I Have Arrived

Dirt Road Africatw2011

I want to grow old without facelifts…
I want to have the courage to be loyal to the face I’ve made.
Sometimes I think it would be easier to avoid old age, to die young,
but then you’d never complete your life, would you?
You’d never wholly know you.
Marilyn Monroe

T-minus four days and counting… In less than a hundred hours I will officially be sixty years old. It’s interesting that internally I feel about half that age, but am reminded in the mirror that in reality is I am entering the outer boundaries of old age.

For at least fifteen years I have tried to sneak up on birthdays. Within three or four months of the anniversary of my birth I’d answer the question “how old are you?” with the age I was about to be, not what I presently was. In some off-beat way that helped me acclimate to being another year older. Just realizing this year I did not do that the previous practice fells silly to me. Yeah for me! I’m finally growing up and accepting of the present chapter of life just ahead.

Pew Research Center Social & Demographic Trends did a survey in 2009 of close to three thousand people and asked different demographic groups “What age does the average person become old?” In their data respondents from 18-29 years of age said 60 was old. Gulp! No wonder so many people in that age group refer to me as “Sir”. The perception of ‘old’ changes with age: 30-49 year-olds see 69 as old; 50-64 year-old folks see 72 as old while 65+ thought 74 was old. Whew! That means to anyone thirty or older I won’t be ‘old’ for at least another ten years!

Back to being called “Sir” by younger people; I have to admit it really bothered me when it began happening with greater and greater frequency about ten years. I thought “Oh, no. He/she thinks I’m an old fart”. I have grown up some though, and now take the reference as respect. Once past the shock of being a “Sir” and becoming accustomed to it, I accepted that people were simply being respectful. None of us gets too much respect at any age.

Another finding in the Pew Research Center survey was the older people get, the younger they feel–relatively speaking. Among 18 to 29 year-olds, about half say they feel their age, while about quarter say they feel older than their age and another quarter say they feel younger. By contrast, among adults 65 and older, fully 60% say they feel younger than their age, compared with 32% who say they feel exactly their age and just 3% who say they feel older than their age.

And one of the best parts for me in the Pew survey was nearly half (45%) of adults ages 75 and older say their life has turned out better than they expected, while just 5% say it has turned out worse (the remainder say things have turned out the way they expected or have no opinion). All other age groups also tilt positive, but considerably less so, when asked to assess their lives so far against their own expectations. I agree completely. My life so far has turned out to be far more interesting, rewarding and fulfilling that I could have ever imagined when younger.

It seems I have arrived at the place I have long needed to be. About to finish my 6th decade on Earth by retiring from professional life and moving into a phase filled with a list of “always wanted to-dos”, I am genuinely excited at the prospect of experiences to come; exhilarated actually!

Everything is not exactly what I hoped for or dreamed of, but my life is rich and rewarding in a myriad of ways. It humbles me when I let the life possibilities ahead take shape in my thoughts. Finally, I have arrived at where I have been headed all my life. I am grateful to be here.

Wrinkles should merely indicate
where the smiles have been.
Mark Twain

Reminiscence Bump

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I remember days when I was fifteen or sixteen years old that occupy more memory space than some entire years of my adult life. There are teenage first experiences that I recall as vividly as if they happened two days ago, especially those I cherish most or regret a lot. I remember clearly my unaccompanied first airplane flight, making out with a girl all night long with our clothes on, the initial time I had my heart-broken and the earliest heart I hurt. The interior of my first car is memorized even today.

As we grow older, we tend to feel like the previous decade elapsed more rapidly, while the earlier decades of our lives seem to have lasted longer. Similarly, we tend to think of events that took place in the past 10 years as having happened more recently than they actually did.

… curiously, we are most likely to vividly remember experiences we had between the ages of 15 and 25. What the social sciences might simply call “nostalgia” psychologists have termed the “reminiscence bump”… The reminiscence bump involves not only the recall of incidents; we even remember more scenes from the films we saw and the books we read in our late teens and early twenties. … The bump can be broken down even further — the big news events that we remember best tend to have happened earlier in the bump, while our most memorable personal experiences are in the second half.

