Tag

Aging

Inspiration, legacy, Life Lessons, Passion

Dreaming in My Old Age

The national holiday came and went and my heart is still full of the idealistic rhetoric of the great MLK.

I find myself humming the gospel chorus’, especially Lift Every Voice and Sing, repeating the slogans, “…Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”, “…hate cannot drive out hate…”, and  contemplating the curious concept of the “beloved community”…all in between the daily chores of living my quiet, safe and undramatic life.

I think about how one man who knew what was important to himself and felt so strongly about it that he was able to stir the hearts of others and incite courage in them to go after what was important to them.

This holiday commemorating a period of American History, a story of yesterday, some 35 years ago, impacts my today.

Today I am living the Gran Finale years of retirement. I have celebrated this holiday for many years. What does it have to do with me at this age?  And,why do I care?!

Several years ago, our then 15 year old grandson was staying with us during a difficult time in his life. I drove him to a special school across town every morning on my way to work. It was winter and the days were short. Most days, if we were on time, we drove into the eastern sunrise and watched the sky slowly change, he in silence with his eyes closed, napping, me with eyes wide open oohing and aahing over the delightful sky art.

On one of these mornings when the sky was particularly gorgeous, I nudged him and rather enthusiastically invited him to notice the sky.

In quick response but as placidly as possible, in his Southern droll, he replied, “Gra’ma, what is it with you and the sky? It has nuthin’ to do with me.” And he snuggled deeper into the seat and shut his eyes again.

It took me a second before I laughed. Eventually he did too.  I’ve been laughing at this moment ever since. In fact, it’s become a family reference whenever something obvious is pointed out, someone says, “It has nuthin to do with me!” In their best Southern accent.

At the time, it seemed to be a classic teenage response to an over expressive granny. How tedious it must have been for him to be trapped for 30 minutes every morning with his extroverted, morning-person granny!

There was something profound about it too, a life lesson of sorts. It seemed to be a commentary on how far removed we humans can get from the very essence of our existence, from the things that make life happen and give life meaning.

“It has nuthin’ to do with me” is an attitude that comes easily when life gets so routine and habitual that the deeper, bigger meaning of living fades and joy fades with it.

The 1960’s are past. I’m not brown skinned. You might think MLK has nuthin’ to do with me.

Yet his legacy occupies my quiet moments, brings tears to my eyes and provokes the longing in me to matter and make sure you matter too.

When I hear him declare in his strong preachers’ voice from the steps of the Washington Monument, “I have a dream…”, my heart calls back, “me too! I have a dream too.” His legacy urges me to call out my place within what really makes life meaningful and good.

For me, its that “Beloved Community” thing. I dream for my  grandchildren, that they will know what it feels like to be loved and valued by the people they spend time with, that they will know how to give back that love and respect, and that the world will be free of bigotry and hatred. I dream for them to be part of the beloved community.

MLK reminds me. I am never too old to dream.

MLK reminds me. I am never too old to look up at the rising sun and declare a new day, for myself and for my grandchildren.

MLK reminds me. Let my grandkids know why the sunrise is important and what that sunrise has to do with them.

MLK reminds me. Dreams matter.

 

What dreams are you passing on to your loved ones?  Does your age keep you from dreaming?

 

 

 

 

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Inspiration, Life Lessons, New Year Resolution

Messing Up a Clean Page

“Happy New Year” shouts among those gathered in living rooms, party halls and in public streets and parks, wearing fancy clothes and party hats, blowing horns and whistles while clicking champagne glasses. The Time Square ball drops and musicians begin the haunting tune of Auld Lang Syne…

In my dreams!… Reality was I snuggled down in my cozy bed next to my sleepy gray-haired husband, with our lovable pooch at our feet, a little past 10 P.M. on December 31, 2017. Happy New Year, indeed, but it was barely a whisper.

“It’s a made-up-time anyway”, I told myself before I dozed off, feeling like I was missing the party. “You never see sparrows celebrating or squirrels or any part of nature, for that matter. It just happens: one season flows into the next into the next into the next and continues without fanfare or notation. Who started this hoop-la? Who said we needed to commemorate the ending of one calendar year after another, sing songs, click champagne glasses, stay awake past midnight and make resolutions? Hmmm, I bet it was that pesky Hallmark®️again!”

