Thinking Ahead

I woke up this morning thinking of my friend Marion. Marion is 96 years old and was returning, with her significant other (who is 94 and who has just finished writing a book) from the 100th birthday party for his sister. They were driving from Denver to Phoenix, with a stop at her daughter’s home in Albuquerque. Being with Marion always gives me something to think about. Not just because she is internationally known for her work in detecting hearing losses in babies, for which the University of Denver named a building after her, but because of her approach to life. I love to reread her book, Shut Up and Live. http://www.amazon.com/Shut-Live-You-Know-How/dp/1583332928/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1327954180&sr=1-5

As I mused on seeing Marion again, I began to think about the idea that there was a chance I would live to be 100. That means I would live another 28 years. What could I do in 28 years?  I divided my life into 28 year segments. (I recommend doing this enlightening exercise.) My first 28 years set the course of my life, ending with a bachelor’s degree, a marriage, a move to Albuquerque, and two children. In the second 28 years I got an MA and law degree, helped start a church-in-the-home, developed a love of the outdoors, taught re-evaluation counseling, saw my sons on their way, and practiced law. I’m now half-way through my third 28 year cycle, and so far have completed a law career, retired from the law and become a life coach, and have become interested in fishing.

Twenty-eight years is an interesting gauge to use to think about the next period of life. A lot can happen. It makes sense to me to have that time period in mind when I think about what the future might hold for me. What will it be like? Will I be traveling around the country like Marion? Writing a book like her friend? Being involved in civil rights issues like my friend Floy? What will I be doing physically? Will I still be going to the gym? What about Diana Nyad who at the age of 61 swam for 29 hours without stopping, or Keiko Fukuda of San Francisco, a judo master who began studying the art in 1935, and who gave a ground-breaking demonstration of kata, or forms, at the 1964 Olympics. At age 98, Sensei Fukuda still teaches three times a week. http://www.secondact.com/2011/08/senior-athletes-who-inspire-us-this-summer/  I was not a young athlete like they were, but I can still aspire at my own level.

When I look around I see lots of people in their 60s and older who are doing all the things that younger people do. Yet I am still affected by the pictures I grew up with of older people, like my grandmother who died an old woman in her 60s. And the messages from all of the unavoidable ads telling us to stay young, look young, act young. Or if we are looking at media that targets older people, the ads for medicines, retirement homes, and devices. Our psyches are full of negative images of aging that I believe we have to be aware of so that we can consciously counter them. I’m not sure why our minds do this, but I am aware that when I think of my mother, who had a vital, active, involved life almost to the end at the age of 86, I think of her at 86 rather than how she was during most of her life.  Lately I’ve been making the effort to think of her when she was middle age.

It’s not just that aging is not for sissies, as Art Linkletter wrote, but that it’s a #@%ing minefield. I have to be constantly on the alert to not believe these negative thoughts that course through my mind. Thinking about living another 28 years is one way I do that. Of course, no one knows what’s in store for us, but thinking ahead 28 years is more fun that buying into society’s beliefs about aging.

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