“Inaction is not an excuse for failure to thrive.”


“Inaction is not an excuse for failure to thrive.”

I’ve noticed lately that a lot of people my age tend to simply stop. They stop doing fun things, they stop being involved, they stop thinking and growing intellectually. They just stop. Then they sit about and complain about how boring life is, how hard it is to do things they used to do, how much they wish they had done such and such before they got too old. They are failing to thrive in the late years of their lives. And there is no excuse for that- period.

I know, things are a bit harder to do when knees hurt,backs don’t want to bend, and the body gets tired much easier than it did at the age of forty. We all have to slow down,but that doesn’t mean we have to stop. It may take longer, but there is no reason not to at least try.

Years ago there was a movie entitled Cocoon followed by another, Cocoon Returns. If you haven’t seen them, I suggest watching them at least once. It starred a lot of “stars” who were getting quite elderly. All stuck in a nursing home, waiting to die, fussing at one another, etc. Until things change due to a visit from the aliens. Look, I know it is really a sappy story, but what I loved about it was the willingness of almost all of the elderly folks to embrace that which was different. If their youth didn’t return, their joy for life certainly did. And, at the end of the day, their inaction became action, and their lives infinitely better.

Another movie I loved was Driving Miss Daisy, a stellar performance by one and all. Again, another character that defies the tendency to just sit down and stop. Fried Green Tomatoes is a fantastic film. Kathy Bates and Jessica Tandy were great together and the flashback between Mary-Louise Parker and Mary Stuart Masterson is equally dynamic. At the end of the day, we are still not sure which woman Jessica Tandy was as the elderly friend of Kathy Bates. Ambiguity saturates the film, while turning Katy Bates’ character from a meek doormat into a woman filled with confidence. And, of course, the character played by Shirley Mclaine in Steel Magnolias is just like I want to be when I get old.

I see many older folks off and doing things all over the world. They travel, explore, serve missions of compassion – regardless of sore knees and aching backs. They move, act, and they live every minute of every day. That is what I want to do too.

When our youngest son went off to college, my husband and I decided to work our way around the world. Eight years later, we finally returned to the US. As we were raising our granddaughter, she went right along with us. We lived in London, Hong Kong, and New Zealand, and only came back to the US due to health issues and the awful Socialized Medical care in NZ. We traveled all over each region and were enriched many times over by our experiences.

But I was in my forty’s when we did that. Now I am sixty, and it is going to become more difficult to do some of the things we did. So, we chose other things to do so we could travel. A cruise or four, a road trip across the US, and our big adventure this year is to travel across country by train. I don’t hike for miles any longer, but I sure can sit and enjoy the view from the train.

So there is no excuse not to thrive, people. Just get up, take a few steps, find a hobby that fulfills you, volunteer as a surrogate grandmother to rock babies at the hospital. Volunteer at the schools or libraries to help kids with their reading skills. Go help out a nursing home if you have a talent like playing the piano. There are a multitude of things you can do to overcome the lack of inertia and sedentary inaction. For me, being with my grandchildren is one of my greatest motivators. I write, I hang out on social media sites, I keep up with friends and work on my family history, and I am planning on taking art lessons. I have always wanted to learn how to paint. That will be so much fun!

So, you are old, so what? Inaction is not an excuse for failure to thrive. Just because your body is starting to creak and moan, it doesn’t mean your brain isn’t functioning. (Unless you have a serious condition, of course.) With all the medical miracles out today, most of us will live well into our eighties or nineties.

I have a friend who is ninety-eight. For the several decades, she has traveled the world following the performances of the operas of Wagner. All on her own, she would jump on a plane and off she would go to Italy, France, Germany, or any place in the world that the operas were being performed. What an amazing lady

who just kept on going like an Eveready Battery. She is running down now, but she is still in control of her life and decided to go home until the end of her days. It is heartbreaking, but at the same time, what a life she has had! Even now, she keeps busy with doing her family history and chatting with her friends and family.

Even if you are homebound, unable to walk, unable to drive, so what? There are a million things you can do to keep your brain healthy and busy. Never just stop and wait to die. We all have a finite amount of time here in this life. I could spend it worrying about death, or I can just get on with living while I am still here.

