Better life, new reality

My Analog Summer has been extended, maybe to forever.  I like the changes that came with not having a smart phone -or- a tablet -or- a laptop -or- any sort of digital device in the house.  If I’m online, you know that I’m at the library.

Yes, I will be getting a phone – but one that takes calls & texts, nothing more.  I do have a tablet, purchased from a friend getting a bigger better bolder version,  but it is on lock down.  Instead of “sunsetting” my digital device as some do – giving them a calmer, quieter evening – I keep mine virtually mothballed for the day, checking it on the hour rather than reacting to ITs electronic beck & call.

I know how malleable our brains are & how easily affected they are by the digital rerouting of the electronics that have become super glued to so many hands.  I opted out for the summer & now for the foreseeable future.  I like my brain circuits just the way they are.  I like to use electronic devices as tools, I am delighted with how powerfully teamed they’ve been this summer with my head heart soul – happy to be friends, rather than the masters.

All of my life has been about finding alignment, balance.  Thanks to my Analog Summer, waved off getting caught in the flummox of alternating between focused & scattered, focused/scattered – aka the natural state of the human mind on a digital feast.  Opted for a returned to my old ways with a soupcon of online.  A new way, a better life.

Feels GREAT!

She doesn’t get it

A close-to-the-heart friend offered suggestions on ways I could produce more robust income streams – sign up as a home aide with a visiting health care agency, get a job as an Activities Director at a nursing home – or – “If you want to reach people before they get to the Nursing Home stage, try working at an Assisted Living Organization as an Activities Director.”  Sigh…  One of my nearest & dearest, yet she hasn’t a clue about how I’m experiencing my here & now calling.   My heart’s desire is to open the eyes of young middles olders to the importance & value of aging ever upward.  AT EVERY STAGE, including what’s though of as OLD.

Face it – the only person who is NOT “getting up there in years” is dead.  A person’s point of view on growing “elderly” begins in the cradle & grows from there.  But unlike every  previous generation, stretching back through millennia, many people in their 50s & younger didn’t experience multiple generations regularly rubbing elbows, living in the same town or nearby, getting together en masse at least once a year.  Sunday dinners a la Blue Bloods are increasingly rare, which is sad because food has created a sense of community, a sense of bonding, of shared moments.  Through the millennia.

What my friend doesn’t understand is that we’re in a moment that’s unique – and scary.  We are in totally unknown terrain, flying blind & most people don’t know it.  They increase their use of social media, which isolates more than it connects.  Increase their screen time, which stresses as much as it informs.  Let very little children use digital devices, in spite of warnings about the long-term damage they do.  Digital devices make a joke of privacy, expose millions to ID theft, do as much damage as good.  Yet millions upon millions continue to get utterly in their thrall, even outright addicted.

We are an increasingly divided nation, which was EXACTLY Osama Bin Laden’s aim when he directed our own planes, loaded with men women children, against our own buildings.  His knew the USA wouldn’t be destroyed by turning iconic buildings into rubble, murdering thousands of people, destroying many more thousands lives.  It was to create a breach for the inexorable crush of the worst parts of human nature bearing down on a tiny opening, ripping it open, tossing & crashing the structure of our nation from a bulwark of democracy to its own pile of rubble.

What my friend doesn’t understand is that my here & now calling is to be one of the countless human cattle prods zapping people into awareness of the crazies all around us, looking to suck us in, to bring us down, to make the United States another example of a great nation being brought down by our own obliviousness, our unwillingness to see hard issues in a clear light, to look back to the quick sand of our origins that’s sucked us under ever since a slave holder wrote ‘All men are created equal.’

There’s sure no job title for it.  And it is essential that we step up, embrace it & get to work patching up that hole that was blown in our national psyche seventeen years ago.

She might not get it, but I do & that’s what matters.

 

Olders & risk – go for it!

What delight to find an article I missed over on NextAvenue.com featured on MarketWatch.com.  Amen & hallelujah!

Over the moon to devour the well-crafted article talking about women putting themselves out there after 50, taking MORE risks as they age upward, rather than drawing back.  Am dancing in the streets that the financial site is introducing more people across the age spectrum to the wonderfulness of both NextAvenue & to Next Tribe.

