THE JOY OF OLD AGE. (NO KIDDING.)

That is the title of an article in today’s (Sunday) New York Times. It’s by 80-year-old Oliver Sacks. I’m stealing it for this blog cause I, too, feel joyful. I feel joyful more often now than I did in my 20’s or 30’s . . . and most definitely more often than in my 40’s. 40’s can be really hard for women because we’re moving into a momentous, tectonic shift, a hormonal shift that for –not all, but many– women, can feel like we’ve lost ourselves and may never get those selves back. Perimenopause it’s called.

Truth be known, we don’t get those selves back. But the selves we do get back can be better, braver, surer. We care less what others think of us. We tend to be kinder to ourselves. We stress less. We see commonalities between ourselves and others more than differences. We’re more forgiving, less judgmental.

In a few days I will have hand surgery. One of many surgeries i’ve had to replace joints that have become too painful to be endured. Osteoarthritis it’s called. It’s genetic. I’ve grown used to living with a constant level of pain. One can get used to it. I tell you this to show that happiness isn’t the absence of bad things. It’s the rise to prominence of the more important things.

I thought for awhile that I was an aberration. After all, 75 isn’t supposed to be better than 35. To try and understand this phenomenon, I wrote a book called “Prime Time” and in my 3 years of research, I discovered that large studies have been done with 100s of 1000s of people across the age spectrum and the results showed that most people over 50 experience these positive things I am describing. Obviously this isn’t true of all older people. Poverty, depression, a debilitating illness, addictions–these are things that make it hard for a person to feel happy (though, as I wrote in my book, there are people with incurable diseases like ALS who, in the throes of the disease, nonetheless feel they have found their true voice, become who they’re meant to be.)

Depression affects so many people. My own family was riddled with it. I get letters all the time from people who are obviously suffering from depression. Let me say this: treatment for depression has been shown to be 90% effective. Yet only 2 in 5 depressed people ever get help. This is tragic. A major reason for it, besides lack of money for the needed treatment, is that mental illness carries a stigma. We need to help make it okay–wise even–for a person to seek help. And we need to pressure the government and insurance companies to cover all varieties of mental health treatment. It would save employers and the government a lot of money in the long run by avoiding hospitalization, lost work, days, etc.

But back to joy. Where I live it is a beautiful, sunny day. There are 3 very large pine trees that I can see from the kitchen and the porch. Beyond the pines are steep hillsides, too steep, fortunately, to be developed. And they are covered with chaparel, California laurel, mesquite, the shrubs of my childhood that I climbed through and hid in while pretending to be the Lone Ranger. I can watch the sun set behind the mountains to my left and as the sun sinks, all I can see are the mountains, not the homes. They are lost in darkness. It makes me happy to be so close to these things that were my childhood sanctuary. It makes me happy that not everything has been transformed into exotic imported vegetation and that occasionally deer come and visit. It makes me happy that I have used my life, the ups and downs, the successes and failures and tragedies, and tried to learn from them. It makes me happy to know that I still have so much I need to learn. It makes me happy that my son, who turns 40 today, loves me, teaches me, takes me under his strong, gorgeous wing and helps me correct the errors of my ways. This role reversal that can happen when one gets old enough is something I find very moving. I am happy that tonight we will quietly celebrate this important birthday with his father who I was once married to, who I once hated with every ounce of my being and who I now enjoy being with. I am able to understand why we were together and grateful that he was such a good father to our son. Forgiveness is another potential blessing of aging. You have to work at it, though, but it can transform life. What a lot of energy is wasted on bitterness. In my opinion, bitterness and cynicism age you faster than anything. Love and forgiveness are the true secrets to youth.

In the article I just mentioned, the author says “At 80, one can take a long view and have a vivid, lived sense of history not possible at an earlier age. I can imagine, feel in my bones, what a century is like, which I could not do when I was 40 or 60.”

Yes. It makes me happy to remember Los Angeles in the 1930s and 40’s, without freeways, traffic jams and smog. I remember when the San Fernando Valley was blanketed with orchards, homes had corrals and horses behind them and a tomboy like me could always find empty lots to explore and songbirds to listen to and coyote howls to lull me to sleep. That’s what 4 billion fewer people in the world felt like up close and personal.

I hope you all had a fun, happy 4th. Wasn’t it glorious to get a 4-day weekend? I read 2 novels and it was pure nirvana. One of them was “State of Wonder” by Ann Patchett. Wow! For the last 6 years I’ve been writing books that required research and that’s all I read. So now, disappearing into a novel is true joy. And because I had cataract surgery, I don’t even need reading glasses anymore.

