Archive for the ‘Mid life motivations’ Category
“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.” Albert Schweitzer
Today, Friday, August 5th, 2011, seems the perfect day for this post. A good time to take a good look at my life and find reasons why I am thankful.
(Originally, I wrote this piece for “Hajra Kvetches” at www.Hajrak.blogspot.com
“Fridays will be different” where people gave five reasons why they were thankful, but she ended the series before I sent it to her. )
I’m thankful that I can walk. Yes, put one leg in front of the other and so on for several miles without needing a cane or any form of support and most importantly, without it being painful.
Often, especially in downtown San Diego, when I see people with physical impediments struggling to cross the road or walk a block, I remember the two years that I was like them. I’d take 10 minutes to hobble, grit-my-teeth-and-bear-it, two short blocks to the corner grocery store.
The other day, an old friend who is having leg problems told me how he envied people the freedom to walk without cringing at the idea of having to go from A to B. I could understand and empathize because that was exactly how I had felt when I had that problem. All those carefree walkers have no idea how fortunate they are to be able to walk whenever and wherever they want.
So use your legs while you can and glory in the fact that you have them.
I’m thankful that I still have work coming in. The same as many others, I was affected by the economic downturn in 2009 when my work source dried up. I’m glad that I looked into other options, became active online, started learning about SEO, and am now finding work in the field I like most, writing. Also, some of my former clients are again sending me projects.
Having work also gives me a goal to go after more.
I’m thankful that my generation of the 60s is still going strong in their sixties. They are an inspiration to all of us especially in this age group. I won’t mention names because there are too many, but the sheer number of outstanding writers, actors, activists, musicians, film directors, politicians, pundits, businessmen, inventors, scientists, leaders, innovators, commentators, physicians, etc. who are still active and highly productive in their sixties speaks for itself.
These people motivate me to keep trying to achieve my goals.
I’m thankful for my family who have always encouraged and supported me, even during my crazy years. A loner by nature – despite my many friends – the two things I valued most were my privacy and independence. I loved doing my own thing, having a routine, sleeping in my own bed, and living in my neighborhood. All this changed when, due to the economic recession, I came to stay at my sister’s home. She has a big house in a very different (high-class) area from my former downtown one, with seven people currently living here: her and her husband, her daughter and her two teens and one pre-teen, and a part-time housekeeper. With me, we’re eight, and then nine, as my son turned up four months ago.
When I first came to stay, I feared that any privacy would be out of the question. To my surprise, my family has respected it, though they are always there when I want company, help or advice.
This is an opportunity to get to know the kids – rather than be the isolated aunt of yore who only saw them on special occasions. I’m almost used to things like their penchant to jump out at me and shout, “Boo!” a family trait that we owe to my father’s naughty streak.
I’m thankful for my many friends – the kind who last a lifetime. They are spread all over the map and I’m glad to be able to keep up or in-touch with them. Due to modern technology and social media, I’m rediscovering or being rediscovered: in the last two days, two former very close friends turned up after years (8 and 15) of not knowing anything about them. When I go to Mexico City, the fact that I’m there means it’s party time, or at least an excuse for a bunch of us to have a reunion.
I’m thankful that I am still writing. That I can still experience the same crazy out-of-the-world high when I write something good. And that ideas gush out all the time – when I’m walking down the street, or I wake up in the middle of the night, or I’m driving – anywhere and at any time. I hope I will write all the books still inside me. I hope that my books, when they are published, will make a difference, even in a small way, to people’s lives.
I’m thankful that I still have the same illusions and hopes for my writing that I had as a child and young adult.
“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” Oprah Winfrey
There are some days, I admit, when I see little except for a gray existence ahead for me. At 67, I wonder if I will ever fulfill my life’s dream to become a published author. I fear that I will never find security in my old age. The aches and creaks of age wear me down. And I fall into “stinking thinking” that I’ll never find my way back up again.
None of this lasts for long. I don’t let it.
I can’t waste time on negative feelings. Rather, I have to use the next years of my life to accomplish as much as I can.
We all have our gray days. As we get older, we may feel age has caught up with us and overtaken our dreams to achieve what we set out to do. Maybe there isn’t enough time left, or we’re just too old, physically unable, mentally unwilling, or tired.
On the other hand, if we’re interested in the world and passionate about certain subjects, then we can still accomplish what we set out to do.
History and the arts are full of men and women who made surprising comebacks, achieved greatness, or who revived/had prominent careers at an age when most would have given up. And there must be a myriad of other less known or unrecorded cases.
“Never give in, never give in, never; never; never; never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in.”