As the article describes, Jeannine Ralston, who founded Next Tribe with a longtime friend, set out from home with her husband & children to travel the world.  Let’s acknowledge up front that as a previously published author whose written travel pieces for a host of publications including the NY Times & National Geographic, it was a no-brainer that Jeannine had the experience, material & contacts to end up with a slew of related articles & at least one book.

Few of us are so graced with talent & opportunity.  Which is not to discount all that Jeannine has risked & done.  But let me introduce you to a woman who epitomizes a 50+ woman who embraced risk – at every level of experience – without any semblance of a safety net.  My mother, Katharine Reynolds Lockhart.

When Mom was suddenly widowed at 64, she had experience as a dutiful daughter to a demanding mother, a devoted wife & life partner to my adoring Dad, a committed parent.  The farthest she’d been was a trip with Dad to London, a year before his unexpected death.  Up to 1974, her life revolved around home, church, community.

Mom’s unforeseen loss lefter her emotionally crumpled, but circumstances set in that got her OUT of her grief & opened up a previously unimagined life.  At 65, she was off to Australia to help a son & his wife welcome their first child, breaking her trip with a couple days visiting Pasadena, two in Hawaii & one in Tahiti.   At 67, we discovered that the person she’d put in charge of her finances had done her dirt, losing every penny of the money Dad had left.

Suddenly, in an age when anything in the 60s was considered O-L-D, Mom had to create money streams tailored to her non-driving reality.  She hit that out of the park AND had a powerful influence on the families & individuals she touched through family care, meal making, laundry folding & travel companionship.  At 85, Mom had clocked in numerous trips to Florida, several to Bermuda, a couple to Texas & seven (7) multi-month stays with Mike & Kerry in Australia.

I imagine Mom reading the article & whooping with agreement that in her mid-60s, she was just hitting stride.

Not that she knew that, sitting almost catatonic in Dad’s big chair in our living room.  In July 1974, she felt life, as she knew it, was over.   She was spot on – life as she knew it was over.

A life that she had never envisioned, rooted in all that came before but now sprouting exotic blossoms, was about to begin.

Right up to her last breath, Mom never held back.  While she didn’t write articles for Time or Smithsonian, she never held back. Not when it came to flying to the other side of the world.  Not when it came, in her 70s, to walking six nights a week the half mile from our Woodland Road house up & over to Alwick to make “Aunt” Benita’s dinner – come rain sleet or ice.  Not when it came to tackling, in her late 80s, the most daunting challenge of her life – being upfront & honest with her adult children about who she was & what SHE needed.

Near the end, the article notes, “It’s OK to take a few risks.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with getting out of your comfort zone.”  Readers at NextAvenue or MarketWatch might look at Jeannine Ralston’s honor roll of accomplishments, her deep well of recognized talent & the bedrock of opportunities that she’ll use as a freelancer to the end of her days & brush off her message, thinking, “Easy for her to write – my talents are less defined, let alone developed, & my opportunities feel like their zilch.

To them, I give my mother, with no money, limited resources, great loss & more family who needed her than ones able to offer financial or even emotional support.  My mother, who never saw risk as risky – it’s just what comes with full caps LIVING.

I can imagine Mom reinforcing Jeannine’s message about squeezing every moment, holding onto every day, not dwelling on separation from loved ones, just accepting when it finally arrives.  Jeannine wrote that about appreciating time with her growing sons.  Mom lived that every day of her life, right up to the last, particularly with what always mattered most to her – home, church, community.

Mom took to heart, especially over the last few years of her life, the crucial importance of taking risks, of venturing into scary dark corners that called to be left alone, of traveling to new places & chalking up new experiences.  Of striving every day to be awake & aware of all that was around & within her.

One thing I am sure of – Mom & Jeannine would have recognized in each other a kindred spirit, would have banded together to get out the message clearly at the core of their being:  Life is meant to be embraced, engaged in, experienced.  That whatever our age – especially as we age ever upward – we need to keep grooving, traveling, developing & deepening interests, always looking for ways to celebrate our knowledge, insights & full-throttle LIVING.

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.