And just as sleep was overtaking my weary body and over-active mind,  I resolved to research the beginning of New Year’s celebration when I woke in the morning, even though I knew I had already done it at some point in my past but, alas, had forgotten like so many other things I think I once knew.

It all began in Mesopotamia, evidently, around 2000 B.C

Set in January to celebrate Janus, the god with two faces, one looking forward and one looking backward, resolutions were made to break bad habits and develop new good ones, and the celebrating began.  Eventually the Persians gave eggs symbolizing productiveness and even later, in 1788, a Scottish poet, Robert Burns, wrote the lovely words Auld Lang Syne, “times gone by” that has remained the song sung around the world every year since.*

The noting of the two faces of Janus, looking ahead while looking back, caught my attention and I realized how the celebration of New Year’s always stirs those two heads of mixed emotions in me, loss and nostalgia, sometimes regret, mixed with anticipation and hope.  And even though I love the anticipation of a new beginning and the first day of anything, especially the first day of a whole year, of 365 unused 24-hour periods of undesignated time, there is still the angst over the change from what was familiar to the unknown of the future.

It’s like that familiar feeling that always came with the first day of school when, as a child I often faced a new school, until I was eleven when my mother finally said to my career-Army dad that she was  not moving again.  But until then, I never was sure if I would like my new teacher, if the kids would be like me, if I would be dressed right, and if I would find a new friend. My hands would get sweaty with anxiety while at the same time I would feel the excitement over starting a new school year, and having new spiral notebooks and new pencils and all the possibilities that school brings.

I could always write my name on my new notebooks without any hesitation, but actually writing something on the first clean page of the new notebook, was more threatening. I didn’t want to mess it up. “This year”, I would resolve, “I’m going to keep really neat notebooks, use my best handwriting and no doodling!”

Of course, the newness didn’t take long to become the familiar. And at the end of each school year I would flip back through the pages of those spiral notebooks and see the year had unfolded with new experiences and knowledge and understanding, but the handwriting got progressively messy and the same old doodles as in the previous years’ notebooks filled the margins, even more so as the year moved on. It was amusing to read the side comments that defined, with only a word or phrase or doodle, what was really happening in my life.

Waking up to a bright new day when the day happens to be the first day of a new year is much like turning the page in a messy, well used spiral notebook to a clean, untouched new page. The possibility of making the day beautiful, being my very best self, free from “smudges and cross-outs, doodles” and messes, feels exciting and hopeful and possible.

The haunting tune of the old Scottish poem, “Should old acquaintance be forgot?” plays in my head and jolts my dream of perfection by reminding me there’s mixed experiences and feelings, in times gone by…The double head of yesterday and tomorrow are joined. “we two have run about the slopes and picked the daisies fine, we’ve wandered a many weary foot since auld lang syne…”  

There were the carefree times of our youth and the tedious days of responsibility, the somber moments of disappointment, the light hearted ones of love and pleasure. I resolve to break bad habits and create good ones, to reject sadness and claim joy.  But when I look back, at the end of the year, I’ll remember both…with kindness.

I sit, in a new day in a new year and raise my morning cup of coffee. I resolve to go ahead, use my best handwriting but cross stuff out that doesn’t work, doodle to my hearts’ contentment and mess up the page!

“And here’s a hand my trusty friend! And give me a hand o’ thine! And we’ll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne.”

What do you resolve to put on your clean page this year?

 

*CNN.com New Years Fast Facts

 

 

 

 

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Blog, Inspiration, Life Lessons

Reframing Limitations

My husband finally stopped dreaming about owning  an RV and actually bought one. It was an older model that needed some work. But after spending all summer fixing it, with the help of our handy youngest son, it was ready to use.

He was pretty excited. Me, not so much. It was never one of my dreams, always one of his. But his delight and enthusiasm was contagious and I was happy to go along and see how this might work.

We hit the road, going south…seeking warm weather and a place to park that would give us the feeling of freedom and leisure “where the livin’ is easy”. It was meant to be a trial run, a test, to see if doing the retirement RV-thing was really doable for us, and to make sure all the mechanics worked.

