We are all “The Hero”

I saw The Hero this weekend, a new movie starring Sam Elliott.  That’s probably enough said, as Sam Elliott is one of my favorites, and not just for the obvious physical appeal.  It goes a lot deeper, as each of his many roles has demonstrated, but none more than this one.  Especially for boomers and beyond, this one resonates deep.

Without giving away spoilers that aren’t already in the movie’s trailer, Sam plays a veteran actor of western genre movies who gets some bad news about his health.  Understandably, he begins examining his life, attempting to reach out to those he’s loved, trying to rekindle a dwindling career, and frankly just make sense of it all.

Who among us, as we age, hasn’t wondered how we would feel if we got a depressing diagnosis?  Maybe some of you already have.  Maybe a loved one has.  It really simplifies things really fast.

Watching the movie, I was struck by many things.

How fast your life goes by.

How suddenly you walk into a room and you are the oldest and often by many years.

How simple things are now harder, not matter how in shape you are or how many crossword puzzles you do.

How the mirror isn’t your friend anymore.

Dang but inside, you’re about 45.  Ready to chart a new course.  Start a new love affair.  Travel the world.

But first, maybe just sit down and take a breath.  Or even a nap.

Sam shows every emotion in this film.  Fear, tenderness, embarrassment, frustration, anger, resolution. A lifetime.  He feels he’s only done one good thing in his career.  Yet as the film unfolds, it’s clear he’s touched many lives and had an impact he may never fully realize.

I want to think that’s true for each of us.  Because aging can feel scary.  Lonely.  Like your once ever-expanding world is suddenly getting so much smaller.  Your real friends, fewer.  Your joyful moments, only now and then.  And it’s too easy to think we haven’t amounted to much.

We don’t feel like heroes.  But don’t you believe it.  We ARE.

We’ve made others smile.  Held someone’s hand to cross the street.  Taught valuable lessons.  Sang over a few hundred birthday cakes. Been there through disasters. Comforted grieving spouses.  Helped our children learn patience. Showed what true friendship means.  Taken care of our frail parents.  Worried over a sickly pet.

We may not feel like our life matters, but maybe that’s the nature of life.  To not get to know the ending until afterwards.  Like someone who leaves a movie early and misses the gem after the credits.

It’s there.  But only for those who are still around.

Our role is to keep going forward.

I suggest you go see The Hero.  There’s a scene in the movie that speaks to the idea that everyone is a star, everyone is a hero.  That’s something we all can use.

Cause we’re still rockin’ it.

 

“Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” – Christopher Robin to Winnie the Pooh

The disappearing thank-you note.

Does no one send thank-you notes anymore?

Does that very question reveal that I am well above 50 and grew up when everyone did write notes?  Or that I even remember what writing a note means?

Seriously.  Is this really an age thing?  I hear so many boomers complaining about their friends’ children, or their own younger relatives, who never acknowledge graduation, wedding, or birthday gifts.  They sigh and say, oh, it’s just “this generation”.

Is that true?  And if so, then tell me who raised “this generation”?

I just don’t get it.

I do get how busy everyone is.  I do get how things have changed so much and younger people are doing a whole lot more than we (or at least I) was doing at their age.  I get social media and all that jazz.  I get summer internships and applying for schools and looking for a job and setting up a home and making sure your Facebook page is constantly refreshed.

But why should any of that get in the place of thanking someone?  Or just acknowledging that a gift was received…that another person took the time to think about you, and either wrote a check or chose a gift, gave it to you, and hope you truly like it.

I can say this for sure, my mother made sure we understand the role of a thank-you note.

I sometimes truly grieve how handwritten notes of any kind seem to have gone away.  Friends would put a note in your locker at school.  A secret admirer might send you a card in the mail with a mysterious message inside, or even fold one under your car’s wipers to give you a smile in the morning.  Generations before me perfected the art of writing love letters during wartime and sealing a bond that grew stronger despite the distance.

It meant something.  And it was a joy to re-read years after the fact.

That’s being lost on this, or any generation that instead relies totally on an electronic device to convey emotion.  I mean, really.  10 seconds for a text?  Wow, doesn’t exactly give you goose bumps, does it?

I just don’t think 50 years from now in the assisted living halls you’ll be able to fondly look over that text and sigh.

Okay, I’m old.  I admit it.  But no one is too young to say thank you.

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.Marcel Proust

 

Sharpening our 50+ brains.

 

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What’s a 6-letter word that means peaceful?

Silent? No, that won’t fit. Dreamy? No, not unless you’re talking like a teenager in the 1950s. Wow, do I remember watching those Beach Blanket movies…I think “dreamy” was all Gidget ever said….let’s see….6 letters…oh wait…it’s placid. Yes, that fits nicely. Wasn’t there a movie about a giant alligator that somehow migrated to Lake Placid? Who was in that again? Bridgett Fonda? Isn’t she the daughter of that guy who rode the motorcycle in the desert with Jack Nicholson? Boy, I’d love to visit the desert again….

Think I can’t keep my mind still? You’re right. But that’s a good thing. Just working a crossword puzzle forces my mind to reach back, make connections, think about new things and remember. All great exercises for my over-50-and-tired synapses.

