http://www.nextavenue.org re-posted this piece once again, originally written in 2015 in honor of Mother’s Day and my mom.
Their title: My Mother, My Inspiration…
You remember the phrase our parents used to say, “Do as I say, not as I do?” Here are some “Do as I say” edicts spoken by my Mother:
-Sit up straight.
-Walk looking up, not down at your feet. (My sister Linda stepped on a nail when she tried that!)
-Your face is going to freeze like that.
-Don’t talk to strangers.
-Yes you are going with me to so and so’s house. Why? Because I said so.
-Go to school. If you still feel sick in a few hours, call me.
-Play nice with others. Treat them as you want to be treated.
-Put on lipstick. You never know who you are going to meet.
There were 25 people at Mom’s 95th birthday February 2nd. It was a joyous, energized and eclectic occasion filled with relatives and friends, old and young, gay and straight, black and white. People couldn’t wait to hug and kiss her and tell stories about where they met and how she inspires them.
Linda and I are in the most enviable position of being able to focus, and change, the second half of the phrase ‘Do as I say, not as I do.’ We now tell ourselves, as we navigate through our lives, ‘do as she does’ .
I bet some people look at Mom’s wonderful smile and her ‘in the moment’ energy and think, “Wow, this woman has had an easy, happy life.” From loosing both her parents by the age of 12, raising three children with no child support, to the loss of one of her daughters, how wrong they would be.
Author Vivian Greene wrote: “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning how to dance in the rain.”
This is how Mom chooses to dance:
-By not putting herself down, beating herself up or saying negative things that demean who she is.
-By never saying, ‘why me?’
-By accepting that “this is the way life is.”
-By recognizing the good in others and treating everyone as an individual. She still tells Linda and me not to speak to strangers, but she never meets a stranger. It doesn’t matter if it is a clerk in a store or the person in the auto detailing shop, the first thing she’ll ask is their name.
-By never forgetting about the little girl who lives within her. She brings her out to play. When I called the other night, she told me she was watching a ‘penguin movie’ and could not talk. She failed to hang up the phone properly so I was able to listen to her laugh, all by herself, while watching Happy Feet on TV.
-By repeating daily, “Some one up there is watching out for us and I’m so GRATEFUL.” Grateful being the optimum word.
-By getting out of her house and engaging in life. “I have to see people every day.”
-By saying, “Exercise. I notice one of the first things to go are your legs.” Mom rides a stationary bike at a gym almost every day.
-By carrying herself with dignity and grace with her head held high. And I don’t remember her ever stepping on a nail!
-By putting her lipstick on before she walks out of the house!
Do what she does? You bet. I’m learning how to dance in the rain.
One of my goals is to celebrate my 95th birthday, happy and healthy, with family and a group of eclectic friends, while wearing a brilliant shade of red lipstick!
How about you?
Connection-How to Find it. I’m grateful Mom is a 96-year-old happy woman who still inspires so many. Grateful because if I read the article below, not knowing it doesn’t have to be that way, I’d be breathing in a bag right now:
The most dramatic change in social engagement was observed in 55- to 64-year-olds. This cohort, which is nearing retirement, is not only engaging less with their communities, but they have fewer meaningful interactions with their spouses or partners and weaker ties to family and friends.
Mom grabs life any way she can. Sister Linda and I live in Virginia and all of her friends and family are gone. Connection is extremely important to her. Whether it be eating breakfast at the same deli every morning because, “I have to see people every day” to walking around the common area at her condo to “be in touch with a little nature ” or knocking on a neighbor’s door to introduce herself. She said hello to a family next door who had a little boy. She supported his school by buying wrapping paper and chocolate over the years. The last time I was there, that ‘little boy’ was 19 and home from his first year of college. He saw Mom as we walked to our car, ran out of his house and gave her the biggest hug. They talked for 15 minutes about college and his life. As I watched the two of them, I couldn’t help getting teary eyed. Mom was in heaven. When we got in the car she said to me, “See, it doesn’t take much.”
