Secrets of centenarians

After spending thirty minutes watching videos that focused on the secrets of centenarians, I decided, “Bosh! Centenarians don’t know more about what makes for LIVING than a kid of eighty – longer years do not insure greater wisdom.”  MY secret to a good great grand life is to be present, whatever is happening.  Which means you’re not, as too many do, dwelling on what was or fretting about what might be.  Don’t be one of those who, when someone comments on what lovely weather it is, intones “Rain is predicted for Friday.”  Enjoy the sun & be happy the plants will be watered on Friday!

It’s a small but mighty virtue called contentment.  And interestingly enough, it’s the topic of an article in today’s NY Times.

And here’s the gist of what those centenarians said is the secret to living to a ripe old age – – whatever your age, LIVE!

Related Links:  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/02/well/live/the-secret-to-aging-well-contentment.html

Age, loss & JOY

Joy in the age of loss, an article in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, went straight to my heart – there was a picture of an older man in a wheelchair having breakfast alone at  sitting, alone, at a table that sits six.  A breakfast setting well-known to John & myself, in Rydal Park’s café; until John his current Wednesday morning commitment, we were there regularly, enjoying breakfast with resident-friends.

I remember even further back, two years plus, when Anne, who lived at Rydal Park for years, & I would breakfast at a table in front of the pictured set up – – back then, there would have been at least one more table, making enough settings for eight or more friends to gather.  Every morning, there was the same group of friends, men & women, having a grand time carousing over eggs & pancakes, waffles or whatever.  The laughter, the high times, the great & grand spirits.  John & Ramie were the group’s Trivial Pursuit masters – – sometimes I’d butt in with an answer!

Over the past few years, first this person then that moved or had health issues that kept them from being part of the breakfast bunch, or died.  John & I know people who now sit – by themselves – in the same place they did back then.

Reading the lengthy & terrific article is a a goad to get back in the groove, to swing by – solo – on Wednesday morning’s for breakfast with dear friends I dearly miss.

And it’s a kick in the butt to get Cyber Access for the Technically Timid FINALLY up & running, because many elders let their social world contract,” too many shrink down when they could open up.  Unlikely?  Not to my mother, who marveled at 88 that – thanks to unimagined Internet connections – her circle of friends & friendly acquaintances was growing larger, not smaller.

My determination is not just for the olders’ sake – Mom’s online circle showed how youngers of all ages benefitted from connecting to her, learning first hand, real time, of her unabashed attitude toward & appetite for LIVE, her zest for living in spite of being considerably slowed down, her approach to dealing with life & family challenges, her value as a resource of “she was there” history & culture-rooting stories…  The reciprocal advantages between Mom & her devoted online followers, many of whom never met her but were among her most devoted friends, went on & on.

Perhaps what Mom showed more than told was the power of purpose, at any age, and the importance of flexibility, of living within THIS moment instead of bemoaning life is not as it was.

Whether twenty-something youngsters or readers inching well into their sixties, Mom’s honesty & humor blew preconceptions about aging out of the water, exemplifying what the article says about how it helps when olders believe life has meaning & purpose, whatever their age.  That life is fuller & infinitely richer through a well-cultivated spirit of gratitude, curiosity, continual personal growth.

Smiling, thinking of how much Mom would have LOVED today’s article by the always spot-on Stacey Burling.  Looking forward to printing out this treasure & sharing it with friends & family.  Even more, looking forward to heading to Rydal Park next week for Wednesday breakfast with David & Rob & John.

And, hopefully, Jerry, too!

 

 

RELATED LINKS:  http://www.philly.com/philly/news/special_packages/493160931.html ;  http://mindwalker1910.blogspot.com/2010/05/velveteen-grammie-by-krl.html ; http://thegrannielistener.blogspot.com/2016/05/in-nutshell-cyber-access-for_19.html

 

IMPORTANT – our divisions are deeper than politics

If I could have my friends – of every political stripe – read just one book, it would be Brene Brown’s Braving the Wilderness.  I gave it John – to the two of us – for Christmas, intended to read it & discuss with John, then promptly forgot about it.  Only came across it yesterday because of hunting down Brene’s original reference to “marble jar friends” (found it in – Daring Greatly).

