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Today is the third day of our trip to Durham to get my husband's non-functional ankle fused and pinned at Duke. (Yes, he's from Maryland, yes, he's a basketball fanatic, and yes, this required a serious re-evaluation of the certainties in his world view.) With any luck we're headed back home today.

I feel that I'd like to start paying more attention to the parts of our lives that change as we get older. I'm 53, which is not exactly ancient; I run, I ride my horses, I work on the farm, I still carry on a ridiculously full slate of work projects. But I've noticed that the ways in which I can concentrate and work have shifted, subtly but unmistakably.

The biggest change I've become aware of recently is a diminishment of my ability to work in strange places while there are other responsibilities simmering along in the background. Yesterday I spent the entire day sitting at the Duke ambulatory orthopedic surgery clinic, waiting. It wasn't uncomfortable. It was quiet. I had all my work stuff with me and even had a desk to spread it out on.

I did, however, get almost nothing done. Every twenty minutes or so, the surgical team would text me an update. Occasionally a nurse would come out to walk me through some part of the post-surgical care. People were coming in and out.

Ten years ago, I'd have taken a day when I *had* to stay in one place without farm chores or work phone calls and polished off some serious to-do list tasks. I might even have done some writing.

I don't seem able to do this any more (and it's not the first time I've noted the phenomenon--definitely not an isolated experience). It goes against the grain--or my grain, anyway--but I should have just chalked the day up to Unavoidable Disruption and watched movies on my laptop the whole time.

Has anyone else noticed this sort of change?
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11 hours ago

Today is the third day of our trip to Durham to get my husbands non-functional ankle fused and pinned at Duke. (Yes, hes from Maryland, yes, hes a basketball fanatic, and yes, this required a serious re-evaluation of the certainties in his world view.) With any luck were headed back home today.

I feel that Id like to start paying more attention to the parts of our lives that change as we get older. Im 53, which is not exactly ancient; I run, I ride my horses, I work on the farm, I still carry on a ridiculously full slate of work projects. But Ive noticed that the ways in which I can concentrate and work have shifted, subtly but unmistakably.

The biggest change Ive become aware of recently is a diminishment of my ability to work in strange places while there are other responsibilities simmering along in the background. Yesterday I spent the entire day sitting at the Duke ambulatory orthopedic surgery clinic, waiting. It wasnt uncomfortable. It was quiet. I had all my work stuff with me and even had a desk to spread it out on.

I did, however, get almost nothing done. Every twenty minutes or so, the surgical team would text me an update. Occasionally a nurse would come out to walk me through some part of the post-surgical care. People were coming in and out.

Ten years ago, Id have taken a day when I *had* to stay in one place without farm chores or work phone calls and polished off some serious to-do list tasks. I might even have done some writing.

I dont seem able to do this any more (and its not the first time Ive noted the phenomenon--definitely not an isolated experience). It goes against the grain--or my grain, anyway--but I should have just chalked the day up to Unavoidable Disruption and watched movies on my laptop the whole time.

Has anyone else noticed this sort of change?

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I’m so thankful you posted this! I’m turning 50 in 4 weeks and have noticed some similar things, but wasn’t sure what was going on. Glad I’m not going crazy, but just getting ‘older’!

You know they perform ankle replacement at Duke. I was evaluated for it by one of the pioneer surgeons there. One day I will have to have it done.

Yes, it's definitely harder with age! Unrelated question....may I ask, or could you PM me, the name of the orthopedic surgeon at Duke? I had reconstructive surgery on my ankle in 2011, so I collect names of specialists just in case I would need advice in the future. Thank you!

Yep. But that's because of my diagnosis. Too bad we couldn't connect while you're here in Durham! I know all the best coffee places...😁

It's part of grief too. I've found I'm very aware of the impending possibility that major physical and mental alterations/disabilities are inevitable. And when it's happening to a spouse, it's out of our control. I'm so sorry for your husband's pain and trial. I will praynfor him today and that you will know how deeply loved you are whether or not you keep up at a pace the rest of us will only keep in heaven! You've always been (well, since I started reading your books and attending conferences) a magna-tasker!

