UP TUMAMOC!!!

Up Tumamoc

Too many of us, old and young, are loathe to get out of our comfort zones. It’s nice feeling cozy in your routine, always knowing what the day will bring. Thing is you can’t grow by sitting still, anymore than a muscle gains strength without use. Any challenge, no matter how small, builds us and makes us bolder.

 Which explains the hike I took yesterday with my 24 year-old up Tumamoc Hill. It was billed as, ‘an easy, hike,’ until you read the fine print: It was a 750-foot ascent to the top and a three-mile round-trip! Now, I haven’t hiked in. . . Well I can’t actually remember when, but I did learn a thing or two along the way:

  1. Don’t over-analyze the route before you start or you may never take it.
  2. Swing your arms when you walk whether or not it makes you look foolish. It helps.
  3. The real climb is in your head. Your legs are just there for support.
  4. Don’t worry if someone passes you. Don’t even notice or you’ll alter your own momentum. Besides, you may pass them later on.
  5. Don’t be afraid to pause and admire the view. It will help you catch your breath if nothing else.
  6. Encourage your fellow travellers. You are in this together.
  7. Don’t be shy asking for help. Most people love to offer it and it makes them feel important.  (My daughter’s left shoulder was a great support to me most of the way back down as I have no knees.) 
  8. When you’ve gone as far as you can, turn around and look how far you’ve come.  It will encourage you to go further.
  9. Be present in each step and reaching the end won’t feel so overwhelming.
  10. And finally:

 The view from the top is exactly the same as it was from the bottom, only now you can see it!!!

 

YOU’RE NEVER TOO YOUNG…OR OLD

Helen in locker

 Yup. That’s me, playing, “Hide and Seek” in the pool locker room this morning. Couldn’t resist. Two little girls had been hiding and finding each other as their mothers pretended to knock on all the doors in search for them. The longer I watched, the more that I wanted to play, too. Finally, I said, “Hey you guys, can I play, too?” They both looked at me with wide eyes and open mouths. Neither spoke. They just stared. Finally one said, “You’re way, too big.” I love a challenge.

 “Well, let’s see,” I said, stepping inside.

 “She fits!” the littlest one squealed with delight.

 Unfortunately, I rather filled the space and couldn’t close the door behind me. As I pondered what to do next, one of the mothers kindly said, “Go ahead. I’ll close the door for you.”

 As soon as it shut, one of the girls said in a voice that mimicked her mother, “Where’s the old lady?”

 The other one chimed in, “Where’s the OLD, OLD lady?”

 Both squealed and giggled upon opening my locker door.

 “Found you,” they said in chorus.

 I giggled, too. It is just as much fun hiding as it is being found. In all the trials and travails of aging, it never hurts to be silly now and then. Here is to you finding your ‘inner kid’ today. 

 

 

 

 

 

FOR WHOM THE BELLBOTTOMS TOLL

 

 

Bell bottomsYou probably think these bellbottoms are my teenage daughter’s. Nope. Every soft, comfy, psychedelic inch of these stunners are all mine and I am mad for them. And get this: they were only $7. How did I score such a deal? I was browsing in a chichi old lady’s shop in Florida a few months ago. Found them on the sale rack marked down from $67.

“Gosh,” I said to the 22 year-old behind the counter. “How come these are marked down so much? They fit like a glove. Is there a hole in them or something?”

“No,” the girl laughed. “They didn’t sell. I don’t think anyone your age wants to be caught dead wearing them.”

Let me assure you that I was not offended in the least. In fact, I then said:

“Well do you have any more? I’ll buy all of them.”

She looked at me like I was deaf or had dementia.

So let me enumerate a few things that are important to know when you are over sixty and dressing to go out:

  1.  You must dress for comfort. (Your body is already uncomfortable and achy enough).
  2. You must wear clothes that make you happy to be in them. (You won’t be taking them off willy-nilly.)
  3. You must wear clothes that make YOU happy to look at. The brighter and wilder the better. (At least people will notice you.)
  4. You must wear clothes that reflect your spirit. (Recently, I have tossed almost all black, navy blue and gray from my wardrobe.)
  5. You must wear clothes. (Sad, but true or you’ll likely be arrested as I once was.)

Now I have worn my bells almost constantly since. They wash and dry like a dream.  Last week, my 23 year-old walked in the house and took a long, serious look at me. I was waiting to be lambasted.

“Wow, Mom, those are really cool,” she said with approval, “Where did you get them?  I would love a pair just like them.”

Come to think of it, I WOULD like to be caught dead in them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BUCKLE UP BUTTERCUPS!

buckle up buttercup

Depression affects more than 18 million people in the US. Interestingly, only 6 million of those statistics come from older adults. What does this really mean? I think it means that far too many people are getting far too sad, far, too young. 20 years ago, depression in youth was unheard of. Not anymore.

I remember my own youth with both fondness and joy. However, the older I get the harder it is to maintain the optimism that I once had. Quite frankly, there is a reason for that: everything is harder and takes more energy now. For example, did you know that it takes a 20 year-old 20% of their strength to get out of a chair? However, it takes an 80 year-old 80% of their strength to accomplish the same feat!

