My Extraordinary Friends

I have close friends who welcome each day with optimism, in spite of aging quirks that crop up here and there, and often overcoming some pretty serious challenges. The quirks started with me after I hit 70, forcing me to finally label myself at the “latter part of middle age.” Things like wrinkles, leg cramps, permanent “laugh lines,” are all parts of me in my aging. More serious events like severe cases of shingles or a stroke can whisper to me to hold onto resentment at these unasked for changes, and fall into the “why me?”

Tools, aka Weapons, to Fight the Bruises, Blues, Blahs

But… I have weapons to fight the lure of mental atrophy:

Self-care: Watch for HALT: hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. Or just plain peckish. Or really mad/scared.

Observe: I think of our neighbor who, most days, gets up, dresses quite stylishly, and takes a slow walk down our hill and up again. She’s 98.

Bring the outside world in: My email brings me positive stories from Daily Good, BOTWC (Because of Them We Can), TUT (The Universe Talks), and Maria Popova’s Marginalian supplying a daily dose of optimism and cultural criticisms that satisfy my intellectual curiosity, examples of compassion, thoughtful playing with words, and small and large successes and kindness in our society. I figure what I focus on is bound to be repeated. 

My husband shares interesting stories that he gleans from his daily reading of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and other online papers. Recently he sent this from The New York Times:

At 116, She Has Outlived Generations of Loved Ones. But Her Entire Town Has Become Family

“When the nation’s oldest person has a birthday, a California community makes sure to celebrate. Edith Ceccarelli is the oldest known person in the United States and the second oldest on Earth. She has lived through two World Wars, the advent of the Ford Model T — and the two deadliest pandemics in American history.”

Now that’s extraordinary. What will stay with me longer than the town’s events to celebrate her, was the bit about her dancing partner passing away when she had passed her 100th birthday. She put an ad in the paper for a new dance partner so she could keep dancing. Radical optimism.

Some Reasons to Celebrate Life

  • My friend of 57 years and I laughed on the phone as we reminisced about escapades in New York City when we thought nothing of dancing late into the night and went off to work the next day filled with energy.
  • When our neighbor brings an offering of her homemade chocolate chip cookies to us – “still warm,” for no reason other than she’s a gem of a neighbor, I am filled with gratitude.
  • I look at my husband’s face as he reads or snoozes and am aware, once again, that I love him more deeply than I did 35 years ago.
  • Splashes of color that provide a natural kaleidoscope in a January sunrise in Arizona fill me with awe.
  • And when I’m listening to the masterful, whimsical lyrics of Pink Martini’s “Hold On Little Tomato,” I just have to get up and dance.
  • These and so many little and big things make it easy, fun, and wonderful to greet each day.

How did you meet the day today?

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and her writing life. She retired after 30 years of teaching, and semi-retired from coaching, and professional editing. Founder of the Eastside Writing Room based in Tucson AZ, she’s posted 100s of blogs, and is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. These days she writes to inspire, to connect with folks, teaching about the power of words, gather writers together, and for the pure enjoyment of it. Ethel enjoys speaking and storytelling at Odyssey Storytelling, Artists Standing Strong Together, Center for Spiritual Living Tucson, and anywhere there’s a mic or a Zoom room.