Winston Churchill, after an up and down career, and ten years as a political pariah or, as he put it, “Out in the wilderness” during the 1930s, returned at 66 to serve as a wartime Prime Minister in 1940. His leadership and great speeches helped inspire the nation’s morale against the would-be Nazi invaders that were pummeling the cities and coast of England. He told the people of England, “If you are going through Hell, keep going.”
“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”
Nelson Mandela, an anti-apartheid activist in white dominated South Africa, was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1962 and served 27 years, 18 as a classification D prisoner – the lowest scale – in the notorious Robben Island Prison. Released in 1990, he returned to lead his party in negotiations that led to multi-racial democracy in 1994. He was 72 when he became South Africa’s first democratically elected South African president in 1994.
“You’ll never find a better sparring partner than adversity.”
Golda Meir came to the U.S. from Russia at the age of 8, and was brought up in Milwaukee, WI. In 1921, she emigrated to Palestine where she worked on a kibbutz and as a teacher before moving up in the political ranks. At 71, she became Prime Minister of the State of Israel in March, 1979. The world’s third woman to be head of state (after Shri Lanka and India), she was portrayed as the “strong-willed, straight-talking, gray-bunned grandmother of the Jewish people.”
“I made a resolve that I was going to amount to something if I could.”
Colonel Sanders started Kentucky Fried Chicken at 65 when his restaurant folded and because his pension was so small; after two years, he went on to wild success. A Kentucky Colonel (in-name military designation only), he gave the chain an image by dressing up in that all-white southern gentleman garb.
“Painting’s not important. The important thing is keeping busy.”
Grandma Moses (Anna Mary Robertson Moses) didn’t begin to paint until the age of 76, when her hands became too crippled by arthritis to hold an embroidery needle and she found herself with nothing to do. She’s usually cited for succeeding for the first time at her art work in her nineties and up to her death at 101. Her paintings were shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City as well as in museums in Vienna and Paris.
“I never had a great role in a great film.”
Gloria Stuart, a movie actress in the 1930s, returned from obscurity at 86 when she landed the role of 100-year-old Rose in James Cameron’s “Titanic.” She remains the oldest person ever nominated for an Oscar. The above quote must have been before “Titanic.”
“You cannot just waste time. Otherwise you’ll die to regret …”
Harriett Doerr finished her Stanford degree at 67. In 1983, at 73, she became a darling of the literary world with the publication of her first novel, “Stones for Ibarra,” which went on to win a National Book Award.
“If I had not lived until I was 90, I would not have been able to write this book. God knows what other potentials lurk in other people who keep going into old age.”
Harry Bernstein published a short story when he was 24, in 1934, but it was not until he was 96 that his well-received debut novel, “The Invisible Wall” was published. Bernstein turned to fiction only after his wife of 67 years died, as therapy for his loss and loneliness. He published two more books after his debut.
“If I had known at the beginning of my life that this is where I would get to, I would have said, “Not possible.”
Jessica Tandy, a well-respected actress came out of a career slump in the mid 1980s to a career revival in her seventies when she won both a Tony Award and an Emmy Award for her role in “Foxfire.” She became the oldest actress to receive the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in “Driving Miss Daisy” in 1989.
There are many other such stories of late life success that I’d have liked to include but then I’d have to write an e-book about them. It’s a fascinating subject – what drove these men and women to not give up despite rejection, imprisonment, lack of education or opportunity, sexism, ageism, defeat … you name it.
Do you know of someone who “made it” late in life, particularly after overcoming problems, losses, rejection, or other setbacks?
If you do, please share their stories with us.
“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
At 67, I am not dying. Yet. However, my age group is often treated as if we were at the start of a prolonged death march.
And I will rage and rage against the dying of my light and that of my generation.
We gave light and warmth to a world darkened by war and oppression.
Our generation was the offspring of The Greatest Generation, those who fought in WWII. My English father and American mother met during the war, and I was a war baby born in England to the sound of bombs, and spent my childhood in grim post war England.
Meanwhile, the 50s generation in the U.S. were smug, conservative in their victory, swathed in security and newfound luxuries, and determined to lead lives centered on doing the right thing. A woman’s place was in the home and a man’s in the workplace. Frank Sinatra sang, “Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage.” Then Elvis shocked the nation with his, “I’m all shook up!” until the bosses found a way – military service, movies – to calm him down, and eventually turn him into an overweight, drug addicted Las Vegas entertainer.
We grew up to become the generation of the 60s. We changed popular to have meaning – Bob Dylan, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Peter, Paul and Mary. Women lifted their hemlines from mid-calf almost to their thighs, men were released from hats and formal wear, changed customs and attitudes relaxed – men and women could actually sleep or live together openly, and we protested when we disagreed with politics and national policy (Vietnam). Women aspired to and found work in former male only professions.
