I used to enjoy watching the spiral wishing wells found in malls. You would place a coin in the slot and watch as it raced around, finally falling into the drain at the bottom as it began its trek, a slow, meandering trail, circling the rim. Each pass took it lower down the side as it picked up speed. When it got to the bottom it was almost a blur, it was moving so fast.
Anyone can explain the physics of the decent. As the circumference became smaller, the time it took to pass was reduced. The tighter the circle, the faster the quarter appeared go. The assumption of speed was only that. The speed of the pass had nothing to do with the velocity of the coin. The time to circle got shorter instead of the coin getting faster.
I haven’t seen one of these in years but the picture recently came to mind. Isn’t this the perfect description of the progression of decline? At first it’s a slow collection of similar occurrences that build into a pattern. The pattern causes other noticeable declines leading to a limiting of risks. Limiting leads to a continuous closing off of options until the circle of our life is reduced, and the speed of our decline is noticed.
The elderly and the addict are perfect examples of this gradual decline. Much happens before the speed picks up and the drain appears. The fun and excitement that hides the addiction leads to a one dimensional life, a smaller group of interests and a smaller group of friends. The choices are on their way to being singular and the decent picks up speed. By the time they notice they are falling they are already caught in the vortex.
The same can be said of the elderly as they realize their decline. Limiting their activities, and the things they give up, make their world smaller. The sameness of every day makes doing anything new seem like a big change. Their smaller world makes the drain at the bottom appear larger and larger. The list of things they can no longer do grows, and their old life more distant, until the thought of getting up to make a meal seems mountainous
At least the elderly have a reason for their decline and hopefully they had a full life. The same can’t be said for the addict who’s vortex is much more associated with toilets. Their choices removed healthy options and they end up flushing their life, giving up everything for their drug of choice, never letting life interfere with their high – using, taking, lying, cheating, circling the drain faster, until they reach the bottom, flushing a life of promise down the drain, always wishing they could just catch a break.
Is it possible to learn ourselves out of this cycle? Can we slow the descent?Continuing to learn and grow, keeping our life options open and our days full, making the path around the spiral as wide as possible, accepting that we can’t do something, but replacing it with things we can.
Wishing well instead of toilet; accepting our limitations, but living fully, enjoying the day’s journey on our slow path to the next stage of our life.