ve recently changed something to make life easier on ourselves.

Practicing self love. In the same vein of this post where I learned I can’t do it all myself.

So the topic is: How have you recently made your own life easier? We will call this Female Empowerment Friday instead of Frugal Tips. We can alternate these themes.

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  1. Brenda, I am so happy that you have Nathan. God sent you a friend, helper and more in that young man and you to him. How wonderful that you have one another. There is no shame is getting older and asking for help. I have had this conversation with my mother many times over the last 5 weeks, as I mentioned to you she broke her right wrist and left shoulder. My mom has never ever asked for help and has never felt so helpless but as I told her, this is God telling you to slow down.

    I cannot wait to see tomorrows post. Have a great day!

  2. I’m a little bit younger than you – I’ll be 57 in August – but I’m already seeing signs of limitations, too. I’m currently going through horrible back pain and sciatica issues and it’s really slowing me down. It’s not gardening season here yet, but soon will be. Our yard and garden beds are a huge mess from the winter. Brian works many days and long hours, but he was at least able to manage raking the front yard and clearing out all the winter “gunk” out of the front ditch/swell the other day. I was thinking, “What if I didn’t have him?” Because with these back issues, there’s no way I could’ve done that work. And there’s a ton more to do. I figured I would indeed have to hire someone. Or at least, move into a townhouse where I wouldn’t have to worry about that stuff.

    My mom will be 79 in July and she still does all of her own yard work (including hauling bags of mulch out of her car trunk and into the back yard and spreading them!) and even still works outside the home part-time. Her father was much the same way, working hard up until the day he died at 98 years old. I think one key to some of this energy is movement. The more we sit, the more health problems and physically rigid we become. However, we also need to then listen to our body signals and rest when our body screams, “Enough!”

  3. Such a valid issue we all have to face. I can relate. I remember in younger years thinking what I will and will not allow myself to become in aging. Some things like arthritis and other things going on with your shoulder or just inevitable..our bodies wear out. So happy to see your acceptance and that you and Nathan have found a friend in each well as able to help each other getting through this life. Cannot wait to see your garden..and it sounds you are lining it up for your pleasure in what you “are” able to do..and that is wise..its what we have to do in life..accept what we cannot change..and try to enjoy the best. I know that pizza was yummi after a nice outdoor day.. take care..and thank you for sharing your life..its so inspirational…

  4. Sometimes I wonder, too, if having to ask for help is hard for me because I’m used to doing it all by myself if I wanted it done, for so very long. My parents were either negligent or absent, so I learned to do a lot for myself as a kid, but not in a healthy, independence-building way, but because NO ONE would do it for me. My first husband was just mean enough to not help much, so again, I knew I was on my own. When I divorced, I went to the beach with some friends, and I watched my friend’s husband tote her luggage up a flight of stairs. And she was perfectly fine with that, as in “of course he’s helping me by luggng the heavy stuff!” When I had been married the first time, I certainly would have had to lug that stuff myself! It’s a small incident, but it stuck with me. It’s OK to be weaker, slower, not invincible, or needing help. Not what we’d want, but OK. And it’s OK to accept the help of caring people.

  5. Oh, boy, Brenda, this post is SO relevant for me right now! For the first time I am looking more realistically at what I will be able to do in my yard and flower beds this Spring. I have been diagnosed with a non-specific immune system condition and have been having major issues with back pain over the last year. My energy level has never been what I would have liked it to be so my MO has always to just push through my fatigue and keep going, even forgetting to eat, until I was feeling woozy and exhausted. This season will have to be different. I’m going to have to reel in my imagination regarding what I would like to accomplish in my yard and garden. And I have a pretty active imagination in that and a few other areas! So, we’ll see how it goes. Having just turned seventy-five, I guess it’s not surprising, but it sure isn’t real welcome.