We overcame a stuffy Establishment to start the modern world, the one inherited by the current generation.
Then we stopped raging and protesting, and most of us settled into respectability, using our creativity and energies to create a better world for our kids. Women carved careers for themselves in a male dominated world so that nowadays, female executives are as much a part of the corporate world as their male counterparts.
We never thought we’d reach an age when the younger generation would start to shove us aside like old relics. We never dreamed the day might come when formerly successful professionals would be out on a limb, scrabbling for work – any work – in mid-life. Or that many of us would be no longer employable despite our qualifications and experience, or broke because of lost jobs, or family homes foreclosed or, except for some notable exceptions, shunted aside. We never thought we’d become victims of another depression caused by the greedy generation that followed ours.
Perhaps some of you can accept this and go gentle into the night of your life.
Or the alternative:
Rage, rage against the dying of our light for as long as we can.
I, for one, prefer the latter choice. What about you?
We raged when we were young and got things done. We still have our voices and we can rage again.
One voice added to another. Mine added to yours added to someone else’s and so on can build up to a lot of middle age voices clamoring to be heard.
Just imagine if a large number of us protested, for example, age discrimination in the workplace.
The same way we used to.
For one thing, it would shock the younger generation. That we still have it in us. That we’re not going out without a fight. That we’re capable of moving again in tandem, but this time against the entitled younger generation that has not learned from history that it repeats itself over and over again.
What awaits them in 30-40 years?
I’m not ready to be shoved aside. Nor are many of my generation or even older.
Nelson Mandela became President of South Africa at 67 after 28 years’ imprisonment.
John McCain was a presidential candidate (a grueling ordeal) at 72.
Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi may be making a long overdue return after years of house arrest.
The world is rife with people over sixty who have more than enough energy to go around.
To mention a few: Hilary Clinton, Diane Sawyer, Martha Stewart, Nancy Pelosi, Arianna Huffington, Isabel Allende, Doris Lessing, Steven King, Michael Bloomberg, Donald Trump, Al Gore, Bill Clinton, and Richard Branson
How about the entertainment world? Jeff Bridges, Harrison Ford, Al Pacino, Anthony Hopkins, Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren, Diane Keaton, Martin Scorsese, Cher, Mick Jagger, and Paul McCartney.
I could add a lot more names and so can you, to that list.
Join my voice that you will not go gentle into the night.
Instead, you will rage, rage against the dying of your light.
Photograph courtesy of Veronica Valades
Yesterday, I was Me.
Today, I don’t know who I am.
I look in the mirror and this woman with drooping eyes and lips and jowls stares back at me.
Without makeup and without a smile, she looks sad – and beat. Then she smiles, and wrinkles appear all over her face – smile wrinkles – and her eyes light up, and she laughs, and it’s a laugh I recognize.
I smile back at her. We do know each other. We’re old friends. We may have changed, but not completely.
Yesterday, she always looked eager, sparkling-eyed.
People called her attractive, but she never cared for them or even believed them – she’d rather have been complimented on her work, her mind, her opinions.
Today, when there are no more compliments, it’s as if a part of her former self has disappeared.
Yesterday, her mother told her, “You want to grab onto life with both hands. Slow down. Don’t throw away your life.”
But she was careless, the way so many are when they are young.
She was careless with her loves, her health, her money, and her choices.
Or maybe, she was just too carefree.
She gave away too much and asked for too little.
She ignored the omens of health problems, financial insecurity, and alcoholism.
She worked very hard, but she played just as hard.
She was careless with her money. Twice, she inherited. The first time, she made poor choices and lousy investments, losing it to a corrupt government. The next time, she invested in her own business, and lost everything due to mismanagement.
She was also fortunate: as a career woman, and as a single mother of two boys.
She was able to give them a lovely home, a good education, and a life surrounded by family and friends.
Her career in advertising was unplanned, accidental, starting at a time (the 1960s/70s) when women were trying to break through the glass ceiling. She became a top executive handling Fortune 500 clients. Then it was all gone – and she, a victim of a company merger, downsizing, and ageism.
In her mid-fifties, she made a successful comeback in another career. Until financial corruption rocked the country/world, and like many others, she was left without means of support.
Once again, she would have to make a new start.
Search for new opportunities, seize the day before it grew old and stale.
Yesterday, she believed she would become a great writer.
She believed that she’d be secure in her old age, and could retire to write all those books inside her. Today, she is still working, and her books seem as elusive as when she was young.
Yesterday, she was romantic and dreamed of a great love. For years, despite setbacks, she held onto her illusion that some day that one man would be there for her in her old age. Until that door closed and he was lost forever.