Connection is risky but at this point in our lives, we probably have taken a few risks along the way. That’s why the article from http://www.nextavenue.org was jaw dropping. Really? People disengage? YIKES! A good friend said, “Risk taking is a conscious decision.” I agree. When we were younger, most of us thought less about the consequences associated with taking a risk. As time goes by, we tend to forget how elated and proud we were when something we jumped into worked out. It seems now we concentrate more on the “I think I’ll remain in my comfort zone because I don’t need to prove anything anymore” mode.
The questions we ask, before taking on something new or getting out of our comfort zones, change. 10 or 20 years ago we might have said, “What do I have to lose?” Now the questions become, What do I really want? What am I missing? Am I happy? If the answer, especially to the last question, is no, take a deep breath and dive right in.
(This portion taken from a previous blog dated March, 2014)
Keeps you in touch with you
Keeps you interesting
Keeps you involved in life
Keeps you healthy
Keeps you engaged with others
Keeps you excited
How to find connection:
Volunteer. There are so many people in our age groups that are volunteering. Even if you are an introvert, it’s a great way to connect with others of like mind.
Take a trip. Day trips, overnights, cruises, educational…So many trips out there. I know people who have made life long friends from all over the world.
Go for a walk. Nature is a wonderful feeling of connection.
Learn something new. Everyone in a class is there because they want to learn something new, too. Takes the scary out of trying it when you realize that.
Sample working with your hands. A friend of mine started knitting. She’s in the knit shop all the time getting mistakes corrected and meeting others in her same situation.
Learn to dance. Everyone is a novice.
Smile a lot. People will be drawn to you. I see it with Mom all the time.
Get a pet if you can. Nothing like walking a dog to meet other people.
Knock on a neighbor’s door. I moved to Dallas Texas not knowing anyone. My girlfriend, who drove to Texas with me said she was going next door to meet my neighbor so I would at least know someone. NOOOOOOO, I said. Believe it or not, I was quite the introvert and very shy. I practically tackled her! Well, she did it anyway and it’s a good thing she did. He knew everyone in the apartment complex and included me in all that was going on. I learned right then if she had not made that move, I would have been so very lonely. That lesson has served me well.
Join a team sport: After reading this post the day I published, a rowing buddy and my good friend Eleanor reminded me that 3 out of the 4 of us that rowed the Head of the Charles (a premier rowing regatta in Boston) had all begun rowing in our 50’s! How could I forget that!! When we started in our respective novice programs none of us knew what we were doing, but we have stuck with it. The camaraderie and team spirit we have developed between the four us as well as the rest of the team will last us a lifetime.
Please, please, please stay connected! What ever that looks like for you. It will prolong your life.
Just look at Mom!
Originally posted 2016-06-14 20:35:38.
What’s age got to do with it? According to my 96-year-old mother, NOTHING! I notice that she is never focused on how old she is and is always surprised at the reactions of others when they ask her age. Mom inspires others to think the same way just by being herself.
It’s not like she hasn’t experienced losses that remind her how old she is because she has. Mom is the only remaining member of her immediate family and the last of her friends. I can’t even imagine that. I’d be curled up in a ball somewhere. Not her. Even though she has had her share of losses, it isn’t a place where she dwells for very long.
I am on a rowing team with 22 other women. The youngest is 27, the oldest is…well, me. The fact that there is a 42 year difference between us doesn’t register. Actually, I take that back! Writing it here makes me want to breathe in a bag! Seriously though, it doesn’t stop me from participating and it certainly has never stopped Mom. She goes to a gym twice a week. She walks around her neighborhood, with the help of her aide, at least once a day. Her aide comes from 8 to 1pm, 6 days a week. One Sunday she told me she was going to walk outside to get some fresh air by herself. I remind her to take her walker after I am able to catch my breath. “Oh, I’ll be fine.” is her response. “NOOOOOOOOOOO!” I scream inside myself but outwardly I remind her in as calm a voice as possible, that if she fell she’d not be a happy camper. “Okay, I won’t!” Whew! It’s like telling a teenager what the possible consequences could be for their actions. And, you know what, I wouldn’t have it any other way!