(I probably need to say that neither one of us is particularly mechanically inclined. In fact our most often used app is “OK Google…how do you…?” and our second is YouTube!)

We drove interstate highways, toll roads, and small county roads, through cities and around cities, rural towns and coastal resort towns. We saw beautiful Autumn colors on tree lined interstate highways and ugly cement road systems winding around city centers, large outlet malls, wind turbines around fields of snowy white cotton, and pecan groves and cattle ranches and dairy farms. We watched the sun go down on the Gulf. We heard the rain on our metal roof one night in Mississippi as we slept. We saw millions of stars in a dark Oklahoma night sky.  We “played house” in a tiny cozy space and drank our morning coffee slowly as the sun took its time rising.

Nine days later, sitting with a scared dog on my lap inside the RV,  on the side of the highway just 95 miles from home, waiting for the roadside help to come and fix our front tire that had just blown out, we began to scrutinize the happenings of the adventure and analyze the pros and cons.

We both agreed we had enjoyed the newness of this 3,000 mile adventure even though it brought with it a fair amount of stress and a little anxiety. Trying new things, whatever they are, always creates a bit of stress. But not trying leaves an unfulfilled longing and not knowing.

The tire was fixed eventually and we pulled back onto the highway, headed north to home. It had been another long day and we were tired but it didn’t take much to get back into the speed and flow of traffic.

But then suddenly! A slight swerve. We heard the loud noise of the rumble-strip on the side of the road. YIKES! The dog whined and sat up and I yelped! Another quick swerve and we were back in the flow. It was like a hiccup. No harm done.

Thank God for rumble-strips! It woke us up and got us back on track.

Recovering from the swerve heading towards home in the twilight of the day, I couldn’t help but think of all the times I had tried something new and discovered by hearing the loud interruption of a rumble-strip, of sorts, that I wasn’t going in the direction I really wanted to go. Something woke me up and I was redirected back on track.

But isn’t this part of the magic of old age, being able to look back and see the big picture, the process, the effect of one event or choice upon another, the beginnings and the outcomes… and to recognize the rumble-strips, the things that served to wake us up and redirect us?

Our families act as rumble-strips for us, if we listen to their opinions. Our years of experience serve as rumble-strips. Knowing ourselves serve as rumble-strips. Somethings we just already know what will or won’t work for us, because we know ourselves and we’ve-been-there-done-that, sort of thing! Our limited finances act as rumble-strips sometimes, as do our aging bodies.

Rather than limitations, I see rumble-strips that help to keep me on track and move me forward in this most interesting stage of life.

If I am listening, I can take the risk of trying something new and have the confidence that I will hear when I swerve onto the rumble-strip.

Not sure if the RV adventures will continue for me, but I’m thankful I had the chance to try it out…at least once!

Sometimes your journey

will take you off of your path. 

It’s all part of the same trip.

– Curly Girl Designs

How do you see the limitations in  your life, or do you? What are they? Do you reframe them?

 

 

 

 

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Blog, Communication, Inspiration, Life Lessons

Just Say What You Want


More than a few years ago, my mother-in-law was coming up to her 80th birthday and had planned a big family get together to celebrate. She was excited and was looking forward to having all her family together. In the process of inviting everyone and relaying all the logistical information, she let it be known, “by the way, I want a sapphire and diamond tennis bracelet as my gift.”!

This was not out of character for my mother-in-law. She knew what she wanted and was never timid about saying what she wanted. And usually we loved her for it.

Her daughter was designated as the one to purchase it and efforts made to collect contributions. No one commented or questioned her request. That is, no one commented but I remember thinking, “why, at her age, would she want to spend money on a piece of jewelry?”

I guess I thought that at a certain age, desires and wants, and even needs, are lessened (I had not yet experienced old age!).  I was surprised that “just being together” wasn’t enough.

Well, it turned out the reason she gave as she opened her gift with a squeal of great delight was “I have always wanted this!”

Seeing the joy this bracelet gave her and later the fun memory it represents as her daughter now wears it was worth every penny spent!

Knowing what we want or need isn’t always easy to discern. It requires regular self examination and open hearted honesty and self-awareness, even in old age.