The key to the reminiscence bump is novelty. The reason we remember our youth so well is that it is a period where we have more new experiences than in our thirties or forties. It’s a time for firsts — first sexual relationships, first jobs, first travel without parents, first experience of living away from home, the first time we get much real choice over the way we spend our days. Novelty has such a strong impact on memory that even within the bump we remember more from the start of each new experience.

Most fascinating of all, however, is the reason the “reminiscence bump” happens in the first place: Hammond argues that because memory and identity are so closely intertwined, it is in those formative years, when we’re constructing our identity and finding our place in the world, that our memory latches onto particularly vivid details in order to use them later in reinforcing that identity. Interestingly, Hammond points out, people who undergo a major transformation of identity later in life — say, changing careers or coming out — tend to experience a second identity bump, which helps them reconcile and consolidate their new identity. From “Why Time Slows Down When We’re Afraid, Speeds Up as We Age, and Gets Warped on Vacation” by Maria Popova http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2013/07/15/time-warped-claudia-hammond/

Memory is a tricky thing. I have realized over time I tend to unconsciously make adjustments to what I recall. Memories that come to mind most become the most indelibly stamped on my brain. My greatest joys are made grander and the most painful memories are mentally sculpted to be more distressing. The primitive part of my mind dedicated to survival makes an over-sized issue of the latter. I am grateful to be reminded that pain tries to remembered far more than joy. In making my way forward it’s important tto reverse that tendency as much as I can; focus on the joyful memories and think less about the painful ones.

I don’t want to repeat my innocence.
I want the pleasure of losing it again.
From “This Side of Paradise”
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

A Portion of Gladness

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Friends are the family you choose.
Jess C. Scott

The older I get, the more valuable old friendships become. A few new friends along the way are always hoped for and welcomed, but it is the ones of decades endurance that mean the most. For the weekend my friend Sam drove hundreds of miles to hang out with me. We are different in so many ways, but exactly alike in others; the perfect combination for an enduring friendship.

“A Friend’s Greeting”
by Edgar Guest

I’d like to be the sort of friend
that you have been to me;
I’d like to be the help that you’ve been
always glad to be;
I’d like to mean as much to you
each minute of the day
As you have meant, old friend of mine,
to me along the way.

I’d like to do the big things
and the splendid things for you,
To brush the gray out of your skies
and leave them only blue;
I’d like to say the kindly things
that I so oft have heard,
And feel that I could rouse your soul
the way that mine you’ve stirred.

I’d like to give back the joy
that you have given me,
Yet that were wishing you a need
I hope will never be;
I’d like to make you feel
as rich as I, who travel on
Undaunted in the darkest hours
with you to lean upon.

I’m wishing at this… time
that I could but repay
A portion of the gladness
that you’ve strewn along the way;
And could I have one wish this year,
this only would it be:
I’d like to be the sort of friend
that you have been to me.

Years have taught me how to love better and more openly, whether it is my son, a romantic interest or a dear old friend. I am grateful for the handful of friendships I hold most dear, but none more than my visiting friend. I am grateful for every year I’ve known him and every minute we have shared and yet will share. Thank you for being my friend Sam!

Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead.
Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow.
Just walk beside me and be my friend.
Albert Camus

Quit Thinking About It…

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The advantage of a bad memory
is that one enjoys several times
the same good things for the first time.
Friedrich Nietzsche

In my 20’s and 30’s the cover phrase for forgetfulness was “I must be getting old”. By the 40’s and 50’s the rationale had morphed into “must have had a senior moment”. Now almost out of the latter age decade I notice memory lapses on a regular basis. So far my forgetting is nothing to get worried about. However, there are the pesky things like names and titles on the tip of my tongue that I can’t sometimes conjure up at will. With those come the overused statements “quit thinking about it and it will come to you” or “you’ll think of it at 3 o’clock in the morning”. Both have an element of truth.