Cracking it open in high hopes of finding a long-ago read quote in a book I had barely opened, my eye lit on a passage & my heart froze.  And raced.  My mind whirled. And went dead calm as Brene explained that she is not an expert in terrorism but there are few, if any, more deeply knowledgeable about fear.  And “terrorism is time-released fear.

Pure & simple.

That’s what I’ve been trying to put my finger on: Osama Bin Laden didn’t direct those planes to take down buildings & kill innocents; he did it to sow fear that would bear its greatest damage long years after 9/11.  Ditto Dylann Roof murdering the very people who had made him welcome to their church – to kick off a race war, the impact gets stronger with the years.  Bin Laden’s box cutters ignited our vulnerabilities, while the backlash against the Confederate flag made countless people across the USA feel like their worst fears were being realized as the government came after THEM.

Time-released fear.

It reminds me of a movie about a group of WWII commandos tasked with taking out a key bridge.  It’s designed to stand any attack, by air or land;  the men aim to destroy a major dam up river, letting the force of its raging waters do their work.  The men charged with detonating it were dismayed at the piddly explosion, so minor the Germans weren’t even aware of it.  But what began out as the teensiest crack in that giant dam became a massive hole then the water descended upon the targeted bridge with such tremendous force, it took down the invincible structure.  Nature did what explosives could not.  Bin Laden counted on our human natures doing what he knew his explosives would not.

Americans need to WAKE UP to what is happening.   Brene’s words relate to ALL of us.  If we, as a nation, don’t wake up to that & turn things around… well, things will not end well.

I started my research six months before 9/11, and I’ve watched fear change our families, organizations, and communities. Our national conversation is centered on, “What should we fear?” and, “Who should we blame?” I’m not an expert on terrorism, but after studying fear for 15 years, here’s what I can tell you: Terrorism is time-released fear. Its ultimate goal is to embed fear so deeply in the heart of a community that fear becomes a way of life. This unconscious way of living then fuels so much anger and blame that people start to turn on one another. Terrorism is most effective when we allow fear to take root in our culture. Then it’s only a matter of time before we become fractured, isolated, and driven by our perceptions of scarcity.

In a hardwired way, the initial trauma and devastation of violence unites human beings for a relatively short period of time. If during that initial period of unity we’re allowed to talk openly about our collective grief and fear–if we turn to one another in a vulnerable and loving way, while at the same time seeking justice and accountability–it can be the start to a very long healing process. If, however, what unites us is a combination of shared hatred and stifled fear that’s eventually expressed as blame, we’re in trouble.

Everyone has a story – Brene Brown link

It’s over a month old, but I finally feel like I can share Brene’s blog post responding to Anthony Bourdain & Kate Spade taking their lives.

The entire posting is invaluable, hits on so many delicate & important points for us all, whatever our age situation circumstance to remember & remember & remember, but if all you read are these nuggets, you will be well served:

You would think the universal nature of struggle would make it easier for all of us to ask for help, but in a culture of scarcity and perfectionism, there can still be so much shame around reaching out, especially if we’re not raised to understand the irreducible nature of human need.

We can encourage our children to ask for help; however, if they don’t see us reaching out for support and modeling that behavior, they will instead attach value to never needing help.

We also send strong messages to the people around us – including our children, friends, and employees – when they do ask for help, and in return, we treat them differently, as if they are now less reliable, competent, or productive…

To know pain is human. To need is human. And, no amount of money, influence, resources, or sheer determination will change our physical, emotional, and spiritual dependence on others.

 

Braiding Sweetgrass (On Being)

A wonderful listen & read from national treasure Krista Tippett & Robin Wall Kimmerer, who wrote Braiding Sweetgrass.

