Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Every year as the Irish get busy with preparations for their annual celebration, spring begins to poke its nose out, to give us a hint of the weather to come. There might still be snow piled up everywhere, but with the warming sun people come out to enjoy being outdoors again without freezing. But beware, an old friend tells me, the winter still has some clout and we’re bound to get a final snowfall. We might, but it does not deter anyone from thinking of the warm days ahead.
          I live near a lake where there are paths for walkers as well as for bikers and roller bladders. While at least one path is cleared of snow a few times during the winter, it is never clogged with traffic then as it is in the summer. The main reason is that the wind coming off the lake has an arctic feel to it most of the winter. However things change come March. In the last few days, as the snow has been melting and the winds milder, people have again been taking advantage of the beautiful scenery to get their exercise.
          It’s been proven that walking is a great exercise at any age, but especially for us who are no longer spring chickens. The idea, of course, is to do it regularly every day for about thirty minutes. Sometimes, of course, we simply don’t feel like walking outdoors and we try to convince ourselves that it’s too cold, too hot, too windy, too anything else that comes to mind. We forget that walking doesn’t have to be outside. Many large malls now have walking groups. In addition to being an opportunity to exercise in safety, it’s also an excellent way to meet new people and perhaps make new friends to say nothing of the shopping opportunities that follow.
          One of my sisters mall walks most mornings with a group that meets at 9 a.m. Since the stores don’t open till 10, the group doesn’t have to worry about shoppers. They are free to go at their own pace for as long as they want along the corridors of the huge mall. She finds it to be what she qualifies as a “social and bitching activity” because, since the members of the group all live in the same area, it is an opportunity to discuss the problems of the day in their neighborhood. And sometimes even propose solutions.
          What she likes best is that the temperature is always perfect whatever the season or the weather.  Since I don’t live near a large shopping mall, I have to be content with dressing for all sorts of weather as I enjoy the view of the lake on my walks. But, I’m never alone. The regulars are always there for social interaction, especially now that spring is just around the corner.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018


On Worrying

It seems to me that most of us are fascinated by what the future might hold. We want to know what will happen to us, to our loved ones, to the world. It’s no wonder seers of all stripes are so popular, yet their predictions rarely hold true, and those that do are usually generalities that anyone could have predicted. We waste a lot of time by worrying about the future – and the past – when we should concentrate on the present. A relative who has made a point of living her life in the present believes that worrying about the future weakens the mind’s effort to make the most of today. She relies on God to take care of things in His own fashion.

Worry is indeed ageing. It robs us of vitality as our minds whirl around and around the same problem for days and nights. It serves no useful purpose as it doesn’t change things. We may worry that the decision an adult child has taken will lead to problems, but outside of making our opinions known and providing the rationale for our thinking, worry will not benefit the child. It will only affect our sense of well-being.

Changing a mindset of a lifetime of worry habit is not always easy, but it can be done. When I am tempted to worry about whatever is happening – or I believe will happen – in my life, I sit quietly and meditate. At first, it was very difficult. My mind kept wandering to the problem I was attempting to ignore, but I stuck with it. On especially difficult days, I meditate several times in short sessions, and I have now reached a level when I can really let go.

Some people are put off by the word meditation. They equate it to something Buddhists or Indian gurus do, not something simple that anyone can practice. There are many books on meditation, but it is really quite simple. Meditation means concentrating on something neutral or positive to clear the mind of negative thoughts. It is as simple as focusing on your breathing. When your mind wanders back to your worries, you guide it back to refocus on your breathing.  Or you can close your eyes and let your mind stroll through a beautiful garden or fly above a mountain blanketed in freshly fallen snow, whatever you find peaceful. The secret is to start with just a few minutes a day, increasing the time little by little to feel refreshed and negate worry.

When you train yourself to let go of useless thoughts and worry, you see a difference in the way you approach life. As someone said we cannot direct the wind, but we can indeed adjust our sails. Mark Twain said it best: “I am an old man and I have known a good many troubles, but most of them have never happened.”

Let’s live longer by worrying less.




Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Old and the New
In my world this winter has been harsh with snowstorms following each other. While some folks might not have been too pleased with that reality, others who ski and snowshoe are still enjoying the white stuff.
            And there is another enjoyable winter activity that it seems to me has found a revival in the last few months: sleigh rides. A couple of weeks ago, two young neighbours were thrilled to tell me how they had fun as a farmer took them around his property in an old-fashioned sleigh complete with the classic “jingle” bells, a cluster of them hanging to the front panel of the sleigh. To them, horse drawn sleighs are a wonderful new conveyance.
            I know better. I remember as a child riding in a sleigh in winter with my grandparents. It was always a treat. And we kept cozy warm with heavy fur blankets generously provided by the local fauna. Today, these great fur blankets would cause a riot, but I wonder what is worse: using animal pelts to keep warm or riding in a car that spews garbage into the atmosphere?
            The heaters in cars keep us warm today, but there is something to be said for getting your lungs filled with fresh air when you ride in a sleigh. Perhaps that’s what my young neighbours so enjoyed on their ride.
            Each evolutionary step, like most things in life, has its pros and its cons. The old ways were not always the best and most comfortable, but modern ones are not necessarily better for us and our planet. Luckily I think we have advanced to a point where improvements are forever found and adopted. Case in point, soon, everybody will be driving electric cars.
            Our planet is sure to thank us for finding a way to get inspired by the old as we bravely face the new. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Giving Up Bitching
The other day my retired brother was complaining that the people around him in his age range seem to be forever complaining about things. He says he’s trying to meet new people because he is tired of hearing all the bitching.
That’s certainly a good way of describing the comments of those who always go on and on about their problems, their operations, their kids, their aching joints, and whatever else is going on in their lives. These people seldom smile and seem to be stuck in a rut they have created after years of looking at the negative side of life. Of course, it is not always easy to get away from them (like when they’re relatives) or to get them to change their ways, but it’s worth a try to avoid becoming like them.
It seems to me that taken the right way, life has a humorous side. We should not be afraid to smile once in a while. As my friend Colette says: I tend to bemoan the fact that I used to have a handle on life, but now I simply accept that it broke; sometimes I stop to think, and then I forget to do it; and you can be sure that whatever hits the fan will seek me out even if I’m hiding.
I can only commiserate. I know I still got it, but nobody wants to see t!
However I’ve resolved that it’s not worth bitching about it.
My thought for the day: Grouches pull you down, and some people are
alive because it is illegal to kill them, so smile. To quote Phyllis Diller, a smile is a curve that sets everything straight.
          Good humor is the sunshine of life.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

In Praise of Imperfection
In trying to reach the boomer demographic, I often wonder why the advertising industry feels the need to use non-boomers. If you look at ads for products of interest to boomers, often the models are much younger. A man I know who has been in the advertising game all his life is quick to explain: For the most part, people want to be younger than they really are. We simply give them what they want.
And the ad man doesn’t hide the fact that often the faces of models in their thirties advertising products for mature skin are air brushed to remove any possible (or perceived) signs of aging. What’s wrong with a fifty-year-old or older face, I ask you. Why are we ashamed of age? A photographer who took my picture a while back had the perfect answer as far as I am concerned. On seeing the proofs, hoping to look younger, I asked him if he could “soften” my face so wrinkles would be less apparent.  He wondered why he should because he said my face showed wisdom. Who knew!
If we’re honest about it, we know the advertisers are right. We all want to look good and, hopefully, younger than our actual age, but we have to be realistic. A couple of decades ago, I had a subscription to a women’s magazine whose target audience was business women in their thirties and forties. I always thought that the cover models were much too young for that demographic. And I was right. It was eventually revealed that they routinely sought sixteen- and seventeen-year-old models. We might all like to look younger than our real age, but that was truly ridiculous.
As boomers we should be proud of the wisdom we have acquired over the years rather than waste time on hoping to look like the models advertisers throw at us. We have to look beyond our imperfections, whether it’s a few wrinkles or a couple of extra pounds, and rejoice in who we are. We also need to talk to our grandchildren so they can accept themselves as they are. It’s vitally important when we know that girls as young as sixteen want plastic surgery and ten-year-olds are starving themselves to be as slim as the models they see.
I say let’s praise imperfection instead of youth for a change. 

