Author: Laura (page 1 of 35)

Stop the Hate.

It must be exhausting to hate anyone not like you.

That would pretty much mean you hate everyone, right?

Or does someone who hates enough to harm a person just choose the reasons why they are different…like their skin color.  Their accent.  Their favorite team.  Their sexual preference.

So, you hate everyone who is polka-dotted.  Because they are polka-dotted.  And that’s enough.

But you also decide you love everyone who is paisley.  Because after all, all paisley people think just like you, right?

Oops.  

Maybe not.  Have you considered you might more in control with the polka-dotted person than the paisley person?

Wow.  Gosh, could that paisley person—the one who agrees with you that all polka-dotted people need to go—what if he or she turns out to have something in common with polka-dotted people?

Now what?  Again, do you just hate everyone?

Could it be mutual hate isn’t the personality trait you should use to choose your friends?

It’s so easy to watch news clips of people in other places acting stupidly and shake our heads and sigh and then go back to our lives.  After all, it’s not us.  It’s not our neighborhood.  It’s not our friend or relative.

Or is it.

If we aren’t speaking up, our silence is saying volumes.

If we aren’t shining the light on such massive ignorance, we are just as guilty.

If we let a friend, relative, spouse or anyone else joke about running down a crowd of people and waving nazi flags, we might as well have been there ourselves.

It’s hard.  People we care about often have very different views of the world.  Fear and ignorance are everywhere.  Refusing to be silent when it seems vulgarity is a value can be lonely.

Many boomers and beyond know too well what happens when fear and hatred take over.  Anyone who thought differently in the 1950s risked losing their careers if someone accused them of being communist.  Millions died in WWII because their eyes weren’t blue enough for a mad man while the world watched.  Lynchings and church bombings and horror raged through rural America when people fought for their human rights.

And only a few each time truly stepped up to say no, this is not right, we will not tolerate this.

Let’s stop a minute.  Breathe.  And look around.  Can we make a difference?  Can we try and diffuse some of the rhetoric?

Or at least not join in it?

I want to believe that most people, in their heart, are basically good.  I”ll confess lately it’s sometimes hard to hang onto that belief.  But here’s a thought:  maybe a few times a day, just sit quietly and send out thoughts of love and acceptance to the world.  Imagine it spreading like a giant wave across the globe.  And where you can, be nice to someone.  Do something unexpected, like tip a lot more than you might normally. Smile at someone on the street.  Thank the crew that picks up your garbage.   Help an elderly person get their groceries to the car.

It may be tiny. But if it’s an act of kindness, it could grow.  And grow.

And before you know it, it could turn hate into peace.  And wouldn’t that feel so much better?

 

“Happiness can only exist in acceptance.”

      George Orwell

 

 

 

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Are you guilty?

Worse than racism.  Worse than discrimination against sexual preference.  Worse than hatred of others due to their faith.

Ageism. 

Science tells us it has very real mental and physical health consequences on the very people targeted, including a decreased will to live, less desire to live a healthy lifestyle, impaired recovery from illness, increased stress and a shortened life span.

Yet so many people casually make comments about people being an old geezer, or over the hill, or some old fart.  Or they avoid going to a certain place because “old people go there”.  Or even worse, families and younger friends and relatives avoid visiting aging parents in skilled nursing and retirement communities because they don’t want to be around all those “old people”.

And even the trip to the doctor is not safe.  If you’re over a certain age, chances are good your physician is less inclined to discuss new technological advances, new procedures or new therapy.  Because he or she might be assuming your complaints are just due to “getting older”.

How incredibly sad.  How maddeningly wrong!

Older adults…from age 60 to 112… are the ones with the wisdom.  The life experiences.  The perspective that comes from lessons learned.  They have the stories.  What a treasure trove we all are as we age, and usually, how willing we are to share with someone willing to sit still and listen.

The American Society on Aging reports that in 1968, Dr. Robert Butler, founding director of the National Institute on Aging, coined the term “ageism,” four years after free speech activist Jack Weinberg first uttered the phrase, “Never trust anyone over 30.” And since then, not much has changed.  In fact, the ASA says that “ageism doesn’t even register on the public’s radar.”

Here are some other ways we “wise” ones are being overlooked through ageism:

  • Older adults have a more difficult time finding gainful employment. They are seen as technology-averse, unwilling to learn new skills, difficult to manage (particularly by younger supervisors), too expensive, and not productive enough to justify the perceived increased expense (The New York Times, 2009).
  • Older adults more frequently have their health concerns dismissed by healthcare professionals. In addition, they are less likely to receive routine screenings or preventive care, more likely to be treated less aggressively than younger patients with the same diagnoses, are generally excluded from clinical trials, and are typically treated by physicians who have little to no training treating older patients (Currey, 2008)
  • Older adults, when not entirely disregarded by the media, are typically portrayed with negative stereotypes; and, when and if aging is depicted from a positive point of view, the depiction is typically unrealistic and unattainable (World Economic Forum, Global Agenda Council on Ageing Society, 2012).
  • Older adults running for public office are routinely questioned about whether they have “what it takes” (ostensibly, good health, physical stamina, mental acuity, sufficient projected longevity, or all of the above) to serve in demanding leadership roles (York, 2014).
  • Older adults have historically made a meaningful difference in their communities through civic engagement activities (White House Conference on Aging, 2015); however, institutions that could benefit from the knowledge, wisdom, and skills older adults offer are not making an effort to harness those skills in ways that could help local communities build their capacity to better serve those in need.

