Cancer or any physical issue is a great teacher, although its passive/aggressive behavior takes you through hell and back, again and again. There are lessons, of course, to be learned in every minute in trying to stay alive.
Barry and I just celebrated our 56th anniversary, more years together than I suspect most of you have been alive! However, the last three years, neither of us expected or were prepared to activate a vow we took 56 years ago: 'in sickness and in health.' Who knew? Most of our years together were robust, actively engaged in growing our family and our business, with plenty of dreams yet to fulfill still ahead of us. Barry's diagnosis of pancreatic cancer totally changed the trajectory of what was now actually possible. He was enraged, in denial, and grieving that he wouldn't return to his beloved senior communities where he brought his own over-the-top version of Zumba. They still call him, pleading for his return. We are grateful that he remains cancer-free (for now) but the lethargy, neuropathy and other side effects persist in affecting the quality of his life. He still can't drive and his days are short on available energy. His anger at his body 'failing him' wore him down into a pervasive deep depression. I was losing him more and more each day.
Finally, Barry had a breakthrough, probably because of my persistent nagging, begging him to come back to today and discover what he can do with the precious days left in his life!
Acceptance was the first lesson, for both of us. Only seeing where you've been is a terrible way for anyone to figure out where to go next.
The grass was always greener yesterday. Only good memories remain, reminding you they aren't available in your life anymore. We have a tendency to rewrite history so that today can not possibly compete with what was.
Thanks to Jay Deitcher who wrote a great article on 'rosy retrospection' in SELF magazine, along with good information in wisdomtimes.com, I picked up several vital wisdom tips that helped Barry become a forward-thinker to add a shine to his 80th birthday next month as well as giving us both an action plan for more peace of mind.
Wisdom Tips and Traits of a Forward Thinker:
1. Contaminate the fantasy: it's easy to get lost in 'rose tinted nostalgia.' Do a reality check on your memories. Don't dwell on the past; focus is always forward. Carry no baggage. Failure and adversity do not stop you, still. Innovation requires 3x to get it right: persist.
2. See the larger picture ahead: connect the dots, recognize what you are missing. This helps you recreate similar situations for a new vision with conviction that brings joyful feelings.
3. Feel your feelings: to thine own self be true. There will be good days, and not so good days. Joy will come again.
4. Use your peer network for positive energy. Get information, talk/ask people to help you source getting closer to your new vision. People love to help!
5. Bring yourself into the present moment. Plant yourself in the present: meditation, journal, read (Barry is reading STILL HERE by Ram Dass). Shift the focus from the past to what's right in front of you: What do you feel? What do you see? Every day is different. BE HERE NOW.
So far, one day at a time, we are making progress, laughing more, discovering new ways to live our life. Big opportunities to innovate and reinvent his path forward. Barry is knee-deep in revamping his senior program, still serving, still including chair movement, as well as recovery lessons learned. He knows that forward thinking helps him harness the power of the moment.
In one of my recent MEA daily posts: "Over the hill? Nah! I've climbed that hill and I am looking forward now...thinking how awesome life will be moving forward. I'm excited for my future!"
Here's hoping you are, excited about your future too! Know I'm always available to serve you: Susan@SusanLBrooks.com.
Featured Modern Elder*
Audree is a new friend who has become an integral part of my life. She is mostly everything I'm not. Her daily fitness routine makes me feel like a toddler. Her level of expertise with technology ("I'm a techie") is one of her first declarations to define herself. Me? I'm barely operational besides Poshmark, email, and FB connections. Audree seems to accept this fact about me, and loves me anyway.
We met at an online Wise Aging class. Audree was a postage-sized person to me. As our visits became more frequent, her presence grew from there. She had her style of self-expression, like buying her 2012 red Acura after her car was totaled in 2014. She was very definite about the 3 things she wanted in this car:
Standard transmission: "Shifting gives me something to do with my hands and helps me stay present while driving."
