The challenge of aging

I yelped with joy, reading Connie Goldman‘s sense of what we’re, each & everyone,  called to do  ~ ~ “The challenge of aging isn’t to stay young;  it’s not only to grow old, but to grow whole – to come into your own.

That is a great quote because it is as true when we are twenty as when we’re inching up to ninety.  ALL of our life is about being all thoroughly all that we are as possible, whatever our situation or circumstances.

What too often blocks our way is having our aging ever upward woven into a cultural fabric that seems to disengage from grasping the importance & power of true elderhood, that puts barriers in the way of continued growth – in the name of convenience.

Life was never meant to be convenient.  It’s SUPPOSED to be challenging & messy, enriching & inconvenient, expansive & exasperating.  From first breath to last.

Older people need advocates, people who help brush aside physical, emotional, even mental barriers.  Every step these essentials take, every action, helps them grow whole, helps them come more fully into their own.

The life they enrich, that they help give the space to grow whole, may be their own!

 

 

Improbable beginning – WBUR & WQED

Listening last night with my hubster to Are We There Yet?, an episode of NPR’s On Point (we are big radio fans), it hit me that two of the most influential public television stations – WBUR/Boston (where On Point originates) & WQED/Pittsburgh – are rooted in wildly improbable beginnings.  In a large-boned, effusive woman with a singular way of addressing her audience & a duck ~and~ a soft-spoken, kindly man who conversed with a king & kids.

Yes, it’s a bit of a flip from radio to television, but my mind managed it nicely, thank you.

Julia Child & Fred Rogers were beyond improbably, “Are you kidding me?” television stars.  Speaking to them at a party, the term “paradigm shifter” would probably not have crossed your mind.  Yet both were.  And both took their respective television & affiliated radio stations into BIG time broadcasting.

That touches me deeply, inspires & gives hope.  At this moment in time, I am excitedly diving into wondrous new projects, taking me in directions that have beckoned for years.  (One of the great advantages about being 66 rather than 33 & certainly younger is the ever-present thought, “If not now, when?“)

It’s a good time for me to ponder Mr. Rogers & Mrs. Child.

Consider the incomparable Julia.  Last year’s book, The Gourmands’ Way: Six Americans in Paris and the Birth of a New Gastronomy, is a marvelous meander through post-war Paris & how a “ragtag band of passionate epicureans  (with an assist from a certain Francophile First Lady) transformed American cooking.”  Hands down, the greatest transforming factor was Julia Child, who entranced & inspired the masses to master the art of French cooking.

The current film about Fred Rogers vehemently underscores the amazing fact that this man not only had/has an astonishing impact on our American culture, but that he was successful from the very first, not in spite of, but due to his modest demeanor & soft-spoken ways.

Both Julia Child & Fred Rogers became the most super of super stars by just being themselves.  WBUR & WQED, both of which achieved fame prominence power thanks to their marquee stars, were founded on a woman & a man committed to quality integrity authenticity.

Quality integrity authenticity – as improbable as it may sound in today’s slap-dash, short shelf life, helter skelter culture, those three qualities are still the basis for genuine, long-lasting, satisfying accomplishment.

My thanks to Mr. Rogers & Mrs. Child for the well-timed reminder to carve out my own path, to set whatever it is I serve on the table with confidence & verve, telling all & sundry, “Isn’t it lovely?  It’s JUST the way I like it – dig in!”

 

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.

Chip Conley’s “mutual mentoring” sets my heart aflutter

Even as I put out a welcome mat to Chip Conley, who promises to be a core disruptor of our current woeful culture around aging, felt a tad cautious that his Modern Elder Academy  would “boutique” the challenges & opportunities of bridging from middle age into older adulthood.  Optimism was tempered by caution.

So I dug & delved.  And became a true believe.

I love what is promised in Wisdom@Work, the making of a modern elder.  Am totally in synch with his view of olders feeling invisible by today’s youth-focused work place,  devalued & openly threatened by a forces that put us on the outside.  Chip believes the day of being redeemed & restored is at hand, that corporate power brokers recognize the folly of dismissing – figuratively & literally – crucial core sources of the humility, emotional intelligence & (gasp!) wisdom it once found woefully archaic.