My 20’s were filled with dreams and possibilities. Many of those possibilities came to fruition but few of the dreams did. Didn’t matter. It was just important to dream them. That’s where hope lies. That’s how you discover who you are: putting one foot in front of the other. Though I had nothing to do with how fast the minutes of my life rushed by, I am responsible for what they left in their wake.

A few years ago, I met a woman exactly my age in a nursing home. Unfathomable. Last week, I met one even younger in assisted living! I am humbled to still be here when some of my friends are not. I am grateful to still be mobile while others limp, push walkers, or are bedridden. I am humbled to still have optimism while some of my peers have grown bitter.  My greatest gift now comes when the young seek my counsel. I love the earnestness of their thoughts even though they painfully lack experience. It will come. . .and faster than they can yet imagine.

I have been the duckling, all down and fluff as well as the mother duck with her young paddling behind. Now, I skirt the pond pleased that the bulrushes still grow in a spring rich with color. In spite of all our weaknesses and mistakes we eventually do grow up, if nothing more than because we must. However, I cannot conceive of reaching this age happily without fond memories of a joyful youth. Someone please tell this to the young people in your life: you can’t start over and make a new beginning but you can start now and make a new ending.

 

 

 

NEW Year but the same OLD you??

Well, if that’s the case maybe you should heed the advice of some of these youngsters:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVJU-u03Z2o

 Don’t believe them? Here is some of the SAME advice from those much older:

http://www.nytimes.com/video/nyregion/100000004112367/the-secret-to-a-long-life.html?smid=fb-share

 And on that note, I thank you dear readers, now in 86 countries, for all your many comments, insights, and humor throughout 2015. Let’s carry on the conversation into 2016!!

 

YOU’RE OLD. I’M NOT.

 

 

 

aging-well

In the middle of a heated discussion on gender equality this evening, my 21 year-old, exasperated with my stance, suddenly said, “Well, you’re in a state of cognitive decline. I’m not.” I thought about that for a moment but said nothing. Technically, she is right. The interesting counterpoint, however, is that I STILL have 40 years experience on her and that is a HUGE difference—in MY favor.

Granted my neurons don’t ‘fire’ as quickly as they used to but I have a whole lot more embers to choose from than a kid who has yet to graduate from college and live on her own yet. That alone is a game changer. She’s never paid rent let alone a utility bill. Her first one will be a shocker: I won’t be running around after her turning off lights and raising the AC temp! And a box of raspberries in the fridge will no longer be a quick snack waiting to be scarfed up. It will someday be for her, what it is now for me: a luxury.

Isn’t it strange how ‘old’ and ‘grown up’ we feel when we are young and how ‘young’ we think we are even when our hair is gray? Apparently idealism isn’t just the bastion of the young. A recent AARP study found that 85% of people over 50 don’t think they are ‘old’ yet and half of them believe that their peers are clearly ‘older.’ Translation: You’re old. I’m not. My favorite finding is that almost half those over 70 think it’s fine to “make jokes about old people.” Only 25% of 40 year-old’s agree. Translation: age also makes you less uptight.

Which brings me back to tonight. I love that my daughter has strong opinions and voices them. I admire her passion and zeal. I also know that one day both will dissipate with time and experience. 40 years from now, I hope that she, too, will quietly smile if some youngster refers to her ‘cognitive decline’. She will know better by then of course, because she is my daughter!

**Helen Hudson speaks around the country on Aging and all things Alzheimer’s.  Visit her website at http://www.helen-hudson.com for upcoming events.

DON’T DIE WITH THIS REGRET

man in casket

“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me,” is the regret most often heard from the lips of the dying.  Those were the findings of an Australian palliative nurse.  So, if this is true about us, does that mean the primary reason for our personal sufferings in life is because we are too fixated on pleasing others?  Can it also be the root of our obsession with youth and beauty?  Is this why so many people who should have rich and happy lives simply don’t?

 This morning I watched a boisterous group of three year-olds play, “Red light.  Green light.”  They had trouble getting started.  By the time the teacher had the last ones properly lined up, the first ones were already wriggling out of their places.  Some hopped on one foot, others giggled and twirled, and one little boy never did get in line.  Corralling them was like trying to stop 18 grasshoppers from twitching and leaping; an impossible feat.

 For the half hour that I watched, the teacher pleaded for them to “stand still,” “listen to me,” “don’t push Sally,” “stay on the blue line,” “get back in order,” “no talking,” and on and on.  When I left, I realized that of the 30 minutes they had for the game, they only actually played about 10 of them.  Maybe our lives are like that:  two-thirds of the time we align ourselves with the group, or are forced to.  The other third we try desperately to be our unique selves and navigate our independent joys.

 One would hope that with maturity, we ‘grow out of it.’  However, if that list of regrets is accurate, we just may not.  So, I wonder.  When my own children reach adulthood, will they have found the unique qualities which make them individuals and pursue them?  Or will they, like many, be so influenced by their peers and society that their own true selves get lost in the shuffle?

 My grandmother always said, “Example is the greatest teacher,” and she was a great one.  These days, though, the young take theirs from computer screens, not flesh and blood people.  They are better ‘talking’ with their thumbs than their voices.  So, what will be their dying regrets?  That they didn’t speak up?  In the end, maybe that is the very, same thing.

Helen Hudson is the author of, “Kissing Tomatoes,” a non-fiction memoir of her grandmother’s Alzheimer’s.