Permission: Your precious resource

Life gets more fun when you give yourself permission to first ENTERTAIN your own ideas about what you want in life,  and then maybe even FIND THE COURAGE to do something about them.  Despite uncertainties about the outcome. 

For years, I’ve been following the life trajectory of Jason,  a 23+ish lifeguard at the YMCA pool I frequent.  He recently graduated from Westfield with a degree that allows him to teach in the public schools.  I always wondered why he seemed to always have so little enthusiasm for his chosen major, and felt in my bones that this guy wasn’t cut out for that role, at least in a public school classroom.

The other day I learned that he had graduated. So, I inquired about his hopes, and his search process for landing a teaching job.

“I’ve changed my mind.” he said. “I’m going over to STCC and get certified in auto mechanics.”  His mood had significantly shifted to exuberant.  He always loved working on cars and couldn’t wait. 

I have only guesses as to why he had previously ignored his true love as a career calling. Maybe the auto mechanic was deemed to have less “prestige” than the role of teacher, in his eyes, or in the eyes of his parents.  Whatever the reason, he now gave himself permission to certify himself for something he loved.

I was thrilled!

The over 60 crowd who are dealing with their own “what next?” dilemmas might well do the same. Listen to the whispers of your soul. Give yourself permission to play in the realm of your own longings, no matter what they are. Invite your self-censor to take a back seat in the conversation.

For everyone of any age who is engaging in deliberations about their next stage of life, please access the resource you already own:   GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION to imagine a future that gives you joy and FIND THE COURAGE to do something about it.  

Are You Talking?

Today Roberta died. At 93. She had been “ready” for at least two years. And I will never forget at least one of her legacies.

Given my interest in the paradox of living while dying, or, dying while living, I find myself drawn to those who are more consciously doing so. Roberta was one of those.

In one sense she had a good death in that it was uncomplicated by illness and extensive hospitalization, given that she was ready to die.  She came down to meals when she felt able, dependent on her walker, noticeably losing weight and energy, living more or less independently in our senior residence. She was found dead in her apartment on March 8, 2018.

In another sense,  she did not have a good dying. I am aware that for at least two years, she had been wanting to die. In snippets of conversations I learned how she struggled to remain “useful” when she could no longer sew, quilt, or paint. She reported that in family visits, her children wouldn’t let her do anything..not cook which she liked to do, or other tasks which were easy for her. Several times over the past two years, she had announced publicly in our remaining days conversation group, “I am so ready to die. But my children aren’t interested in listening to what I have to say about that.”

Now I wonder if she or her family ever achieved the closure of a good bye—a real goodbye with lots of time to talk about life and death — the good times and the bad, and the special memories that will never fade.

Living very much on the periphery of her life, I have no idea what occurred during her last months. Perhaps she girded her loins, exercised her courage, and told her family in no uncertain terms what she wanted to talk about.

If not, I can only hope that the family denial, combined with her unexpected demise,  did not lock out the possibility of a terrific send-off which Roberta might have had a part in planning.

I will never forget Roberta, who provided me the picture of one version of dying, which included unnecessary frustration and suffering. Alongside came the unexplored and unrealized possibilities for a very good dying.  Her death was a sad, albeit clarifying, event for me.

I’m left with the reminder of two questions which it’s never too soon to deal with:  Regarding intentions, hopes and dreams for remaining days, to whom do I/you need to listen? To whom do you/I need to talk?

Thank you, Roberta, and may you rest in peace.

The Conundrum of Legacy I

These days, “How will my life matter?” is one of those deeper queries that is coming to the surface.  Once daunting to contemplate, maybe it doesn’t need to be so tough.  While whatever legacy I leave will be the judgment of those who survive me, the very least I can do now is to freely express who I am as a unique being in the world.  And, let that be enough.  And, that’s a challenge in itself.

What I’m noticing is that, as I continue to relax and dare to just “be me” on this planet, I  find myself more regularly surprised at how my existence has seemed to matter to others.

Today, in the YMCA swimming pool, a man I hardly know told me how much he admired me coming to the gym to swim, given that I have a walker in tow. “You are my inspiration,” he said, “and have been for a while.” Given that he comes to the pool with crutches that replace one of his legs, he, also,  has long been one of my inspirations.

For the first time, today our exchange was more than a minimal greeting. He said he was turning 60. I asked: “What questions does that raise for you?” He shrugged: “Nothing much. I’m just here to live the rest of my life as well as I can.” Surprised at the ease of his answer, I persisted, “But so many I know reach 60 and are dumbfounded at the new concerns they face about how to manage the unknown terrain ahead.”

He explained: “I did that work already. As a young man, I nearly died of bone cancer and lost a leg in the process. I made peace with my mortality, and decided to have a great life.  Which I have done. My age and physical limitations are non-issues. I’m looking forward to the rest of what has already been a wonderful life.”

With my 78th birthday coming up, I will have lived 28,460 days. I’ll make a guess and consider that I may have 3,650 more to complete my tenure on the planet. Given my time remaining, how will I live these days? In what ways will I contribute?

Maybe one way to look at life legacy is really simple. Just do your life in the most vibrant and joyful way that you can, growing and changing and being with the adventures offered each and every day.

As my swim friend and I discovered, in ways previously unbeknownst to either of us, his way of showing up mattered to me… and my way of showing up mattered to him.

Our sharing was an extra special encouragement and an enjoyably serendipitous moment in time.