Dear to my heart is his dedication to  intergenerational mentoring – both ways, with olders as both teacher & student, master & novice.  Amen & hallelujah!

For all to succeed, youngers have to open up to NOT knowing everything on the face of the Earth & olders have to open up to learning something whiz bang different than what made them successful in earlier careers.  Cross training that’s intergenerational outreach.  Gotta love it.

Over-the-moon with his term “curious learner” – – such a need on all sides for that quality.

Reading the various interviews, listening to Chip speak, am struck with how we all need to revamp expectations of mentoring, of what passes as crucial within a business model, what defines success & what’s needed to achieve it.  Take it deeper, richer, MORE.

His comments about how thirsty young professionals are for tutoring from old hands brought to mind The Intern, a film that was basically panned but which I found pretty spot on.  The 20- & early 30-somethings were hungry for what they considered the cool vibe wisdom for an old codger, who went from relic to revered.  And he got as much as he gave.

When Chip says olders have to repackage themselves – bring it on!  I’ve seen people embrace that challenge, rise to the occasion & ace the new opportunities around them, or brush it off & sink.  It’s not reinventing as much as furthering a remarkable evolution, one that reaches out in directions I never considered.

Let’s see – Chip gets involved at a incredibly young age developing successful boutique hotels, gets burned out as he approaches his fifties, sells them off at the bottom of the market, is recruited by Airbnb to lend his depth of experience to their successful but young, on all counts, business model, which he does & discovers his impression it’s a growth-minded model – leadership was as open to learning as they were to leading.

(Chip cracks me up when he notes, “Carol Dweck wrote a book Mindset long ago” – – it was published in 2007!  Eleven years is apparently an eon to him!)

How Chip describes Airbnb’s three leaders – freely admitting there’s a lot they don’t know & willing, eager to be life-long learners – describes the quality I’ve found in folks who age with enthusiasm & joy.  They are okay with not knowing everything & curious about what’s around the corner.

Still, it was his talk of “mutual mentorship” that set my heart racing.  The angels sang, trumpets sounded!

What was his example of mutual mentoring?  Airbnb connected with its most prolific users, which turned out NOT to be a pair of millennials but a 72 & 62-year old husband & wife traveling the world, staying solely at Airbnbs home.  The company promptly invited the elders in for a 10-week “senior internship program”!

And voila – Chip was taken even deeper into the importance & impact of intergenerational connections.   Deeper into the awareness of what has become Wisdom@Work & the Modern Elder Academy.

I was nervous, reading about the Modern Elder Academy.  Seemed more like a cool two weeks hanging out in a gorgeous place with beautiful people who are hardly in dire straits if they can afford the experience.  But instead of popping off, I kicked back & did my research & discovered that Chip tied his newest interest with a core strength.

This posting didn’t turn out at all how I expected when I started writing.  I was horrified that such important insights would be offered in such an exclusive setting.  It ended with me being mega impressed with the workings of Chip’s mind & its interaction with his heart, with being blown away with him tying it back to his early experience with hotels & his clear love of hospitality.

Which brings me back to mutual mentorship, which connects in my mind with Chip’s core sense of hospitality – he wants olders to feel welcome in the younger world & for them to welcome youngers to theirs.  Intergeneration symbiosis.  Deep chills & keen anticipation!

forging ahead

One of my many business cards identifies me as an “inspired generalist.”  Very true.  A constant in my life is a tendency to value the broad background & wide view over restricted interests & narrow perspective.

That irked my college’s Ed Department – I wanted to teach, so why take a degree in Religion & Philosophy over a stack of “Teaching of…” courses?  They were NOT happy that I nabbed a position & even less when I didn’t fall to pieces.  Even within the school, the prinicipal was alarmed at my goal to tap into my students innate knowledge rather than fall into lockstep with the call & response techniques of the late ’70s.

I was considered a renegade, a disquieting outlier, a disrupter of status quo.

Still am.  I remain a big believer in the broad v. narrow approach to what I do.   My strength comes from the breadth of my interests.  It has served me well.

