|A New Aging Movement||
So much has already been said about how to deal with this pandemic crisis. We have been endlessly instructed on the ways to determine if we have the virus, what to do about it, and how important is keeping physical distance so as to protect our selves and others.
While social isolation is challenging, it can be a time of reflection, of looking inward and asking ourselves some questions. What is really important, here and now, with these set of circumstances we have been dealt? How can we nourish not only our physical but our mental, and spiritual health? Can there be a positive outcome, after all is said and done?
Some brilliant minds, those I admire and respect, have suggested this pandemic is a wake-up call and can be regarded as Mother Nature's big cleanse. It's as if she sent us to our rooms to think about what we have done, how we have been irresponsible and failed to be good stewards of the earth, how through greed and ignorance and denial we have brought forth disastrous changes to our climate, and how little there is "peace on earth, goodwill toward men."
For those on a spiritual path, there is a fundamental tenet. "We are all one. There is no separation; we are connected, each and every one of us, and what affects one affects us all."
Before this crisis spread throughout the entire world, sparing no one, we may have believed it doesn't matter what happens in a faraway city or to "those" people, because they are not "us".
We humans have a lot to think about and now we have an opportunity to go inside because there is nowhere else to go and there's nothing much to do. I am reminded of an expression you may hear at the end of a yoga class while practicing the final pose, lying down on the floor and completely relaxing the body and mind. The teacher reminds us, "Now is a time to let go of all the doing, and just be, be with yourself and relax."
Other useful Yoga practices include staying flexible so we may move through the changes with more ease. Although we may feel powerless to change the outside world, we can change our selves by deciding to do better. We can choose and then act to take better care of ourselves and of our personal relationships.
Self-care, during this time of confinement, might include changing to a healthier diet, being sure to have a daily exercise program. Now, we have all the time in the world to soak in a warm bath, take short daytime naps to reenergize, clean out the closets and file cabinets and while we still can, go for walks around the block to get some fresh air. This, more than ever, is not the time to slack off on care-taking of our selves.
With all the solitude, it is helpful to watch where the mind goes. Are we racing down a negative pathway, going over and over what might happen in the future or what transpired in the past? We can change our minds and choose a more positive train of thought. It is also good to notice our emotional state, realizing fear may be a natural response to this pandemic and it needs acknowledgment. However, staying in fear and panic, over time, wrecks our immune system and may be just as dangerous as any disease. Instead of focusing on what has been lost, consider what has remained, and feel grateful for these things.
In our seclusion, we may want to review the state of our close relationships and do our part in bringing healing where there have been rifts. Is there someone we need to apologize to or forgive? Can we open up communications where there has been little or none? Might we decide to practice more kindness and compassion to others who may be strangers or who think differently from us?
There are both personal and global useful lessons to be learned as we move through and to the other side of this crises. Although the outcome is unknown, surely there will be some positive take-aways. For myself and for the generations to come, I am hoping to see a new, better world, one that works for all.
Published in Angelena's "Boomer Talk" column for the Newburyport (MA) Daily News
"Tis the Season"
BOOMER TALK DECEMBER, 2018
“Tis the season to be jolly”, this long holiday season extending from mid-November through January first. The jolly part may be thought of as feeling festive and joyful and light-hearted as we prepare for and then celebrate the special days of Thanksgiving, Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa and then finally, The New Year.
But this celebratory sense is not felt by everyone, myself included. Instead, as Thanksgiving Day came and went, I felt melancholy (a less potent word than depressed). Some of that sad feeling had to do with my family and closest friends living too far away for a get-together. And besides, having just one designated day to focus on the quality of thankfulness never made sense to me because gratitude is something I often think about each and every day.
This year, more than any other, I add some things to be grateful for, beyond the usual items on my list…for family and friends and good health. I do especially feel blessed that this year sudden, violent loss has not directly touched my life. There was no quick-firing weapon in the hands of a madman coming into my grandchildren’s school, or into the place where I worship, or the movie theater or the music hall where I go for entertainment. There was no hurricane or fire that took away every one of my material possessions. I am so thankful not to be spending the holidays in the parking lot of Walmarts. I feel so grateful I am not that woman I see in the news who has had to walk across the miles carrying her baby, trying to get to the promised land and a better life. I am so thankful I am not a displaced person and that no serious disease has interrupted my daily routines.
As an aging boomer I especially feel grateful that my body and mind has held together….well mostly. Still, I do have, this year, a sense of generalized grief. The world’s sufferings have gotten to me and Bob Marley’s song, “So Much Trouble in the World” keeps coming into my mind. With all that is going on in our divided country and around the world, I am not able to fully feel happiness in this designated season of joyfulness. The holiday season seems to have the wrong values for me, including the opening of the shopping season named "Black Friday", followed by "Cyber Monday" encouraging our rush to get out and find the "real deals".
