We often discuss the idea of purpose, particularly after midlife, because that’s a time for new directions. The theory is, [Read more…]
You’ve dragged in the boxes of Christmas decorations from the garage, attic, basement, or storage unit how many times now? You’ve hiked around tree lots or unfurled the fake tree for how many years? Maybe it’s time for a change.
You may love the holiday hustle, but I’m getting lazier in that respect. I like decorating for the holidays, but I don’t want to go to as much trouble anymore.
Which brings up a side issue: have you noticed how useful it is to be able to say, “I’m too old to…” or “I’ve been doing that for so many years…” or “At my age, I don’t have to…” If you haven’t yet played the OPC (Old Person Card), I recommend it. Don’t be afraid to let your freak flag fly. It’s handy at times, if you’re not too proud to use it.
But I digress.
We graduated to a fake Christmas tree about ten years ago. Last year, I pulled it out of storage and it was so raggedy I tossed it. Bill and I decided not to replace it. We were giddy with our new freedom! Could we really have a house with no Christmas tree? Then we saw a logical reason: it would be smart to make that change before the grandbabies get old enough to expect one or feel sad about its absence.
So we strung lights on the patio, arranged holiday centerpieces on tables, and hung a wreath over the fireplace. It looked beautiful and was a lot easier to set up and put away. We even had Christmas dinner for eight, not counting the babies. Everybody had fun and nobody complained about the lack of a tree.
This year, I’m going to see if the Christmas tree lot has boughs they’ll sell or give me, and I plan to array them on my dining and coffee tables, decorated by ornaments. If they don’t have a big enough pine fragrance, I can always count on my candles. The most fragrant pine scent I’ve found is Frasier Fir by Thymes. Instead of smelling like Pine Sol, the candles have a nice undertone of cedar and sandalwood. It’s really rich. I love it. (Note to marketers: please don’t ask. I don’t do ads.)
So I’m turning into a holiday minimalist. I’m not a Scrooge. I’m just too old to go to a lot of trouble.
How about you? Have you changed the way you deal with the holiday season, now that, as an adult, you’ve enjoyed fifty or sixty of them?
We Boomers are a monster demographic. When I was in elementary school at St. Gregory’s, the nuns struggled to teach as many as sixty kids in a class. [Read more…]
Reinvention is great, if you can afford it. [Read more…]
Have you ever had the experience of feeling your perspective change, in almost a visceral way? After watching this video, I’m a changed person. You might end up that way, too.
As you watch The Overview Effect, you’ll see glorious, fragile Earth from the International Space Station, with a narration by some of the astronauts who filmed it. At about the four-minute mark, you’ll see thunderstorms, and then the aurora borealis. At about 6:30 you’ll hear that the astronauts, while not working, tend to lose themselves in “earthgazing.” At 11:10, astronaut Edgar Mitchell says he was both excited and troubled by a certain effect he’d experienced in space, and upon his return, asked a local university if they could find a name for it. They did. It’s called salva corpus amanti, which, in this context means, “You see things…with your eyes but you experience them emotionally and viscerally with ecstasy and a sense of totally unity and oneness.”
This morning on my way to an appointment, the fog was breaking up, still drifting over newly-green fields in our rural area. Sun began to come through, as well as a bit of blue sky. I watched the cars in front of me rolling along, and I marveled that they stuck to the road instead of floating off into space. I considered my priorities for the day and realized how unimportant they are, and I am. We little ant-people, bustling about on our lovely blue planet, rarely stop to realize how small it all is. This is the after-effect of the video, for me. As I watched the film and heard the transcendent music, I felt tenderness and gratitude for Earth’s generosity, and fear for her vulnerability. I’m sure that my being almost sixty adds depth to my appreciation. Enjoy.
Eighty! You’re eighty? Eighty’s really old, right?
That’s how I used to see it when I was younger. Maybe you, too.
