Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


T'ain't So, T's Too


Jackie Spinks


                                           Gadzooks, What’s Wrong

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been doing time on a depression down slope.  I got on the road to this abyss and don’t know how to stop the ride.  I make like a dozen pit stops on this and that, telling myself all the while, why do I keep ruminating over my past and feeling guilty. But to be honest, the past is just one of my myriad list of triggers to depressed thinking.  I have other triggers.  In an attempt to cheer myself up, I tell myself: “Well, kiddo you’re not sleeping in the streets and you can still make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and go to the toilet alone.”  It doesn’t work—I’m still depressed.

Some friend said, “Who isn’t depressed at 80?”  That helped.  Like a little. But I wasn’t ever depressed in my seventies. They were the happiest years of my life.  And I only hit the downward slide recently—plus I’m also getting more dumb.  Wonder if depression and dimwittedness are connected? 

I have no interest in anything.  I used to be curious about everything, now it’s all “So what? Who cares?  Just let me sleep the rest of my life away.” So my broken arm no longer hurts.  I’m able to use it for everything.  I was pretty jolly over that for a while.  Would go around singing to myself, “I’m better.  I’m better.” 

So what’s the matter with me.  Nothing in my life is on the skids. Bills all paid, no aches or pains. Not gained any weight. My kids are okay, and by that I mean, none of them are suffering a fatal illness or in prison.  My criteria for “okay” when it comes to my kids is now pretty low, but that comes from old age.

I’m not besieged by worry about will my money carry me through, like my brother does and he has a six or seven- figure salary.  I guess I don’t worry, because I’ve always been a congenital el cheapo. 
So what’s bugging me anyway? Like, I can barely get out of bed in the morning.  And once up, I brush my teeth, look at my wrinkles, comb my hair, speculating on how thin it’s getting, but so what-- and I take a multiple vitamin, while I drink a cup of hot milk laced with an eighth of a teaspoon of instant coffee.  These are my big accomplishments for the morning.  I have to arouse more motivation to brush my teeth than I did twenty years ago when I remodeled the kitchen and wall-papered all the bedrooms, hallways and bathroom—moved furniture, mowed a big lawn, etc. 

Could it be when I was going through all those months of pain with my broken arm, I had a cause—to get well--and am now suffering from my lost cause.  That I MISS my pain.  That’s dumb.  But as I said before I’m getting more stupid in my old age, so I have to take every hare-brained issue into account. 

Or could it be, I have a whole new set of wrinkles since my broken arm. And while that should depress me—it doesn’t.  Figure wrinkles come with the aging territory, plus cancer lumps and sores, which I don’t have—yet—knock on wood. They may be there, but I can’t feel anything so far.
Or was it I got rattled when, for the first time, I did my income tax, and I did them wrong.  That’s never happened before.

Maybe I’m depressed because the one thing I fear is having a stroke like my mom and becoming a vegetable in a wheel chair for ten years—and wouldn’t even know what a 1040 was.   One thing that lifts my spirit is that every older person I know agrees with me-- losing their smarts is a problem for them too.  Damn, it’s nice to have peers.  What would we do without them.

So I’ve been struggling to hang onto whatever intelligence I have left by trying to learn computers, reading college textbooks, talking to young people, which is tough. Most of the young people I know are my kids and every time I talk to them, they point out my failures and mistakes. But that’s okay. Keeps me humble.  But is humility a kind of counterfeit depression?  I ask you?

My inner demons go into stretches of respite, and I cheer up, but they’re waiting for an opportune time to come out of hiding. When they hit, I put forth all my coping skills and strategies like keeping busy, talking to friends, and mostly eating, an excellent temporary fix.  Especially, when you can’t find anything else to do, although it’s one of those strategies that lie in wait, in order to accumulate time and give you a big gut, which can add to depression. So after all, nothing much seems to work. 

Like I become depressed about little things.  When I don’t have any of the ailments of my friends, I worry about some big ailment waiting to hit me a good one, in order to balance things out
So what’s my pay-off for all this anxiety, guilt and concomitant depression?  Or isn’t it my fault.  Is it my genes that are doing it?

Could it be biological, as everyone tells me?  I’d like to believe that.  It’s those damned chemicals or neurons misfiring in my brains, or whatever they’re talking about that’s doing it.  “Oh Hell, Jackie,” a friend said disgustedly, “Do you have to analyze everything. You just have a virus that’s going around.  We’re all depressed.  It takes about three weeks to go away.  So sit on it.”

Asked another about my depressions.  “Is it true that it’s a virus.”


“Then what?”

“It’s your genes.”
“I loved that.  I’m not a loser after all.  I have genes that have gone haywire.”

“Yup, but your environment is telling your genes what to do.”  Oh Hell, why couldn’t they leave that one alone.

I like it that all this mooning around trying to find a cause for my depression and gotten rid of, can be shucked as it’s all in my chemicals, which control me.  I don’t control them. They control me. What a relief.

From what I’ve been reading, every problem a person has, whether it’s aggression, schizophrenia, addictions, homosexuality, or my favorite—depression—it’s my genes that made me do it.   This is a new way of looking at that age -old conflict between “nature vs. nurture.”  It’s finally been resolved by science.  Nature has won.  Whoopie.

All of which animates society to give this one unhappy camper society’s blessing, plus understanding, acceptance, help--and even health insurance coverage. 

Some of these academics and scientists are saying, or so I’ve been reading in the newer psychology books, that biological causes for these behaviors has had its day in the sun. Already. These guys are moving back to nurture.  It’s not my fault. I like to think it’s my dopamine or genes goofing up—not my dense thinking. So hey guys, leave it alone.       NURTURE’S NO FUN.




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