Oldsters, the holidays & loneliness

Even youngers find the holidays strewn with emotional landmines & social booby traps.  It can be infinitely worse for oldsters elders ancients.

The older we get, the more things can trigger holiday depression.  The best way to deal with them is to look them straight in the eye.

There was no way Mom was NOT going to miss Dad intensely over the stretch from Thanksgiving through the New Year.  Instead of avoiding any mention of her O Best Beloved, we’d talk about their favorite moments together, from the 1930s Thanksgiving dinner she made completely using a fireplace rotisserie because they didn’t have a working oven to making paper ornaments for the tree when Peter was three so he could touch them to meeting Dad at the New Year’s Eve party she threw for Aunt Betty.

Thoughts bring presence & it helped Mom stay on even keel to talk about loved ones who were long gone or lived far away.  She lived with us, but some version of most of these can be done with someone living over the river & through the woods:

We made a party out of decorating the tree.  Every year, she’d tell John the stories behind the Lockhart ornaments & loved hearing from him the tales behind the Murphy decorations.  For years, we had two trees – what John described as the “museum quality” Lockhart tree in the living room, the more boisterous Murphy tree in the den – until we FINALLY, a couple years before Mom was reunited with her O Best Beloved, we combined both into the one, living room tree.

I made sure we got plenty of great catalogues for armchair shopping.  Favorites included Signals, LL Bean, Vermont Country Store, Lands End, Green Tiger Press & Current.  She’d settle down with a cuppa, a plate of cookies & shop til she dropped – all without leaving the comfort of her big cozy chair!

There was always a supply of stamps on hand for her Christmas cards, stationery for her holiday letters & plenty of working pens.  And Scotch Tape!

Another party for wrapping presents!

John & I helped Mom get out to see friends & to have them in, if need be, happily fetching them.

We reminded her to set up time on the phone with Ellen in Texas & Elsa in Florida, Peggy in Missouri & folks all over, rather than leaving it up to chance.

Because we’d kept past cards from friends & family, we could look at signatures of folks who’d been gone for years, sparking memories & smiles.  Still do!

Mom & I would talk about the little card that Dad gave her with a present on their first Christmas – So little a thing to express all the strengths that are mine through your love & affectionate understanding ~ Pete.  A card I found among her things that now holds a yearlong place of honor in The Retreat.

On the night of the Glencairn Sing, we’d listen to a recording of the music & talk about long-ago traditions, like all the Raymond & Mildred’s granddaughters lighting candles throughout the Great Hall, or all the years the three Lockhart Ladies (Mom Mim moi) had the fun of bringing Marguerite de Angeli, leaving at intermission & stopping off for cocktails – with Marguerite! – on the drive back to her Philadelphia Parkway abode.

We shared a holiday reading from the Christmas story every day, which often triggered more talk of memories.

There was always plenty of special treats in the house, in case friends & family stopped by.

The Lockhart collection of Christmas books was put in a place of honor, near her armchair.

We’d attend the simpler, shorter children’s tableaux instead of the magnificent presentation at the cathedral.  The children’s tableaux always undid Mom with its innocence.

We watched LOTS of Christmas specials.  John & I made sure we had video tapes of her favorite holiday movies.

The house was always filled with music, either WFLN (classical music radio) or recordings.

When John & I went out without her, we’d regale her with tales of our adventures on returning home.

We always let my brothers & sister know they were welcome to spend part or all of Christmas with us.

And we let Mom know that we understood if a tender heart moment dipped into sadness.  But sorrow has been part of our family celebration since 1959, the Christmas after Ian died.  I believe that letting herself feel, respect the sorrow when it hit helped Mom avoid holiday depression.

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Those are a smattering of the things that we – all of us – did to help Mom stay free of the holiday blues.  Tomorrow, will look at some of the things the Hyatts & Tamar & the two of us did to help Anne Hyatt, a widow living in a continuous care community, keep the merry in her Christmas!

 

 

 

 

 

As close to a divine TED Talk as we’ll get

Pope Francis giving a TED Talk, “Why the Only Future Worth Building Includes Everyone.”

Gotta love how, where they show the speakers name & what they do, it states “His Holiness Pope Francis – Bishop of Rome.”  Was part of this year’s TED convocation, in Vancouver – same one where the amazing Ashton Applewhite gave her powerful talk.

All TED convocations are awesome, but 2017 was one for the ages!