But now that I’m around 60, and involved with writers and writing groups, I have friends that age. Girl friends who will sit with me, drink wine, and whine about whatever. We discuss our writing, our dreams, other people, sex, wanting to lose a few pounds…
Here’s the news: Age is irrelevant. It truly is “just a number.” People age differently these days. We’re all over the map. You cannot stereotype based on a number, because people differ so substantially at this point in life.
One of my friends, MJ, is 82 and her hair’s on fire. She’s working on her second novel. Another friend, Ray, will be 90 next May. He’s published thirty books so far and there’s no end in sight. My mom is 88. She attends exercise class three times a week, has tons of friends, and loves the novels I recommend. (We had the best discussions after Water for Elephants, Cutting for Stone, and Two Old Women).
What’s going on? Weren’t these people supposed to be in rocking chairs, gazing vacantly into space? Whether due to better nutrition, changing societal expectations, or something else, elders have kicked it up a notch. They’ve been places, they’re doing things and they aren’t done yet.
And I think they have tons of information we’d all benefit from hearing.
The people who really have something to teach us are in their seventies, eighties, and beyond.
Mary McPhee, 87, wrote a book based on her blog. The book, called “Code Name Nora” is about moving to a retirement home. She is sharp, productive and independent, with her own apartment and car. Very unusual, I think, to move to a home under your own steam while you still have choices, but she did so because it was a nicer place to live at the same price as her mortgage, for one reason. I suppose the Midwestern winters had something to do with it. Mary is thriving while enjoying the security and comfort of the home. In Nora, Mary reproduces her blog posts, most of them funny or lighthearted. However, she occasionally makes an observation that reveals the thoughtful elder behind the comedic persona. For example, this is a reflection on a couple of her neighbors who are aging faster, mentally, than others:
It didn’t take much to amuse them. They were on leisure time; holding-pen time; lame duck time; they had no cares or worries in the world. Which of course was not true because they still had plenty – their families and their own health – but nature had relented a little, softening their brains so these things weren’t so sharp for them anymore. Or they had the ability to forget their cares and worries for long periods, if forgetting can be called an ability.
Mary has written twelve books so far in her life, and she’s still writing. Here’s her story.
“As a child, I fell in love with words. I read constantly and collected words which I inflicted on helpless people, often mispronouncing and using them incorrectly. When I was nine, I started ‘publishing’ newspapers for my father, who traveled Monday to Friday, to tell him what had happened during the week.
“I got a degree in Journalism from Oklahoma State College, but lacked confidence in my writing so mostly did secretarial work before marrying. Five children later, in my mid-thirties, I began to write. I wrote casual, humorous pieces about raising children. Over a hundred of these were published in newspapers and magazines, each earning between $50 and $150. An article on the women’s liberation movement in the 1970s was featured in the Chicago Tribune’s Sunday magazine. $250 for this. But all the time I wanted to write fiction.
“I churned out twelve novels, but I couldn’t get an agent. Then I discovered blogs, and by this time, widowed and my children grown and gone, I moved to a retirement community, and began blogging Code Name Nora. I was eighty. Some readers thought I was a fraud, a much younger person. Writing the Nora blog helped me adapt to community living. I am somewhat shy, preferring mostly to observe, but living in the Twilight Zone, as I called it, helped me to be more outgoing. I moved to my new retirement home because it’s much nicer and the rent is the same as before.
“Then I discovered self-published ebooks on Amazon. It was difficult to learn the technical aspects but I finally managed to put eight novels on Kindle. I wrote several new novels and dusted off some old ones.
“I write early in the morning for an hour or so. I used to write by hand but now on the computer. I belonged to Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, a large group in Denver that offers critiques, but I don’t any more. I don’t have any beta readers but wish I did because writing is lonely.
I think existential angst is part of the creative make-up. Art of any kind is a way to deal with it.
