IF ONLY . . .

 

 sky in the icebox

‘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.

 

 

 

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.

DON’T BAT AN EYELASH!

Age Beholds BeautySeveral times in recent weeks, perfect strangers, when seeing me with my youngest daughter have said, “Gosh.  You look just alike!”  or, “Well I can sure tell that she’s your daughter!”  Funny thing is, until I saw this picture tonight, I almost believed them!  But a picture IS worth a thousand words. . . and as you can see for yourself:  we look NOTHING alike and that’s Okay.  She is lovely for 16 and I am lovely for one who parks in the, “For Seniors Only,” space.

Oh, I could nip and tuck this or that, slap on some makeup, color my hair; all things my girlfriends have sweetly suggested over the years.  But what person in their right mind would put fresh paint on a crumbling wall?  Just today, a woman 10 years younger than me said that she botoxes “like crazy,” and that, “along with Zoloft,” keeps her from being depressed.  But I’m not one whit depressed when I look in the mirror.  Not just because my eyesight isn’t as sharp as it used to be.  Frankly, I don’t really ‘look’ in that mirror the way I used to.  Instead of scrutinizing the shape of my eyebrows or how lush my lips look with that new lipstick, I now use it as a general assessment of, ‘Is there spinach in my teeth?” or, “I think it’s about time I trimmed my bangs.’

Youth hands you beauty without having to bat an eyelash.  Problem is, too many of us spend the rest of our lives trying to improve on it.  The money-mad, media, once found only in print or TV ads, now gnaws for our young girl’s attention from the intimacy of their cell phones!  Sadly, they pay attention.  But no cream, beauty product or laser treatment will ever make you any more beautiful over time.  That happens on the inside, where the real fountain of youth exists.  It’s that reservoir of love, memory,  acceptance, forgiveness, humility and humor which has poured into you slowly over the years.  

So a reminder to young, beautiful girls everywhere:  spend as much time doing good as looking good.  It’s cheaper than mascara and lasts forever  Meanwhile, I’ve decided to go out, “Just the way the Good Lord made me.”  Those were words my grandmother managed to use for almost every occasion.  Now there was a truly, beautiful woman.  Sorry, Lady Clairol.  You just can’t hold a candle to that! 

Hudson’s 2nd book, “Kissing Tomatoes,” will soon be out in print.  The Kindle edition is available on Amazon.

DON’T WORRY

Do you know that they’ve done studies which PROVE over 90% of what we worry about NEVER happens!  I’ve even READ the studies, so I ask you, why did I wake up at 5 AM this morning worried about my teenagers?  Because I figure, MY worries are in that 10%.  Go figure.

Now, I admit, I have a rather uncanny ability to find everyone else’s flaws and weak points.  Seriously, my head is like a magnifying glass. It can fix on the most minute crack in someone’s façade and enlarge it to earthquakian proportions.  Give me ten minutes with anyone and I assure you that I could tell you where they’re going wrong, what they’re doing right and if so inspired, even offer my advice to let them know both of the above. 

Plus, it does not take a GPS to find my mouth.  Just walk by and it locates.  If only that inner guide steered me as well raising kids, I might have a whole lot less worry and a heck of a lot more sleep.  In hindsight, I spent the first 10 years loving, nurturing, teaching, and helping them find their way.  Frankly, they have spent the last 10 undoing all my good work.  

Children learn by example.  (At least they used to before the computer opened it’s top and swallowed them whole).  In prehistoric times, kids had no choice.  When Mom said, “Run!” they ran.  Otherwise, they’d have been flattened by a buffalo.  But they’re extinct like “Thank You” notes, long distance phone calls and helping little, old ladies across the street.  When’s the last time you laid eyes on a Boy Scout?  Or held the door for someone older? 

Fortunately, my oldest, has had a part-time job the last two years.  She knows what’s it’s like to do something that involves mindless repetition, receives no praise and garners little money.  It has prepared her for parenting.  Of course, by the time she has kids, you can probably just download an App.  It’ll save you the hassle AND the worry. On that note, I think I’ll hit the sack.

HELEN HUDSON HERE: GET REAL

Remember the days when you had to get your courage up to tell that special person how you felt?  Or had to break off a relationship in PERSON?  Not anymore.  Now you just type what’s on your mind, click “SEND,” and you never even have to look them in the eye.  Communication these days is more simulation than sensation.  You see and hear it but you don’t really feel it.

Back in the day, gossip took weeks to get around.  You either had to witness the dirty deed yourself or hear about it through the grapevine.  Now, in mere seconds, you can send/receive pictures, live videos or access heretofore ‘private’ stuff from thousands of folks without moving from your chair.  And while such supersonic speed saves lives, it also destroys them. 

Now I’m not suggesting a return to the days when the stagecoach brought the mail.  (Although I do imagine the thrill of hearing the approach of pounding hoof beats stirred the heart more than a mere cell phone ‘ding.’)  But our generation of kids operates in a sea of instant gratification.  If they make a mistake, they hit, “DELETE.”  With impulse at the helm, there’s no steering clear of the rocks. Disaster is always imminent.  Just ask the survivors from the Costa Concordia.   

Last year, I spoke at a parent’s meeting at my daughter’s school.  Afterwards, I drove straight home.  It’s a five-minute trip.  The second I walked in, my daughter yelled:  “Hey.  I just heard what you said in the meeting.”  How?  Some Mom told her kid what I said, who then texted my daughter.  So much for a ‘Parent’s’ meeting. 

I do wish my kids knew what it was like to have to wait weeks just to get a letter from someone special; something they could hold, cherish and rediscover years later in some forgotten box.  But there’s no going back.  Like an Olympian, I have to focus on the challenge ahead, not the guy behind me.

Right now, mine is teaching my teen how to drive.  She has mastered acceleration.  If I hold my breath just right, she can even park between two cars without removing their side mirrors.  Frankly, I’d like to put an egg between her foot and the brake.  What’s her REAL challenge besides scouring the road ahead for bicyclists, bolting dogs or bumpy potholes?  Anticipating the impending light change. . . then watching for the car that might run it.  You can’t simulate that.  It’s real.