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61 Comments
  1. If we see life as the journey it was meant to be, noticing the beauty that is all around us along the way, how can we help but be blissful in our 70’s?
    Marvelous essay, and inspiring point of view. Thank you.
    xo

  2. What great reminders. Thank you. I turn 70 in the fall and feel it is something to celebrate even as it does off and on require rethinking some of what I can eat or do. I think it’s exciting to know there is change and new challenges. I heard others talk of that article on turning 80. It’s a good way to feel in a culture that has been taught to revere youth. It’s always good to put out the other side– you do it well with your blog.

  3. You are truly inspirational, Jane! Loved your book “Prime Time”! (Thank you for the autographed copy) Have a speedy recovery from the hand surgery. Wishing you the very best!

  4. Happy Birthday, Troy! The last time I saw you, you were about 4 years old, sitting on the counter at the S.M. 5th St. post office, patting your Dad’s cheeks lovingly! Jane, Troy’s father was 100% engaged with Troy every time I saw them around town. Never preoccupied. Amazing Dad, indeed!

    • Yes, Gayle, Tom was an amazing father. He was an elected official during much of Troy’s childhood and was the ONLY legislator who came home EVERY night to be with his son. This meant so much to me because I was frequently away making movies.

  5. Well written and thankfully someone is writing about aging joyfully. I am 57 and just beginning to feel old–fifty was still young especially these days. I am glad you have found joy–I’m a shaman and I am grateful that in my world, there are many components that are ageless–the spirit world, especially, where you learn your spirit is forever young and we are always anticipating being re-born into a new life with new opportunities. I think Earth is the only planet where we actually age–so it is truly a matter of the mind and perception. I had a question. You say depression is easily healed. Do you mean with standard western support or with alternative health care or both. I have a daughter (16) who I can’t seem to help with alternative care, but it seems the only offer in Western care is anti-depressants. What is your opinion on medication? Thank you. I have always been a fan. Blessings and Love, Jane (Santa Fe, NM)

    • Dear Jane, Medication can work. I took Prozac to get me through a bad patch in my late 40s. Many of my friends who are on anti-depression meds have had to try different things before finding the one that works. And, of course, when the problem is more complex as with bi-polar or chronic depression mixed with bi-polarity, there may need to be frequent adjustments and “cocktails” of different meds. Some depression can be treated with cognitive therapy. But for many, cognitive therapy alone, without meds,won’t work. Unfortunately, those with the most severe mental health problems are the very ones who, when they start to feel better, refuse to keep taking the drug. Some decide on their own to increase the dosage. My experience is that one should go to a licensed psychopharmacologist, get diagnosed, begin to take the prescribed medication and stick with it until it is proven not to work, or the side effects off set the benefits or one no longer needs the meds. Cognitive thereapy in combination with the appropriate medication is the optimal solution although not everyone can afford that. I hope one day soon this will change.
      I did not mean to imply in my blog that depression is EASY to cure. It can be easy or very hard. It may reqire taking medication forever. But there’s no question that, for many, alternative health care won’t work and medication will. Patience is critical. I also meditate and work out, both of which raises ones level of endorphins and, thus, can decrease depression. Stay strong, Jane. xx

      • HI Jane,

        Thank you so much for your reply. I’ve contacted a good friend I trust who is an alternative health care worker, but who has a regular contact with mainstream therapists. I’m hoping to make an appointment in August.
        You might find this amusing (my daughter, who I mentioned in my first post) has recently become a major fan of Anthony Perkins (she’s only sixteen).
        She’s having me watch some of his old movies and trailers of his work. I just watched the trailer for Tall Story –OMG..you are so beautiful and funny and charming..Can’t wait to see it. My daughter asked me to ask you “What was HE like in real life?”
        Thanks again for your help.

        Blessings, Jane

      • Thanks Jane for the great information you posted on depression. The steps you pointed out regarding the more complex depression are exactly correct from what I have experienced with my own immediate family. Unfortunately, My Mother, Brother and Son all have Clinical Depression. My Mother refused medication while I was growing up, of course, back in the late 70’s there really was not as much information as there is today and Xanax was always the answer. Fortunately, she lived thru a few episodes when I was a child and now takes the correct medication without fail.

        What I have learned from dealing with my family, especially my Mother & Son; “Is it is a crap shoot on what medications work for the first 4 weeks; however, once you get the right cocktail it does make a huge difference.

        Jane should try to get her daughter in to see a Psychopharmacologist & a Clinical Psychologist as soon as possible.

        I do to look forward to change…

      • Jane,

        I found your website today and already posted once. I then came across your insight on depression.

