“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!

 

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On the Beach at Mui Wo


On the beach at Mui Wo the sea spills back and forth creating the ancient rhythm that both soothes a soul and, yet, causes one to dream of seeing the other side of the world.

An elderly man quietly works on his upturned fishing boat, cigarette smouldering as it hangs from his lips. The smoke slowly rises and wafts about his head, causing him to squint, narrow eyed, at his work.

An old transistor radio plays the atonal, to western ears, music so popular with older people here. The music is occasionally interrupted with newscasts wherein the announcer sells the news with the same enthusiasm and patter familiar in used car advertising.

On the beach at Mui Wo, two women. in hats that resemble upturned fruit baskets, slowly work their way down the beach. As they rake the sand and clean up the rubbish from yesterdays visitors, the shush of the rakes serve as a counterpoint to the sea and music. Their chatter, in high pitched Cantonese, is echoed in the descant of bird song.

Three dogs, strays or domesticated – one can never knows – gambol along. First in the sea noses to the wind, then, on the shore, noses to the ground. They stop and dig with unabashed joy, only to abandon that pursuit to scramble under the rocks, and when that bores them, they flop in a heap of bones and hair in the nearest shady spot to nap. On the beach at Mui Wo.

On the beach at Mui Wo, a mother with her child tip-toes to the edge of the sea. Both delight and fear echo in the child’s eyes. She tries to decide whether to touch the sea or run away. Her trill of laughter fills the air, and, for a moment, everyone smiles.

Two umbrellas sprout from the sand. Blankets are spread and tan bodies lie down to catch the morning sun. Coolers of drinks, sandwiches soggy from melting ice, and a tall cold drink appear. Sunglasses, a book, and all comforts of home are scattered around, on the beach at Mui Wo.

Three old ladies practice Tai Chi facing the sun. Ancient wisdom on their faces is reflected in the slow and graceful movements of their bodies.

On the beach at Mui Wo, the world seems old. Yet, there is a never ending connection with tomorrow as the sea spills back and forth on to the shore, on the beach at Mui Wo.

Ride From Amarillo


Ride From Amarillo

Today I caught a ride from Amarillo, Texas to Gallup, New Mexico. The old geezer that picked me up was a hard case from some place up north. He didn’t talk much at first, but he was friendly enough. Most old guys won’t pick up a hitchhiker these days. I look kinda rough too since I ain’t had a shave or bath in three days. I don’t know what made him stop, but I sure was glad to have lift. It was getting’ hot standin’ on the road with my thumb out.

About 60 miles down the road, the old guy asked if I was hungry. I wasn’t gonna tell him I didn’t have no money to eat, but he said he would be happy to get me a burger or something. So we got off the highway and pulled into a burger joint. It was one of them old kind where someone comes out to your car with a load of food and hangs a tray on the window.

When we headed back on the highway into the setting sun, he finally started to talk to me some. He asked all the same questions everyone asks me. I told him I was just wanderin’ cause I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life yet. Usually I get some sort of lecture about being sensible and finding some sort of career, but this old guy really surprised me because he did just the opposite.

He told me about when he was a young guy, younger than me, he ran off from home during the depression. He said there wasn’t food enough to feed him and he knew if he left his mother would have enough to eat. So he just up and ran off one day. Back then the times were real hard, and no one had much of anything so he took to riding the rails and learned how to survive from one day to the next. He knew what it was like to be hungry and alone, and he sure knew how much he appreciated it when folks would help him out by giving him a meal for doing any sort of work they could find for him. So he figured he owed it to someone to help out anyone who needed a helping hand. That’s why he picked me up, he saw a lot of himself in me and knew it was what he needed to do.

I asked him if he ever went back home after the depression and he said no. He said he got all the way up north to Washington State and found a job at a sawmill. He just stayed on and after a while World War II broke out. He enlisted in the Army and went off to war. While he was gone, his mom died, and all his brothers and sisters scattered during the war. He said he never really knew his dad, he left when he was still a kid. After the war, he went back to Washington State and got a job logging. Then after a while he met a girl and got married. They settled down and had kids, and life went on.

 He got real quiet then asked if I could drive for a while. So I got behind the wheel and he dozed off. As I drove west, through a sunset that turned the sky red and purple and the land blue and orange, I thought a lot about how it felt to be alone in a place where I didn’t know anyone. I thought a lot about the old man sleeping next to me and all that he had told me. He had lived a long life, and he had done a lot of things, but he had always remembered those first days when he was alone and scared and hungry. Those days painted his life in more ways than he had ever imagined they would. Because at 75 years old, he was still trying to pay back all the help he had been given from strangers.

 I wondered if I would be trying to pay back strangers my whole life too. I wondered how my mom would feel if I didn’t ever come back home, and she died wondering where I was. And I wondered how I would feel when I was 75. Would I feel a deep need to pay back the ride and meal from an old man who picked me up on I-40 outside Amarillo, Texas on a hot summer day? Deep inside I knew I would find a way to help someone else some day. And I knew I would go home again when I figured out what I wanted.

 After a time the old man woke up and we talked through the deep night until we got to New Mexico. He offered to put me up for the night but I said no thanks and he dropped me off at a truck stop. When I got out of the car, he gave me 20 bucks and told me to eat decent meal and get a shower. I went inside and made a call home to mom. She was glad to hear from me, but didn’t nag me to come home. I was glad about that. One thing has been bugging me for a while now. I didn’t think about it until he drove off, but that old geezer never did tell me his name.

I am going to catch some sleep back behind the truck stop. The cook said there was an old building back there I could sleep in. Tomorrow I want to try to make it into Arizona, but if I can’t catch a ride I may try to find some work around here so I can get some money up for the time being.