Conscious Aging: Acceptance

A friend recently asked me how Minga is doing. I responded that she seems up and down physically, but remarkably consistent in the grace and acceptance she shows relative to living with dialysis.

Acceptance isn’t a word that I embrace willingly, and after the brief conversation about Minga I thought about it more. Minga’s desperate poverty has not offered her many choices in life. The practical effect is that she is long versed in the spiritual discipline of acceptance. She is fiercely proud of those instances where she did have a choice. While the U.S army base was open just outside the village of Rio Hato — during my Peace Corps years and until 1990 — young girls would gain a few dollars by satisfying the sexual needs of the randy 18 year old enlisted men who came to village bars to drink. Minga never did that, a fact she will tell you proudly, even when she struggled to put food in the mouths of her nine growing children and had practically no other ways to earn income.

My life has been very different, at least as an adult. If I read something whose viewpoint I don’t accept, I look for other sources. If I get a bad table, or a poorly prepared entree, or a garment returned from the dry cleaner that is damaged, I insist on an adjustment. If I wonder about a medical recommendation, I get a second opinion. If I don’t like the quote for a new car, I make a counter. Acceptance for me is an “if” not a “must”.

That said, I do greatly admire Minga’s attitude toward her dialysis, which has changed her life in every respect. She always said she would never live in the city; she is now living in the city 5 days out of 7. She always said she didn’t want to live tethered to a machine; she is now living tethered to a machine. She loves her home, her neighbors, the flow of village life. Now she is living with her daughter Ana in a city apartment, rather isolating. Minga is glad to have the welcome and the support. But it still has to be hard for her not to be the center of her own home with extended family popping in and out all day to visit.

Aging has something to do with becoming more practiced at acceptance, I suspect. My choices are limited, somewhat, by energy levels, by a reduced tolerance for commotion, by less steady balance — even though I work at it — which makes it a bad idea for me to climb up on a ladder to change batteries in the high ceiling smoke alarms. Ben and Sara came over last night to help.

I will have to get better at acceptance, and not have a knee-jerk resistance to the word. In this Minga is my role model, which I will tell her the next time we are together.

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