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The View from Here: When is Enough Enough?

By Sue Frishberg

I want to live until I die, and I'll bet you do, too. But as I get older, I find I'm constantly compromising, and living less of life than I want or deserve.

Here's a small example. I can't do the fancy stitches that I used to do in knitting. Why? Because I can't concentrate well enough and I keep making mistakes. Then the work isn't up to my standards and I'm aware of it. I can manage all the activities of daily living, and that means I'm not ready for an institution or even the daily support of a caregiver under the terms of my long-term care insurance. But I'm living beyond an age or a capability for what I consider minimum functionality for pleasure.

My parts are wearing out:

There are a few areas where I feel fortunate today.

Anyone who lives long enough will develop a cataract. Even though I was reluctant to have anyone messing around with my eyes, I accepted the recommendation when the doctor said I should have cataract surgery. I can read street signs unaided now. I can readthe caller ID on my Treo, a feat that amazes my friends who arenon-technically oriented; ìHow did you know it was me?î So the vision situation was resolved and restored.

Some people want to live until after they're dead; not me. You probably can match me story for story with tales of someone who died from too much involvement of the medical profession.

The point here is the fact that the doctors made a recommendation to keep the body alive, rather than provide palliative care. It's annoying, frustrating, and depressing. I'm not happy with this downhill slide, and I'm painfully aware of all these losses. What is the limit? I can't see so wellóokay, now I see a bit betteróbut I still can't hear, I'm in pain, and can't walk so well. When does it stop? When is enough enough? And, of course, the appropriate response is, ìWho's going to decide?î

The subject is dying: when is the time? Who gets to decide? It's demeaning and depressing not to be able to do what I consider ordinary things, and not be permitted to make the decision for myself about when is the right time to go.

A LifeMaster at bridge for the past forty-five years, Sue Frishberg (age 81) is a handcraft artist and an art collector. Her book (with Katie Gates), My Ears Are Ringing(www.myearsareringing.info) is a catalogue of a portion of her earring collection and her life in stories suggested by theearrings. A native of Minnesota, she currently lives in Southern California.

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This article was originally printed in User Experience Magazine, Volume #, Issue #, 200#.

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