Now I’m a baby boomer.  So, I’m really just starting to experience ageism.  Sure, there’s the irritating store attendant who wants to call me “ma’am”.  And the woman at the movie theater who wants to give me a senior discount even though I haven’t reached that age yet.  Still, these are tiny things compared to the big picture.  Yet they point to something that sociologists are talking about:

We boomers are having a hard time with the idea that we ourselves are aging. 

Are we afraid?

Is it that it seems like it took five minutes to get here?

Or are we already seeing how we are starting to disappear, at least in terms of how well we are truly “seen” and “heard”?

Maybe the best thing we can do ourselves is to check how we treat those older than us.  Instead of making a judgment about someone based on white hair, a few wrinkles and a birth certificate, maybe we think about how we will want someone to interact with us if we are lucky enough to reach a “golden” age.

  • We will want people to hear what we are saying—actually listen when we speak.
  • If we have a complaint about a pain or discomfort, we will appreciate a medical professional treating us as aggressively as they would a 20-year-old.
  • We will appreciate respectful gestures (letting us go first, holding the door for us, etc.), but we would also appreciate the opportunity to simply blend in when appropriate.
  • And when we truly are incapacitated in some physical way and require special attention, we also will look forward to interaction with those we love…visits, phone calls, letters. A reminder that others value who we are—STILL ARE—and that we are not something to be avoided at all costs.

It’s a tough subject.  And yet it’s one that is going to be more and more important as the population continues to age.  I know I can’t believe I’m not 40 anymore.  I often don’t recognize parts of my body. I realize I don’t really care that I don’t know the names of some of the people on the gossip magazine covers.

But I also DO know how I’m better at my work than ever.  I’m more patient.  I can see the bigger picture.  I don’t panic when some of my younger cohorts do.  I value the work ethic, deadlines, and keeping my word.

I’m still here.  For quite a while.  And I’m going to do my best to treat those years older than me as just someone who’s sitting in a different part of the train.

Cause we’re all going in the same direction.  So why not benefit from someone else’s sneak preview?

 

“The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes.”

      Frank Lloyd Wright

 

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”

    CS Lewis

 

“Laughter is timeless.  Imagination has no age.  And dreams are forever.”

    Walt Disney

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A new affair with life.

“Man may turn which way he please, and undertake any thing whatsoever,” wrote Goethe, “he will always return to the path which nature has prescribed for him.”

We do our best.  We tell ourselves from a very early age what we’re supposed to do, the school we need to attend, the career that best suits us.  We follow the prescribed path, live the in the apartment or house we find along the way, often have the spouse or children we know is expected of us, and then we are told that now is the time to rest, to sit back, to retire.

And yet, our minds do not retire.  Our passions do not retire.

And very often, we really aren’t ready to retire.

Movies will tell us it all just works out.  Television commercials show alarmingly attractive people with flowing white hair sailing, drinking coffee on the porch of a magnificent A-frame in Montana, or laughing with perfectly behaving children flying a kite.

Who are these people, and what did they do for a living?

But it’s more than that.  It’s hitting the 60’s and not feeling that much different inside than you did in your 50’s.  Or 40’s.  You are even more curious.  More interested in absorbing great poetry, great wisdom, great wine and great silence.  The kind of silence you find on a walk in the woods.

A silence that beckons you to really listen to the voice inside of you…the voice that might be speaking even louder than ever.

“The great affair, the love affair with life, is to live as variously as possible, to groom one’s curiosity like a high-spirited thoroughbred, climb aboard, and gallop over the thick, sun struck hills every day.  Where there is no risk the emotional terrain is flat and unyielding, and despite all its dimensions, valleys, pinnacles and detours, life will seem to have none of its magnificent geography, only a length.  It began in mystery, and it will end in mystery, but what a savage and beautiful country lies in between.”

Diane Ackerman

I don’t want to let go of that mystery.  Yet sometimes, I can feel the forces of aging (or is it what I perceive as aging?) pulling me into a kind of lull, as though a soothing being with a harp was telling me to pull out of the race,  retire my dreams, and put aside still-deep desires to see new things and learn new ideas.

It’s as though I’m about to summit Mt Everest, but the storm is too strong, the winds too mighty, the cold, too much for me.  “Just close your eyes and sleep”, the voice wants to say.  “You’ve had a good climb.”

HEY!  WAIT A MINUTE!

I’m not ready for that.  Note even close.

For one thing, hitting the 60s and beyond is not the end of the road.  Life expectancy is far beyond that for most of us.  So in practical terms, we still have to pay our bills, try to somehow afford health care, and have a productive life.  Some are blessed with pensions and ample nest eggs. But many of us must still earn our living.

Maybe we can’t run the marathon, but we better lace up and get on the track.

Recently I had a bit of an epiphany.  No blinding lights or trumpets sounding, just some shifting in my thinking.  I was letting my world get too small.  I was receding from a bit too many things.  I was trying to convince myself that it was okay to give up the things that bring me the greatest joy:  living in a beautiful natural setting, hiking and walking along mountain trails, and simply breathing in the beauty of the universe.

I went back for a visit to the place I had moved to almost a decade ago…the same place I left about a year ago…and the flame was re-ignited.

I’m just not ready to “act my age”.   (What does that mean, anyway?)

I’m challenging myself with rebooting my brain and my achy joints and my forgetful memory and my wrinkles and coming up with a new plan for the next chapter.

It might mean I get back to where I was…in more ways than one.

It might mean I go somewhere entirely new…physically, but maybe just mentally.

For sure, it means I’m not standing still.  Not now.  Not ever.

Because moss is beautiful.  But I don’t want any growing on me.

 

 “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” 

             John Muir

 

 

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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

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