Okay – I should be past getting goosebumps over all the ways the Universe sets me up for wonderful. I’m not! Just wrote a long letter to a quartet of friends on how it feels like one of my gifts has been teeing up others to be as fully their truest self, whatever their situation or circumstance. Even when their being fully something distanced them from me. Like the times Mim would ask me to drive her up to her NYU night course – she commuted from suburban Philadelphia! – putting her in the place she needed to be at the time that was best for her. Or taking our 90-year old mother to a weekend women’s retreat outside Woodstock, where others stepped forward & I stepped back from her care, allowing a circle of her female fans to be at her side, to show their love through 72 hours of steady TLC.
True confession time – I groused to John about how I tee up others, but wh tees up me? As soon as I said it, a realization of all the people who’ve been by my side, especially over the past ten years, broke open with dazzling gratitude. And #1 on that list of tee setters is The Universe.
How many times has it set up astonishing opportunities? Countless more times than I’ll ever know. My current deep goosebumps are over The Universe connecting me with John Leland’s hot-off-the-presses book, Happiness is a Choice You Make, lessons from a year among the oldest of the old.
I’ve long been a fan of John’s NY Times articles. In 2015, he chose an interesting topic to explore – old age in New York City. For a year, he followed six diverse New York elders, from a range of backgrounds & financial standing, in what he described as “a New York soap opera, unscripted.”
When I pre-ordered his book, which arrived on the day it was released this past March, it was a purchase made because of loving the series of NY Times articles on which it had been based. Little did I know The Universe has WAY more in store for me than an interesting read.
The biggest WOW outcome of attending April’s Masterpiece Lyceum/Positive Aging Conference was the unexpected realization that my work goes beyond being a henchman for helping olders elders ancients live as expansively as possible, whatever their situation & circumstance. It’s bigger, more challenging, more “Are you kidding me? THIS is what you want me to do?” It’s helping youngers GET that growing old is not the fate worse than death that many, maybe most, imagine. It is more than a quest or a goal – it is an absolute MUST DO, because we are in for a terrible reckoning if everyone doesn’t wake up soon to the value that comes in aging, to the importance of having sharing seeking elder wisdom, to the reality that if the perception of aging doesn’t turn back to what has existed for many millennia – one of respect & honoring – our collective goose will be cooked, because we’ll be blessed with the long lives humans have craved only to spend them unappreciated unvalued unseen.
Today, I started reading beyond the first pages of Happiness is a Choice You Make. And the familiar sense of goosebumps rising hit reading the bottom of page 12 – “But the same technology that made it possible for more people to survive to old age has also devalued their knowledge of the world. Old people often inhabit a world of their own, not a particularly pleasant place to visit. In one study, people over sixty said fewer than one-quarter of the people with whom they discussed ‘important matters’ were under thirty-six; if you exclude relations, it dropped to 6 percent. An analysis by the geronotologist Karl Pillemer of Cornell found that Americans are more likely to have friends of another race than friends who are more than ten years apart from them in age.” YIKES!
Okay, Universe, I get why the job opportunity with Sage-ing International never materialized, why the possibility of working with a genuinely innovative agency came to naught. You have crazy things for me in mind. Got it. And John Leland’s book is to be my Bible, my Rick Steves, my Zagat’s for guiding youngers toward the largely ignored terrain of “old age” – – one of our current age’s secret destinations: an place graced with a stronger sense of well-being & contentment than imagined in our twenties, a 3rd act hallmarked with unexpectedly rich experiences, and presenting us with a stronger grasp & keener appreciation of how to “live better.”
I open a book & discover that The Universe has once again left me with little choice but to follow the path it’s laid out. There’s never any “This mission, if you choose to accept it…” to these requests. More like, “Okay, here’s your reality. If you don’t do it, who will?”
Okay, Universe. Got it. No idea how to make this happen, but what else is new. It’s all teed up, waiting for my swing.