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How to add joy and meaning to your remaining years

Aging gracefully I had the good fortune to renew a relationship with a friend I had not seen for many years.  He knew me during a rough patch and curious about my current frame of mind he asked me, “Are you happy?” His memories of me were fraught with personal and business crisis so it surprised him when I answered that I had never been happier; that my so-called elder years were filled with joy and meaning. Later that day my words sunk in for me as well; never been happier? That was quite a statement.  How could it be that in the twilight of my life, decades from the top of my profession, a tenuous retirement fund reminding me of a hundred capricious decisions, a body dealing with an expanding waist and a brain with shrinking neurons -  how did I ever conclude, ne...
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A girl in braids and a boy in a red sweater end violence in America

Amanda Gorman’s poem, “The Hill We Climb,” was a highlight of the 2021 inauguration. It inspired both sides of the political spectrum with its lyrical vision “to compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.” Who would have thought that poetry could be the force that unites a country and prompts its populace to embrace their better angels.  I’m going to give it a try. Madelyn is five and a half going on six, Playing in the park with a group of kids Laughing and giggling, absorbed in their games, Exultant, spontaneous, and guileless. The afternoon light is filtered by smiling clouds. A photographer’s golden hour without scrims or gels Creating halos around glowing curls and lustrous braids. Angels at play. She is fr...
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Last things, new beginnings

Guest post by Barbara Bengels - Do you remember what you were doing (or planning to do) when Covid shut down the world as we knew it? Were you teaching a class, standing in line at the supermarket, planning on seeing a play? Those were my plans; they’re still undone. How do we respond when taken-for-granted opportunities vanish? (Read more)
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Swimming in the ocean when there is no ocean

Last year at this time Arlene and I were vacationing in Ixtapa, Mexico having rented a gorgeous condominium overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  We were re-charging, self-care to the max. This year we’re house bound, self-isolating, currently overlooking about twelve inches of snow and lathering on Tiger Balm after shoveling a path for the mailman.  And hoping the vaccines will treat cabin fever as well as the virus. How does one stay vital and relevant when the excitement of the day is finding your reading glasses by the side of the bed? Where does the encouragement to continue living active, productive lives come from when you’re in your bathrobe half the day?  What’s the incentive?  Particularly when you’re older than dirt. I’ve been asked the question many t...
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The Valentine flowers are wilted and the candy is all gone Now what?

The merchants ardently promoting Valentine’s Day would have you believe that true love is delivered in a box of chocolates or bouquet of flowers.  If only it were that easy. Lasting love is built on a foundation of trust and intimacy.  And that cannot be ordered on-line from FDT or Fannie May.  It takes two people allowing their powerful feelings to surface knowing the tender emotions they share make them vulnerable to the risk of potential heartbreak. Intimacy, sharing on a level of mutual understanding without elaborate didactic explanation, is intensely gratifying… and extremely frightening.  Whether you are confessor or confident, trust is implicit before it becomes unequivocal and that takes a leap of faith, and time to grow. When mutual trust becomes est...
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“I’m in a relationship.” What does that really mean?

I hear it all the time, from young and old, couples newly met to spouses celebrating Golden anniversaries.  I wonder sometimes, as I listen to both the starry eyed and the disillusioned, if they knew what they were committing to when they exclaimed, giddy or resigned, “I’m in a relationship.” Did they fully know the effort (and rewards) it takes to lovingly regard and behave toward each other when times are good and when times are bad? It may be the trigger that initiates it, but relationships are not about chemistry, or fate or parents’ approval.  The capacity to form healthy, loving relationships is learned. When one is younger, perhaps ‘observed’ is the better reference.  Typically, a sense of what characterizes a stable relationship starts with early experience...
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SND Blog: Meditation? Nothing to it!

I think too much.  More often than not, I dwell on the negative side of my chattering prefrontal lobe, conjuring up dire endings to scenarios that have yet to be written. Sometimes the buzzing gets incessant and I find myself fixated on doom and gloom looming just around the corner, compulsively blowing up pint sized annoyances into massive, tsunami sized waves of angst. That’s when the benefits of my meditation practice come into play.  I empty the mind of the compulsive need to have answers.  I stop “thinking” and let intuition and spiritual insights well up effortlessly on their own.  I begin to see with my eyes closed. Whatever technique you use, and there are endless variations of methods to achieve stillness and serenity, the goal is an expanded consciousness...
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When two people merge into one, it is a moving lyric in a ballad, but not a formula for happingess

The danger of a loving marriage is losing sight of love for one’s self.  True love is understanding how to be independent, together. Perhaps that surprises you. The most often heard mantra for a happy marriage is to put yourself second because as the common advice goes, when you start caring for your spouse more than you do for yourself, you’ll be a good wife or a good husband.  It’s the major theme of romcoms: make your spouse the center of your life; the person you are married to should be your utmost priority. Typically, early in a relationship you want to share everything, do everything together.  Gradually, as you grow comfortable with your partner over the long-term, your personalities "merge" and you become known as a “couple,” committed to each other.  And ind...
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Take ‘the middle way’ on the path to happiness

The GPS to a tranquil and happy old age recommends “The Middle Way” I’m coping with a significant impending change: we’re moving from the heart of the city to a nearby suburb.  The adjustment will be dramatic.  From a two-block walk to restaurants, museums and shopping to mowing the backyard lawn and watching my granddaughter when her parents have a night out. Half of me is excited about the new chapter in my life.  Half of me feels like I’m walking the plank!  I’m bouncing back and forth between idealized and catastrophized notions of my future… golden years surrounded by family and enlivened by do-good projects… bleak, lonely years isolated in the anteroom of the impending old age home. My mind is doing an excellent job of creating drama.  I see out...
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Moving forward

Summing up, a life of transformation, and a year of change You’ve heard the saying about aging athletes – he’s lost a step but he more than makes up for it with experience. It’s true in life as well. At about the time the first Social Security check arrives most of us have recognized the transition from the person we used to be to the person we have become. I’m not talking about the wrinkles.  Senior citizen is not a synonym for old person!  Being old is a function of age; being senior is a subtext of attitude.  It depends on how you look at the term; seniors in high school or college for example, are student leaders, the respected upperclassmen called upon to pass on their experience to the younger undergraduates. It behooves us to ignore society’s perception of “...