I’ve caught myself a few times lately entertaining the notion that because the end of life is coming closer into view I don’t need to do or have certain things…sort of a what’s-the use kind of attitude. It feels easier sometimes to adapt to the decisions others make for me, or not make decisions and just let life happen, than to figure out what I really want or need to have happen and then take action to make it happen.

Of course, there’s the other extreme of this that pushes me to think, “I might not have much time left, so I must have this or that or do this or that NOW” which also eliminates the hard work of good self-awareness that asks, “what do I really want or need?”. How do I want to live out these last precious years and make decisions from my own reasons and values?

Often what others think I need or should have is easier to accept and is what influences my own feelings to the point of clouding over my real ones. I end up going without what I really need or desire, thus opening myself to resentment, or self-pity, or isolation, or other negative emotions that eventually rob me of vibrancy and joy.

Unlike Grandma Georgia on her birthday, my needs and desires tend to be more emotional than material. However, emotional needs and desires are harder to name and talk about for many of us than the more material ones.

For instance, I carry my cell phone around in my pocket hoping one of my “kids” will call, for no reason except to chat or check-in on me. It rarely happens. I try to keep something baked on hand just in case a neighbor or friend calls and wants to stop by for coffee. It rarely happens. I shower and fix my hair everyday hoping I will get an invitation to go to lunch…BUT, who knows this? not my “kids”, not my friends, not my neighbors. I haven’t told them what I need from them. I haven’t asked them to come by.  I haven’t called them to chat. Consequently, sometimes my thoughts wander to that dark place where “no one cares, no one knows, no one will miss me when I’m gone.”

The reality is no one can read my mind! I need to tell people what I need and want.

I most probably won’t ask for a diamond bracelet for my next birthday, but my dear mother-in-law will continue to haunt me from time to time as I continue to learn to ask for what I need and want, whatever it is.

Something I found a while back that helps to keep me focused on my responsibility to myself:*

  • Missing Someone….Call
  • Want to meet...Invite
  • Want to be understood…Explain
  • Have questions…Ask
  • Don’t like something…Name it
  • Like something…Say it
  • Want something…Ask for it
  • Love Someone…Tell them

Rest In Peace, Grandma Georgia!

*author unknown

 

 

 

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Blog, Inspiration, Life Lessons, Passion

PLEASE, Don’t Have a Nice Day!

Not my line. I would never say that to you. It wouldn’t be consistent with my temperament to say it, at least not seriously…jokingly, I could and might, but probably wouldn’t, at least not out loud!

But it is consistent with the character Shirley MacLaine plays in the movie, Last Word. In fact, this sassy, at times abrasive, old woman gets away with saying whatever comes to her mind, apparently throughout her whole life…until, she realizes she is in the final stage of life and is probably going to be remembered in a way that isn’t very complimentary, even by the people she cares about the most. So, then she sets out to change her legacy. The movie unfolds this process with a few surprises and a lot of heart.

Funny how this Gran Finale stage-of-life puts things into a different perspective! How will I be remembered is a question that pops up unprovoked at strange and curious moments. It’s a bit startling, and even haunting at times, capable of lingering in the back of our minds like a threatening rain cloud. I suspect this question is the reason I compulsively attempt to keep my underwear drawer cleaned out!

But the power of this line, in my opinion, is the follow up. “Please don’t have a nice day” Ms. MacLaine says, “Have a day that matters. Have a day that’s true, a day that means something.”

I live where the motto is Minnesota Nice. It’s a way of life to behave and be nice. But really, more often than not, it’s a way to be dishonest, to not voice our real feelings or opinions, to say what we deem is good manners whether or not it’s true. And “keeping the peace at all costs” often hinders us from learning how to be honest while being civil, kind and respectful at the same time.

My husband and I were standing in an exhibit tent in our neighborhood park during the annual art fair last summer, when a couple next to us turned to leave the tent and said to the vendor, “have a nice day”. The vendor turned to us and asked, “what is it with you Minnesotan’s always telling people what kind of day to have? What if I don’t want to have a nice day? What if I want to have a terrible, rotten, no good, horrible day?” He chuckled, quite amused at himself  but seemed to want agreement from us. So, my hubby obliged, “Yeah, I know what you mean! Sometimes it’s just no fun to have a nice day!” And the vendor kept it going with great glee, “And for sure, I don’t want someone telling me what to do with MY day!”