        How refreshing it was to hear you talk about medication. I was just talking to a special education teacher today about medications and after our conversation I felt confused and embarrassed. Our daughter needs to take medication for Attention Deficit and although this isn’t depression, the stigma around taking medications is everywhere. We consulted with 2 top neuropsychologists, a child psychiatrist, school counselor and pediatrician. We tried not to go the route of medication, but found it necessary. So far, it is helping my daughter. The special education teacher I spoke to expressed her concern that so many U.S. children are over medicated and in countries like France, they don’t have this problem. Kids aren’t diagnosed with attention deficit…they have more “structure.” On top of feeling like a failure as a parent, I have tried to come to terms with my decision to help my daughter with medication. I stumbled across your site today and felt alight reassurance. Thank you. Gosh, mental health issues have such a powerful stigma! When will this change? I feel guilt enough on a daily basis being a parent.

        Jenny

  6. with those medical conditions you corrected, did medicare cover it? the valley was wonderful to live in in those days

  7. You, are beautiful; in all kinds of ways… <3

  8. Hi Jane,

    Thanks for this blog. I will turn 46 in a few months and for a few months I appeared to be right in the middle of a midlife crisis:-) I suddenly became aware of the fact that others see me as older while I still thought I looked like a spring chicken…..
    But thanks to women like you, especially you, getting older is not that scary anymore and yeah the alternative is not really an option, ha ha.
    You are really an example for so many women. Also for my mother, thanks to your book and dvd Primetime, she lost 28 pounds and is able to walk long distances again.
    Well, I just wanted to let you know and take care, hope the surgery on your hand will not be too painful,

    Nancy

  9. You know I am a big fan of your Prime Time book. I certainly learned a lot from it. Getting older doesn’t seem so bad now! I am trying to get ahead of the game by letting the little stuff not bother me so much and focus on the positive. (I am looking outside my window and seeing torrential rain, but at least I don’t have to water my grass. ;))
    I am in my 40s and know I will be going through a lot of changes with my body and life in general. Any suggestions of books to read to help get through the next few years? I feel if I have a better understanding of what is happening to my body and mind I will get through the changes a lot easier. Right?
    As for getting older, I just lost my grandfather at the age of 99. I used to hear his same stories for years, not really “listening” to them if that makes sense. After reading your book, Prime Time, I started opening my ears and mind to his treasured stories and to those of others. And you know what? I loved them, learned from them, and search out other stories of those who lived a full life. The history always fascinates me. Gosh, you must have some fascinating stories from the past! Some day we will have to have lunch and you can tell me all about it. 😉

  10. Oh, and good luck on your hand surgery.

  11. You are truly gifted as a writer. I enjoy your blogs as you cover so many aspects of growing older and better.
    I am approaching seventy with six grown children and nine grandchildren, and still have a ten year old daughter…..she came from my heart, not my womb and I do believe that can be better.
    We were so blessed to get her at fours days old. Her energy, excitement of life, and she has the most amazing ability to make me laugh at everything.
    All the things that I need to keep me young.
    I often question why move seniors don’t consider adoption. We have a lifetime of experiences to share.

    Betty

  12. Excellent post, Jane. I think your acknowledgement of the need for greater mental health advocacy will save lives.

    Nutrition can’t be emphasized enough when addressing mental health and mood. There are new studies that show probiotics and gut health transform the capacity of of our brain functions. I struggled with depression extensively over the last 5 years and going on a low-inflammation diet including removing processed sugar and gluten and increasing B12 and other vitamins made a huge difference. This change happened after reading an incredible book called The Mood Cure. I’m fascinated by research on people recovering from substance abuse that shows extreme B vitamin deficiency can mimic the symptoms of schizophrenia. Our bodies are amazing.

    People may see such diets as extreme or not necessary for them. And that is okay, but I know my family history dictates I must take every reasonable care to make wellness a priority in the ways I can control, difficult as the steps may be in harder times. Mariel Hemingway’s Running From Crazy also reminds me of this.

    I ran into you on Saturday at M Cafe with your sweet dog and we talked about coconut water. Hydration indeed makes brains happy, too. This kind of blog is exactly why I was expressing my gratitude for your integrity and inspirational career, Jane. Thanks for taking a moment to speak with me or rather allowing me to interrupt your afternoon. It makes me feel better to hear from someone I so admire that you understand and stand up for the many roads to wellness we all must take. I hope I can be like you in that regard when I (hopefully) reach the same age in my life journey.

    • Also, I wondered, have you looked into gluten free diet to address joint pain? That worked for a friend with severe arthritis. Anti-inflammatory diet and all.

  13. Hi Jane <3

    You have always been an inspiration to women right back to your "leg warmer" fitness days. It is wonderful to embrace each passing birthday & be grateful that we can live another day to learn even more. The day we stop learning or teaching, is the day we start to give in to aging or feeling lost.

    The one thing I would like to see change, is the work environment restrictions for people over 50. Many people lose their jobs at this age and cannot get hired due to agism. This is very sad because these people have earned the right to keep their careers due to a long unpaved road of getting there.