Maybe it's just me, but concentrating on anything while someone I love is in surgery is nearly impossible. I can work on stuff, but it better be brainless, like typing a schedule into Excel. I think some part of our brain is reserved and occupied with the concern for that person, even if it isn't right there in the forefront making us worry. That said, I do feel like as moderns many of us have lost our ability to focus for long periods of time on things. And as I have gotten older, I have found it gets harder, but I don't know if that is because of the endless availability of distraction and my acclimation to a state of being distracted or if it is because I genuinely struggle to focus.

Laughing only at the "reevaluation". As a child...and in a strong Carolina fan family...I asked the same question when I needed stitches at the age of 9 and Duke was the closest hospital...."Are you suuuuure?" I asked my parents. Like they were going to use Duke blue thread or something 😁 AND I absolutely believe that pandemic has caused us all some form of trauma to our brains whether we realize it or not. It's very hard to concentrate when a large presence of uncontrollable uncertainty hovers all around us. And that's whether you see these last several months as ridiculous noise or a huge wake-up call. We're all in one of the stages of grief and some of us may have PTSD after it settles down. Yeah, so forgive yourself for not being uber productive.

At 55 I went back to work full time while winding up my daughter’s home education. In some ways I’ve never been more productive, such as just completing a $5M campaign, which is big for me. But I don’t have all the juice I once did - my fitness routine went out the window and I just skim the surface of domestic chores. Not sure what the answer is but from my perspective working in an assisted living community I’ve observed there is a vast difference in the capabilities of Nona and octogenarians. So my advice now at least to my own self is to keep an eye on that end game, don’t shift away from a priority on physical fitness and other areas of well being, offload distracting chores in order to focus brain power on that which produces the most desired results. And REST, and take satisfaction in all that God has done and is doing.

After homeschooling 4 kiddos, I returned to the workforce 2.5 years ago and just started school myself - getting a masters degree. I’m 64. I notice a big difference in doing what I’d always done (to survive!) during22 years parenting and homeschooling - brain state switching. It takes me longer to switch gears and start a new deep-dive task. It feels like a heavier lift now. I hate that it is so. I recite to myself daily…Do not go gently in that good night… πŸ™πŸ»πŸ˜

We are the same age, and though I am not a writer, I have noticed it in other areas. I have, however, much greater knowledge (wisdom?) of how to budget and accomplish many things more efficiently and so far am keeping up and still expanding what I can accomplish on the farm and kitchen—which are my main pursuits these days. I do feel my age and it is sobering, but not discouraging yet. πŸ™‚

I hate to tell you that it only gets worse with age. First I noticed energy levels. 12 years ago I could push past my tiredness to return to my desk for as long as it took to complete whatever it was. Now I have to push to get past 4 pm. More recently multi-tasking has left. I always juggled multiple big projects. Now I do well to stay on task with one project. Knowing you, though, I’d guess you have 15-20 more highly productive years. πŸ₯°

I'm 45 and can't multi-task as well as I use to. One of my real estate clients died suddenly 3 years ago. She was 51. We were wheeling and dealing. We closed on a Friday, were working on another contract, by Monday she was in the ICU, and by Wednesday she was dead. She had an underlying condition that was exacerbated by stress. She had multiple endeavers going on, a husband, and 5 children. Her death rattled me in a profound way. It forced me to confront my own limitations and priorities to the point where I think my mind just shuts down when overwhelmed and forces me to prioritize my efforts.