“Despite what we might have to offer, people my age are frequently left out of discussions with younger people, which is hurtful. This is ironic for me because
I have never felt as creative as I do now at the age of 87.
“But then I remember when I was young and felt older people wouldn’t understand or would be accusatory. And of course, many older people have trouble hearing. (I do, and wear hearing aids.) I mostly listen but when it seems a good time to speak up, I do. Sometimes younger people laugh at what I say, and I’m not always sure what that means. Older people appreciate being listened to but they shouldn’t talk too much or about their ailments.
“I have ideas for new books but none coming out just yet. I’m busy promoting the eight books I have on Kindle. A Fresh Start in a New Place, my memoir about dropping out of big-city life at age 53, to live in a tiny Vermont hamlet, is my next promotion at which time the price will be discounted.
“My blog is MaryMac’s Booktique and my Facebook page is here. The cover for A Fresh Start uses a picture one of my daughters painted when she was eighteen and spent the summer with me in Vermont. The other image is one of the front pages of two of my childish newspapers, yellowed with age. You may need a magnifier to read them. I just include these for fun. Oh, and my blog is kind of a mess. I need to work on it.”
Lynne again: I’m 59. I admit, sometimes my sisters and I feel anxious about getting older, but then I remember people like MJ, Ray, and Mary, and I relax. We have these awesome trail-breakers forging the way for us. They are powerful role models from whom we can draw strength. I am grateful for them.
The young woman was upset about her mother. “Mom bought me a house a few years ago, and believe me, I’m grateful,” she said to the advice columnist. “But I’ve had some financial setbacks, like losing my job in the recession and having to file bankruptcy. I’m doing the best I can to pay Mom back, but the other day she complained to my aunt about my financial dependency. I can’t believe my mother revealed this confidence. She’s normally so private. I’m worried she’s starting to show signs of dementia.”
The advice columnist responded, “She might just be resentful about your financial situation, and kept it to herself all these years. But definitely try to get her to go with you to her doctor,” she said. “Have her get a full checkup…”
I don’t like what you did. I think you need to see your doctor.
Maybe some of us DO get old and cranky, and maybe we shoot our mouths off about not wanting to be doormats any more. Maybe we’ve seen enough bad behavior by this point that we’re way less tolerant of it, and we’re comfortable saying so out loud. How convenient to assume we’re losing our marbles.
Impending dementia provides a handy explanation for discomfiting behavior. (For younger people, we cluck that they “may be bipolar.”) Neither assessment should be made casually. If you see something, observe without panicking, and if there’s a pattern over time, discuss it privately with a professional. If you receive guidance to take it further, so be it. But don’t jump into it haphazardly.
Humans like to control their environment. A crabby senior might look like a candidate for muzzling but tread carefully. An irresponsible charge of dementia can cause us to resent you and begin second-guessing ourselves. Life is fast-moving and complicated these days. Plenty of people forget things, sound stupid, or lose their tempers. Ageism alert: if you wouldn’t accuse a young person of dementia in a certain situation, don’t accuse an old person of it either.
Please don’t be mad at me. I swear I’m in my right mind. Such as it is.
I’ve been lining up book signings and speaking gigs lately, and some of the same questions come up. As promised, here’s a roundup of the answers. [Read more…]
Suzanne Braun Levine thinks turning fifty is the “beginning of the beginning.” In this empowering video, she talks about why she believes “Second Adulthood” can be almost more interesting and enjoyable than our first.
Suzanne points out that at around age fifty, we enter a life transition as profound and far-reaching as adolescence. “We are the first generation to contemplate the fact that at fifty, we have as many years of adult life ahead of us as behind us,” she says. This requires some serious thought, and some serious letting go. She quotes Gloria Steinem, who said the new Golden Rule is this:
Do unto yourselves as you have been doing for others.
I’ll keep this short so you have time to watch the video. Believe me, it’s inspiring and entertaining, and it will make you laugh, too. Enjoy!