A fun exchange, and it left me with a bit of food-for-thought. What am I saying when I wish you to have a nice day? I want you to avoid calamity, to live in peace and be well. That’s the truth. That’s what I wish for you. And what’s in it for me if you do? I will be able to walk away from you and live my own life in peace without needing to deal with your crankiness, your illness, your need. I did my part by wishing you well. Easy.

But having a day that matters and one that is true and meaningful is a different story. It’s a lot harder than having a nice day. It requires me to be real. It requires me to be aware and receptive, to be open and generous.

How do I do it?

I do it by starting the day with gladness for another chance to get out of bed and see the sun rise, for a sweet dog who needs me and a husband who likes to be with me, for a cup of good coffee and a day with no schedule, open for possibilities.

 

How about you? How do you have a day that matters, is true and meaningful?

 

 

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Blog, Inspiration, Life Lessons

What I Can Add to the Public Discussion

It’s been a rough couple of weeks, or maybe months, in our nation. The news reports tie my stomach in knots most evenings, but its hard to turn them off and take a break since I don’t want to miss anything important.  Some mornings I wake up with anxiety over what might be happening in Washington. I’ve gone in and out of positions of not wanting to know and wanting to know, over not wanting to care and wanting to speak out and get involved. It’s been perplexing and curious, interesting and disturbing as I’ve watched the leadership change and evolve, and listened to the public discussion in response.

“What can I do?” “What difference can I make?” seem to be the questions I hear most often from friends and neighbors, as well as the ones I ask myself.

One of my favorite authors is  Robert Fulghum who wrote All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. I have been reminded of this lately as I’ve heard folk wondering about who the adults are and where they are since the discussion has displayed some pretty childish rhetoric at times. In fact, I don’t think I really ever heard people talking about “who’s the adult in the room” until recently. Maybe there has been in the past an assumption that adult aged people automatically display adult behavior, meaning mature, rational behavior as opposed to emotional, childish behavior, i.e. wanting my own way, wanting to be first, wanting attention, throwing tantrums, outbursts of frustration, etc.

But, it’s never good to make assumptions and though somewhat threatening, it is a good question that can short-circuit irrational and emotional behavior between adults. It’s a question that reminds me I need to put into practice all I learned in kindergarten, especially since I am usually the most adult person in the room…according to age anyway, and even when I am the only one in the room listening to the nightly news, it doesn’t hurt to practice being a grown up.

So, Ive taken some time to review those lessons from kindergarten:*

  • Share Everything
  • Play fair
  • Don’t hit people or call them rude names
  • Clean up your own mess
  • Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody
  • When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together
  • It doesn’t matter who’s first in line, we’re all going to the same place
  • Wait your turn and don’t interrupt
  • Use your words and your inside-voice
  • Take a nap everyday

And, of course, there’s more. (like warm cookies and cold milk are good!) I learned so much in kindergarten!

But I forget…

I raise my voice when I disagree. I call people mean names when they do something I don’t like. I don’t want to apologize when I think you hurt me too. I don’t want to hold your hand when you don’t agree with me and I don’t want to listen to you when I think you’re wrong. It doesn’t matter if we are going to the same place, I still want to be first. And I really don’t want to take a nap and miss out on something!

This, in my view, is what the public discussion has looked like lately: a room full of out of control kindergarten kids.

So where’s the adult?

I’m the adult.

I will be the adult. I will use my inside-voice and will listen to you and wait my turn. I will clean up my own mess and not try to clean up yours as well. I will add to our conversation by behaving like the adult in the room, in whatever room I find myself, public or not so public.

And if I do this, maybe you will too. And if you do this, maybe your friends will too. And maybe my Grandkids will notice and will one day be the adult in the room too, and yours will too.  Maybe if I add kindness and respect to the public conversations I have, and you do too, we will be able to “watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together”.

What do you think? What can you add to the public discussion today that will help answer the question “where is the adult in the room”?

 

*Mostly taken from Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, page 6-7, with some additions and omissions by me.

 

 

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