Martha Johnson spent her professional life doing what she really enjoyed. Among them, being an elementary school teacher, a Peace Corps Volunteer in Colombia, a manager for the National Parks within and surrounding Washington, DC. Then, for 20 very satisfying years, she served as founder and principal of her own small business, now in the capable hands of her stepchildren, who, for the last 15 years, have made it their own. She created The Breakthrough! Approach to getting desired results, and consulted to organizations and their senior executives in the capacity of trainer, facilitator, and leader coach.
When a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis at 57 dramatically changed her life and her plans for her future, she came “home” to Western Massachusetts. Her desire to heal turned into a journey in itself. With no sense of being a “writer”, she started journaling as a kind of personal therapy.
“How will I survive all these losses?” became the critical focus for her writing. After sharing a few of the therapeutic poems and musings with a good friend who happened to be an editor, she heard: “Martha, keep writing!” After 8 years of tracking her healing journey, she started to accept that maybe, just maybe, her reflections on the act of recreating a life would have meaning to others. Besides, she found herself deeply enjoying the process of writing in order to discover and learn.
Fast forward 4 more years, the question of “How will I survive?” has been addressed in three books: Two volumes of poetic musings, and a third which offers practical steps to readers eager to do more of what they love in a world that is hungry for their gifts. Many readers have reported that their now dog-eared copies have offered both inspiration and insights for their own personal journeys.
In 2012, Martha seriously downsized, sold her home on the meadow beneath the mountain, and moved to a senior living complex as one of the youngest residents. Now 81, no longer the youngest, and no longer the only one with a walker, she finds herself engaged with a great variety of questions and dilemmas. New and necessary conversations have arisen in what she considers her next, FOURTH, and perhaps LAST chapter of life.
Committed to being useful and fulfilled until the end of her days, and prompted by her younger brother’s unexpected demise in 2014, Martha’s late-in-life mission emerged: “I want to live fully, age gracefully and powerfully, and die well. Given that it is hard to plan for and execute these intentions alone, I want to help others do the same. I wish to join and facilitate conversations with women over 65, learning from, building confidence with, and gaining clarity to make essential choices about how we will express our authentic selves during our remaining years ”
What constitutes a Fourth Chapter Mastery Martha believes, are the intentions, habits, practices, and “conversations” which allow us to share our well earned perspectives on living fully, staying healthy, aging wisely, and befriending our inevitable deaths. Befitting those who have lived long and enjoyed rich life experiences, the dreams and the paths forward are unique to each individual. They await discovery, discussability, and action.
“I am grateful for the notion from author Gail Rubin,” says Martha, “that just as talking about sex won’t make you pregnant, talking about aging and death won’t make you any older or any deader.” In fact, exploring and addressing all aspects of the deeper aging of fourth chapter living, sooner than later, might just give you more energy, more purpose, and more peace of mind.
Thought provoking questions, gentle guidance and kick-butt honesty, imbued with the wisdom of illness and age, are the hallmarks of Martha’s writing and personal mentorship.