• Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

Title

Age and Flexibility

Making changes.

July 19, 2015
 

Years ago, I accompanied an older friend, who was in the early stages of dementia, to a medical appointment. Her husband and others who saw her in a number of settings commented on her increasing cognitive confusion, but because I usually visited her at her home, where she was comfortable and in a familiar environment, I experienced her as the same charming and witty hostess I had known before she became ill.

We chatted companionably in the taxi on the way to the doctor. The doctor had changed offices, though, and as the taxi pulled up to the curb, she said, "This isn't right." I reminded her that the doctor had moved to this new location, but she couldn't take it in. When we exited and I moved toward the door of the office building, she didn't want to come. She was frightened, and started to cry. Fortunately, the doctor's office was on the ground floor, and one of the receptionists saw what was happening through the window and came to the rescue.

I have been thinking about that episode recently, because I feel like I have been going through a milder version of my friend's experience. As related here, I will lose my practice office in September. My musical improv house team has lost its regular venue, and while we have several offers to move to different performance spaces, we can't all make the new times or locations. One member has already left the group, and the rest of us feel like we are in suspended animation. And in January I left my job to return to a previous employer. The setting is familiar, but many of the faces are different, and it is disorienting.

It isn't all negative, by any means. I am about to sign on a new office space that is, in many ways, more desirable. My house team has been accepted into a citywide musical a improv festival for the fall, so even if we fragment over the summer we will at least all be together for that. I don't even mind spending less energy on the house team, since my splinter team, Redshirts, was just accepted at ComicCon/Superweek, and we have a lot of work to do before we will be ready to go up in front of a gang of 200+ Trekkies! And my new supervisees are interesting and rewarding in their own right.

It's just that I have been feeling old and somewhat disoriented lately. I don't want to change offices, even for a more attractive situation. I have years of memories wrapped up in my current office, and I thought I would be there until I retired. I have boarded the wrong train for a performance, momentarily forgetting that our old venue doesn't exist anymore. And I sometimes call current supervisees the wrong names.

I don't think I'm suffering from dementia; I think I am overscheduled, sentimental, and pulled in too many different directions. But I know I am slower to accommodate change than I used to be, and less excited about it. I get confused more easily. And sometimes, like my friend, I feel lost, and just want to stand outside and cry until a kind person rescues me.

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