The more we let inaction rule our lives, the less likely we are to live a long life. Not just because our bodies need to move to function well, but because our brains atrophy at an alarming rate. Inaction is not an excuse for failure to thrive. But it is only you that can take that first step. I can’t wait to become a feisty old woman who says exactly what she wants to say about everything.

Come on people, get up, find a cause, reason, purpose, or passion to fill your life. Go on!

 

Marriage, An Occupational Hazard


1971

The occupational hazards of living with someone for years are many. Among them is the ability to know that they will wear the same shirt and trousers together at least sixty percent of the time, always listen to a certain kind of music, tell a certain kind of joke, read a particular author with great enjoyment, and another for edification.  They will almost always eat the same foods, drive the same way, enjoy the same people, and want to do the same things for relaxation.  They become,  predictable, comfortable, and taken for granted.  Like an old sweater, shoes, or a favourite pair of pajamas. The occupational hazard of predictability and taking someone for granted is one of the most dangerous hazards a couple can fall into.  All of the advice givers for marriage will tell you that.  They will list a long list of reasons why and then tell you how to avoid doing it.  All that is fine  and good, but it doesn’t always apply to every couple.
For instance, I like it that you remember that I like Dr. Pepper in a glass without ice and that I tend to want to sleep on the right hand side of the bed.  You know I hate it when the cupboard doors are left open and I always need the closet doors shut at night.  I like it that you know I will love certain movies, and hate others, that I am crazy about musicals and I don’t care for mystery novels.  You know that I am equally divided between the colours red and yellow, but that anything in hunter green will please me.  You remember that I am a collector of small boxes and anything with a fox on it.  I like it that you know what art I find wonderful, and that I would want to see a certain exhibit without question when it come around.  I like it that you know I want Onion Rings with my burger if possible, not fries, and that I am particular about what goes on my burger.
You know what music I like, most of the time, and that we can dance, listen, and sing along to the same favourite songs thrills me.  I love the old sweat shirts you wear and the jeans you just can’t part with, along with your Greek fisherman’s hat.  I like it that you tell me about your computer knowledge even thought you know I don’t understand half of what you are trying to tell me.  It makes me happy when you see something on the internet, or in a book, or magazine, or newspaper that you know will interest me and take the time to make sure I see it.  I am always pleased when you remember my interests in literature and try to understand as I prose on and on about things that you have absolutely no interest in, yet you go out of your way to understand.
I like the way I never know if your are going to start dancing or singing at any given moment, and yet, you are sensitive to my need to do the same thing.  I like the way we love to go to the same places on holiday, yet never get bored because we both like to discover new and interesting things.  We even go see things that would bore the other, and take turns doing it, so we both get to see what we want and still give a gift of understanding to the other. I know you will always find our way around in  a strange city, and you know that if I drive, we rarely get lost.  I love the way you read so intently, and you tolerate the fact that my mind wanders and sometimes I don’t hear you.
There are any multitude of mundane things you do for me.  I know you will always pick up empty glasses and do the dishes if I don’t get to them first.  Not because you are making a comment on my housekeeping, but because you don’t mind helping out.  I like the way you help make the beds, and help me move the living room furniture around for the third time when you thought it was fine the way it was in the first place.  I love the way you will go with me to the grocery even though you hate to, and then end up buying all kinds of things I would never have thought to get.  I know that if we go into a computer, hardware, electronics, or bookstore, you will spend a minimum of thirty minutes just looking around and not buy a thing, except what you went in to buy.
I know all these things about you and you know all these things about me, but does that mean we have fallen into the hazard of taking one another for granted?  Are we too predictable? Maybe, sometimes.
There are the times, however, when we surprise one another with something new about ourselves.  Try something new as a couple, like dancing.  Discover a new talent, thought process, idea, ability, desire to learn something different.  We are often amazed at how alike we are and how very different.  We have been together a very long time, and I still feel that there is so much I will never know about you.  Not because you hide it, but because you haven’t discovered it yourself yet.  I feel that there is so much more to me than you know as well, and in time we will make these discoveries together.
You make me feel alive, passionate, funny, and intelligent.  I know you are the most honest of men, you have integrity, and intelligence beyond my comprehension, and that you will do anything you must to protect your family from hurt, want, or need.  You are a dedicated husband, father, friend, son, and brother.  You love those who love you with an intensity that you don’t comprehend.  And you are loved in the same manner.   Everyone looks up to you, admires you, and tries to emulate you.  I know that in your career there are few who have the abilities you possess and that you can be or do anything you wish.  I know that you are loyal, determined, and strong willed and that you are a natural leader.  I know that your colleagues are amazed at your comprehension and knowledge of the work at hand and in the future.
You are, in short, funny, loving, passionate, intelligent, gentle, romantic, determined, honest, caring, devoted, strong willed, and the man that I have loved for fourty-one years.  Do we have the occupational hazard of predictability?  Maybe, sometimes.  However, I am blessed to have you in my life and that you know me so well.  I can only hope you feel the same way.