…I began to study and categorize midlife mental lapses as if they were so many butterflies. There was Colliding-Planets Syndrome, which occurs when you fail to grasp, until too late, that you’ve scheduled a child’s orthodontist appointment in the suburbs for the same hour as a business meeting in the city. Quick-Who-Is-She Dysfunction surfaces when you are face-to-face with someone whose name stubbornly refuses to come to mind. What-Am-I-Doing-Here Paranoia leaves you standing empty-handed in a doorway, trying to figure out what you’ve come for. The Damn-It-They-Were-Just-in-My-Hand Affliction leads to panicky moments spent looking for your favorite new sunglasses, when all the while they’re on top of your head. And Wrong-Vessel Disorder results in placing the ice cream in the pantry rather than the freezer. Cathryn Jakobson Ramin http://www.oprah.com/health/Midlife-Memory-Loss-How-to-Remember-More

First hand experience is mine with all five of those somewhat whimsical names Ms. Ramin calls types of forgetfulness. I have stood a friend up for lunch, called an acquaintance by the wrong name, gone to the kitchen and found I did not know why, gone looking for my glasses only to discover I was wearing them and put ice cream in the fridge instead of the freezer. But then hasn’t everyone? If you’re middle aged or more, I can’t imagine the answer is anything except “yes”.

A momentary loss of memory is most probably not a sign of Alzheimer’s, or if so it’s a very distant one. People between 65 and 75 face only a 4% chance of suffering from that sad, destructive disease, vs. a frightening 50% chance for those over 85 (see Alzheimer’s box). Yet almost all of us will be tripped up by forgetfulness from time to time as we age. Memory may begin to get a little shaky even in our late 30s, but the decline is so gradual that we don’t start to stumble until we’re 50ish. Therese Eiben, Fortune Magazine

Now having done a good bit of research I feel better and am grateful for my good health and relatively reliable memory. If my habit of “I don’t need to write that down. I’ll remember it.” can be broken everything will be just fine.

Right now I’m having amnesia
and déjà vu at the same time.
I think I’ve forgotten this before.
Steven Wright

One Kinds Action Leads To Another

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“Will there be anything else” she said to me as I sat the bottle of water on the counter of the airport store. I said “no” as I glanced at her name tag and saw “Asja”. I’m one of those people who has difficulty figuring out what letters and numbers on a vanity license plate are supposed to stand for. So I asked  “how do you pronounce your name?” having no idea the response to my question would be “Asia”. I responded “that’s a unique and pretty name. Does it have any particular meaning?” to which the young woman said “my mother is Asian and I’m the oldest daughter”.

The woman behind the counter at the airport store showed her appreciation I was interested and continued telling me about her two sisters’ names that were also clever and unique. What I will long remember was the joy in her eyes from being noticed as a person. Most often people in such service jobs are essentially unnoticed and treated at best like a utility and worst like they don’t have feelings.

Making full eye contact with people I momentarily interact with has become a cultivated habit. Looking fully into someone’s eyes as I say “thank you” has a positive effect. It enables me to hopefully put a little more good into the world knowing what I give comes back to me. If I have the chance to momentarily interact with a stranger in some meaningful little way I am pleased.

Everyone wants to matter to the world; to be noticed; to be seen as worthy and of value. Everyone matters. No one has a job that makes them less than, no matter how humble it may be.

Age has given me enough wisdom to realize I should not judge people by their clothes, appearance or what he or she does to make a living. I don’t know a stranger’s story and what they have gone through prior to arriving in my presence. I’m human and sometimes still fall into assessing a person too much, too quickly. Each time I catch myself doing that I become a little more committed to not doing it.

Some people I don’t know who I intentionally begin a short conversation with probably wonder what’s up with me. Most respond positively to my attention but some look baffled and don’t respond well. Am I some sort of Holy Roller, on happy drugs or delusional might be the sort of thing a few think. However, it has been my experience most appreciate being “noticed and seen”. I always hope each one remembers me positively. I always do them.

