Monthly Archives: February 2016

Getting Old Isn’t for Sissies

Getting Old Isn’t for Sissies- A Story

We get too soon old and too late smart
~Old German Saying~

Elke often found herself thinking about her new situation. She was likely to fall into reverie in the early morning hours before the sun came up. She wasn’t so sure she liked her thoughts.

She was still quite independent, more so than most seventy-eight year olds could claim. She had her own home. She saw her friends. The few family members who remained visited her on a regular basis. She had always done her own shopping, did her own wash and cooked elaborate meals for her visitors.

Life had changed a few weeks ago. She landed on the floor, aware of a tight feeling in her chest, and found it hard to breathe. She later learned that she had a heart attack. This came as quite a surprise to her. She took pains to exercise, if only to walk on a daily basis. Well, almost daily. She was usually careful about what she ate. She did not go to the doctor much, but then she did not have much call to go.

It wasn’t that bad a heart attack, as such things go. Her doctor did not suggest surgery; although she was not sure what might happen with all those tubes and wires in her. She didn’t have to make many changes to her diet, but she did have to be more careful about salt. Just before leaving the hospital, she started cardiac rehab.

She had always thought of exercise equipment as pretentious. Who needed a treadmill when there were sidewalks? Who needed a stationary bike when there were bicycles which took her somewhere and gave her a view of something besides a video display or sweaty exercise fanatics?

Her doctor explained that the equipment allowed better monitoring and control of her exertion. This was important to make sure she did not overdo it and cause more damage to her heart. It seemed they wanted to measure and control everything about her now. It was hard to accept. Well, maybe they knew their business. After all, she paid them enough.

Elke stopped herself at that last thought. She said it out loud, “I paid them enough.” It sounded a little sarcastic. She had never thought of herself as sarcastic. Most of the people she knew who had a habit of being sarcastic were angry about something. Could she be angry?
She looked down at her fist and found it clenched. Hmm. As she opened her fist, she realized that clenching was not a one of her usual activities. Her arthritis had gotten a little worse in the last few years. What would have made her angry?

She thought again of all the things she still had: relative independence, a good mind, her cooking and sewing. Yes, they were all still there. She didn’t like to think about what was missing. Her husband had been gone for a long time. She was ready to let go of him but her bed was sometimes cold, and maybe a little lonely. She had male friends but never entertained the thought of sharing her bed again, except on the coldest of nights.

Her heart attack was not the first time her body had let her down. The hysterectomy was more a bother than a loss. Cataracts clouded her world but the surgery made her vision better than it had been in years despite having to get used to glasses. Gall bladder surgery meant she had to limit some of her favorite foods, but it was an incentive to eat healthier.

Elke had made the best of it except for the annoying arthritis which sometimes hurt and sometimes made small tasks quite difficult. But then, aspirin and swimming helped keep her arthritis at bay.

All in all, Elke thought she had always made the best of even trying situations. If anything, she might be angry with her body asserting its mortality in such a dramatic way. If she thought about it, she would realize that the battle would eventually be lost, at least physically. She didn’t like to think about it.
There was a time when she could not look beyond the mortal. When her husband died, she found comfort with an old friend, Jenny, who had also lost her husband. Jenny always seemed cheerful despite her loss. Elke finally asked her about her cheerfulness after puzzling over it for a while.

Jenny explained that the way she looked at life was as a loan from God. Good loaned some people just a little life and some much more. This had helped Jenny understand what others referred to as dying too soon. It was not too soon, but just the end of the time God had loaned them. Jenny saw each day as precious and was glad to have another chance to see the sun come up. Elke gradually adopted Jenny’s philosophy and learned to accept each day on its own terms and on God’s too for that matter. Still, getting old isn’t for sissies.

Life Lab Lessons

  • However old you are, it’s better than the alternative.
  • Accept the limits you have now.
  • Make the best of the abilities you have left.
  • Greet each new day with thanksgiving.
  • Share what you have learned about with life with those you love.