    While some things have definitely improved over the last decade, there is still so much that needs to be done to protect people's jobs. Richard Branson is one person who appreciates his older employees & respects the time they have given his company. More people need to think like him so we can all grow older knowing our jobs will still be safe down the road. After all 60 is the new 45!

    Thanks for being "You" Jane and keeping our spirits high with your inspirational outlook. You are an Icon for women everywhere!

    Susan

  14. Ms. Fonda I am off the subject of this particular blog but I always read carefully where you go to eat in Santa Fe and make notes about those places. Thank you for sharing that type information.
    I am planning a trip to SF in a few weeks to attend the Opera… a first time for me but I put it on my “bucket list” a couple of years ago. Finally have a friend who will go with me…. 77 year old guys need a traveling companion or they could get lost…
    We will be trying a few of the places you have mentioned in your excellent writings.
    Have been to Santa Fe and Taos in the past but this trip will have some first in it for me…
    Thanks for sharing… have always been a fan.
    Joe Ross

  15. Hi Jane,

    First off, you’re quite the trooper facing another surgery. So, I’m going to believe you…it’s all good…no kidding-:)

    As a former teacher in an inner city school..I recognize that you are an extraordinary teacher. I’ve been with you from the start. I had your record and every book, video, workout mat, clothes, cookbook and DVDs -:) I still have the booklet from the “Work Out with Weights”(you’re in that awesome leopard number-:) And at 64, I routinely churn out those 3×8 push-ups! I do your AM yoga energizer most mornings, run 3x a week and weights 2x.

    But the most important thing you taught me? How to meditate! It was on my New Year’s Resolution list for years. I had cut out every article on how to do this and purchased many audio “tapes”. But,I never managed until you showed me how. Of course,in the beginning,I would involuntary twitch,want to jump up and kept wondering when would it would be over! Guess what?! Now, when the bell sounds, I’m surprised! Thank you, it’s made a world of difference. I’m not “cracking up”! I’m “cracking open” -:)

    I saw you at Emerson College’s graduation ceremony in 2000 when you and Ted Turner received honorary degrees, and he gave the commencement speech. I believe you were starting your new journey…it reminds me of Springsteen’s song, “It’s going to be a long walk home”.

    Oh….just one more thing! I read “This is Where I Leave You” over the 4th….you’re the perfect choice for the mother role, can’t wait to see the movie!

    Bonnie

  16. I hope I ever get to meet you…

  17. And, in all of that; it really is kind of about you. I don’t know how to say that without it sounding kind of stupid. I don’t know how to say what I mean and have it come out exactly like it sounds in my head. If I ever do meet you; you will know what I mean to say <3

  18. Last one…

    I am not “depressed”. I look at life however I do; I am not bitter, and I don’t ever see anything in my own self, in whatever your experience is, that makes me want to say anything about being depressed. Much to the contrary. And I think that is the whole thing about you from the moment I ever “saw” you. I love my life; I imagine that I am who I am, because of my experience. There is nothing I can do to change it; and so I will just have it. Have I been “depressed”? Sure I have. I have been consumed by it at times in my life. I love that there are some people, you being one of them, that expresses ??? their experience and how they chose to deal with it, in a way that makes it feel like I’m not really all that crazy; I am just finding my way. I don’t envy you; I don’t idolize you; I don’t anything you, outside of admiring you. Again, there is little chance I will ever meet you in this life; I am just a regular person; but, so are you, and I guess that’s the whole point of what I admire.

  19. Wonderful spirit Jane (!), so glad you are really happy now. Re: depression, some may find not eating processed foods or sugar eliminates it. Also impotant to get up with the rooster (or call duck) and sleep when tired. Early morning sunlight increases Vitamin D without too much ultraviolet radiation. Most don’t get enough, particularly night owls. Also avoiding alcohol is important–it has sugar and reduces sleeping ability. So many young people get into the feeling bad, drinking, no sleep syndrome, staying up all night on computer. Still think you should practice chi gong meditation for self-healing. Am also happy — but too busy, no time for art or even riding my bike.:)

    • I DO ZEN MINDFULNESS MEDITATION. EMPTYING MY MIND. EVERY DAY

  20. I enjoyed your convincing writing on nature and a past that had far less environmental damage to our nation. A simpler time too. As I age I find that beauty is very important to me, and I seek it out often – in the birds that sing in the morning, the changes that come with the gift of four seasons, the great monuments of music that amazingly come through a little box in the living room… beauty wherever and whenever I can find it.

    I do wonder whether we expect too much in old age. Surely if we never have pain or depression or diminishing powers we would never want to die, and I believe this pain et al is all a part of nature’s way to make room for renewal.

    I can’t see a pleasant future with genetic research that might enable us to live centuries-long lives through a succession of stem cell grown livers, kidneys, hearts when the earth is exploding with people, like some out of control deer population with no wolves to hunt them.

