Tag Archives: aging

Aging Is On My Mind

My First Mentor, Joy Castro & Me, 2008

My First Mentor, Joy Castro & Me, 2008

Can it be possible that starting something new with dedication and passion bought me six additional years, perhaps a decade? I’m aware that writing, the ideas that bubble up, the challenge to shape the ideas into words, the deadlines, the hope for potential readers and response, all fuel my energy and engagement.

According to the opinion piece, Practicing for a Better Old Age, by Gerald Marzorati, in the May 1st issue of The New York Times Sunday Review, my keen interest in advanced training in the writing craft might have created the opportunity to slow my aging and nurture a longer growing season.

“Most of us get good early on at something that took time and devotion,” Mazorati writes. For him it was reading. For me, it was a toss up between reading and listening— a career in journalism or social work. Often, after school, I listened to Mom’s concerns about my brain-damaged little brother and her struggle as wife and Mom to maintain a normal household. I was proud to be her confidant. Two social group work mentors during adolescence affirmed my people skills and inspired my aspirations as a clinical social worker and psychotherapist. For years, I embraced my listening choice and took workshops to evolve and master my skillset. At sixty-six, I peeked.

In truth, I had come to a point where I needed to attend to my own story rather than the stories of others. As a late teen, I left behind the path of writing as a career but continued to write for myself. At the point of closing my therapy practice, I enrolled at the Solstice Creative Writing Program of Pine Manor College. At seventy-five, the return to school with much younger women and men was invigorating and daunting. The low residency program was hands on, involving the assignment of a mentor who would guide, read and give feedback to each and every manuscript of twenty-five pages of nonfiction writing every month.

Did it increase my longevity, my potential for a longer and healthier aging process? Both my writing and reading skills improved. I gained a community and a renewed sense of myself as a creative writer. I continue to feel energized and engaged; I am in the world and growing. People often take me for years younger.

The article offers no hard evidence of slow aging. Marzorati points to the effect of “the beauty of a disciplined effort at improvement…You seize time and make it yours.”

I have seized time and made it mine. At least for the time being, I have replaced the narrative of diminishment and loss with one of progress and bettering.

In 2008, I told my mentor, Joy Castro, “One day, I would like to master the art of the short essay.” I am grateful to have arrived at the opportunity to write this blog of shorts with the hope of more to come. Every day brings the promise of engagement in growth and bettering.

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Rebel Rudbeckia

 

IMG_Y. Rudbeckia1096

Two days before Thanksgiving, a lone black-eyed rudbeckia, surrounded by dead stalks and fallen leaves, blooms in my front garden. I bend into it and smile. November, west of Boston, I check the frost warnings with hope that my pint-sized yellow friend will beat the odds. I am uneasy in my selfish wish for nurturing temperatures given the wider implications of global warming.

Do I feel guilty for the enjoyment? Yes and no. This time last year, I wrote, “a warm day, in the 60’s, a fantastic day for gardening, my body seemed fluid, bent and moved with ease as I cut back most of the perennials.” No ambivalence in that note.

The late bloomer inserted itself between two large stones at the tip of the small pond. The full sun location, next to the front steps, is prime. All the surrounding garden plants, in lock step, died off while this rebel’s blossom invited me to check daily as to whether or not it would birth open.

Late fall in the Northeast; it is unusual to find a late spring perennial growing as if the season were just beginning. How could I not be taken with its sweet youth and wonder at the possibility of how long it would withstand the frequent dawn frostings?

I kid you not; I root for this rebel, take pleasure in its steadfastness. Yet, to experience pleasure makes me uneasy given that I am rooting for more temperate days for its growth and yes, my own selfish nurturance. The connection to this black-eyed sprout helps to sustain me during the autumn of my life when many dear friends are suffering from falls and terrible diagnosis. I am grateful for my sturdiness and ability to share what warmth I can, to try to ease their challenges.

Thanksgiving arrives in two days. 60-degree weather is predicted. I have no control over the air currents or their trajectory just as I have no control over who thrives. What I know is that I will join friends and family to give thanks around my daughter’s table for my bountiful connection to family, friends and to this earth.

Through daily gratitude writing, I have learned to notice and engage with the immediate relationships in my life, be they human, animal, plant or mineral. To attend is to be mindful and caring of another. The very act fuels the possibility of meaningful connection. I am grateful to share the story of my sprouting rudbeckia with the hope that whatever moves you as the solstice descends will be shared in meaningful ways.