Favorite snippets (just a few of so many!)

RWK:  I can’t think of a single scientific study in the last few decades that has demonstrated that plants or animals are dumber than we think. It’s always the opposite, right? What we’re revealing is the fact that they have extraordinary capacities, which are so unlike our own, but we dismiss them because, well, if they don’t do it like animals do it, then they must not be doing anything, when, in fact, they’re sensing their environment, responding to their environment in incredibly sophisticated ways. The science which is showing that plants have capacity to learn, to have memory, it’s really — we’re at the edge of a wonderful revolution in really understanding the sentience of other beings.

RWK:   What I mean when I say that “science polishes the gift of seeing” brings us to an intense kind of attention that science allows us to bring to the natural world, and that kind of attention also includes ways of seeing, quite literally, through other lenses — that we might have the hand lens, the magnifying glass in our hands that allows us to look at that moss with an acuity that the human eye doesn’t have so we see more. The microscope that lets us see the gorgeous architecture by which it’s put together, the scientific instrumentation in the laboratory that would allow us to look at the miraculous way that water interacts with cellulose, let’s say. That’s what I mean by “science polishes our ability to see” — it extends our eyes into other realms. But we’re, in many cases, looking at the surface. And by the surface, I mean the material being alone. ~ ~ But in indigenous ways of knowing, we say that we know a thing when we know it not only with our physical senses, with our intellect, but also when we engage our intuitive ways of knowing, of emotional knowledge and spiritual knowledge. And that’s really what I mean by listening. By seeing that traditional knowledge engages us in listening. And what is the story that that being might share with us if we know how to listen as well as we know how to see?

RWK:   In talking with my environment students, they wholeheartedly agree that they love the earth. But when I ask them the question of does the earth love you back, there’s a great deal of hesitation and reluctance and eyes cast down, like, oh, gosh, I don’t know. Are we even allowed to talk about that? That would mean that the earth had agency and that I was not an anonymous little blip on the landscape, that I was known by my home place. ~ ~ So it’s a very challenging notion, but I bring it to the garden and think about the way that when we, as human people, demonstrate our love for one another, it is in ways that I find very much analogous to the way that the earth takes care of us, is when we love somebody, we put their wellbeing at the top of a list and we want to feed them well. We want to nurture them. We want to teach them. We want to bring beauty into their lives. We want to make them comfortable and safe and healthy. That’s how I demonstrate love, in part, to my family, and that’s just what I feel in the garden, as the earth loves us back in beans and corn and strawberries. Food could taste bad. It could be bland and boring, but it isn’t. There are these wonderful gifts that the plant beings, to my mind, have shared with us. And it’s a really liberating idea to think that the earth could love us back, but it’s also the notion that — it opens the notion of reciprocity that with that love and regard from the earth comes a real deep responsibility.

More July 4th illuminations

My 4th was filled with unexpected illuminations, of the personal kind.  Stunned to hear two friends, both in their sixties, discussing risk of dementia, worried about the potential of being a burden on their children.  In their sixties!

The biggest surprise on the 4th was discovering that someone I’ve long turned to for clarity about & a more tender perspective on my complex & frustrating sister is & has been for lo these many year engulfed with anger at her for not being what my friend felt/feels I deserved.  Her ire seems especially stirred by Mim’s lack of kindness towards me.

How could Mim be kind toward me?  She held a deep distrust of kindness.  To her dying day, she held any kindly action toward herself as suspect, totally – and I mean COMPLETELY – rejecting its sincerity.

The depth of my friend’s outrage over the perceived injustice blew me away.  How had I missed it?  Small wonder it took me so long to step far enough away from my confusion & heartbreak to get a clearer picture of Mim’s unhappiness.  Never suspected that the “wise woman” to whom I turned for decades to help gain clearer sight was clouded by her emotions!