    We people need wolves to hunt us. Baring that we need to learn how to die willingly and gracefully. Part of that is learning to accept our time and listen to the rhythm of life and its call to our end. It’s all good. It really is.

    • AGREE GUEST HERE, BUT THE IDEAL IS TO BE RELATIVELY HEALTHY AND PAIN-FREE TILL RIGHT BEFORE WE DIE AND THEN IT’S A SUDDEN, BRIEF ALL-SYSTEMS FAILURE. I HAD A DOG THAT WENT THAT WAY AND A MATERNAL GRANDMOTHER

  21. Dear Jane,
    Have been reading your blog from the start, and am a long time fan. I am interested to know what joint you are having replaced in your hand. Does it happen to be the basal thumb joint? I have pretty significant pain in both of mine and I am only 62. You are right however that one does learn to live with their pain. I notice on my happiest days I hardly even notice the pain! Thank you for sharing.
    Pam

    • PAM, RIGHT HAND CARPAL/METACARPAL JOINT. IT’S HARD CAUSE I’M RIGHT HANDED. AM HUNTING AND PECKING WITH MY LEFT HAND AD THE PAIN IS PRETTY BAD. I’VE JUST BEEN ON A GCAPP CONFERENCE CALL AND WANTED TO BE IN MY RIGHT MIND BUT NOW I GOTTA LIE DOWN AND TAKE A STRONG PILL.

    • I too have the same hand issues, as well as arthritis in both index fingers and basal thumb joints. You have my sympathies ladies. I had carpal surgeries years ago but now find the pain in the hand quite restrictive and unbearable. After losing my dr due to the group being bought out, it took me nearly a year to find a dr, and a second treatment to get back the Kenalog injections in both hands every 3-4 months that make it possible for me to function in any way! It takes a great surgeon to give one the courage for surgery, of which doesn’t appear to be here, within reach. I also follow Jane’s dvd’s faithfully, which kept me from a second rotator cuff surgery. By the way, I am just now 63. But osteo is hereditary, and so it goes. Just feels better knowing there are others are out there with this debilitating pain, which of course does not appear to others who are unable to understand. But, even though it is a drug, the
      injections and pain meds are sometimes the only answer to keep moving! By the way, Love the support you give us!

      • Shelley, thanks for letting me know about the Kenalog. xx

  22. Hello Jane

    I have a question not related to the blog!
    Whatever happened to your niece Bridget Fonda, brilliant actress? I really liked her work.
    Why did she stop acting and do you see any similarities between your career and hers? I mean both of you have stop for a longtime and she kind of stop when you were coming back. It’s interesting how the name Fonda has been around for like 70 years with three different generations.

    • MARC, I’LL TELL BRIDGET YOU ASKED. I’M SEEING HER SUNDAY.
      SHE MARRIED THE ALWAYS BUSY CREATIVE GENIUS, DANNY ELFMAN AND HAS A YOUNG SON AND THAT IS CONSUMING HER HEART AND SOUL AND TIME.

  23. I love you, Jane; a lot.

  24. Jane, your blog is my favorite of all, I always look forward to your wisdom. I can attest to the fact that antidepressants are a good tool in treating depression. I fought taking medications for a long time (waste of time)because of the stigma and really all that amounted to was more struggles, once I resigned myself to at least giving meds a try, I have to say it made a world of difference, as in life changing. Perimenopause/menopause/hormones is out of our control – I honestly felt like I was going crazy. My life is much better because my brain is better. Thank you Jane.

  25. Hello Jane,
    I hope your hand operation goes well !
    and after you will not be too bad !!
    I had my 40 and 50 years were difficult.
    I had cognitive therapy, and it’s going much better. here allows us to understand many things that we experienced in childhood that have disturbed us. These events can resurface at menopause.
    il peut arriver que nous fassions une amnésie sur des évènements qui ont marqués et avoir un mal être sans savoir pourquoi.
    Sorry,je ne maitrise pas bien l’anglais, j’espère que j’écris pas trop mal !
    I wish you a lot of courage for your surgical intervention on your hand
    Take care of you xxx

    • MERCI BEAUCOUP, FLORENCE. I AM IN TERRIBLE PAIN. DIDN’T THINK IT WOULD BE THIS BAD. ON STRONG PAIN MEDS BUT THEY MAKE ME BRAIN DEAD. STILL…

  26. A librarian friend of mine, who was actually very instrumental in helping navigate the rocky road to recovery from alcoholism with dignity and faith, posted this link on facebook — I thought that you would find it very interesting, uplifting.

    http://librarylostfound.com/2013/07/11/mental-health-first-aid/

    One of the life-changing books that I have read in my lifetime was your MY LIFE SO FAR, which originally I checked out of the library. My stepDad read it and was very inspired as well. So did my husband (I purchased him the paperback edition with the wonderful DVD bonus.)