 

My thanks to Jim Stovall for the ultimate gift

Not for the book he wrote nor for the movie it inspired.  It was through something eles that Jim Stovall helped drape language over this second quest on which I’m embarked.

My first quest was one to find a sense of alignment, of balance & equanimity.  A quest to find my own true self, buried under layers of distraction, misunderstood messages & misguidance.

When I started, at 24, my goal was to empower my inner swan to dive down down down through the depths of a pond to the very bottom, to connect with its riches & discover my basic self, then return safely to the surface (no small task, given a swan’t buoyancy).  When that quest came to a close in July, the image my 65-year old self held was more of a beautiful stool made of precious wood – mahogany or cherry – painted over many times, frequently with beautiful touches, that’s been stripped down & restored to its original appearance.

By the end of this past summer, it was clear the first quest was finally over -and- that I’d struck out on a new – – but what it was, where it was meant to lead, was outside my ken.

Until reading Jim Stovall’s portion of The Art of Learning.  Ray Hull co-authored & contributed wonderful chapters, but Jim’s chapters hit home.  Especially Chapter Seven – Living to Learn:

The highest utilization of learning is to apply knowledge & wisdom in our lives in productive ways.”  Amen & hallelujah!  The goal of learning is its application, not accumulation.  Revolutionary thought!

“Productivity is the pursuit of creating more efficiency & results in all that we do…”

“If we are going to understand & apply our learning in productive ways that will make a true difference, we must master motivation, communication, and implementation.”

“All learning is valid & legitimate, but some learning is more productive given that we all have individual goals, dreams, and aspirations.”

Just because I can memorize information & repeat it doesn’t really mean that I’ve really learned it.

“In order to determine what type of learning is most productive (for us), we must understand where we are trying to go & what goals we want to reach.”

“Motivation is the key to learning, and learning is the key to staying motivated.”

“Collaboration is (a) key to success.”

“Just because something motivates me, it doesn’t mean that it motivates anyone else.”

“Assuming you understand other people without taking the time and effort to learn about them is a form of prejudice.  Prejudice is a lazy exercise.”

“Be careful what we learn & who we learn it from.”  

“The Internet is an amazing learning & communication tool, but we must be able to discern the validity & accuracy of what we are learning.”

“People communicate most effectively in different ways.  The best communication is two-way communication – open, consistent, free-flowing.”

Jim tells the story about a resort hotel where he stayed frequently;  they realized that since Jim is blind, a flashing light on his phone wouldn’t alert him to messages – so they wrote the messages out on paper & slipped them under his door.  It showed while they realized  he needed a solution to a basic problem, their response wasn’t a helpful answer!

Never assume that the person you’re talking to has correctly processed your intended message.  “The most powerful message you can ask is, ‘What do you understand?”

“Unless we apply that which we learned in the real world, we can never make the impact that we are intended to make throughout our lives.”

“Implementing, sharing & teaching that which we have learned does not diminish us.”

“If you share information, knowledge, or wisdom with others, they will have more, and you will find yourself elevated in every way.”

“Constantly revisit the books and other learning resources that have impacted you the most.  No matter how many times you have reviewed a great book, you will find hidden treasures when you read it again.” 

“Memory is like a muscle.  You either use it or lose it.”

“People in their 80s, 90s, or even over 100 who continue to learn stay vital, alert, and relevant.”

“Those people who stop learning and pursuing knowledge begin to waste away both mentally and physically.”

“(Anything) can be valid learning tools at the right time and in the right proportion.”

Jim Stovall co-founded the Narrative Television Network, designed for people with vision impairments with popular with sighted people, too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Gift #4 – The Art of Learning

Hot off the presses!  Jim Stovall teamed up with psychologist Ray Hull to co-author The Art of Learning, an easy read that packs a hefty punch of insight & inspiration.

Truth be told, a shocking number of us were taught WHAT  to learn, but not HOW.  And the unlucky few, like myself, were taught – outside of school – the REVERSE of how to learn.  Which was why I ordered this gem in the first place.  I’m 65, have read stacks of books & articles et al on personal growth, but recognize my lack of the greatest skill any teacher pr parent can give a child – basic learning mechanics & tools.

The Art of Learning & Self-Development: Your Competitive Edge is an excellent book for any lifelong learner, perhaps especially for olders like myself, who might never soaked in the right training as a younger OR has forgotten home truths that apply to ALL ages, stages.  What better Christmas gift than a key to an ever more fabulous future!