It is thought that gratitude and generosity go together. This has been called The Season for Sharing which means being generous with our gifts to family, friends and sometimes strangers. Generosity is valued in this season of giving, but maybe not so much throughout the year.
I remember the time when my six year old son was in Mass General Hospital for the entire “season” while the staff tried to figure out why he was so sick and not getting better. His condition was weak and his attitude bleak. This was not helped by the hoards of well-wishers daily coming into his room bearing gifts of toys or entertainment. They meant well, of course, but he was too tired and miserable, and so was I, to enjoy their visits. I concluded it would be far better appreciated if gift giving were it to be spread throughout the year, focusing on those in hospitals or nursing homes, those who were in need of cheering up, not only in the season
Feeling discouraged as I often lately do with the news of serious climate change, political strife, and more, I want to get out of my dark mood by reaching for courage, hoping to tap into some of these helpful ideas:
Our nation’s Founding Fathers acknowledged “The Pursuit of Happiness” to be one of our “unalienable rights”. No, they didn’t guarantee that happiness is a right, just the pursuit of it. Most of us keep running after it, the feeling of euphoria, bliss or contentment, but only a few find lasting happiness.
The topic of happiness is very much in the news, in self-help magazines, and coming from our spiritual teachers. According to a recent article in The Week, there is “a science of happiness.” The behaviorists have been researching to find out what are the basic building blocks leading to a life of joy and contentment?
For those who believe a new year can bring change, moving from 2017 to 2018 will be welcomed, since most of us agree that this past year has been extraordinarily tumultuous and challenging, to say the least.
We’ve seen more of Mother Nature’s roar, with terrible destruction in so many places in our own country and abroad. Some of us have experienced only minor inconveniences like short-term power outages, while countless others have witnessed, directly, entire areas extinguished by hurricanes, flooding or fires.
When you add onto this the extreme political and economic divisions within our nation, it seems “never the twain shall meet,” unity of these United States seems unlikely, and we probably will not see any kind of major change in 2018.
The glass ceiling is defined as that unknown yet unbreachable, informal, less-than-explicit limit and barrier that keeps women (and also minority racial groups) from rising to the upper rung of the corporate and political ladders, regardless of their qualifications or achievements. Although this term was first used in the early 1980’s as a way of recognizing women can only go just so far, it is still aptly applied today.
We can start by looking at the pay gap with women earning, on average, 82 cents to every $1 eared by men.
Having a sense of security is a quality we humans consider crucial for our well-being. We want to know we are physically safe, financially secure and our close relationships will never go away. We want to count on things at least staying the same as they have been or, even better, improving.
At this time in our history, many Americans are feeling anxious when we consider the state of our union. The idea of pledging allegiance to the flag, crossing our hearts while stating our commitment to “one nation, undivided and with liberty and justice for all” seems a distant dream of our fore fathers.
Each passimg day brings us the world, national and local news, causing us to feel unbalanced and, let’s face it, worried. Perhaps, as never before, we feel on shakey ground, uncertain about the instability in Washington. Will it get as serious as an impeachment? Are we moving further into the next war? With budget cuts will our health care and the education of our children be compromised? Will we lose our hard-won freedoms? How about our life savings? Could the stock market plunge? With climate change, will the rising tides and severe acts of nature (just seen in Texas) threaten our very homes?
As boomers, we have heard much from those in the anti-aging industry who want us to believe that if only we use certain products or buy their services, we can stop, or at least dramatically slow down, the aging process.
There are many false promises, but there is also quite a bit of truth in the statement, “If we take good care of ourselves by eating well, exercising often and relaxing the mind, we can avoid many of the challenges of getting old.”
Is it possible to shift our perspective away from anti-aging to pro-aging? Maybe that’s asking too much, but we can decide to go with, rather than resist, the arrival of those milestone years like 70 or 80 or 90. We in the boomer generation never thought we would get old, but “here we are,” at least by the age indicated on our birth certificate. The oldest of our generation can now be called septuagenarians.
Aging isn’t just a biological process, it is also very much a cultural one. Unfortunately, our culture mostly considers getting old as a not-so-desirable time of life. Not too many of us would choose to be 70 or more, especially if we could remain in our prime, staying at 40 or maybe 50 years old.
Our culture decides when we are “old.” I remember years ago when my Uncle Phil, known for his candor, looked closely at my face and told me, “Yup, you’ve got only a few more good years left.” I also recall an earlier time when I was seen as a “miss,” as in “May I help you, miss?”
Later, I was reclassified and was now called “ma’am.” I never liked to be called that name. It did not sound respectful to me. But it did give me pause, showing me that even though I still felt young inside, others were perceiving me as a person moving over the hill and down the inevitable decline.