Yesterday, she had years in which to prove herself and use her life as she wanted.
She never imagined that today, looking at her almost unknown face, it would be so different.
Perhaps if she had done this or that, made different choices, even heeded her mother’s warnings.
No, nothing could have contained her adventurous spirit. Her mistakes are as much a part of her as her successes. And she has few regrets at the course her life took.
Her face creases into a smile. Come on, she seems to tell me, it’s not over yet. You can still make it.
Yesterday got away from me.
But it also gave me the experience and understanding of what I can do today to fulfill my dreams.
Tomorrow holds the promise of a new start.
“Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.”Betty Friedan
A honk, a shout, and I turn to see a car hurtling straight at me. One second and two steps back, and the car brushes by me.
What the hell? The light was in my favor. That car ran a red light and didn’t even slow down when I stepped off the curb.
I stumble across the street, thinking in Spanish, “No me tocó” – “It’s not my turn.”
A few more paces and I stop, tears in my eyes.
God, I’m angry, but at myself.
Here I am in Mexico City, where I lived for most of my life, acting like a blind tourist.
I’ve been away too long and become used to American ways.
Before, I knew drivers here don’t give a damn about pedestrians. People on foot, considered the lower order of beings, are the ones supposed to watch out. In those days, I always had a car. The only place I ever walked was to the supermarket two blocks away, and my high heels were a major impediment.
These days, I don’t wear heels, and I walk everywhere I can. For me, walking in Mexico City is both entertaining and a chance to revisit old haunts and renew memories.
I look up and see that I’m standing in front of a house that I once knew well. There, I met my first husband, an American who looked like a young Clint Eastwood with startling blue eyes. At seventeen, I was no match for his brash come on. We were married and I went to live in the U.S.
Then I found out his export business was not Mexican curios.
Bye, bye youthful dreams, but at least I’d got away from Mexico City, a place I’d wanted to leave almost from the day I arrived.
I first came – or was brought – to live in Mexico City when I was ten years old. Even in the fifties, this overcrowded metropolis was a shocking contrast to my seaside village in England. An ocean away, another continent, another culture. From a cool, clean climate to a hot, smelly one.
That move cost me my home, my father, my school, my friends, and my cultural identity. Letters from England took three weeks to a month to arrive, phone calls were too expensive to consider, and a trip “home” cost a small fortune.
I hated the food, the dusty odor that hung over the city, my grandparents’ home with its marble floors and high ceilings – the complete opposite of our comfy abode in England. I hated the kids at school, and the school, and Spanish – those yammering sounds – so much that I refused to utter more than the most basic words for one year.
If I didn’t learn to speak Spanish, for certain I’d be sent back to England.
All that happened was I got poor grades in school and nobody wanted to be my friend. Not that I cared. I didn’t want to make friends anyway.
After a year, my mother divorced my father and found a poor choice as a replacement.
Mexico became the home that I couldn’t wait to get away from.
After discovering Mr. Blue Eyes’ true occupation, I returned to England to find myself a foreigner in my own country. But I regained my father, my British accent, and even a former school friend, and in time, became a true Londoner of the sixties.
I’d have remained in England all my life, but circumstances drew me back to Mexico City. I meant to stay for two years, make a lot of money (in dollars vs. a low wage in English pounds), and get ahead in my chosen career – international advertising. Instead, I met my second husband, had two kids, and stayed another thirty years. While my kids grew up, I had a wonderful life, a high-flying career in a top ad agency, a beautiful home full of laughter, and many enduring friendships.
In those years, Mexico City became “home” for me.
Despite this, I missed the English-speaking world, one where I’d not be a foreigner.
So, in my fifties, after a forced early career retirement, I moved to San Diego, California. Ten years later, I had a comfortable existence with plenty of freelance work and time between jobs to pursue my writing.
To my surprise, I was homesick for Mexico. I missed my many friends, my Mexican family, the food, and even its craziness. Then I’d come to Mexico City to visit and I’d miss my easy going lifestyle, newfound friends, and my family in the U.S.
“You can never go home again, but the truth is you can never leave home, so it’s all right.” Maya Angelou
Am I like my half-American mother who grew up in Mexico, went to college and lived in New York until she met my father who took her to live in England? She was always saying how much she missed Mexico. After she returned, she hankered for anything English, missing everything except for the weather. For the rest of her life in Mexico City, she complained about “this country” and how much she wanted to return to “her” country, the U.S.
Mexico contains many of my memories, and much of my past.
In the U.S., I’ve carved out a new life, I’m forging new memories, and a future – but I miss the warmth of the familiar.
Or is home wherever I am?
What do you think?
I’d love for you to give me your opinion in the Comments section below.
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