Conversations That Matter

What’s next for you to be thinking about in your life?   Is it hard to be alone with your thoughts?

In this new stage of life, what is it that’s calling for your attention?  Would it help to find like-minded others with whom to explore it?  Or, how about inaugurating a conversation yourself?

Recently I surprised myself by doing just that. An article caught my attention. It was some research on the Shifting Trends for Resident Engagement at senior living establishments, much like where I currently live at Providence Place in Holyoke, Massachusetts.   As I said, this report really caught my attention. So I gathered a few folks willing to read the report and invited them to lunch to discuss.

What happened is that the conversation generated interest. And seemed to spread of its own accord.

Yes, we do want to be engaged!   My neighbors are older, from the few in their 70’s, to the majority in their 80’s to a surprising number in their 90’s. We’re not dead yet. Nor do we wish to be invisible.  We are still wanting to be living life. Yes, we want safety and security. Yes, we want to be included and accepted for who we are. Yes, we want to live with meaning and purpose during our remaining years. That means that Yes, we want to find our voices and express ourselves.

And that may mean thinking about, and starting to talk about, what we really want to be doing on a daily basis, with whom we want to be doing it… and then, to make it happen.

Very organically, a little grass roots movement started. We named and inaugurated some of the activities and discussions in which we would like to participate as elder beings. From water aerobics,  to a book club, to the memoir writing group, to fulfilling volunteer activities, to the possibility of a choir.That’s the short list.

It’s only been two months. We have a newly arrived Program Administrator who is eager to champion our ideas. There is a new energy of excitement. And it feels good.

Here’s the deal! What matters to you? What conversations about life, from whatever age you are looking forward into your future, are important right now? Is it how to live fully? Or age gracefully? Or plan for a good death?   Or, how not to leave a mess for your children when you pass on? (These are a couple of  tough ones, but you might be surprised how many are wanting a forum in which to explore exactly this.) Or, how to build a supportive community of friends in new circumstances?  There are any number of other queries.

I’m discovering that these conversations are actually proliferating in our cities and towns, as our Boomer demographic enters their 70’s. They are happening at the local colleges, at the senior centers, at the libraries, at the churches and in Meet Up groups. Seek and you shall find.

Or, dare to meet your own needs by just starting a conversation of your own. You might be surprised at the result.


Are You Listening?

Sometimes we get “messages” that we just might want to listen to…and ponder.

And they may come from unlikely places.

Twenty years ago, I encountered strange symptoms and was ultimately given a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.  It was a real shock to this forever healthy, seemingly invulnerable, 57-year old business owner.  Years later, in retrospect, I saw how I had allowed myself to endure extraordinary personal and business stress for a number of years prior, pretending I could survive anything.

Since I hadn’t paid attention to an onerous schedule and a difficult partnership that, with attention, would have been otherwise “manageable,” I was given a 2 X 4 to the head in the form of a condition that forced me off my self-imposed treadmill. Chronic fatigue ensured that I do much, much, less on a daily basis.

Since then, I’ve done my best to learn to take my “to do” list much less seriously.  I’ve nearly mastered the amble, the linger, and the meander. Although I doubt that I’ll ever play tennis again, sufficient energy has returned for me to have a fairly normal life. But, I still have to make sure those hard worker habits of a lifetime don’t return and sabotage my state of recovery.

Warnings come in curious ways.

Last week, my printer died and caused a halt to my work plans.  My watch stopped and was sent off to the factory. The brake fluid drained out of my car leaving me with no way to go anywhere at all. In addition, in many areas of my life, I have been feeling the need to let go of what I don’t want, to be able to have what I do want. I admit to being slow in attending to those feelings.

Is this another wake up call for me? Or just a coincidence? Probably both, but inquiry into the former is what is likely to be more fruitful.

In the unique concurrency of all these events,  is there a message here?  If so, I’d like to be open to it sooner rather than later. Just in case, I’m scheduling more naps, agreeing to no “deadlines” and scheduling time for pleasure writing which I’ve been postponing.

How about you? What are the messages in your life that may be trying to get your attention?

Listen up! You might be getting a wake-up call.

Her Legacy Lives…

I am the eldest daughter of Betty Johnson.  I live at Providence Place, a senior residence in Holyoke, MA.  I recently learned that one of our new arrivals had lived and raised her family in the neighboring town of South Hadley, my home town.

My mother, the physical educator, had taught her children to jump rope in elementary school. In fact, as the force of nature my mother was, she had the whole town jumping rope, something her students remember to this day.

It was a total “kick” listening to my new neighbor tell me about the reaction of her son when she shared that she was living in a community with Mrs. Johnson’s daughter.   After 50 years, my mother’s legacy lives on, just because of who she was.  Her lifelong passion to keep people healthy, moving,  and having fun, left an indelible mark on the individual lives she touched.  (And, this is not the first person from whom I’ve heard a similar story.)

Now, at 77, I’m aware that my remaining days are numbered.  What will be my legacy?   I still have things I want to do.  To the extent that they’ll ripple out, I have no idea.  What about you?

What’s your later-in-life passion and how do you want to share it?

Better yet, what’s your intention and how do you intend to live it?

I’m planning to age gracefully,  die well and help others do the same… meaning not leave a mess for my survivors.  I want to write and publish two books that reside in my soul. I want to fill my days with nourishing activities, such that as I age,  I remain a cheerful companion to friends and family.

Who knows what my “legacy” will be?  Whether I am remembered for them or not, I’m content with what I deem as worthy ways to be in the world for my remaining days.

How about you?