    How wonderful that you have Nathan to help you! And that you have some extra funds to pay him, also. Things work out sometimes when we least think they will, don’t they? I wish I had a Nathan! I do have my daughter who lives with me and my other daughter and her husband, but they live an hour away. Perhaps I will have to start training those 8-year-old boys who live with me!

    The sun is shining here today and it’s not too cold. I have used up most of my energy indoors, however, so don’t know if I will do anything outside.

    Actually, after I finished the above paragraph a good friend dropped by and we went out and sat in the sun on the porch swing for a couple of hours and chatted. So, I got in a good rest and was ready to put some supper on the table for my grandsons without too much fuss. Things work out.

    Off to bed soon. Love and hugs and pats for the fur babies.

  6. I am 70 and I think it is very important to save yourself for what matters. I am able to walk several miles a day and swim quite a bit, but the garden is not the beauty it once was because of my balance. I understand why my friends put in a raised gardens with wide paths shortly before they retired. They arranged things so they could sit on wide walls and reach almost anywhere in the garden. I wish I could have done that. You think you are fine and then age just sneaks up on you. I fell in my garden and broke my front tooth about a year ago, so now I just let it go or pay someone. I am thinking of moving to a place like yours with a small patio and container plants.

  7. It’s not easy to come to grips with the limitations that aging imposes upon us, whether we’re ready for the changes that demand we “slow down and take it easy on our bodies” or not. My entire life until I hit my 60s was spent as a Type A personality with an abundance of energy and determination. I was always one of those “Full steam ahead and damn the torpedoes!” person.
    Then at 61 I was diagnosed with a killer disease (fortunately, I did not/have not died, but that’s not a story for here) and the “heart murmur” I’d had practically my entire life as a result of damage caused by a bout with rheumatic fever as a toddler in 1952 or 1953 caught up with me as full-blown atrial fibrillation (the dreaded A-fib) and as a result, I’m ona blood thinner and a restricted diet. Also developed high blood pressure when menopause went full bloom. As a result of the meds, even though the spirit is still willing, the body is weaker than it used to be. I can no longer work and work and work like I used to outdoors doing the things I love to do. I enjoy cutting grass; I enjoy planning and planting beds. While I’m not a big fan of raking, it’s great exercise. But now the meds I’m on, one of which regulates my heart beat to not exceed a certain threshold, holds me back. If I try to push past, I get out of breath and am forced to stop! Drives me bonkers, but I’m alive, so I cant complain too loudly πŸ™‚ As a single woman and fiercely independent, it’s been difficult to have to face the fact that I can’t do all the things I used to be able to do. It’s hard to accept help. But I’m getting better at it. I bake brownies and muffins for the people who have sort of “adopted” me as I’ve aged as I don’t have a spouse or children of my own to call upon for help,, and my siblings and their kids are busy leading their own lives. Indeed, many of my siblings are in “worse” shape than I am and their grown-up children are busy with kids of their own, working, taking care of their own homes, etc., so I count my blessings that I have made friends and met neighbors who keep an eye out for me and volunteer help even though I have never asked for any – how great is that! Home Advisor is also helpful when I need pro help. I can’t say I resent it, but sometimes I do regret it. It’s one of those inevitabilities of life that I suppose most of us will have to face at some time or other, unless we die young. I’m so glad I didn’t die young! This “chic in jeans and sweatshirt” chick still has a lot of vim and vinegar left in her πŸ™‚ Nathan sounds like somebody I wish I had as a neighbor!

  8. I turned 60 last year and it has hit me both mentally and physically. I am lucky though because I have two sons to help me out. I gave up mowing the grass, climbing ladders, etc 2 years ago due to the aches and just getting tired out easier. I am glad you have Nathan to help you.. he sounds like a really nice guy.

  9. I’m so glad you posted this! Last year I didn’t even have a deck flower potted garden. I wasn’t able to do it so I just didn’t. But you’ve planted a seed in my mind (pardon the pun) – I’m going to get my son to help me, he’ll be glad to help, it won’t take forever, and we’ll get it done. Now I’m very excited. Thank you Brenda.