From Commonsense Wisdom for Everyday Life by Joseph Langen

Time to Notice the Little Things

I still get wildly enthusiastic about little things…
I play with leaves. I skip down the street and run against the wind.
Leo Buscaglia~

My friend Judie has been watching a pair of nesting phoebes for several years. They build their nest in the most improbable space and tend their chicks with well coordinated teamwork. While driving along the expressway, Carol spotted a tiny fawn grazing along the median, seemingly oblivious of where its mother was. Carol added it to her gratitude list for the day. Driving on a back road, I noticed a row of cornflowers and Queen Anne’s lace framing a cornfield in a subtle blue and white border.

None of these are earthshaking spectacles. Without an eye for the little things, they would all be easy to miss. It seems much easier for us to notice all the terrible things which bombard us each day and the worries which follow us around. If we allow it to happen, all the awful things in life can overwhelm us. Sometimes things which brighten our day take a special effort to notice.

Henry Thoreau wrote his memoir, WaldenU, in the nineteenth century. He described his practice of writing down the things for which he was grateful each day before getting out of bed. Oprah also suggested Thoreau’s practice, described as a gratitude list, a way of keeping in touch with the good things in our daily lives. In order to list things for which we are grateful, we must pay attention to them and savor them as they happen. Some days it seems easy to generate a long list, and some days our troubles seem to block out the good things, making them harder to remember.

The little things are usually subtle and, without practice, easy to overlook. Nevertheless, they are all around and waiting for us to notice them. The above examples are all from nature, but there are many other delights as well. A kind word, a loving gesture, or a small favor can all brighten our day if we let them.

The things we notice and choose to think about influence what kind of person we are and how we present ourselves to the rest of the world. If we constantly tune into tragedy, crime and conflict, we will undoubtedly become morose and negative about the world and eventually about ourselves. If we make an effort to notice the day’s little gifts, we will have a brighter outlook on life despite our troubles.

Having a positive outlook can be contagious. A young woman I know, Megan, is so consistently cheerful, even when things are not going right for her, it is impossible to spend any time with her and not come away feeling more cheerful yourself.

We all have the choice of what to notice and think about. We can choose to descend into the doldrums or look for the joy in life. It might take some practice but we do have a choice and can brighten our lives and the lives of those around us as well.

Life Lab Lessons

  • Slow down the pace of your life for a little while.
  • Look around you.
  • Find something marvelous you did not see before.
  • Keep this new discovery in your mind.
  • Return to it when you become frustrated.

From Commonsense Wisdom for Everyday Life




Consider this choice: Given two individuals with equivalent talent and skills, who do you look up to and prefer to work with, promote, or invite onto a project? Chances are it’s the more compassionate one.

If that sounds intuitively right, it’s now getting some backing by science—with a few conditions. Wharton professor Adam Grant argues that kindness and compassion give us a far greater advantage than self-absorption. Nice guys do finish first, he explains, as long as they learn how not to let others take advantage of them.

In his best-selling book, Give and Take, Grant explains that, yes, as many suspect, compassionate leaders sometimes do lose out. People who care about others’ well-being and look out for their colleagues and employees—the group Grant calls “givers”—are overrepresented at the bottom of the success ladder, having been mown down by selfish “takers.” But here’s the surprising finding: Grant also reveals that “givers” are overrepresented at the very top of the success ladder, too. How can that be?

It turns out that givers are more liked and appreciated and therefore become more influential. The difference between successful and unsuccessful givers often comes down to strategy: When givers learn strategies that prevent others from taking advantage of them, their “nice” qualities end up helping them succeed above and beyond anyone else. Why? In part because everyone loves working with them and appreciates them for their kind and giving qualities.

Excerpt from Emma Seppala’s article in Fast Company– read more

We’re Biologically Driven To Be Compassionate: 6 Surprising Health Reasons Why We Should Follow That Instinct

Studies have shown that our DNA drives us to carry out acts of compassion for the greater good of our species. There’s evidence indicating that infants show a preference for people they perceive as helpful, and other research suggest compassion is a motivator of kindness among toddlers as young as 2 years old. It turns out that those of us who offer — and receive — more compassion reap some hefty health benefits. We partnered with Dignity Health to look at a few of the ways compassion may boost your well-being.

Excerpt from Dignity Health’s article in Huffington Post– read more