Heated seats: "My hands and feet are always cold." As a generous gift to my husband, who wears gloves and scarves to bed, Audree sent a pair of gloves she swears by even in summer! Audree is a giver.
A moon roof to "feel the sun and see the stars."
Audree hunted down the only car in all of Phoenix that fulfilled her three requirements. She accepted (a word I'm learning more about every day!) having to overpay for a car "that most people are trying to get rid of…but I was very happy to do it! I got what I wanted." Pure wisdom here at only 68 years of age!
When Audree was younger, she was a weekend workout warrior. That changed when she turned 50 and started practicing yoga. "Yoga helped me improve my flexibility and at that time, I had terrible balance. I loved rolling out my yoga mat next to my daughter (Bree) who is an accomplished yogi. I saw results which were very motivating and important to me. Today, and for the last 18 years, I have consistently practiced yoga for flexibility 3x/week. I love standing on my hands, my head and forearms because it is so thrilling and healthy to be upside-down. I also attend yoga retreats (pictured above) in wonderful places 2x a year. And I lift weights regularly to build my strength" (at which point, she bares her arms and flexes so I can drool over her muscles that I will never have!).
Her own private gym fills her guest house, including videos, latex and fabric bands, mats, and weights of every size and color, along with her pride and joy, her cushioned spring 'floating floor.' "I love to blast the music and dance! And I love jumping!" I'm exhausted and breathless just thinking about this level of commitment and activity…especially knowing that Audree begins her day's routine at 4:30 am! Hopefully, I'm still sleeping in dreamland!
Adventure is the usual for Audree. Even as you read this, Audree is on her way to a new experience attending a one week adult music camp in Michigan. "I've been a piano player all my life, but I recently rediscovered a violin I bought for myself years ago. My granddaughter, Brenna at 13 inspired me to play the cello. Sounds like fun! So I took up the viola AND the cello, taking lessons to learn 'from scratch' how to play both instruments. I've never played in an orchestra; I've never played with a conductor. I've never played music with fast tempos. So, this camp experience will let me see how I like all of these things." Can you imagine not being perfect? What if everyone else attending is quantum leaps better than you? She answers me very patiently: "I'm not a catastrophizer. I try to keep my anxiety low. I'll solve problems as I go…one step at a time otherwise I lose my energy… and worrying is such a waste of my time."
More wisdom from a woman years younger than me!
Everyone's life has some personal tragedy, something so profound that it impacts your life forever. Audree was 12 years of age when her sister died suddenly. The grief experience and loss took years to understand. Then, as a grandmother of twins (Hayden and Brenna), Hayden, at 10 years old, was diagnosed with a fatal brain tumor, and passed away nine months later, leaving his twin sister as a surviving sibling. Audree supported her granddaughter to keep Hayden's memory alive and help other siblings through this tragedy by creating her non-profit company, aptly named 'Sibs Forever'. I know firsthand that Audree's bravery is highly contagious. You can contact Audree at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about Sibs Forever, her non-profit company. Find her podcast here: https://www.thesurvivingsiblings.com/audreekropen3/
Her philosophy about aging perfectly demonstrates her wisdom: "I want to do what I do now, for as long as possible. This includes doing headstands and handstands, eating healthily, and staying fit. This is all that I have control over. I don't worry. I don't plan too far ahead. I worked hard to enjoy everything that I have built and acquired. I believe I made good decisions. I live a simple life with lots of love around me. What else is there?"
*Chip Conley, best-selling author and speaker, hospitality entrepreneur and leading thought leader, created The Modern Elder Academy's mission "to inspire the ability to reframe a lifetime of experience and recognize one's mastery, relevance, and value in the modern workplace." The Modern Elder* is Conley's term and effort that "liberates and inspires us to embrace wisdom as a path of growing whole, not old...The Modern Elder*marries wisdom and curiosity."
Every month this newsletter will Feature the stories and wisdom of Modern Elders*. Please send in your Modern Elder* nomination. CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT