I was surprised by the response to my last blog post. I guess people like to know how someone like myself spends their time during a pandemic. I feel somewhat uncomfortable talking about my daily routines at a time like this when so much that is deeply important and historic is going on and so many are suffering life and death issues. The $600 supplemental income bill runs out in 2 days and the f&%#@* senate Republicans can’t find their way to help. But a number of you said that this blog calmed them so here’s another one of those daily drudge reports.
My 8 1/2 pound 15 1/2 year-old dog, Tulea, wakes me up every morning around 6am by standing on my stomach. She is 100% deaf and so spends lot of time staring at me for signals as to how I feel and what I want from her. She also has heart issues but when we come back into the house after I take her out in the morning she leaps and runs like a puppy, wanting me to chase her. I do…for awhile but running isn’t my strong suit these days.
I often wonder how long I will live. I’m perfectly resigned to death, truly I am, but Gloria Steinem once told me she wants to live at least to 100. When I asked her why, she answered, “I want to see how things turn out.” That was about 15 years ago and I didn’t share her desire then but now I do. I want to see how things turn out or at least if they’re headed in the right direction. Has the country made real progress in ridding ourselves of white supremacy and fossil fuels? Have we done what’s needed to address the climate crisis? I have to assume Joe Biden will get elected because otherwise I don’t need to wait to know how things will turn out. Another 4 years of that guy will put us on an irreversible spiral downward that, because of the climate crisis, we will not recover from. Please, all of you who can vote in the U.S., please register and make sure you and everyone you know votes.
Well, that paragraph wasn’t exactly calming. But, hey, that’s how I think. Speaking of, even though I come from a long line of depressives, I’m not one anymore. I used to be but hard work on myself has changed the wiring in my brain, I think. You can do that, you know. Brains are plastic (as in malleable) and if we repeatedly have a more positive response to things that used to sadden us or disturb us, we can cause the neural pathways to change. Reading books about this and therapy and meditation help.
As I write this, I can’t help but feel my privilege at having had access to these healing things. But then again, lots of people do but don’t improve. You have to want to change and be able to internalize, metabolize, what you learn and experience.
I’ve also learned that bad things, sad things, can also teach you a lot if you work at making that so. I wrote a book called Prime Time published by Random House that dedicates several chapters to all of this.
Age has a lot to do with feeling more positive. Longitudinal studies of 100s of 1000s of people have been done that show that life gets easier, less anxious, less hostile, and holds more sense of well-being after 50 years and that is true for men, women, straight, gay, married, single. Of course, one’s health can change this. If one is dealing with a severe illness or trauma this “positivity” as scientists call it, may not be true.
Psychologists are not certain why this “positivity” is true but some of the reasons they suggest are that older people have so much life behind them. They’ve experienced hardships –death of loved ones, financial setbacks, etc—and they survived. So the “been-there-done-that- and-it-didn’t-kill-me” factor is at work. Older people tend to not make mountains out of mole hills but instead, make lemonade out of lemons. They tend to know what’s important to them and what they can let go. So life become lighter. My eyesight is going but my insight is more acute. It may also have something to do with changes in the brain itself.
In my late 60s and early 70s I was aware that things just didn’t roil me as they used to and I thought this very nice turn of events was something unique to me. Then, while researching Prime Time at Stanford’s Center for Longevity, I learned about the “positivity factor” and realized I was simply part of the aging majority that experience this.
So there’s something to look forward to for all my younger followers.
You know, when something frightens me, I try to learn everything I can about it, make it my friend. That’s why I wrote Prime Time. I was scared of aging. Not anymore.
Hah! This blog didn’t turn out anything like I thought it would when I began.
I’ll end here while I’m ahead.