Posts Tagged: Aging

Help Me to Believe the Truth about Myself, No Matter How Beautiful It Is

This is the prayer we used to close my woman’s circle for the past 11 years. I had learned from the Sufis, but it was written by Marina Widerhehr. Last week was the group’s last circle. We shared “popcorn shapshots,” images of the precious and not-so-precious moments that have united us: the weddings, funerals, illnesses. The laughter and tears.

Since then I’ve noticed my own popcorn images: photos of me in the full bloom of my twenties and thirties. In the radiance of my forties and fifties. I noticed that only when I look at the snapshots from this distance am I able to see the beauty that I was. When I was younger my mind was way to full of the mosquito beliefs brought to me by my inner spin doctor. You’re too fat. Your eyes are too close together. Teeth too big. In a nutshell, There’s something wrong with me.

How a Long Marriage is Like the Grand Canyon

As of this week, I’ve been married forty years to the same person.  Okay. Not the same person.  He’s changed.  I’ve changed.  And it’s not the same marriage.  It’s changed and we’ve changed. In many ways, it’s been more like a series of two or three marriages,.

When new friends ask what wisdom we have to share. I ‘m struck dumb. Those of you who know me understand what an unusual occurrence this is.   Looking back there’s the same feeling I had when I first set my eyes on the Grand Canyon. It’s just too big to grasp.

Generalities fly through the air. Kindness, rooted commitment.  Then specific words come to mind:  communication (learning what that means and how to do it better), acceptance, tolerance.  But mostly there’s a parade of images, single frames that become a whole, like flipping a book of line drawings that create animation. Viewing my own mental snapshots of these two young strangers and watching how shared joy and grief and pain has changed them together and separately simply boggles my mind. Read More>>

Octogenarian Observations

This week I’m leading a service to celebrate the life of a dear friend and an inspiration, Connie Foulke.  An ardent teacher, parent, and community leader, Connie was one of my reference points for how to live a good life for over thirty years.  A while ago she organized a group of “young friends” (most of us were only in our late 50’s, after all) for lunch and tea.  Our honored leader even gave us a name:  the Pleiades, and she requested we each choose a the name of one of the stars of the constellation, research the mythology behind it and select one that fit. After all, Google was a wonderful invention that would help us out.  Connie was that kind of thoughtful. That kind of thorough. She was what used to be called “a class act.”

When I turned sixty  I flew back to Kansas City for a gathering of high school friends who were also celebrating that passage.  I asked Connie to give some advice to those of us twenty years behind.  She was rather frail at that point, and I expected her to dictate  a couple of lines over the phone.  Not Connie. What I got was a call, four or five days later, that I should come and pick something up. When I opened the bag Connie had left for me, there was  a double-sided page of thoughts in an ornate old English font, printed on fine parchment-style paper.  The title was “octogenarian observations.”

I’ve been inspired for a year by her well-honed life, and her careful advice. I thought about excerpting this and sharing it in pieces because there’s so much wisdom that it’s hard to digest in one sitting.  Then I decided to post it as it is, in its entirety.  It’s such a testimony to a brilliant mind, a wise heart, and a generous heart.  Not to mention a model of conscious aging that I continue to find helpful. Here it is:

Octogenarian Observations

Laugh a lot, even when it hurts.  You’ll feel lighter for it.

Forget the feeling that you’ve forgotten something.  If it’s really important, it will eventually sneak back.  If not, so what?

Listen to classical music.  It will soothe your soul and envelop you in peace.

Consume quantities of chocolate!  There is never too much.

Dump people, possessions and practices you don’t want or need any more.

People:  “Remove from your life those who offer you depression, despair and disrespect.” (Nikki Giovanni)

Practices: give up compulsions.  For example, if you don’t enjoy sending Christmas cards, quit.  I did two years ago.

Love and enjoy your children and grandchildren on your own terms.

Be grateful!

Drink plenty of water.  It is good for your innards and keeps you active with frequent journeys to the bathroom.

Take the phone of the hook if you want to nap or read undisturbed.

Wear whatever suits your fancy, new or old.  But comfortable.

Use lovely perfume and enjoy your own scent.

Take your favorite jewelry out of the box and wear it for your own enjoyment.  (You didn’t acquire it to keep it in the box.)

Nap frequently and enjoy your dreams!

Damn the clock.  Keep your own time.  Get out of bed when you feel like it and stay up as late as you wish.  (But to be on time for appointments and engagements that involve others.)

Spend time on crossword puzzles and Sudoku to challenge your brain and enjoy the success of solution.

Eat quantities of fruits and vegetables, especially local produce.

Travel–actually, via TV or film, or in remembrance of things past.

Sometimes hang out with young people; their energy and enthusiasm may be contagious.  It is surely uplifting.

It’s OK to need a little help.  Use a cane or someone dependable to lean on.

Peruse old photo albums and vicariously enjoy fond memories.

Look at the clouds, the sunrises and sunsets, and MARVEL over creation.

Occasionally retreat into your shell and look at the iridescent nacre inside, like highlights in your life.

Believe in what’s good.

Vote for Obama; he’s the hope for the future of our beloved country.

Finally, as Micah said, Do justly, Love mercy, walk humbly with thy God.

The Big Zero and My Aging Brain

What’s the big deal about approaching another decade?  Six-Oh. Six-Oh. Six-Oh. A few months away now, but increasingly the numbers echo in my brain.  Why does the simple zero at the end of a number give it so much power, especially when it’s applied to age? In fifth grade, I learned that a zero was a nothing, just a place holder. It can’t be multiplied or divided and it doesn’t count when you add or subtract.

But put it at the beginning of a new decade, like what was long ago ‘the big four-o” or more recently “the big five-o,” and it rises to a whole new level of significance. Greeting cards focus on these marker years. Their already lame jokes get less funny the higher you can count and the closer you personally come to the next big O. Read More>>