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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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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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Busy, busy, busy.

When did we get so busy?

Seriously.  When was it?  

Remember when you could get through a week, a day, an hour without checking the calendar?  Without looking at your phone to see where you were supposed to be?  Without having to respond to someone’s request for a call or meeting or visit?

How can it suddenly be Sunday night and still there is a stack of magazines and newspapers you want to read, that are dated several days before?  Why is the house never clean?  Where is that stack of mail you were definitely going to sort through?

How can there be so much to do, yet even when it’s done, we don’t feel like we’ve really done anything that matters?

Have we traveled somewhere new?  No.

Have we learned something truly important?  Probably not.

Have we impacted someone’s life?  Highly doubtful most days.

And in the midst of it all, when we feel our reserves are running low, and we actually try to sit still, decompress, breathe deeply and withdraw from the world, why are we bombarded by messages and emails and tweets that demand to know why we aren’t responding?

Think of the pioneers.  People who got up at 4 a.m. and went in the fields to plow, cut lumber, wash clothes, feed the chickens and in general toil to the point of exhaustion.  They knew how to work hard.  And they need when to rest.  And I have a feeling they all understand how important it was to rest when they could.

We seem to have forgotten that.  And for sure, we boomers know better.

Work is good.  Feeling productive is wonderful.  Some weeks are crazy.  But in the midst of it all, one thing does not change:  we have to rest.  We have to recharge.  We have to let our minds settle.

When we don’t, our motors burn out.   We get angry, depressed, and we can’t be happy.

Chances are, you’ve put in many years of working late.  Or raised children without many nights’ sleep.  Or composed a symphony or graded papers or sewed a prom dress long after you’ve reached exhaustion. You pushed yourself many times.  And you survived.

But now, maybe it’s time to take a look at what is keeping you busy now.

Is it really that important?

Can’t the call wait?

Does the email have to be answered right this minute?

Does it really matter if you don’t make up your mind right now?

Maybe take a moment.  Maybe pretend the phone didn’t ring.  Maybe for just a few minutes, or a day, or a weekend, be a pioneer.  Work hard, then sit and rest.  Listen to the birds.

And is those around you don’t understand, do it anyway.

Listen to your spirit.

Enough.   Get busy just being.

You might be amazed at what you’ve been missing.

“The quieter you become, the more you can hear.”

        Anonymous

 

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How strong are we?

Recently I was in a Sears store buying ankle weights and 2 dumbbells.  As for why, I’ll do my commercial for people over 50 needing to do some form of weight training for their bones, particularly women because we lose so much of our muscle mass as we age.  I personally want to always be able to carry my own groceries, do my own yard work and get that 40 pound of dog food from the trunk of the car into the house.  And I can.

But after a move, I left behind some of my weights so when I saw that Sears had these discounted, I decided to get them.  As I’m also a member of a gym, I only wanted small weights for use at home (dumbbells 5 pounds each, ankle weights also 5 pounds each).  So in total, this purchase weighed 20 pounds.

And the woman checking me out, who was older than me by a few years, reacted with surprised that I thought I could carry them out.

Seriously?

“It’s only 20 pounds,” I said.

She still frowned.  “You sure you can carry that?”  And then she struggled to get them in the bag.

Wow, I thought.  If you can’t carry 20 pounds, that is more than sad.  That’s serious.  Maybe her husband is doing all the heavy lifting, but what if she’s left alone?  Why would she not want to be able to do that for herself?

The ironic part is, I then went home and emptied and spread sixteen 40-pound bags of top soil…carried the bags from my car to the yard, then carried each bag to where I wanted it emptied, then spread it out.

16 x 40 = 640 pounds.

Not saying it was the easiest thing I’ve ever done, or that my back didn’t talk to me a bit.  But I still did it.  And I was glad

I know the day is coming when I won’t be able to do things like that.  Or even sooner, when I just don’t choose to do things like that.  And that’s perfectly fine.  Haven’t we all earned that right?

In fact, when you think of it, once you are a boomer and beyond, you’ve carried a great deal of weight already….work, disappointment, love, heartbreak, marriage, divorce, children, death, success, failure, and the very real desire to get even with the cable company.

So maybe we can put down a few things now and again.  But sometimes I feel the strongest when I can sense another person Is questioning my viability.  Like when a much younger person looks at me like I’m a museum piece.

Or when I’m completely ignored because of my age.

I want to say, hey, let’s talk about what real strength is…and what it takes to get it.  Years and years and years of heavy lifting.

And as long as I can carry the load, I’m going to do my best.

Because I think we’re all a lot stronger than even we realize…and sometimes it feels good to remember that.

“You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

      A.A.Milne

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