IF ONLY . . .

 

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‘If only I were taller!’ That is exactly what I imagined my pup was thinking this morning when she spied the carrots in the icebox. (Yes, that is what I still call it. So much simpler than its’ five syllable counterpart.) It got me thinking about all the “If only’s” in my life when I was that young: If only I had different colored hair, lived in this house, in that town, or came from a different family.  If only this hadn’t happened and that had.  Then life happened and I grew up, accepting that sometimes you just have to appreciate those carrots from a distance.

Therein lies the single, best thing about being a Boomer: we managed to get to this age in spite of all the things that didn’t happen. We survived the disappointments and have long resigned ourselves to the fact that we are what we are. And what are we? Resilient. That means that we have been ‘bent, stretched and compressed,’ yet still have ‘sprung back.’ It’s not just a matter of having developed thicker skin. We are tougher on the inside. That’s a gift but it was hard earned over time.

When 20 something’s tell me that they are ‘devastated’ over a breakup or have just lost a job, I think to myself, ‘Well, what’s the big deal? I’ve had dozens of those.’ At their age, though, it IS a big deal because they have no history to draw from. They are experiencing things for the first time and it can feel crushing. They are just starting their foundations while our roofs are fully intact!

So, while the young are making memories, we are remembering ours. Hopefully, they are rich and full, heartwarming and bittersweet. We have terra firma under us. Gravitas.  I confess, though, to still having one, ‘If only’ left: “If only time didn’t go so very, very fast.”  Still munching on that one.

 

 

 

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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. 

THE SECRET OF LIFE

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Met an 18 year- old today who knows it. He was sitting in the lifeguard chair while I swam laps. Never seen him before. Here he was overlooking a pool full of old, white-haired ladies but he just seemed happy up there. He even gave me a big smile and a wave as I was leaving. So, I stopped to talk to him. Turns out he graduates from high school in a few months and has decided to go into the service. Figures it will give him some good training and then help pay for his college.

“Ah, to be young,” I said as I left.
“I really LIKE being young,” he replied.

I stopped for a moment and thought about that. I know a ton of kids his age right now who are scrounging around for phony ID’s and trying to be older than they are. I also know a ton of older folks getting plastic surgery and lying about their ages.

“Wow.  You’re a smart young man,” I finally said. “If you are happy being young and just who you are NOW, you will be equally as happy being old when you are old, as well.”

He paused a moment to think about that, too.
“Yeah,” he replied. “I probably will.”

Somebody bottle this kid and sell what he has to all those folks at any age who always seem to want to be ahead of or behind where they are. There’s no going back and you sure can’t skip ahead. Better love who and where you are right now. Frankly, it’s all you really have. He knows that. Do you?

BASS ACKWARDS

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Ready for this?  Do you know what the 3rd major cause of death is in the US right now?  It’s listed right there after heart issues and cancer:  Alzheimer’s.  Why?  Because once that amyloid plaque gums up your neural connections your brain shuts down.  Once that happens, here comes pneumonia, falls that lead to operations, and a host of other ills that befall our elderly.  So while that death certificate may have said, “Pneumonia,” Alzheimer’s was behind it all.

So, you would think that in our infinite, scientific wisdom we would be doing everything we could to prevent that plaque buildup in the brain in the first place.  Instead, where are those billions going?  Into ‘miracle’ pills that are supposed to remove the mess once it has already begun tangling the wires in our thinking.  It’s like telling a teenager:  “Oh, you’re pregnant?  Well the abortion clinic is down on 21st street.”

 As my aunt used to say, “We have it all bass ackwards.”  As a kid, I actually thought that was a real word.  Didn’t know until the day I told my geometry teacher that the stupid theorem had it all “Bass Ackwards.”  He glared at me and said, “You watch your mouth, young lady.”  ‘Hard to do without a mirror,’ I thought to myself but didn’t dare say out loud.  Thought he was an idiot.  Then I looked it up.

 So let’s just cut to the chase:  young or old here are some things you should be doing NOW—not once you forget your own address or how to tie your shoelaces.