    I am so glad that I logged into your blog today, Ms. Fonda (feels weird — too overly familiar — to call you Jane). I’ve been experimenting with deviating my daily patterns a little bit. Getting off the computer. Connecting more with people, face-to-face. But, your amazingly crafted, honest gratitude list lifted my heart a little higher. Thanks for enriching my life!!

    P.S. Your book cover photo (gorgeous, strong, sly) beams down at me from the book shelf on top of my computer desk — always encouraging me.

  27. Hi Jane,

    So nice to get your level-headed response to my passion for the environment and over-population. (It becomes unbridled at times when I struggle to get enough sleep at this time of my life.)

    The Oliver Sacks article was a good one, and sadly represents an attitude lacking so often in those losing their powers through aging. Ha, it just occurred to me how close raging is spelled to aging. The path of gratitude and awareness can be life changing.

    The ideal of a swift decline seems to elude experts, however, who call this the “compression of morbidity” (Wiki has a good summary of it.). Apparently they thought increased health would lead to a compression of all that suffering in old age, but the numbers haven’t proven the theory. Lucky those who have genes that guide them to a swift decline, or the dogs we allow a merciful assisted passing.

    A benefit I discovered last night with poor sleep was the opportunity to get up and learn something in the middle of the night. I turned on the TV and found the documentary EUGENE McCARTHY: I’M SORRY I WAS RIGHT. Gene was carrying himself with supernatural wit, and objecting to those who had written his obit and filed it away. He quoted the end of a poem of his on the matter I’ll post in full. His was an age. He was a man to behold. His last appearance on Firing Line was the most entertaining interview I have ever seen.

    COURAGE AFTER SIXTY
    Now it is certain.
    There is no magic stone.
    No secret to be found.
    One must go
    With the mind’s winnowed learning.
    No more than the child’s handhold
    On the willows bending over the lake,
    On the sumac roots at the cliff edge.
    Ignorance is checked,
    Betrayals scratched.
    The coat has been hung on the peg,
    The cigar laid on the table edge,
    The cue chosen and chalked,
    The balls set for the final break.
    All cards drawn,
    All bets called.
    The dice, warm as blood in the hand,
    Shaken for the last cast.
    The glove has been thrown to the ground,
    The last choice of weapons made.
    A book for one thought.
    A poem for one line.
    A line for one word.
    “Broken things are powerful.”
    Things about to break are stronger still.
    The last shot from the brittle bow is truest.

  28. And here is a poem Robert Bly quoted on the same documentary which also seems appropriate for your topic. It is one stanza from “Vacillation,” a poem by Yeats. Bly performed it twice on the program, emphasizing the need to have the book open before you in order to receive the blessing of old age…

    Vacillation
    William Butler Yeats

    IV
    My fiftieth year had come and gone,
    I sat, a solitary man,
    In a crowded London shop,
    An open book and empty cup
    On the marble table-top.
    While on the shop and street I gazed
    My body of a sudden blazed;
    And twenty minutes more or less
    It seemed, so great my happiness,
    That I was blessed and could bless.
    Although the summer Sunlight gild
    Cloudy leafage of the sky,
    Or wintry moonlight sink the field
    In storm-scattered intricacy,
    I cannot look thereon,
    Responsibility so weighs me down.
    Things said or done long years ago,
    Or things I did not do or say
    But thought that I might say or do,
    Weigh me down, and not a day
    But something is recalled,
    My conscience or my vanity appalled.
    A rivery field spread out below,
    An odour of the new-mown hay
    In his nostrils, the great lord of Chou
    Cried, casting off the mountain snow,
    “Let all things pass away.’
    Wheels by milk-white asses drawn
    Where Babylon or Nineveh
    Rose; some conquer drew rein
    And cried to battle-weary men,
    “Let all things pass away.’
    From man’s blood-sodden heart are sprung
    Those branches of the night and day
    Where the gaudy moon is hung.
    What’s the meaning of all song?
    “Let all things pass away.’

  29. Jane, Your comments about joy and the pine trees and the shrubs of your childhood resonate deeply. Nature can be so nourishing to the spirit, as you have eloquently pointed out. The joys of the garden help us to cope with all the life throws at us.
    Good Luck with your hand surgery! I wish you a speedy recovery and know that we will send you healing light and love. You are needed now more than ever!

  30. Judy Lindberg McFarland book is a awesome read:
    AGING WITHOUT GROWING OLD

    JUDY’S Mom was pioneer nutritionist Gladys Melcher Lindberg.