  10. Hi Brenda,
    I think you are smart to realize you need help at this point in life. The nice part of your decision is you can sit and enjoy the labor of Nathan helping you. We all would love to do things ourselves but as we age we have to be realistic.
    Have a great rest of the week.

  11. Brenda,
    What a wise (and difficult!) decision you made. I greatly admire you it.
    I know what you mean….I tend to push and push myself as well, and gardening is such a pleasure and passion for me too.
    I shall try to be more like you in this!

  12. I’m glad that Nathan is there and available to help you. It does hurt our pride to accept the things we cannot change about our bodies, but acceptance to do the things we can is not bad either. I suppose being thankful that we can still do some things and accept that others we can’t has to find balance somewhere in our lives along with brain to body balance. Some mornings I’m more stiff than others, but it is what it is and I have to be thankful for the things I can still take care of. Love and hugs!

  13. It’s nice how things work out. Nathan showed up in your life when you needed him. Plus you are teaching him about gardening. You are inspiring a great new interest in him. Something that he can take with him as he ages or that he can teach his kids. We need the young to learn about the earth and plants. So you see it may all come to be a great thing. It never hurts to teach. Maybe that is what you can take out of not being able to do everything anymore. It never hurts to insure others. And you have plenty of knowledge to share.

  14. We do what we have to do to get things done. You delegated…good for you!
    I noticed buds on a gardenia bush today, here in Florida, it wasn’t mine, I seem to kill them. Hope yours makes a good comeback.

  15. Brenda,
    I think you made very wise choices. It is good to pay sometimes to get those hard jobs done, and now you will still be able to enjoy your wonderful garden and patio. I feel that is the purpose of a good emergency savings account. We can take care of some of those difficult moments when we need help in the garden, or maybe a new appliance. Being frugal really pays off when you have a bit of a financial cushion.
    Like many here, I am feeling my years too, but I love my garden, and being outside in the sunshine. I pace myself, just doing some everyday when the weather is good. We see our first Robins back around March 23 here in Southern Ontario, ( sometimes they arrive wearing tooks πŸ™‚ ) and that is my signal to get those wheelbarrow wheels rolling ! ( 4 wheels and it tips the load out — good for disabled people , no lifting, and easy to push, also deep, got it at Canadian Tire a few years ago on sale ). On Mon. it was sunny, and beautiful out, just above freezing, but no wind, and that is the time I love to be out cleaning up the beds, removing dried perennial tops, and old tomato plants from their large cages. I learned a long time ago that waiting until Spring means the the tops will be dried out, and much lighter to carry. The ground is still frozen, so I can easily walk on the grass, and move my wheelbarrow around without doing any damage. In just 2 or 3 weeks it could be way to soggy for that. I don’t want to wait until there are quite a few showers because who wants to work with a wet slimy mess ? I also love to see all my perennials like daffodils and tulips start to come up in clean flower beds. I was out there again today for 2 hours in the sunshine. This way I take about 2 large wheelbarrow loads per day back to the compost pile, and it is easy. I do not bother removing leaves from the maple trees that are on the veggie and flower beds. They make good mulch, and everything just grows up through them. The only areas that have to be really clean are the areas where I sow some annual flower seeds like zinnias and calendulas, or where I sow veggie seeds. After the seedlings get established I gradually bring my straw mulch around the veggie plants, and some shredded bark goes on the flower beds. I have to buy this by the bag, but it goes on very gradually, as I am able. Sometimes my Grandaughter helps me with the heavy stuff when she is home for a visit. She will likely help me get my bags of sheep manure that I buy every Spring at Canadian Tire, with my points that I save up all year from buying gas, and a few other things at the store.
    This time of year, when there are still some patches of ice and snow in places, it may seem strange to some people to see someone like me out there cleaning up the beds, and prunning shrubbery, but I much prefer to work when it is sunny and cool. It is much easier than working in the heat, humidity and dealing with the bugs like the good old Canadian blackflies and mosquitos. I wear a hat with a net over the head and gloves when I have to, in June and July, so I can work early in the morning when it is hot. One has to adapt !
    One other thing I would like to mention about changes as we age : Girls, if you need a knee replacement, like I did last Oct. or a hip replacement, get it done ! It will make your life so much better ! I am not dealing with a body all out of balance and in pain like I was. What a joy just to be able to stay in the garden for a couple of hours, or shop at 3 or 4 stores in a row ! Sure, I still have some other arthritis in other joints, and may have to have carpal tunnel surgery on my wrists, but I will wait until winter, so I can heal when I am not out in the garden, or driving more in nice weather. I am very grateful for our excellent health care system here in Canada.
    Try to do some gentle exercise everyday, eat healthy, lose a bit of weight if you need to. It all helps one to feel better, and cope so we can still have a good life, even if it is at a slower more relaxed pace. It is good to be retired, and just have the freedom to plan your day. That is a huge luxury for me, and I count my blessings !
    Brenda, I wonder if you might consider having one day per month when we discuss ” The Garden Month by Month ” ? We are already talking about the Spring Cleanup and Early Preparations. In the winter we might even discuss Houseplants. Just a thought.

