I had a post ready to go, about reaching for your dreams in the new year, but somehow it seems disrespectful in view of Nelson Mandela’s passing. Instead I will cherish the feeling I’m left with, of being motivated to reach higher, to do better, and to be a better person. My condolences to all who loved him. Mid-Friday update: I just became aware of a beautiful, thoughtful post about Mr. Mandela. I recommend you check it out here.
Posted by Lynne Spreen on December 6, 2013
Twenty-five people are coming to my house today. We’re serving turkey and ham. My guests’ ages range from 19 months (hide the breakables! no candles!) to eighty-eight. Everything’s set up. I invited my mother and two sisters to come by this morning for a champagne-and-strategy session, because they’ll be helping me keep this thing on the rails later today. I’m grateful I can do it, and for the health and goodwill of my family. And for you, dear reader. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, wisdom, guidance, humor, tips, tricks and anything else you’ve volunteered through the years, not the least of which is, simply, your presence. We’ll get together again next Friday. I can’t wait.
Posted by Lynne Spreen on November 28, 2013
What if there is no meaningful difference between people of different age groups? We tend to stereotype based on age, but the similarities between the groups might be more numerous than the differences. Here are some common ones:
- Naivete or innocence: A young person may be exploited due to lack of experience, but other ages fall victim as well.
- Independence: Young people can’t live alone or drive a car. Some older people are in the same situation. Commonality, not distinction.
- Appearance: Older people may start to look funny, but remember those pictures of yourself as an adolescent? You say the younger people will outgrow it? So will the elders.
- Dreams: Older people set out on the path of new dreams at every age. And some younger people just aren’t interested.
- Frailty and illness: An older person may have physical limitations, but when I was in elementary school, a classmate missed a whole year due to rheumatoid arthritis. She was infirm. She was very young.
- Death of friends and relatives wounds all of us.
- Intellect: do I even have to explain?
- We all go through physical and hormonal changes in life. Think of your own pubescence. Now think of menopause. Was either more fraught?
Yes, some characteristics are more typical of a certain age group, such as physical decline, but we certainly have a lot of commonalities. Why do we ignore those in favor of artificial differences?
I think because it’s easier. We stereotype people, throwing them into groups, because it saves us from having to see a person as an individual. We label them for our own convenience, but labels might dictate how a human is perceived or treated, leading to a huge waste of potential, not to mention heartache. Besides, labels and stereotypes change over time. One hundred years ago, in the United States of America, women were forbidden to vote. Everyone agreed they were insufficiently intelligent or rational to handle that responsibility.
Maybe someday our perceptions about age will change, too. We might come to think the differences between young and old are so trifling as to be immaterial. Why not start now? Let’s focus on what we all have in common, and beyond that, get to know each other as people. And as far as allowing those labels to limit you, stop right now. Decide who or what you want to be, and become that, regardless of age.
Your time on earth is finite and precious. Don’t waste it trying to comply with some soon-to-be-antiquated standard of behavior.
I’ll be away for the next two weeks. Enjoy your Thanksgiving! See you on December 6.
Posted by Lynne Spreen on November 15, 2013
Do you sometimes feel that your time is past? It happened as I read Scott Adams’ new book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. It’s funny and informative, but some of his advice is geared toward younger people; for example, how to persuade more effectively, overcoming shyness, and the importance of good grammar. (Before you question the value of the entire book, he also talks about the impact of social biases; tracking your personal energy level as the most important metric in your pursuit of a successful life; and his belief that the mind is a “moist computer you can program.”)
But back to my original problem. We, the People of the Second Half, have harder questions that I rarely see addressed, certainly not in popular best-sellers. Here are a few:
- How do you cultivate a happy, productive life when half of it (or more) is over? How much work do you put into this effort? Should you speed up or slow down?
- How do you feel confident in your maturity when you’re denigrated for it?
- Where do you go to find answers in this youth-obsessed society?
Luckily, I have answers for you, because I found a teacher.
Last Friday, at a writing retreat, I sat with a wise friend, Dorys, and asked about her life at eighty-five. She admitted that sometimes it strikes her hard that “I’m fifteen years away from being one hundred!” And yet, her eyes danced with humor and kindness as she answered the pathetic questions of this 59-year-old.
One was about being alone long-term. In response, she told me about a day she spent recently in which the phone did not ring, no one knocked on her door, and she had no reason to get in her car and drive anywhere. Instead of feeling lonely, Dorys reveled in the solitude. How lucky I am, she thought, to have one entire day all to myself, where I don’t have to go anywhere or do anything, no obligations, a whole landscape to explore without interruption, free to do whatever I want. With just her kitty for company, she had a day of golden solitude.
A therapist once told me that to live happily alone, we must first become ALL ONE. Whole. Dorys says that is a major prescription for life. Here are the highlights of her advice to me:
- Stop overthinking the aloneness question. We expand what we focus on, and thus might give too much power to the fear. With maturity, this and other issues won’t seem insurmountable.
- Don’t underestimate the power of distraction when the blues or loneliness hit you. She might escape into a movie or two. Usually, by the time the movie ends, her attitude has shifted.
- “Give of yourself to someone, or fill a need,” Dorys says. “I volunteer in a hospital one day a week; I also volunteer at the community theater, and I’m a political advocate working with our local politicians to make improve our community. I participate in an annual variety show. I am learning Spanish.”
- “My philosophy is to choose where you want to spend your time and with whom. The minutes we are given are precious.”
- And along those lines: “Wasting (time) worrying about what might be is like preparing yourself for it to happen.”
- “Find your authentic self or seek out your passion, embrace it and learn to fill the void you are consumed with.”
- “Keep your life in perspective. You may be having a blue afternoon, but there’s someone out there who’d kill for your blessings.”
I appreciate Dorys. She’s an inspiration and a source of comfort. Life is complicated, but if you find a good teacher you might feel happier and more at peace with the unknowable. Manage what you can and develop the confidence to leave the rest alone.
Do you have any suggestions for living well in the second half?
Posted by Lynne Spreen on November 8, 2013
Last week I wrote about collecting dead/dying vegetation to bring home and spray paint as decorations for my house. I said I’d get back to you if the arrangement worked out okay, and guess what – success! You’ll see the finished “bouquet” at the end of this post, but first, the process. After hanging the plants in a closet for a week to dry, I prepared a place where the paint would do the least damage:
My paint supplies:
The drying room:
After a few hours of drying, I assembled this fragile foursome like so:
I’m really happy with the results, except that my new “tanned” feet look like I spent the day at the beach. I didn’t realize how far the overspray might drift, or that I shouldn’t wear flip-flops for this job. I also dusted the cement with a rosy glow, accentuated by the sharp gray rectangles that appeared after I removed the newspaper. Bill said at least I didn’t get the car.
It was worth it, but too much mess. In the future, I’ll stick to hanging roses and statice upside down in the coat closet to dry:
This was fun! A nice diversion from work. See you next Friday.
Posted by Lynne Spreen on November 1, 2013