    Dare ya,
    d

  31. Sorry to hear you’re in so much pain. I always try and tell myself that pain is nature’s way of telling me something, but after all these years I still haven’t got the slightest clue what it could be. Get well soon.
    Jason

  32. My Life So Far, Prime Time, and this website/blog have been so helpful and informative to me. Thank you for taking the time to write and for making the decision to share your life with others. You cover such a wide variety of topics and have taught me things I’d never even thought about before. I’m glad to know that with age comes joy!
    I was born in 1980 so I know you more as an author and teacher than an actress. (I have recently seen you in The Newsroom on HBO and WOW! You kick ass! It’s awesome!)
    Back to the subjects of joy and depression. Most of my 33 years of life so far have been, well, difficult. I’ve dealt with some of the more difficult experiences that began back when I was 7 years old. (I’m still a work in progress.) Depression has come and gone many times over the past 26 years. Fortunately, I know several ways that help me when I start feeling down and I know from my own personal experience that depression can be treated.
    I like the idea of doing a life review, however, I don’t feel emotionally strong enough to do a life review at this time.
    Of course I’ve experienced times of joy and peace in my life and I’m certain I’ll experience more. (My two daughters bring me so much joy and happiness that words can’t describe.) I continue my journey not only with hope but with curiosity, gratitude, appreciation, and determination.
    Anyway, thank you again for writing your books and keeping up with your website/blog. I enjoy learning from you.
    Lastly, I hope your hand surgery goes well and your pain goes away.
    – Kristen

  33. Congratulations on your Emmy nomination! I am so happy for you! You definitely deserve it! Your performances on the Newsroom are outstanding! I am happy for Jeff Daniels too!

  34. I was away this month so I could not comment. I hope the surgery went well (I assume it’s done by now, if not, I hope everything goes well) and you’ve got rid of the pain in your hands. You’ll need it to hold your Emmy. 😉 Congrats on the nomination btw (I was so glad about it, it made up for Julianna Margulies being so outrageously snubbed), I wish you all the best, the clip released from The Butler looks amazing (your acting seemed so relaxed, I love it, I hope the rest is just as great).

    I bought This Is Where I Leave You in London, I hope to catch up on it soon. I’m so excited about that project of yours (as well lol). I’m glad to see you more often on screen, being busy with all these roles and I know I’m not the only one. I hope your fans’ love makes you forget the pain you might have. 🙂

  35. Thanks so much, Ms. Fonda, for your remarkable blog post – you covered so much ground so beautifully and so succinctly.

    I’ve dedicated much of my adult life (personally and professionally) to rallying against the sometimes subtle, sometimes blatant mechanics of ageism. Why we’ve created a culture (in the States) wherein youth is worshiped and elders are pushed aside baffles me on many levels. But my lack of understanding has not diminished my desire to help undo it. Thank you for adding your voice to the fold.

    I have long believed that life gets richer and fuller with time – or, as I like to say, that “the 19-year-old and the 90-year-old are entitled to the same level of happiness and fulfillment.” Along those lines, I love your description of our newer, older selves as “better, braver, surer.”

    As a geriatric therapist I appreciate – tremendously – your call for greater understanding and compassion with regard to mental illness. Any one of us whose life has been touched by it can easily resonate with how much better this world would be if treatment were more accessible and less stigmatized.

    Your comment about your son’s father reminded me of one of the most stunning lines from A Course in Miracles, which reads, “The holiest of all the spots on earth is where an ancient hatred has become a present love.” Kudos to you for that.

    Lastly, I’d imagine it would be fairly easy for a major celebrity to forget to celebrate the simple joys of nature. That you are so in touch with it as to revel in the beauty of a pine tree tells me that “the little Jane inside” is alive and well. And it is that sense of childlike wonder that, I believe, will keep you young even when you are well past your 100th birthday.

