Category: Staying sane (page 1 of 10)

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

 

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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

 

 

 

 

 

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Old? Or just more creative?

Have you heard about John Goodenough?

He’s 94.  And he just, as stated in a recent issue of The New York Times, “set the tech industry abuzz with his blazing creativity.”  Seems John and his team have come up with a new kind of battery that could potentially revolutionize electric cars.

Course this was nothing new for John.  In 1980, at the age of 57, he also helped come up with a new miniature lithium ion battery.

So much for all those who say aging means you can’t be creative.  Or have new ideas.  Or astound the world.

The Times article goes on to say how a 2016 Information Technology and Innovation Foundation study found that “inventors peak in their late 40s and tend to be highly productive in the last half of their careers.” Also, the peak of creativity for Nobel Prize winners is getting higher every year.

Now remember, John Goodenough is 94.  He might just be getting started.

42% of Robert Frost’s anthologized poems were written after the age of 50.

Psychologist Oliver Sachs was extraordinarily creative well into his 80s.

There are those who say that creativity can be divided into two types of people.  Conceptual thinkers tend to peak young. But experimental thinkers reach their zenith at a much older age.  That’s because they are constantly exploring, experimenting, and adding wisdom as they age.  It takes many years to get there, but achieving greatness late in life is possible.  Cézanne was known for revisiting subjects again and again.

That’s good news for all of us.  Because what is life, if not a giant Big Chief tablet that we scribble on every day?

Maybe we can’t always remember to bring the grocery list with us to the store.  Or why we walked into a room.  Or where our glasses are.

But maybe we are better at letting the unnecessary drop away so the essence of what we are trying to create can come to the top.  Our years of trial and error teach us many things.  One important lesson can be to let go of the fear of failure…just try it.

Do it.

Build it.

Write it.

Paint it.

Brain researchers tell us older brains are better at seeing the big picture.  Better at empathy.  The key is to keep challenging our brains as we age.  Learning new things, trying new things, taking in information.

Who knows…you might just be the next great inventor.

“Creativity is a wild mind and a disciplined eye.”

         Dorothy Parker

 

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What’s truly dear to your heart?

We get so bombarded with so much STUFF….so many messages…so many gadgets and apps and channels and offers and more until we often can’t remember what really truly matters to us.  Much less who matters most to us.

I am inclined to think that many of us baby boomers never really know what our short list is, because we’re never really put to the test.  We never have to consider what it would be like not to have that person in our lives.  We grow up, we go to work, we might go off to school but then many of us come back and resume things.  Same surroundings.  Pretty much the same social circle.

It all gets comfortable.  Easy.  Our world stays pretty steady.

Until a disease comes along, and a few of those people you thought would show up don’t.  Or divorce comes along, and those people who used to sit down the pew from you now look at you differently.  Or your lose your job, and you can’t do that regular monthly dinner out and no one calls the other three weeks.It’s interesting to really learn not only who and what matters most to you, but who you matter most to.  (Bad English maybe, but you get it.)  It’s scary.  Yet maybe it’s incredibly freeing as well.

I never understood how I could go to another job, maybe just a few miles away, and my “friends” from my previous job just dropped me.  Having moved a few times as a child to different schools in different states, I learned how friendship is something that shouldn’t depend on geography.  Yet as an adult, it seems there are those who don’t feel that way.

Then I moved across the country.  Having so many miles between me and my previous life really was instructive in terms of who I missed most, and who missed me enough to stay in contact.  I had an even deeper appreciation of their friendship and love because I felt it as well.  I could also look back at my former city and love the good parts about it.  Taking a big step out of your comfort zone definitely changes you, forces you to grow in ways you can’t otherwise, and in some ways, simplifies a lot of things.

I’ve been told when you make a major life change, you often bring up other people’s fears.  They don’t want you to do it because it changes things.  Maybe it makes them consider if they are happy.  Maybe it tests their relationships.  I don’t know.

But then my life got a little stranger.  I moved again, back to my old home grounds.  (Economics, family, etc…kind of like hitting the re-set button for a few years, then we’ll see where I land.)  But I came back thinking I could reconnect with a few of the people who I had considered friends before.  What happened was and is surprising.

My true, live-in-my-heart friends, were glad I was back and we have picked up where we left off, which makes me eternally grateful because I never let go of them and they did not let go of me even when I was very far away.

But a few others…people I used to work with, or hang out with, or in many cases treat to an occasional lunch or dinner when they were down a bit…they have been a no-show.  A few don’t even answer emails or voice messages. My late mother would probably say well maybe they never were my friends anyway.  But it didn’t feel that way.

I’ve checked my breath and personal hygiene.  That’s not it either.

Times change.  People change.  Maybe Mother was right.

What has been fascinating is doing all this full-circle.  Being in one place for many years, moving to a new place for a decade, then moving back…and seeing what is still true, what never was true, and how you have to always find your own bliss, own peace of mind, and own strength.

I’ve never been the type of person who needs to be surrounded by a lot of people.  I don’t have 300 “friends” on Facebook (no judgment if you do, it’s just not me).  I’m very okay with solitary moments and I can dine, see a movie or travel solo without missing a beat.  I feel more fulfilled in nature than in any other situation, and if you’re going to blast music while walking down a mountain trail, please go on ahead of me so I don’t have to hear it.

And maybe those of us who actually step past the safety zone…who take risks and do things other deem as scary…without a net…who follow their inner voice and are willing to feel the fear, loneliness and confusion that can come with that…maybe we actually do have more strength.

And maybe in the long run, our rewards are greater.

Not more money.  Not the coolest people at our table.  Not necessarily the smoothest road.

But the one that takes us inward, where our real treasures lie.

So if you’re considering going forward, or going back, take care.

Bundle up.

Grab a snack.

Stick to the trail.

Cause it’s not easy…but it’s also not near as hard as never taking that step.

 

“Pursue some path, rather narrow or crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence.”

        Henry David Thoreau

 

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