The more I embrace the world and people in it the more I like being alive. Whether it is flowers looking to have more vibrant color because I notice them or the smile on a person’s face who usually gets little attention, it all benefits me. I am grateful to realize that it is me that receives the greatest benefit…always. What is given comes back multiplied.

No kind action ever stops with itself.
One kind action leads to another.
Good example is followed.
A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions,
and the roots spring up and make new trees.
The greatest work that kindness does to others
is that it makes them kind themselves.
Amelia Earhart

Dew On the Flower of Life

ku-xlargeLeo Tolstoy wrote, “It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness”. Experience has taught me the truth of his words. I have loved some women mainly for what was on the outside, while ignoring, for a time, what emanated from within. Of course, every time I got my heart broken. Looking from the vantage point of today it is simple to see why.

Soul, heart and mind are on the “inside” of a person. They’re not worn where its easy to see their qualities and character. The “inside of a book” takes time to know. The bewildering part has been the more beautiful the woman I loved, to a person, the more self-conscious and down on herself she was.

In particular, people tend to have a distorted appreciation of how they look. There are a few people who look in the mirror and think they look terrific all the time; but they are few. Many more look in the mirror and see an acne scar which they think dominates their appearance—or a prominent nose, or a weak chin, or a receding hairline, or gray hair (even when, sometimes, they have no visible gray hair), or eyebrows that are too thin or two thick, and so on.

The mirror lies. As people tend to see everything in life as they expect it to be, they see, especially, in the mirror, what they expect to see. Elderly people looking in the mirror do not recognize that they have grown older, until, suddenly, they find themselves in front of a different mirror and their face is lit up more brightly, or just differently. It is usually a disconcerting and uncomfortable experience. Some people give up looking at their reflection. They purposely turn away when they walk by a mirror. Sometimes they unexpectedly walk by a full length mirror at night and do not see their accustomed reflection. Rather, they see a parent reflected back at them. All of this seems new to them because they have unexpectedly observed themselves from a different perspective. Fredric Neuman, M.D. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fighting-fear/201212/mirrors-lie-the-fallibility-perception-and-memory

Admittedly, I am not completely comfortable ‘seeing’ myself in a mirror. When I go past just acknowledging my reflection and really look at myself, it appears the years showing exceed the number I have lived. I’m told I look younger than I am, but my reflection appears the reverse to me. My hair has thinned more than I really want to notice and I have a “belly”. My skin is changing texture and growing rougher. I see small veins showing on my ankles. Lines and creases are chiseled into my face.. It’s all okay though, or at least moving in that direction. With making myself see what is from a different perspective awareness is growing. And awareness is were accurate, and thereby, confidence begins.

My perception of my image in a mirror is slowly changing. By paying more attention and really seeing what is there, I am becoming able to look past what I regret and see what I have to be grateful about. Over and over its been proven to me what I find gratitude for becomes improved. And so it is with my sense about my appearance. Gratefulness is dew on a flower of life that makes it shine and sparkle.

Above all, don’t lie to yourself.
The man who lies to himself
and listens to his own lie
comes to a point that he cannot
distinguish the truth within him,
around him, and so loses
all respect for himself and for others.
And having no respect he ceases to love.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Marked With Lines of Life

Happy_Old_ManAs I grow older and can see my golden years begin to appear on the distance horizon I pay more attention to “old people” (which I define as late 70’s or older). The reason is simple: to get a better idea what might be in store for me one day.

While it’s is a gross over generalization, there seems to be two distinct varieties of senior citizens. Group one leans toward being short-tempered, impatient, generally in a bad mood and visibly unhappy about life. Mostly it’s regret I see in their faces. Group two appears to be more or less opposite: patient, even-tempered, generally in a good mood and happy about being alive. It’s gladness I notice about them.