    Best Wishes, and Hang in There Everyone ! Sometimes we just have to live above our circumstances !!!

  16. I’m still fighting that “acceptance” at age 72! I want to do it all myself and I too find it hard to ask for help. I wish I had a Nathan! I have a neighbor boy who is 13, but he’s not a very hard worker and would rather stand around and talk! So I don’t ask for his help very often if I plan to pay him. Sometimes he WILL help without pay, which is nice. I would love to be able to sit and direct someone to do all my chores, with the assurance that they are being done the way I like it done! I continue trying to do it all, but I pay a big price, so I think I’m finally learning, in the last couple of years, that I have to slow down and take time to rest and just not do some things and “leave it be”. Very hard, as you know, for a person who has always done it all herself.. and with pride. I also have to limit myself as far as looking down to work, such as sewing or crafting, as my neck starts killing me. Trouble is.. it feels OK the day I’m doing it, but the next day I suffer, so I’m learning to do things in smaller doses. As someone else said, IT SUCKS! Marilyn

    1. Used to be that way for me. The next day I would be miserable. Now I’m miserable while I’m looking down. It took me down a notch to accept that I can’t keep going at the same pace I always have.

    2. Marylin,
      I have exactly the same problems with my neck, and have for many years. It started with a chronic pain syndrome that developed from having to bend my neck all the time at work. There are a few things I have done to adapt. I only read a book that is supported on one or two pillows on my lap to keep it at eye level. When I am hand sewing, just mending usually, I try to lift it up so I am not bending my neck. I have my computer screen raised up on a couple of large books so I am not bending my neck to look at it. I don’t think a laptop would work for me. Like you, I have to rest after doing very much. I cannot lift anything heavy either. I even move small loads of laundry out to the clothesline on my walker. I know just what you mean about being able to do it at the time, but being very sore the next day. I take advil before working in the garden, and after I come in. I have bone spurs in my neck. There is no surgery for it, but being careful, and doing some gentle exercise to stretch the muscles everyday is beneficial. Do not get discouraged. There are ways to manage it. I no longer demand perfection of myself. I get most of the weeds in the garden,, and sometimes there are dust bunnies under the bed, but I still have a good life ! Take care.

  17. Oh yes. I find I can only do one or two jobs per day, then move on to something else. I have a very bad back. I make choices; plant one pot, rake one section, then I must sit a bit. Sometimes go back and do one or two other things, but not after resting and certainly they can’t be the same things. Everything must be paired down on a daily basis and I must move slower. Frankly, it sucks. But, I’m still upright.

