TO 75 AND BEYOND!!!

plant a tree 3 old man young girl

If you have not yet read, “Why I hope to die at 75,” by Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel in this month’s Atlantic, don’t bother. He may be a distinguished scientist, head the Department of Medical Ethics at U Penn and be a primary architect of Obamacare, but frankly he’s not too swift.

At first I thought he was humorously flipping the numbers of his own age, 57, around. Nope. He is dead serious. Not only does he list the various reasons why 75, “is a good place to stop” including physical, mental and creative decline. He also spends a good many pages telling us exactly what he WILL have accomplished by that age: “will have loved and been loved,” will have “contributed his best work” to his field and will have “seen his children grown.” Is he a fortune-teller, too? He may or may not live long enough to see any of those things happen!

The single worst part is his wanting to be remembered, “as vibrant and engaged, not feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic.” Wow. Does narcissism come to mind? Look, getting wrinkled, frail and whatever else is part of the journey. If you can do it with an eye open for what magic lies beyond the bend, hooray! And if some young idiot thinks you’re ‘pathetic,’ shame on them.

It’s good for the young to be around the old. It’s even better they learn to take care of them, so they can truly understand their own aging one day. Emanuel says, “Our living too long places emotional weights on our progeny.” Yes, partially, but it also builds strength, character and teaches valuable lessons otherwise lost. He thinks the young need more time, “out of our shadows.” To do what? Indulge in their own self interests so they, too, can leave behind a ‘youthful’ legacy?

Garbage like this makes my blood boil. And to think the Atlantic actually prides itself on over 150 years of exhibiting a, “moderate world view.” Moderate? The bottom line is that despite his Harvard Ph.D., Emanuel is a sad victim of the “fixed mind set.” If you don’t know what that is, get a copy of “Mindset” by Carol Dweck right now and start reading.

Geez, the ancient Greeks were wiser than our present day intellectuals. They said: “Society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”  To that, I say “AMEN.”

Blind Man’s Bluff

BlindmansbluffLast week, a mobile unit with the sign, “Virtual Alzheimer’s,” was parked in front of my gym. They said that I would learn, “just what it’s like to have Alzheimer’s”. Heck, I had a few minutes. I removed my shoes so that they  could slip inserts under my feet to simulate, “neuropathy.”   Gloves were put on my hands to help me ‘lose touch’ with my environment. Blacked-out glasses, intended to approximate sight loss were next. Finally, headphones with constant, static and irritating background noise were placed over my ears.

I was helped up the steps of the trailer. I needed it. Negotiating both depth and distance was difficult. Once inside, I was read a list of 7 tasks that I was to accomplish in the next 10 minutes. Then I was left alone in the dark. I remembered that I was to set a breakfast table for two. Found the table but took forever to locate dishes. I also was to “find the money and count 19 cents in change.” Never found it. At some point I stumbled onto a basket of laundry and though I did not remember it was on the list, actually folded it!

By the end, I had only managed 2 of the 7 tasks. Now here’s the thing. I did not find it anything like REAL Alzheimer’s. For one thing, being of sound and very focused mind, I was able to completely block out the background noise. Also, who in their right mind would ever give an Alzheimer’s patient SEVEN tasks to complete in 10 minutes?

Alzheimer’s is much like simple Aging; it creeps up on you one day, and one failing neuron at a time. Quite honestly, that is part of its’ beauty. Kafka’s Metamorphosis aside, try imagine going to bed as a vibrant 20 something and waking up at 80? Yikes! That’s the stuff of horror shows. I’m used to my 60-something face. Why? Because I first had the chance to get used to all my 50-something ones.  Suddenly plunging a clear thinking, younger person into this kind of scenario is more likely to create anxiety than anything else. I can attest to that as my teenager took the test, too. For the record, she scored no better than I did. She says it was because she “couldn’t block out the background noise.”

Here’s what I think about ‘virtual’ anything.  It’s like kissing–without your lips.  But if this baby rolls into your town give it a shot.  Never know what you might run into.  :)

10 TIPS TO LOOKING AND FEELING REALLY OLD

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  1. Pay cold, hard, cash to look like anyone but yourself: dye your hair, get a hairpiece, inject Botox, have plastic surgery—the works. Then take a good look in the mirror–naked.
  2. When you wake up in the morning, pay attention to every single ache and pain—then proceed to medicate.
  3. At all costs, do NOT exercise. Why shake things up? Things are already shaky.
  4. Don’t clean the house, do laundry or clean out the car. What’s the point? No one’s coming over and you aren’t going anywhere.
  5. Whatever you do, don’t strike up conversations with strangers or smile at people you pass on the street. It might lead to something.
  6. Don’t shake hands with anyone at anytime. You might get germs.
  7. Do not play Jeopardy, work the crosswords, put together a puzzle or anything remotely connected to stimulating your brain.  It will just give you a headache.
  8. Absolutely refuse to get or use a computer. They are full of viruses.
  9. Do not listen to music, particularly the new stuff. It’s mostly ‘noise’ anyway and there is no reason to keep up with young people.
  10. Spend your entire day watching TV and if you do talk to someone, be certain to complain about something.

