February: 2016 - Several years ago I woke up with a disquieting revelation; I was dying. Although blessed with exceptionally good health and a remarkable marriage to a caring and loving spouse, I realized my essential life force was slowly draining away.
That was the opening of my first post on the Chicago Now site. It seems like yesterday. But time has rocketed by! This week, my book, “Cheating Death: How to Add Years of Joy and Meaning to Life,“ was published and went on sale at Amazon.com/Books.
Apparently, I am not dead yet!
Admittedly, I am creaky and make funny noises before I get warmed up, but for sure, I have not become a worn out sofa cushion, the role assigned to our generation by the youth-oriented society that titters away on Twitter. The book tells my story; the journey from the head to the heart as I searched for answers to life’s existential questions, why am I still here and how do I want to live before time runs out?
The happy ending can be the reader’s story as well. The essays make it clear; my journey was not exclusive; all of us seniors have the inner resources to reframe the prevailing attitudes about aging. Our waists are expanding, and our brain cells are shrinking but with the right attitude, elderhood can be the happiest time of our lives!
The inevitable losses in physicality, energy levels and social influence are not inconsequential, but they are not death sentences; with the perspective that comes with our lengthening years we can shift the focus from despair over what we have lost, to appreciation of the abilities that remain in abundance.
The joyfulness that waits as we move away from the chaos of doing and toward the calm that comes by simply being, is incalculable. We can see things from more creative and nurturing vantage points, the state of well-being overflowing onto everything we do.
It’s true. There are dozens of wonderful clichés that prove it. Becoming an empty nester does not equate to facing an empty life. You don’t lose your life force when you leave the workforce. It’s not how old you are it’s how you are old. And my favorite, “While I had often said that I wanted to die in bed, what I really meant was that in my old age I wanted to be stepped on by an elephant while making love.” (Science Fiction author Roger Zelazny)
There is a caution that should be viewed as a challenge: the sad truth about even the best of intentions is that lasting change rarely happens in the sudden glow of epiphany. Change, the kind of enduring alteration to behavior that we strive for, is a gradual and often wearisome process.
I didn’t miraculously go from grumps to gramps. True learning takes focus and practice to override the conditioned responses engrained in our childhood experiences. But like the muscle memory that develops from continued repetition, change will occur over time. The habitual behavior of the past will yield to a new feedback loop connected to your commitment to becoming the person you are determined to be.
I’d love for you to buy my book. I’m sure there will be an insight here and there with which you can identify. Perhaps the experiences we share can help light the way on your own life’s journey, with many years of joy and meaning added to the itinerary.