After watching closely for a couple of years I can find nothing discerning between the groups except their outlook. Health does not seem a major factor. Just about as many in failing health seem to be happy as those who appear miserable. Financial status appears to not be a dividing line either. Those appearing poor or rich come in both varieties in about the same number.

Attitude seems to be the difference. The “glasses” life is being viewed through is the key.

When stereotypes are negative — when seniors are convinced becoming old means becoming useless, helpless or devalued — they are less likely to seek preventive medical care and die earlier, and more likely to suffer memory loss and poor physical functioning, a growing body of research shows.

When stereotypes are positive — when older adults view age as a time of wisdom, self-realization and satisfaction — results point in the other direction, toward a higher level of functioning. The latest report, in The Journal of the American Medical Association, suggests that seniors with this positive bias are 44 percent more likely to fully recover from a bout of disability. http://newoldage.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/19/older-people-are-what-they-think-study-shows/

Happiness in old age may have more to do with attitude than actual health, a new study suggests. Researchers examined 500 Americans age 60 to 98 who live independently and had dealt with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, mental health conditions or a range of other problems. The participants rated their own degree of successful aging on scale of 1-10, with 10 being best. Despite their ills, the average rating was 8.4. http://www.livescience.com/3974-happiness-age-depends-attitude.html

How glad I am to have begun this blog nearly two years ago! More than any single thing in memory, writing each day has given me a much better attitude about life: one with good quantities of gratitude and contentment. Outwardly my life has changed some, though not that much. What is different is ME from the inside, out. Growing gratitude within is my single best ingredient for aging gratefully and enjoying growing older. Old age has unique perks that being young never allows!

Your face is marked with lines of life,
put there by love and laughter,
suffering and tears. It’s beautiful.”
Lynsay Sands

Snips and Snails and Puppy-Dog Tails

77f3My boyhood memories that are predominately good are those from before the age of seven. Then life was filled with awe, joy and wonder. The painful realities from the adult world had not touched my little brother and me yet.

Clearly I recall a yellowed newspaper clipping my Mother kept with other keepsakes in a little cedar box up high on her chest-of-drawers. Enough times to imprint it on my brain she got it out and read it when I was little (more than once due to my insistence). I mentally filed the memory away titled “What are little boys made of…” although poem talked about girls and others.

In years since, frequently I am come across bits and pieces of the poem and searched without luck for a full version. Purely by chance this morning I stumbled across what appears to be the poem in complete form. I became so happy and excited, I just had to share it here.

What are little babies made of, made of?
What are little babies made of?
Diapers and crumbs and sucking their thumbs;
That’s what little babies are made of?

What are little boys made of, made of?
What are little boys made of?
Snips and snails and puppy-dog tails;
That’s what little boys are made of.

What are little girls made of, made of?
What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice and everything nice;
That’s what little girls are made of.

What are young men made of, made of?
What are young men made of?
Sighs and leers and crocodile tears;
That’s what young men are made of.

What are young women made of, made of?
What are young women made of?
Rings and jings and other fine things;
That’s what young women are made of.

What are our sailors made of, made of?
What are our sailors made of?
Pitch and tar, pig-tail and scar;
That’s what our sailors are made of.

What are our soldiers made of, made of?
What are our soldiers made of?
Pipe clay and drill, the foeman to kill;
That’s what our soldiers are made of.

What are our nurses made of, made of?
What are our nurses made of?
Bushes and thorns and old cow’s horns;
That’s what our nurses are made of.

What are our fathers made of, made of?
What are our fathers made of?
Pipes and smoke and collars choke;
That’s what our fathers are made of.

What are our mothers made of, made of?
What are our mothers made of?
Ribbons and laces and sweet pretty faces;
That’s what our mothers are made of.

What are old men made of, made of?
What are old men made of?
Slippers that flop and a bald-headed top;
That’s what old men are made of.

What are old women made of, made of?
What are old women made of?
Reels, and jeels, and old spinning wheels;
That’s what old women are made of.