I’m 61 and work as a nanny which keeps me walking daily. I also live in an old bldg. on the 3rd floor with no elevator. Around Christmas last year, I twisted my knee going too fast down the stairs. It took six months to heal. The dr. Told me we heal more slowly when we’re older. Now I am much more protective of my health😎

Yes, in a huge way. I'm 5 years older than you. I think much decline comes with menopause, especially the inability to concentrate and get things done in the polished-off manner I used to do. Physically, the change is significant too, if you don't keep a real good hand on the reins of your health. Stress and sorrow contribute exponentially to loss of physical and mental health, I've discovered. I'm trying to reclaim lost ground. I hope your hubby heals well!

I've noticed challenges with productivity and focus. In particular, I can't seem to settle in with a book. I grieve that part the most. I haven't finished a book in over a year, and I was reading regularly before. I don't know how much of it is aging/capacity, how much is shifting priorities, and how much is shell shock (the virus, shifting to remote/isolated work, racial and social issues, politics.. it's all been too much and I have to push myself to not just sit and stare at a blank wall sometimes). I'm glad you posted this. Our experiences may not be exact, but it helps tremendously to know it's possibly not just me.

I’m 25 years into a fused ankle. When he’s ready and if he wants improved function for that ankle, look into the Exosym from Hanger Clinic. It changed my life. I’m mentioning it because the advertising budget for it is nonexistent and if someone hadn’t made me aware of it I’d have never found it on my own. πŸ™‚

I’m 53 also. Once I’m focused, it’s the same for me, but getting to that level of focus is harder. I’ve chalked it up to screen time, but age could be another factor. I agree with the others that focus while a loved one is in surgery would be difficult or impossible.

I personally have found that the 2 years prior to menopause and the year of actual menopause are the brutal years for feeling like you’ve lost your mind! I’ve heard that the first 2 years post-menopause are the same but that it does get better. Although using HRT might make a positive difference for some women, I don’t so I don’t know.

I too have noticed this change where I am less able to work in chunks and require longer, focused periods of time to write, whereas I used to be able to work anywhere as well. I actually don't mind this, as I am becoming more mindful and less frazzled about the day to day, but on the other hand less productive, so there's an exchange there.

I think Sarah’s comment may provide some insight. Is it possible that we have been indelibly marked by a year of isolation and background worry and we’ve simply met our threshold for suffering? Our psyches seem only designed to hold so much. Also, I am more aware than ever of the ways I am connected to and influenced by the well being those around me—a sensitization perhaps heightened by our pandemic/me too/racial reckoning experience. Add to that the aging process by which limitations + attunement to what really matters = wisdom. I think this can be nicely summed up in this: your body knows what this moment best needs. Now, just to receive it!

Same here. I am not comparing my meager talents with your multi-tasking ability, yet at 76 I feel the water moving faster and hear the waterfall down stream. I am not afraid of the 'fall' buy I am uncomfortable in this water.

I really noticed my work rhythms changing and an adjustment to needed rest amounts after being home during lockdown. It is as if my body decided it no longer desired a hurried, multitasking life. And so, I look for my rest or down time in each day and seek to lengthen it until I feel refreshed for the needed tasks.

It’s sort of comforting to read this so I don’t think it’s only me. I’ve noticed a significant difference in my ability to complete tasks, not get stressed out by interruptions, keeping my interest on all the things I need to do…. At nearly 65 this decline began just these past 2 yrs. Even outside noises distract me and I get nothing accomplished. I used to be such a dynamic force and even my son has noticed it. I get annoyed with any disruption because it cause a shift. Thanks for sharing.

I’m only 40, but I absolutely have the same experience when in medical settings. I’m in them a lot due to severely chronically ill children, and I’ve stopped trying to “get stuff done”. I play games or watch Netflix while waiting. πŸ™‚

100%. I am 59, about to turn 60. I would say 1) I'm more thoughtful, less reactionary; more resourceful, less self-assured than ever 2) I require absolute peace to form new thoughts. That last is a new thing. I used to be able to hammer out writing in the midst of utter chaos. Now, if my husband gets up and starts making coffee on the other side of the house, it is distracting. πŸ˜•

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