Now, am eager to embrace a bit of specialization.  It’s time.  Time to look at what I do, what I offer, then do some picking & choosing, taking what I’ve gleaned over the years, putting it into a form to help others now & serve as a stepping stone for others down the road, even after I’ve shuffled off this mortal coil.

To leave all the “no longer an option” paths behind, striking off on in a definite direction with a clear end in view.  And to realize acknowledge accept that I’m going to be startled by ruffling feathers of those ensconced in “areas of expertise,” that some will always experience me as a gadfly rather than solutionist.

So being it.  God created me to be a change agent, the trapper heading into uncharted territory on the hunch of tracking down the special, of finding the wondrous & engaging.

What does that look like?  I had a goal throughout my college studies.  What is it in my here & now?

Get clear, get going.  Because the only way to make the depth of difference I feel created & called to make is to figure it out.

Figure it out, move it forward.  Dip into the richness of my background, the breadth of my vision & get moving in a definite direction, with a definite end in mind.

Because what’s the sense of it all if not to forge something lasting.

Setting a goal is not the main thing. It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan.”  ~  Tom Landry  ~

Next For Me – Modern Elderhood (link)

Mega thanks to the great Kari Henley for introducing me to Chip Conley, which connected me to Jeff Tidwell.  Three people who personify the awareness needed to help youngers start thinking about the opportunities of aging ever upward rather!

MUCH more to follow!

 

Shoulders to the wheel

Wednesday, June 13, 2018 – – a red letter day in my life!  John & I sought counseling from our pastor for some irksome communication issues that have been gumming up the workings of our relationship.

Much as my human nature likes to think of them as my KEET’s issues or ours, it became very clear very fast that a) they were in fact MINE; b) were tightly entrenched in past issues which are no longer active in my life EXCEPT when my Ego drags them in, unbeckoned by my healthier sense of Self; c) the very things that I’ve worked on faithfully for 44+ years to identify, engage & resolve have been stubbornly hanging on by their fingernails to keep a presence in a life that’s ready to roll onward & upward.

At the end of that first session, Tom made one simple suggestion – stop dragging the past into the present.  Live in the NOW.

While the suggestion was simple, neither John nor I expected its implementation to be easy.  To our surprise & delight, living in the now has come easily, naturally to me.  We had three situations since Wednesday that could have turned nasty (on my part) pre-06/13/18 that instead turned out, in each situation, to stay first civil, then tender, then loving.  And each was informing & enlightening.

Today, at my beloved Be Well, a friend who’d seen us yesterday at a social gathering told me how much joy she gets seeing me & John just being with each other.  She commented, “You’ve been married a long time, right?”  Twenty-nine years this 09/03 – – head over heels since 02/03/89.

We were super “old” when we married – John was 43, I was 37.  When my brother pushed me to have him announce our engagement instead of a mutual friend, I pointed out that studies indicated I had as much chance, at 37, of being hit by lightening than getting married for the first time & I would do as I jolly well pleased.

One of the things that has kept our marriage such a pleasure for both of us is our willingness to face difficulties in the face, to head ’em off at the pass whenever we can.  Started almost twenty years ago, when we sought communications coaching from Mom’s psychologist.  We were ready to shell out big bucks for top-notch care, but were never billed!  Turned out the psychologist was so happy to be able to provide a couple with preventive care – rather than mend breaks & heal wounds – the sessions were her gift to us!

When we went to see Tom on Wednesday – an appointment which John took total charge of arranging, to my joy – I was edging closer & closer to being the basket case I was in 1998, torn between John’s healthy persona & Mom’s sweetly yet determinedly dysfunctional.  Only now a healthy present was being dislocated by a mislocated past.

It’s my experience that even the happiest marriages are filled with unhappy moments.  In our case, from day one, we acknowledge distress when it rears its head, do what we can to resolve it between the two or us ~or~ seek help.

In my experience, the same holds true for all relationships. Husband & wife, brother & sister, mother & daughter, friend to friend, co-workers, boss & employee. Being willing to spot potential quicksand, seek firmer ground or a steady hand to avert disaster, strive for the ideal & accept the real.

There, in a nutshell – my prescription for a happy marriage, friendship, family connection, work space!  Don’t expect perfection, welcome hard work, put that shoulder to the wheel & work for good better best!