That should do it.

 

LIVE TO TELL

 

man with flag

I had a BLAST being young. At 18, flying north on the Black Canyon Freeway headed out of Phoenix I remember the rush when I floored the car to 100 mph. It was thrilling and scary but once I hit 100 I eased off the gas. I wanted to live to tell about it. Still do.

Frankly I don’t ‘get’ this bucket list thing. Why wait until you’re old to do all the things you wanted to do? By the time you’re my age, they’re all gonna be harder to do. I went skydiving in my 20’s but you couldn’t get me in a plane with no door and push me out with a parachute now. My knees couldn’t take it, let alone my failing heart.

That’s why TODAY is so important. You will never be this young again. If you want to climb Kilimanjaro or go “Dancing With the Stars,” go now. If you want to change careers, change NOW. There is absolutely, unequivocally nothing to lose; nothing, of course, but time. And we all know who IT waits for: NO ONE!

I love that I took chances when I was young. Sometimes they were teeny ones like asking a boy to dance. Others were done out of mere curiosity, like that weekend at the nudist colony. But each little risk grows you and gives you more confidence. They add up day-by-day, year-by-year until you have this crazy, wonderful sense of ‘been there, done that’ in your bones. It is unshakeable and freeing!

Being older is a blast, too!  It means that I can walk into Starbucks and tell the barista he’s cute. Or flat hang up on that caller who tells me, “I’m not selling you anything.” It means I can show up at a gala event sans makeup and wear white when summer is long over. At my age, there is simply no one I care to impress—except me.

Right now, I have a friend who wants to buy a van and drive across country, hitting all the sweet spots at just the right season. I told him, “Do it. No time like the present.” Better to die with your flag unfurled than live at half-mast. Live so you have something to TELL about later.  Oh, and if he takes my advice?  I’ll post some pictures because that ‘friend’ happens to be my own husband!

A SHOT IN THE DARK!

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At midnight, as I was heading to bed, I heard the sound of rifles popping from the backyard. A mans’ voice shouted outside. As I moved towards the window to look out, everything went dark, suddenly—and fast. The dog barked and bolted. I groped my way towards a flashlight in the kitchen. On the way, I banged my head on the bookshelf, cracked my knee into a wall and hit the edge of a table with my hip. Amazing how the lack of light, even in familiar surroundings can throw you off. All this, despite the fact I have a flashlight in EVERY room!!

So what gives? Aging. In my 20’s I only needed ONE flashlight and I never panicked when the lights went out as my eyes adjusted to darkness pretty well. By my 40’s, I bought a few more flashlights—just in case. However, now that I am in my 60’s it may well be that I need to attach something LED around my neck.

This aging stuff creeps up on you pretty slowly. Good thing. Can you imagine being 20 something and suddenly waking up one morning to a wrinkled face and gray hair?? That’s Kafka-esque enough to induce a stroke. Fortunately, our faculties disintegrate with a subtle slowness. So slow that we are lulled into a complacency of illusion; the illusion that things are as they once were.

But alas, they are not and all the wisdom in the world cannot make up for one, wrong stumble in the dark. So what do we do? Plant a flashlight every few feet. Unless you have hypermnesia, you might also want to light the way to them with night-lights. (Of course, those don’t help one bit when the power goes out!) This is an easy fix. Illuminating the mind is much trickier because it just plays tricks on you.

Those ‘shots’ in the dark that I heard? Turns out they were the snap, crackle pop of our transformer blowing out across the street.   The mans’ voice? My neighbor yelling that his tree was on fire. A large limb from it had fallen hard onto the power lines. As my neighbors stumbled out into the blackness, amidst the blue, flashing lights of police cars and screaming sirens, one, older lady, wearing a bathrobe emerged holding a single, flickering candle. No, not me. . .yet.         

 

 

 

FOOTLOOSE

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I love these feet—all ten toes of them. In fact, if I could reach them I would give each a big KISS! They used to run 6 miles a day barefooted on the beach. Not anymore but I still love them for all the places they’ve taken me. What’s more, it occurs to me how I have ignored them for years, yet they keep marching forward, still taking me on new adventures. Why just yesterday, they took me to my first Zumba class!

See, here’s the thing. Yesterday I woke up with an aching back. Actually, it’s been aching for about a week now. So, I did what any self-respecting person would do at my age. . .I reached for my tennis shoes. Then I drove to the YMCA and headed for that class I’ve been hearing about for years.

The rap music was pumping as I arrived and suddenly a roomful of about 50 girls started shaking their booty—and I mean shaking it. I maneuvered to the back and tried to keep up. The girl in front of me was shaking her butt so fast I don’t know how it stayed attached. Not only did she shake it about 6 times per second, but she did so while bending her knees and going side to side.