It’s not like she hasn’t experienced losses that remind her how old she is because she has.
What’s age got to do with it? That’s the look on her face when my sister Linda and I say, “Mom the doctor said you need to walk with your walker in the house.” She sustains that look and says, “I’m experimenting. I want to challenge myself. I walk close to things so I can grab on and I haven’t had to grab yet.” While challenging herself she has been overheard saying, “I did it. I did it.” Who can argue with that?
What’s age got to do with it? Nothing.
I began writing this blog to let the world know we are not a stereotypical group of people growing older. I wonder where I got that from. I’m not saying you have to do it Mom’s way. However, every time you begin to think, “Well at my age I can’t do that or I shouldn’t do this…”
Remember. Make up your own rules.
Let’s go for it together! I’m game.
Hope you are too.
Originally posted 2016-05-12 21:33:46.
“Well, at your age”…” If I hear that one more time,” that’s what my mother-in-law Zelda would say with such drama and sarcasm. Ya well, I’m beginning to relate. I asked my 96-year-old Mom if her doctor ever used that phrase? She said yes he had but only once. How did she get him to stop saying it, I inquired. “All I said was, how old are you doctor? He said he was 52. You know at your age lots of things are beginning to happen. Right? Would you like me to remind you of that fact every time I saw you?” While talking to the doctor Mom said all she could think about was that ‘little blue pill!’
Washington Post had an article in the Health & Science section by Steven Petrow called I’m a boomer who’s not yet ready to be old. Petrow says he’s “been steeped in the stereotypes of what it means to be old”. The example he gives is “funny”… “birthday cards that equate being older with being decrepit.” I actually bought a card last week to use in a future blog. I guess the time is now:
Really? 50 for goodness sake! Think back when you were 50 or headed that way, are you a lot of the above? I”ll give you ‘squinty’…but that’s all I’ll give you! At 50 I was running 10K’s, traveling all over the world, making a great living at a job I loved, dating and loving life! What about you? Oh, and by the way, the dwarfs were already 50 when we met them in the 1950’s and they carried pickaxes, got up at the crack of dawn, walked miles to work, hacked into the side of a mountain all day, threw big rocks onto a cart on a rail line and walked home in the dark!
Mom says she doesn’t know what 96 is supposed to feel or be like. Case in point, the other day she told me she was a little unsteady on her feet and was wondering if it was possibly due to her age!
A girl I row with said, “you don’t look or act like you’re 68!” She’s 43. So, I was going to write another blog about the perceptions younger people have on age and old. And, boom, AARP publishes a video on-line two weeks ago: “We asked millennials to show us what “old” looks like, and then introduced them to real “old” people. Watch what happened next.” #DisruptAging I hope you watch it. It is very powerful.
I think between today’s Washington Post article and the AARP video, the universe is telling me I’m on the right path with my Rants, Raves and Attitudes!
5 Tips to Combat “Well at your age”:
- Don’t drink the Kool-Aid! Just because you woke up and felt achy doesn’t mean it’s over, you’re old! What did you do the day before? Could be more than a millennial did! Just saying.
- Look at the positives: I find not beating myself up about stupid stuff I’ve said or done is freeing. When I was younger, oh I was so hard on myself. Glad I’m not anymore.
- Take a risk. A friend of mine calls it ‘sampling’. A neighbor told me he started a drawing class. He says he’s the worst in the class, but he didn’t care. Don’t care so much about the outcome. Just try it.
- Seek out like-minded people. People who are positive. People who are active, whatever that looks like.
- Be proud of where you are: I know I am the best almost 69-year-old person I can be. Do you? Are you enjoying life to the fullest? I hang out with lots of people who do as much, and some times more, than people younger than ourselves. I’m grateful I made it here. So, when someone asks you ‘how old are you anyway?’ say with a great deal of pride, “I’m (state your age).” It’ll take you back to your teens when you were so proud to say how old you were because you were growing up. YA, like that!!
Originally posted 2016-04-20 00:05:30.