Tag Archives: staying healthy

An Abstract-Random Mindfulness


It finally happened just like I knew it would. I’ve been having a few health issues (that I still haven’t accepted–never thought it would happen to me!) so I’ve been going to a lot of new doctors and filling out those long forms. At one doctor’s office, the forms didn’t just cover your physical health, but also mental and emotional. So here was the question I’d been waiting for:

“Do you ever go into a room and not know why you were there?”

The answer to that is : “YES! But I have a BUT! Please listen to my BUT before you institutionalize me!!!! I’ve been walking into rooms like that since I was in my twenties.”

Between the kitchen and the bedroom, I start thinking of other things. Or I start outlining a story in my head. Or I remember I need to call the podiatrist. It’s not Dementia for me–it’s my Abstract-Random learning style in my Overactive Mind. Truly, my brain is mostly in overdrive, but I know the young doctors won’t believe me.


I, of course, have senioritis as do most of my contemporaries. Like the other day, Valerie was telling me about the great lecture she attended the night before.

“It was sponsored by National Geographic and….” She pauses and gives me the round-eyed look we all get when we can’t remember the dang name of something.

“It’s a great museum. The best. It’s in Washington D.C. ” she says.

I start nodding. “Yes, I know what you mean. It’s on the Mall. It’s got everything. From airplanes to first ladies inauguration dresses.”

Valerie nods back. “Yes, yes. It starts with an S.”

We continue to nod and mutter “yes” as we go to our respective cars.

Two hours later, while cutting up carrots,  I shout in triumph, “Smithsonian!”


But that’s senioritis. I’m talking about a more fundamental way of approaching the world. My learning style is defined as Abstract Random, which is great for creativity but can get in the way of task completion. For instance, I need to pack for an upcoming trip. That was the task I put on my list.


(Lists, btw, are my salvation. I have lists on top of my lists. I have long range lists. I have weekly lists. I have daily lists. If I lose my daily list, I can become like the “Frog and Toad” character: I can spend my day looking for my list but not accomplishing anything on it.)

Getting back to packing. Somehow instead of filling my suitcase that I carried up to my bedroom at 8:00 AM, I’m writing this blog. A random thought flitted through my mind that on my trip I won’t be able to write a blog for a couple of weeks so I should write one before I leave. So here I am at 12:10 PM at the computer. And this blog wasn’t even going to be about memory. It was going to be about old Betamax tapes I just found.

Oh, well. That can be for another day. I need to go pack.


Getting Old is a Lot of Fun

I was in my exercise class this morning when the instructor, a wonderful woman who just turned 56, said, “Yes, we’re doing this shoulder strengthener so we won’t look old!”


She said it as if being old was a disease we could fight against getting, as if being old was something to be ashamed of.

That stopped me for a moment. I looked around the room. Out of twenty women, I was by far the oldest. (I remember when I used to be the youngest a half a century ago, but it doesn’t seem that long.) Maybe two other women were in their sixties, but most were in their twenties, thirties or forties. Everyone looked young, svelte and strong. (They also had thick, beautiful hair, darn them.) After 3 months of consistently attending the class, I have regained much of the strength I’d lost due to inactivity after surgery and my back injury. I wasn’t having trouble keeping up with the bevy of beauties, but suddenly I felt less than capable. After doing some sit ups, I felt a stabbing pain in my back where my disc bulges between the L4 and L5.

One of my new year resolutions was to be happy with myself at my age. I have been working on that along with the barre class, yoga and Pilates. I think they go hand-in-hand. Being 69 doesn’t mean I can’t stand up straight, which is what I think the instructor actually meant this morning. I take the classes not to look better, which was my motivation when I was younger. Now, I take them so I can feel good. I’ve also been reading John Sarno’s “The Divided Mind” which details how so much of our pain starts in our unconscious emotions and burrows into our muscles. So I don’t think it was a coincidence that my back hurt so much after the “aging is a scourge” reference.

When I went to the surgeon with my knee problem last March, he showed me the results of the MRI. “Torn meniscus,” he said. Then he looked at me. “I mean, what can you expect at your age. That’s what happens when you’re 68. All of you babyboomers just want to keeping going no matter what.”


At the time, I laughed to myself, thinking of the arrogance of youth. But I realize a year later, that his diagnosis of aging parts has affected me ever since. It’s been in my head whispering that I should be careful, that I am deteriorating, that I’m almost ready for the junk heap. And I started feeling and being weaker. My knee hurt, my back hurt, my neck hurt. “I can’t do this,” became almost a mantra. “I’m old. What do I expect?”

Well, I guess I expect a lot. Because I’m not throwing in the towel. I’m not going to be skate boarding anytime soon, but I’m going to be active. I’m going to do what I want to do—because that’s one of the best benefits of being my age. I don’t have to do anything to prove myself anymore. Getting old is a lot of fun. I know who I am and what I want. Even if my path is blocked by rocks, I’m still going to travel it.


So there!


Age is Just A Number

Getting older. It’s not something baby boomers do gracefully. We, after all, were the generation who wouldn’t trust anyone over 30—let alone 60. As we come up to that magical Medicare age, it’s not only been a shock to many people’s system, but I have seen an attitude of fear—fear that’s it’s all over and that Death, with a CAPITAL D, is lurking on their doorstep.

Last year on his birthday, my husband seriously said that if he’d known he was going to live this long, he’d have taken better care of himself. He had no idea he was quoting Mickey Mantle—in his family, all the men die of heart attacks in their fifties so he figured he would too. But because of modern medicine and living close to Eisenhower Hospital’s ER, he had his heart attack and survived. So he could live to be a hundred.

The Birthday Boy.

A lot of people are doing that—living to a hundred and living quite nicely. I am playing Words With Friends with Marvin who turned 100 last May. Being a former English teacher and a writer, I am good at this game. Marvin is not only a worthy opponent, he’s giving me a run for my money. And he writes me witty messages, too.

Words With Friends game.

His wife, Rose, will be 100 soon. I’m not saying that they don’t have health issues—they do. But they also have all their marbles and still know how to play. Here they are with their daughter, Barbara.


My friend Earl’s dad just turned 99. He pays his own bills and balances his checkbook. When asked what the secret was to his longevity, he said, “It’s all about family. And if need anything, I call my wonderful son.” He paused, “And then there are my nine different doctors and about 6000 pills.”

He obviously has a great sense of humor and a great sense of center, as well. I think that’s a clue to living long. My dad was that way too. I remember once admonishing him about eating pastrami when he was 91. He looked up at me from his sandwich and asked, “What, if I eat this, I won’t live to an old age?”


A colleague and I taught a memoir writing class to a group of assisted living folks in Seattle last winter. We had no idea who would take the class, but the youngest to show up was 94. You would never have guessed their ages—they looked to be in their eighties, but most were 96 to 98—and excellent writers, too. Getting to share their memories was like history coming to life, and we didn’t need to do much editing.

David’s birth date is February 7, 1916. Does he look 96?

I have a lot of friends bumping up to the end of the sixties and hitting the big 70. They are in a panic. Many feel that a respirator and walker can’t be far off in their future. Their five-year plan is to cross their fingers and hope they’re still alive. Not good. Studies have shown that you are as old as you think you are. If you think that 80 is old—then that’s when you’ll get old. I’m thinking middle 90’s, myself. As I told my kids, count me in when it’s 2050.