What are all folks made of, made of?
What are all folks made of?
Fighting a spot and loving a lot,
That’s what all folks are made of.

Attributed to Robert Southey (1774-1843): Southey, English poet and historian.
In familiar folk tradition, the popular ditty inevitably acquired additional verses,
written by authors unknown, until it became a ballad of some length.
Composited by Gloria T. Delamar in “Mother Goose: From Nursery to Literature”

I am beaming with gratitude this morning for a “golden oldie” memory from my childhood freshly awakened.

Memories of childhood
were the dreams that stayed
with you after you woke.
Julian Barnes

Tiny Little Prank

growning olderAs age ticks off with an increasing number, ever faster and faster, I find my sense of humor about growing older increases. Middle age and older presents a myriad of opportunities to practice the phrase “learn to smile at yourself and you’ll always be amused”.

My Rememberer

My forgetter’s getting better
But my rememberer is broke
To you that may seem funny
But, to me, that is no joke.
For when I’m ‘here’ I’m wondering
If I really should be ‘there’
And, when I try to think it through,
I haven’t got a prayer!
Often times I walk into a room,
Say “what am I here for?”
I rack my brain, but all in vain
A zero, is my score.
At times I put something away
Where it is safe, but, Gee!
The person it is safest from
Is, generally, me!
When shopping I may see someone,
Say “Hi” and have a chat,
Then, when the person walks away
I ask myself, “who was that?”
Yes, my forgetter’s getting better
While my rememberer is broke,
And it’s driving me plumb crazy
And that isn’t any joke.
Denny Davis

So Nature deals with us, and takes away
Our playthings one by one, and by the hand
Leads us to rest so gently, that we go
Scarce knowing if we wish to go or stay,
Being too full of sleep to understand
How far the unknown transcends the what we know.
From “Nature” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Some years back I adopted the practice of announcing the age I would be on my next birthday several months early. It was my way of sneaking up on another notch on my birthday stick. So it has begun again this year here now four months before the anniversary of my birth. I am certain a psychologist would have a field day sorting out why I get satisfaction from telling people I am a certain age knowing all the while I remain a year younger. I am grateful for the joy it brings me to play this tiny little prank on the world!

At age 20 we worry about what others think of us;
At age 40 we don’t care what they think of us;
At age 60 we realize that they haven’t been thinking of us at all.
Denny Davis

Long Dreamed Dreams

____by_mindshelves-d5cdm9vAs long as I live, my life is filled with great possibility. I began saying that with regularity about a decade ago. It was around the time my standard response to someone asking “how are you” became “Every day is a good day. Some are just better than others”.

Over time as I repeated both personal clichés more and more their meaning grew to where the two thoughts combined into a strong fiber running through me. Such thinking is a key ingredient in my conviction that the best of my life is still in front of me. Certainly there is fear and apprehension, but my hope and belief in myself is far stronger. I am braver than I have ever been and the best prepared to take on the greatest adventures of my life. No longer do I fear getting older and the slow march forward toward old age. Now I see that advancement as just part of my adventure.

Most dreams die at dawn

When I began writing GoodMorningGratitude.com each day near two years ago, I settled into a routine of writing about a page and a half most days. Occasionally images would motivate me to fill the space with them. Once in a while I would be either focused on a brief pointed thought to post or else just did not have a lot to say on a particular day. From now on I’m not going to feel compelled to fill any particular amount of space. While I am certain my habit will keep the majority of what I leave here to be near the average length I began with, on more days I plan to intentionally be short and/or to post images.

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Long dreamed dreams are in my path. It’s as certain as the sunrise this morning. My heart will chart the course. My spirit will light the way. I am convinced all my previous life was simply to prepare me for the days ahead. What I have dreamed of has already begun to unfold.

i-Ching-Chaos

Before the beginning of great brilliance,
there must be chaos.
Before a brilliant person begins something great,
they must look foolish in the crowd.
From the I Ching