    1. I had back surgery at age 30. Then it was my lower back. Now it’s my whole back and neck. But you’re right, we’re still upright.

  18. Nothing wrong with needing a little help and I’m so glad Nathan is there to assist when needed. And just where did Charlie think he was going? Silly boy. I’d have loved to have seen a video of him running down the street with Nathan right behind him. I’m looking forward to watching you bring your patio to life. Have a lovely evening.
    P.S. I’m in my 6th day with Molly staying at my neighbor’s while I recover from foot surgery. I miss her terribly! We’ve never been apart longer than 4 days in the 9 years that I have had her. It is very hard.
    Carol and Molly

    1. As Charlie was running full tilt, I yelled the same thing to him. Where on earth did he think he was going? No mama was going to be on the other end of the line. What was just as funny was watching 6 foot 6 inch Nathan running just as fast! A tiny dog and a huge boy/man.

  19. I still push myself way too hard, I know. I am a few years older than you and I have a terrible time asking for help–even when I need it.
    I went back to work full time 15 months ago and gave a two year commitment. I love it but am also anxious to ‘be done’ in a way.
    I do think we should stop when our bodies say stop—but I have a hard time doing that.
    Have a wonderful day. I am glad you got all your patio tasks done and had such a willing helper. xo Diana

    1. I’ve always had a hard time asking for help because for some reason I had the notion that I was invincible. Slow down before it breaks you.

  20. What a great friend you’ve found in Nathan – I look forward to seeing your patio in full bloom, newly arranged. Debbie (Mountain Momma) had a beautiful picture she tagged you in, I hope you got over to see it. I can imagine that arrangement on your patio!

  21. Bless Nathan’s golden heart, and “Know thy Limitations”! I’m in the same boat with my gardening; I just can’t do it all anymore ~
    I agree with Eileen ~ people come into your life for a reason.

  22. I’m 20 years your senior, know what you mean. I’m still doing most things myself, just slower. Lol

  23. Happy for you that you have Nathan !
    I understand exactly where you are coming from ,our bodies are giving out on us ,and it is something we all have to grieve like so many other losses !
    We need to be grateful every day for what we do have and make our life as enjoyable as we can !
    Hugs to you and fur babies !

  24. “Part of the challenge of aging gracefully is that you have to continue to find things that are important to you”, choices as you say, You’ve accepted you can’t do it all but you know your garden is your joy and is fulfilling. You’ve the wisdom to know what you can do and the wisdom to ask for – and accept – help. I sincerely hope the old adage is true: With age comes wisdom I’m 80 and still waiting.
    Also, do you think that since Charlie got out that you have to worry that Ali will try it, too? Your pet babies are your joy, too, I know.

    1. Ivy would probably go outside if the door was open long enough. She seems a bit afraid of the outdoors when she sniffs freedom in the air.

  25. How lovely that Nathan is nearby and willing to help you…and in turn you help him too!! Great to have friends…whatever the age…and smart to have some younger than you are. Nothing wrong with considering Nathan a bit of a son, you know? One of our son’s boyhood chums has been more of a son than our son, in some ways…if you count how that friend keeps up with us, yet to this day anyway!! We are grateful. No reason to kick a gift horse in the teeth. Yea, I am trying to resume crocheting again…wow, been out maybe a year or so…and is it harder now!! I hear ya, as they are apt to say back in N.Carolina where we once lived!!

    1. Two daughters and only one I have a relationship with. Not for lack of trying. So Nathan has become another adult child for me to rely on and mother.

  26. Nathan has come into your life for a reason…help, support and friendship. Not an accident, somehow it was meant to be. And it sounds like you have come into his life for the same reason.

    Consider it a gift and a blessing.

  27. It must be nice to have your patio all cleaned up and ready to go, Brenda!! Any sign of life on your gardenia? I wasn’t sure it would survive the winter outdoors. You’re very lucky to have Nathan there, and he’s lucky to have you as well!

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