A crossword puzzle is just one form of mental aerobics. Even better for a 50+ brain is learning something completely new. (And no, I’m not talking about how to program your new cell phone. For just a moment, let’s branch out a bit further.)

Like learning how to speak French. Taking a course in Native American culture. Enrolling in a ceramics course. Tackling Bach on the piano. Studying the classics.

Things that give your noggin a real workout.

 

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Learning new things is important as we boomers get older. But so is working our muscles.

Reports have been coming out lately saying, “sitting is the new smoking.” We just plain sit too much. Whether it’s at a desk, on the couch or even on a bench in the park, we tend to not realize how much time is going by. The good news is the same reports tell us to counteract the effects of all that sitting, all we need to do is get up at least once an hour and move about—get the blood flowing, the oxygen moving through our lungs and waking up our brains.

Exercise increases serotonin in the brain, which helps us think more clearly. (I can use that.) It’s good for fighting off depression, and helps us not be as likely to start an argument or react to a stressor. (For example, opening my cable bill.) It helps produce more of those brain cells that impact memory. It even can help make us more creative.

We joke about losing brain cells as we age, but it’s really more a matter and needing a bit more stimulation to catch our attention: like brighter light, louder volume, and more intense flavors to awaken our taste buds. I base this on nothing but my personal experience but since my 40s, I crave spicy foods. The hotter the salsa the better, which actually is good news, as studies tout chili peppers’ power to lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes, prevent stomach ulcers, boost immunity, and help lower blood pressure.

Cinnamon also has anti-inflammatory properties that help protect diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. (I had to mention this because I’m craving cinnamon toast at this very second. Hey, it’s my blog.)

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You can  continue to build and grow your brain no matter what your age.

It’s all about synapses and neurons and acetylcholine receptors and well, you get the idea.  Even something as simple as writing your name with your left hand if you are usually right-handed….see how different that feels?  Your brain is learning something new.

That’s one reason behind the push at many retirement communities to include lifelong learning on the list of amenities. These communities encourage residents to take classes, participate in activities, and access university or college libraries. You can finally study the works of Mark Twain, decipher Wall Street or explore constellations in the night sky.

Some senior living communities have the advantage of being located on or near a university campus, while others have built relationships with area colleges and encourage faculty members to conduct on-site lectures and seminars.

The more you learn, the more you think. The more you think, the harder your brain works. And that’s smart aging! And a great way to rock the wrinkle.

 

” To keep the body in good health is a duty, otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.”Buddha

 

 

 

 

 

Losing power. Again.

Day 3 of no electricity due to a recent storm.

Day 3 of no internet (without driving to another location).  Day 3 of no unlimited life on the phone (without driving elsewhere to charge).  Day 3 of no television, radio, CD player, Netflix and other entertainment choices powered by electricity.

Day 3 of no way to straighten or curl hair.  To flip a switch and see your face well enough to “fix it”, as my mother used to say.

Day 3 of thinking about all the food in your refrigerator that had to be thrown away.  And realizing how dependent you are on electricity when mealtime comes around.

Day 3 of realizing you should have done the laundry…because you’re almost out of underwear.

Day 3 of your long-haired dog panting and looking at you with imploring eyes.

Day (and night) 3 of getting candles set up in the right places so when the sun goes down, you can walk through your residence without crashing into anything.  And of sitting still on the couch and listening to the occasional traffic, or hearing neighborhood children outside playing, or a mockingbird serenading its top 40 bird songs.

Day 3 of just being.  Other than the stress of having to figure out when you need to be somewhere to receive work emails, you are for all practical purposes, truly without power.

As in powerless.

Of course, we are always powerless.  But we don’t know that.  With so many gadgets and plug-ins and apps, we really are the masters of our universe most of the time, at least in our den.

At least in our minds.

Yet let one good 100 mph microburst show up, and everything suddenly gets very dark.

Very quiet.

For some, it’s truly the first time they have ever really just had to be.  And it makes them quite uneasy.

Just sitting, listening to the sounds of the evening, thinking, meditating, breathing.  Or, fidgeting, fretting and letting frustration win.

What if life was always like this?  If you finished your work, had your dinner (which came only from what you had grown or raised), and now spent your evening by candlelight, with no external stimulation?

it’s interesting that we have come so far in so many ways, obtained so much knowledge, learned about so many wonderful cultural opportunities, expanded our minds as never before, and yet, when we can’t “turn something on”, something that it outside of us, that does not directly engage with us, we don’t know what to do with ourselves.

Withdrawal can be very hard.

I confess it’s illuminating (even in the dark) to realize just how dependent I am on white noise…on an electronic presence in the room that seems to “connect” me to other people and feels safe and familiar.  There’s nothing wrong with enjoying that.  But I wonder, does it keep me from a little too comfortable?

As baby boomers and beyond, we’ve had so many different experiences, and we’ve more than earned the right to enjoy sitting on the couch and watching movies, or listening to music, or just enjoying being inside the air-conditioning.  But maybe very once in a while, we should pretend we don’t have electricity, and power ourselves down.

And sit in the dark.  And hear the symphony that is the night:  a breeze, laughter, the hoot of an owl, gentle rain.

It might help us remember just how powerless we really are.   I”m okay with that.

But I confess…I’d rather do it when it’s 60 degrees.

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