Serendipitous Day


This was written just before Easter in 2003 when we lived in Karori, New Zealand, a suburb of Wellington.

Today was one of those days when the normal turns serendipitous without notice. I got up and decided today would be a good day to walk into Wellington to get the things I needed for Crystal’s Easter Basket. It is about an hour’s walk if I don’t get in a big hurry. When I got to the Botanical Gardens, about half way there, I sat down on a bench to rest for a minute. I don’t usually do that, but today I simply felt a need to sit down.

As I was sitting there, an elderly man came along at a good pace. As he passed me, he said good morning, and I responded the same. He stopped and asked me if I was from America. We began to chat about where he had visited in the US and general information that two strangers usually exchange. He sat down and that is where things shifted to serendipity.

We began by talking about the beauty of the gardens, then that shifted to gardening in general, and before I knew it, we were talking about the magical wonders of creation. One topic led to another and we wandered through comparative religion, the occult, historical fact versus fiction or oral misinterpretation of the Holy Bible. Then we went back to the topic of astrology and the modern day fascination people seem to have with things like earth worship and the odd factions of fanatics who can ruin an entire religious concept by being over zealous and pushy. We talked about the differences and similarities between many religions and we discussed our own spiritual paths.

During the discussions things came up that we used to illustrate our personal growth. I may have lost my son to a murderer, but John lost his wife to one, and the killer was his own son. Oh, the horror of that! John said that was when he began to search for a spiritual balance and meaning in his life. Because he loves his wife so much, he knew that she could not be dead. We talked about the spiritual visits some people have and how powerful dreams can be in our lives. We discussed how people have to find the right path for themselves and the first step is to begin searching.

During our talk, we found out that his friend’s daughter is in my granddaughter’s class at school, and they play together a lot. We found out that we know some of the same people involved in different things that we do, and he said he had a lot of respect for the Mormons because of all they did to help people find their roots with our genealogy programs.

But the best part of the talk was when we were discussing what different religions believe. We agreed it came down to several concrete things that seem to be innate to the human spirit.

1. Less is more. The less we have of material things, the more we learn to depend on God for help.

2. To accept others who believe differently means we must have an honestly open mind.

3. In all religions, it all boils down to this: If we give, we get much more in return. One must learn to give of self to gain spiritual enlightenment or growth. In all religions, that one precept seems to come through more than anything else. In sacrifice we learn humility and compassion.

We had a spirited discussion on the impact the Old Testament has on the New Testament and Christian patterns of belief. Then we had a discussion about my beliefs and how I came to that through the experiences of my life. We talked about how neither of us believes in coincidence. We called it-planned coincidence, because everything happens for a reason. I never sit on a bench when I walk into Wellington. He usually doesn’t cut through the gardens on his way either. Usually he doesn’t do more than say good morning, and I rarely talk to strange men other than to respond to a greeting. I guess we were meant to meet. He called it fate.

It was a wonderful, serendipitous morning that required me to think, laugh, talk about things that I often ponder, and share my inner most feeling about God. As we parted ways, he shook my hand and said that he hoped one day he would have the spiritual strength and balance that I possess. What a great compliment to get from someone I’ve only known a few hours.

I don’t know that we will ever meet again, but today was meant to be and I feel wonderful. My brain got a workout, my spirit got a boost, and I laughed a great deal. John is 72 years old, fit, agile in mind and body, and he is finding his spiritual maturity a very interesting path indeed. I am so glad I got to be a part of his journey.