    With gratitude and respect,
    Ed Franco
    http://www.edwardfranco.com

  36. Hello Jane, I was truly amazed to discover that you had a place on your website for us simple folk to contact you … what a testament to the wonderful woman and role model that you are. I was looking for a contact to ask your assistance and advice on a health project – so you cannot imagine my delight when I was able to ask you directly … My mother came across some incredible information about that fact that we shouldn’t `sit’ to use the toilet and it piqued my curiosity. Apparently 2/3rds of the world still squat – (the correct anatomical position) as sitting to void has unwittingly caused us a myriad of health problems that are almost non-existent in countries who squat. I came across a wonderful little book called Nature Knows Best that talks in detail about this, with case studies etc, comments from doctors. Even Dr Oz was telling viewers a while back that sitting is the wrong position and was recommending on his show an American made step type product which at least elevated the knees when sitting – but the correct position is still a proper squat. Unfortunately our toilets are a terrible design, a throw back from Victorian times when people wanted to `sit’ like Queen Victoria rather than use chamber pots. Despite many countries having floor level toilets, not ideal I know – I searched for something that would work for us Westerners and luckily stumbled across a Singaporian design couple who have created a dual purpose sit/squat toilet. It’s still in advanced prototype stage and they have been trying to find funding to finish it and then get it through the high testing requirements for North America. I am based in Canada and have been trying to help them get this project off the ground for the past year because I felt I had a moral duty to help get this brilliant product out in the world. When I mentioned it to a nurse who works with pregnant women, she loved the idea, as squatting is always recommended to help with easier births. Unfortunately existing toilet companies haven’t shown interest – I imagine it would be a direct competition to their own product line and possibly highlight the fact that for years they have been selling us products that actually cause us health problems! Another interesting fact is that humans, when they sit, use the breath to void rather than the correct position where the thighs and position of the body help to easily eliminate. There have been reports from heart surgeons commenting that this is why men often drop dead after using the toilet from the extra pressure to the heart from pushing and holding their breath. Of course we can `go’ in the sitting position, but this is simply for us to still be able to eliminate if injured i.e. having a broken leg for example. But this is really just a few of the reasons why that pedestal toilet needs a complete design overhaul. I thought I would write to you, because you are also such a great health ambassador – to see if you could in any shape or form, help to get important product out in the world? It is a beautiful design and if one less person dies from at least knowing this information – it would have been worthwhile. Since finding out this information, both my mother and I use a type of step, which is not great, but better than nothing. At least it elevates the knees. We are eagerly waiting for the day when can buy this redesigned toilet in the shops. Any thoughts, recommendations gratefully accepted. Kindest regards Julie Lambert

    • Julie, I know about the “step.” It’s good. I have traveled through China etc and experienced squatting over holes. I understand why that makes more sense physiologically. But many if not most people, especially elderly people, don’t have strong enough thingh muscles to sustain themselves in a squat position.

      • Hello Jane, Thanks very much for your reply … yes, I know what you are talking about with trying to stay in the squat position, but children do it naturally and I am sure, with practice, most people could master it. It’s what we would do if we had to `go’ in the woods. I guess its a new thing for the next generation. For the elderly, they can just use it as a normal toilet – it is designed to be dual purpose. The designers have put a 2 min video up a few days ago on youtube, its under 2 in 1 sit squat toilet. I would love to know what you think. Just a day ago I saw a programme about a guy who began doing 100 squats a day for fitness (he wanted to find a quick fitness method different to cycling) and was amazed how good he looked after doing daily squats – apparently others have caught on to the idea – me included, as a way to increase flexibility and muscle tone (something I discovered you tend to lose post-menopause). Funnily enough if the world started doing 100 squats a day for fitness, they wouldn’t have any trouble squatting to go! I have a little step I use at home, but to be honest, having used this for some time, if I am travelling away from home and need to use the toilet, my body seems to find it more difficult as it has adjusted to the squat position. If only we had one in every hotel room and in public place. I remember a sign in a college in New Zealand that said “Don’t stand on the toilet seats”. Apparently all the Chinese students were having a terrible time trying to eliminate from the sitting position. If only everyone knew how bad this was for us all. Love your comments re this. Kind regards Julie

  37. Dear Jane,
    first episode of ‘The Newsroom’ has just aired here in Budapest. Oh….my…..God! Such brilliant writing and direction and a perfect cast. I’ve also viewed clips of episodes to come – your scenes with Sam are what fine acting is all about, in my opinion. You two especially spark off one another in a way which few casting directors could ever predict and assess. And Jeff – well, he was born to play this character. You guy – keep yourselves free on Golden Globe night. Your names HAVE to be on several pieces of paper. And, like ‘The Dollmaker’, you recognise once more the value in quality television as a social medium and have chosen so, so well your part and its portrayal in the most telling and revealing layerss. Hooked!

  38. Hi Jane!
    What a wonderful article! I can relate to this as I am in my 40’s and find that it has been a rough ride so far! Hoping my 50’s (which are creeping up quickly) will go much smoother! 🙂 I have also been doing your workouts (on youtube) and find that I do feel like a whole new person after an exercise session! You are quite an inspiration to me, and I enjoy the workouts very much! Hope you have a great day, and I hope your surgery went well!

  39. Wonderful piece. And ‘peace’, too. I’m in my mid-fifties, enduring sometimes withering hot flashes, and yet, I’m happier than I’ve ever been before.

    Yes, we have to take care of our bodies, but your point about forgiving and releasing resentments is even more important. It has been the essential key for me – to access the serenity and perspective for a joyous life, and for sleeping well at night. Which, of course, helps with the healthy thing.

    I have too many friends hanging on to the bitterness and resentments, and it’s really starting to affect them. It saddens me, but I’ve learned you can’t make someone understand this. They have to discover it for themselves. (Just like Glinda tells Dorothy at the end of Wizard of Oz.)

    Thanks for using your acquired wisdom and position in life this way.

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