Two days later, it still astounds me.  She wouldn’t allow me to say a word in Mim’s defense.  “She should have been there for you!

None of it made sense to me, until I remembered how close she is to her own baby sis, a naturally tight bond made snugger tighter when their father died when way too young.

Perhaps it’s as simple as my friend’s horror at life without the love & constant support of a sister.

Was also taken unawares by her statement –  “All you wanted was to love & be loved!”  – which made me realize how forcefully she was projecting her feelings onto me.

Yes, I thrive on loving, on being a friend, on providing support when I can, on being present.  But since I never experienced the same in return, expecting it never occurred to me.  The very thing that’s an essential nutrient for her wasn’t missed by me.  But it was clearly on my radar, since I embraced it fully when John showed up.  But expect it from my family?  Nope.

How could someone I thought was so wise – infinitely wiser, more experienced in the ways of family & relationship than I – be so shut down in her opinion of a tortured heart?  Am still shaken by July 4th’s unexpected, unimaginable illuminations.

Play as an Rx against loneliness

Am jazzed beyond imagination by an article by the great Jane Brody in today’s NY Times that lead me to an earlier opinion piece in the Boston Globe by Jeremy Noble & Michelle Williams.  Both speak directly to my current across-the-age-spectrum playfulness work.

As a society, we thrive when we are connected. Strong social bonds play a causal role in long-term health and well-being. Social connections, in a very real way, are keys to happiness and health.

The surprising finding is that our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health. Taking care of your body is important but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care too,” said Dr. Robert Waldinger, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, an ongoing research project since 1938.” 

 

As a nation – world – increasingly oppressed by a mounting wave of chronic depression anxiety unhappiness, how do we combat the two chief culprits:  loneliness & isolation?

First off, what are they?  Social isolation is defined by researchers as something with objective, measurable markers such as living alone, lacking a social network & regular ties to other people.  Loneliness is harder to measure – it’s more subjective, something we perceive & feel, a sadness over a lack of desired social connections, companionship, close connection.  Social isolation often leads to a sense of loneliness, but being alone often does NOT.

Who’s affected by the emotional fall-out of isolation & loneliness?  Over 1/3 of American adults, with another 65% reporting feeling seriously lonely some of the time.  Yikes!  Current research pegs the toxic effects of the two as matching obesity, alcohol abuse & smoking 15 cigarettes a day as health risk factors, upping the chance of an early death by a whopping 30%.  And the internet, which most people think of as a communication tool, more typically increases both – ironically, heavy use of social media more often lead away from engagement connection happiness to increased feelings of loneliness depression anxiety.

As a society, we thrive when we are connected. Strong social bonds play a causal role in long-term health and well-being. Social connections, in a very real way, are keys to happiness and health.

And what combats depression loneliness isolation?  a sense of PLAY!  The too-often overlooked power & importance of PLAY is at the root of the connect creatively monthly discussion circles I’m kicking off tomorrow at Be Well, turning The Hive into a play pen as we toss around Stuart Brown’s thought that the opposite of depression is… natural PLAY!

Taking a moment to express my heartfelt thanks to & gratitude of an abundantly generous & awesomely present Universe, an invaluable partner & inspiring side kick in the work before us (aka my John et moi), for two great articles that showed up in my cosmic news feed JUST in time to include them in tomorrow night’s premiere Bodacious Building Blocks – connecting creatively  back & forth.  Was excited before, beyond zoomed now!  For a over-the-top unimaginable connection between Stuart Brown & Adam Steltzner’s JPL.  Freakishly fabulous!

“I don’t think it is too much to say that play can save your life. It certainly has salvaged mine. Life without play is a grinding, mechanical existence organized around doing the things necessary for survival. Play is the stick that stirs the drink. It is the basis of all art, games, books, sports, movies, fashion, fun, and wonder—in short, the basis of what we think of as civilization. Play is the vital essence of life. It is what makes life lively.”   ~Stuart Brown ~