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.