  1.  MOVE—no, not out of state, off your butt.

2.  THINK—not just about your next errand but make meaning in your moments.

3.  EAT WELL—you already know what that means so I won’t bore you with broccoli.

4.  GET SUNSHINE—or take Vitamin D.  Better yet, plan a trip to the Caribbean.

5.  CONNECT WITH OTHERS—no, not at the bar or hooking up at rock concerts.  Something that makes you connect in a REAL way with others:  sports, games, and regular volunteering will do the trick.

6.  BE GRATEFUL for the time you DO have.  You never know when it will be up.  Just be sure that when it is your lights aren’t already out.

LOOSEN UP!!!

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Do you know who the most uptight people are??  The young.  Go figure.  While they are telling the rest of us to, “Chill out,” they are trying so desperately to, “Fit in,” they can’t see straight.  There is NOTHING more anxiety producing than trying to get somewhere fast without a map.  Worse?  Most of them don’t even know where they’re going yet.

 Do you know who the most ‘chill’ people are?  Us.  Yup.  You and me baby.  We don’t need Google, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter or Instagram to affirm our self worth.  We figured that stuff out a long time ago.  We also figured out that most of it useless and utterly unimportant.  We KNOW where we FIT—and it isn’t “IN”—and frankly, we don’t give a D—.

 So now that we have that straight, how are we flaunting our chillness?  How are we showing the world (and those young people) what it’s like to be totally cool and groove in your own skin?  Are we dancing to the music wherever it plays?  Are we waving to strangers and starting up random conversations?

 Last night I was dancing in line at Chipotle.  Couldn’t help myself.  The music was loud and had a great beat.  By the time I got to the counter, the whole crew was giggling.  So, I said, “Hey, you guys.  If I lift my leg straight up over my head right now, will you give me the guacamole free?”  They looked askance.  Probably thought I had been drinking but frankly, liquor can’t hold a candle to my own ‘spirit.’  “Sure,” one dreadlocked kid said.  “Go for it.”  I did.  Got a double scoop—for free.

 Now tell me the last time YOU had that much fun?  Go ahead.  Feel free.  Post it right here.  Right now.  Be BOLD:

 “Kissing Tomatoes,” is now available in paperback.

GET UP AND GO!

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Had a great laugh this morning when I asked my 90 year-old pal how his ‘get up and go’ was.  “Oh, it’s great,” he enthused.  “In fact, every time I get up I have to go, if you know what I mean,” he confided.  I do.  Frankly, if peeing were an event in the Olympics, seniors would have a jump start on the competition.  Aging is an obstacle course with unforeseen twists and turns that require persistence and humor just to navigate.    

 Everyone deals with it differently, though.  A close friend in his 80’s says he told his kids, “If I ever get to the point where I’m helpless, bring me that bottle in my medicine cabinet.’  “What’s in the bottle?” I asked.  “Xanax,” he replied.  “Well, how do you plan to kill yourself with Xanax?” “I figure if I take enough of it, that’ll do the trick.  I take half a pill every night before bed to help me sleep.”  “Well what if you’re all out by the time you decide to take the whole bottle?”  I queried.  “Hmm,” he replied, “didn’t think about that.” 

 Now there is good reason to be a bit depressed when one looks in the mirror as the decades pass.  But did you know that depression affects both adolescents and the elderly equally.  That’s sobering.  What possibly puts a sixteen year-old on par with one who is sixty?  Some say the common thread is that the young who suffer depression have not yet grasped their sense of identity or purpose.  The old are desperately grasping on to who they were and cannot accept who they are now. 

 This morning, my own ‘get up and go’ was gone.  I just did not want to get out of bed.  Finally, I shuffled into the kitchen to make coffee.  Suddenly, my 17 year-old tore into the room like a wild tornado.  She grabbed a muffin in one hand, drank half a glass of milk with the other, flung her backpack over one shoulder and headed out the garage.  “Bye, Mom,” she yelled.  “Gotta go.”  Talk about inspiration.  Ten minutes later, I was out the door myself and headed to the gym.  Nothing like youth to set fire to the old embers.

 My cure for depressed teens?  Spend the day in a nursing home.  Feeling old and depressed?  Spend a day in high school.     

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.