“But depression is a real threat among the old; some drift into isolation, bitterness, and a sense of meaninglessness. Still others put up their dukes, determined to go down swinging. Face-lifts and tummy tucks? Bring it on!”
I love the article reference and quote from the link, The Art of Aging Gracefully, especially following a year like 2016, that started out in a very dark place for this senior citizen, and ended in a very sunny and happy place.
Just before the end of 2015, illness hit me like the sound of a powerful avalanche. All of us experience this kind of reality check more than once or twice in a life time. But this time it felt more profound and serious than at any other time in my life…my age caught up with me… I recall feeling completely at the end of a hard fought journey but without a grasp for what was happening at the moment… I felt like a loser approaching the end of my life. It felt like my body was going down fast… My mind was overwhelmed with negative self talk… I thought only of the heart aches of the past and an uncertain future. No longer was my mind living in the present. I was angry for the first time in a long time… I was also very depressed, a most hated and scary mental health condition from my own life experience.
I was overcome with both physical illness and mental stress…over the top community commitments with no end in sight, and little or no feeling of real accomplishment. At the same time, my mother passed away on January 1, 2016…taking me back to a lifetime of triggers. All of this came down at once, forcing me to step back, get well again, reassess, and regain my balance as a senior citizen. There is clearly a 3rd act in the making…
Whether right, wrong, or indifferent, I felt abused, misused, and disrespected as a dedicated and passionate community service volunteer. I was hell bent to make a difference and solve all the problems single handedly. Sound familiar? I also felt like I let my family down, especially my wife and best friend, by being irresponsible with our personal goals and health. I could have risked everything by losing sight of maintaining a healthy life style and balance, or better said, aging gracefully.
After a few good slaps in the face and following the advice of my primary care physician, including paying attention and listening to my wife and family members, the road back to a healthy balance was well in hand by the spring of 2016. But it was my choice to believe in myself and get back to my great passion in public service while staying grounded.
Life seemed to begin again like a breath of fresh air for my 70th birthday on July 6, 2016. After a great sleep that night, I woke up early as usual to catch the early sunrise and listen to the soothing sounds of the ocean. In that instant, I said to myself, “I’m still here!” It was with the momentum of that moment of positive and hopeful self talk that we marched off for a hike to the top of Mary’s Peak near Corvallis, Oregon…see photo above. We decided weeks earlier that the relatively easy but spectacular view of the 4000′ Mary’s Peak is where we were going for a birthday picnic. It was a very good day, indeed, with my loving wife, Judy. We talked of and celebrated our life together and plans for the future. We thanked God for our blessings, especially good health as members of the aging boomer generation.
The summer of 2016 was full of joy and adventure doing our favorite coastal hikes, walks, a little golf, and day trips up and down the Oregon coast doing what we love the most together. I had the good fortune and opportunity to be engaged in a new and very exciting professional assignment with Lincoln County Oregon Board of Commissioners as a project consultant for the Stepping Up Initiative. I was also certified as a Mental Health First Aid USA Adult Trainer in September. We capped off the summer with a cruise to Alaska at the end of August…an exceedingly spiritual adventure. When we arrived at Glacier Bay, we were completely captivated by God’s creation of such abundant, protected and stunning beauty…
Early in October we had the opportunity to attend the USS West Virginia (BB48) Reunion in Seattle to honor Pearl Harbor & WWII veterans and family members and friends of the US Navy. I was also asked to speak about my father, Vernon H. Sparks‘, experience on that fateful day, December 7, 1941. This was a profoundly emotional and spiritual experience for me connecting to my Dad, his shipmates, family members. (Click highlighted text to learn more.)
Late in the fall we headed out of town on a road trip to southern California to spend a few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas with family and friends. It was during this time that we felt a much closer connection with our family. For the first time in many years we were able to visit with our entire family around the holidays…the entire large extended family. A very special time indeed! We will treasure the memories, photos above…
So we remember 2016 fondly as a year of great change and growth…some painful experiences in the beginning, but with much hope for the future as the year progressed. On this first day of 2017 we give thanks to God for our blessings. We look forward to a year of making a difference on behalf of the community we serve, and in our travels to explore new beginnings, adventure, and romance.
We wish our family, friends, and followers good health and happiness in 2017. We hope that by sharing our experiences that you see a hopeful and bright future in your own lives.