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Freedom of Aging
I am now, probably for the first time in my life, the person I have always wanted to be. Oh, not my body! I sometime moan about my body, the wrinkles, and the sagging butt. And often I am taken aback by that old person that lives in my mirror (who looks like my mother!), but I don't agonize over those things for long. I would never trade my amazing family, my wonderful friends, my great life for less gray hair, more hair, or a flatter belly. As I've aged, I've become kinder to myself, and less critical of myself. I've become my own friend.
         I don't chide myself
 for eating that extra cookie, or for not making my bed, or for buying that silly three story birdhouse that I didn't need, but looks so cool in my yard. I am entitled to a treat, to be messy, to be extravagant. I have seen too many dear friends leave this world too soon; before they understood the great freedom that comes with aging.
         I will dance with
myself to those wonderful tunes of the 60's &70's, and if I, at the same time, wish to weep over a lost love ... I will.
         I will walk the beach in a swimsuit that is stretched over a bulging body, and will dive into the waves with abandon if I choose to, despite the pitying glances from the jet set. They, too, will get old before they know it.
         I know I am sometimes forgetful. But there again, some of life is just as
well forgotten. And I eventually remember the important things.
         Sure, over the years my heart has been broken. How can your heart not break when you lose a loved
one, or when a child suffers, or even when your beloved pet dies? But broken hearts are what give us strength and understanding and compassion. A heart never broken is pristine and sterile and will never know the joy of being imperfect.
         I am so blessed to have lived long enough to have my hair turning grey, and to have my youthful laughs be forever etched into deep grooves on my face. So many have never laughed, and so many have died before their hair could turn silver.
         As you get
older, it is easier to be positive. You care a lot less about what other people think. I don't question myself anymore. I've even earned the right to be wrong on occasion.
         So, I like being older. It has set me free.
I like the person I have become. I am not going to live forever, but while I am still here, I will not waste time lamenting what could have been, or worrying about what will be.




Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Helping the Mind
After a minor mishap recently I was left with a sore right shoulder for a while. Nothing too serious, however I was advised to stop using my right hand as much as possible. It is my dominant side so be able to continue to function in day-to-day activities like eating, brushing my teeth, etc. I began using my left hand. While awkward at first, my ability slowly improved.      
As I was beginning to feel sorry for myself I came across an article on how to stretch brainpower in order to avoid cognitive impairment. And lo and behold one of the suggestions was that everyone should shake up their daily routine by using their non-dominant hand to perform some tasks from time to time. So what I was forced to do proved to be useful for my brain after all. Other suggestions to shake up our routines from the experts include taking different routes from time to time when driving to work or visiting family and friends.
            Of course, other things we can do to improve our brains as we age. According to experts, exercise appears to protect both the structure and the function of the brain so that there is a reduced decline in brain tissues in older adults. Regular exercise is associated with reduced risk of cognitive impairment and dementia.
            Cortisol, the stress hormone, has been associated with memory impairments. One way to reduce cortisol is with meditation which anyone can practice. Also research shows that participating in brain-stimulating activities encourages the development of synapses. Activities like learning a new musical instrument, learning a new language or playing video games are all brain protective.
            I don’t think that mental lapses like forgetting where we left our car keys are all serious. Many times they occur because we don’t pay attention to what we are doing. The trick is to become more mindful in the present moment.