Well, I can’t bend my knees anymore so first I got my butt going. Then I tried to keep it going while moving side to side. Next thing I know my head’s going too. However, once my head started going, my butt stopped. So I stopped my head, got my butt going again and started over. Problem was, everytime I got to the point where I was actually following the instructor, she did something different.

But bless my feet. They never stopped. Crazy thing is when it was all over my back pain was gone! When I woke up this morning, the ONLY thing that hurt were my feet. So, I walked them out onto the grass and took their picture. Since I’ve never even given them a pedicure, it was the least I could do. They have kickstarted my motorcycles, pranced in high heels, shuffled off to buffalo and plied too many times to count. . .and I am grateful they still stand on this side of the grass.

 

Funny Business

Aviano USO Tour

He was like a playful boy on stage. His demeanor implied that he was getting away with something and we were in his ‘little escapade’ together. And, oh, what a ride he gave us!  I was lucky enough to see Robin Williams in the late 70’s at the Greek Theater in LA. He was opening for some musical act whose name I’ve long forgotten but I remembered Robin. Remembered how he walked out onto that big, empty stage, sat down on a huge speaker and just began talking. He was funny, frenetic and ADD in every sense of the word. He made me laugh and think and laugh again.   He also made it look easy; so easy, that a few weeks later, I decided to try out my own funniness at Open Mic night at The Comedy Store. How hard could it be? People had always told me that I was funny.

Well they were WRONG. Do you know what kind of courage it takes to stand alone on a stage and try to make a room full of strangers laugh? To hear your name called and walk out under a hot spotlight to dead silence? To hold nothing in your hands but sweat and to suddenly realize that you can’t remember what you were going to say because your heart is so LOUD in your chest that you are conscious of nothing else? It was terrifying and humbling and I bombed. Badly.

That night, as the laughs did NOT come, I made one last, desperate plea to my stony, silent crowd: “Well, who would you like me to imitate?” I asked. One man in the back yelled, “The Invisible Woman!” “I can do that,” I replied. I quickly whispered to the lighting technician to, “Turn the lights down.” Then I crouched down on my hands and knees and crawled off the stage. As I fled behind the curtain, I received my first and only smattering of applause.

I get it. I get him. I get all those people who can face millions of strangers but not themselves; the ones who are so thin-skinned they touch us but not thick-skinned enough to protect themselves.  When the rains of Time begin to fall, and the drops slowly start to blur and erase the YOU that you used to know; the one that so defined you. I understand what it feels like to no longer have the strength to open the umbrella. We stood under Robin’s once . . .now he is standing under God’s.

Who Knows Where The Time Goes???

 

I don’t. It has sifted through my own hands like so much dust. Just as it did for Sandy Denny, this folksinger from the 60’s who wrote and sang this song which Judy Collins later made famous. Sandy never lived to see the fruition of her life’s work. She died at 31, simply falling down a flight of stairs. Listen and remember the young girl who sang with so much hope and heart. Be grateful you are here. I am.

FALL WELL

Boomers and Teens Hit the Segways!

When Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon, war broke out. When I crossed mine, I merely landed flat on my back, upside down under a clump of trees. The Segway I had been riding just a few seconds earlier continued motoring backwards, back down the hill, off the side of the road and only stopped because it was hopelessly ensnarled in bushes.

I laid still for a moment, just long enough to realize two things: I was not hurt and the mosquitoes found my bare legs and arms irresistibly delicious. Just as I realized the latter, my husband began yelling, “Don’t move! Stay right there!” No way. I gathered myself upright, madly brushed leaves, twigs and bugs away and grinned. “Don’t worry,” I assured him. “Nothing’s broken. I fell really, really well.”

In fact, during the 4 seconds or so that I knew for certain that I was going to fall, I aimed for the dirt, heaved myself off backwards and to the right, while shoving the 100 lb machine away from me and to the left. And, when I hit the ground, I rolled to absorb the impact, just like they taught me in skydiving school 40 years ago!! Boy, was I proud of myself.

The Segway tour had been my idea. What better way to keep up with two teenagers than to have equal horsepower? Our guide had given us a brief lesson on how to ride the machines before we started. “Lean forward to go forward and lean gently back to stop.” The idea was to stay balanced so that you never had to come to a complete stop. Seemed easy enough and at first it was. We whipped around corners, sped down sidewalks, across streets, and giddily waved at passersby. Then we hit the park. The paths began to turn sharply and I lost a bit of steam and fell behind. Then came that long, steep hill.

Now I often advise my aging boomers to, “try something new,” “get out of your comfort zone,” and “stay active.” But after this week’s experience, let me add this: “If you’re gonna fall–aim for something soft,” “When you hit–roll” and “When it’s over–be grateful if nothing is broken.”

 

P. S. While researching Segways for this blog, I learned that I am not the only one to have taken a tumble.  Presidents Obama and Bush have both fallen, and the owner of Segway was killed a few years ago when the one he was riding plummeted off of a cliff.