October 28, 2011

Aging Gracefully with Change

This week's beauty is actress Susan Saint James of McMillan and Wife and Kate and Allie fame. Susan is sixty-five years old and every time I've heard her speak she inspires me. Among many things, she is a mother who has survived the death of her fourteen-year-old child. She is also one of those rare women in Hollywood who has the guts to age naturally. Earlier this year I featured Susan when she discussed aging with her good friend and make-up artist Bobbi Brown on The Today Show.

Susan has this to say about life:

  •  Feed yourself well and take good care of yourself so that you think straight. Get rid of the alcohol, and the the drugs, and the stuff that is slowing you down- because then you will make good choices, and your instincts will come back, and they will lead you in the right direction.
  • The only responsibility that you have to make changes in your life is to desire to be happy and really work at saying "okay there's a lot of stuff in my life that works over here, and there's a lot of stuff in my life that does not work, and I need to know the difference. I need to know what 's changeable or what I should maybe figure out."
  • There is a great saying "when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change." Sometimes a really crummy boss or a really bad situation can change if you decide that you are going to have a different attitude about it. And sometimes, you have to leave a situation if it's toxic.

Susan Saint James will be featured in the soon to be released book The Prime Book which is a collection of photos and essays about what it looks like to be a woman in her prime.

October 25, 2011

A Different Phase of Life

The older I grow, the more Dr. Andrew Weil catches my attention. I have yet to read an entire book of his but I open them from time to time as they are great references. This Harvard educated doctor is a very wise man and has lots to say about the aging process. What I do with many books, instead of starting at the table of contents, is just randomly open to a page and start reading. Very often I land on something that interests me.

Dr. Weil has many good quotes about growing older and I thought I'd share some of them with you today:

  • I had thought that turning 50 was going to be the big milestone. But, in retrospect, it wasn't. You know, I think life went on pretty much as usual. But turning 60 was different for me. I think it was impossible to avoid the fact that I'm in a different phase of life. 

( I love his term "different phase of life". There is something very freeing about the aging process when put in these terms: Hey, no wonder I feel different... I am in a different phase of life! I am supposed to feel different.)

  • I think in this culture, we are entirely youth-obsessed, and so we view aging as a catastrophe -- that it only brings negatives. When you look in other cultures where aging looks different -- and the example that I've used in my book, the main one, is Okinawa at the southern end of Japan -- whole communities make efforts to include the oldest [of the] old in all community activities so they have a chance to interact with people of all ages. 

  • I have to say, coming there as an American, what most struck me was the different cultural attitude toward aging. The oldest old are really honored. And they're celebrated. And they look different. To me, they're beautiful. And I think beauty has two roots. One is good health, and the other is your relationship to yourself. And these old people I saw there, they like themselves. And they are happy with being old. 

  • My concern is when people do things -- you know, whether this is Botox or cosmetic surgery for the purpose of making it easier to pretend that aging is not happening. I don't think that's mentally healthy. I think it is healthy to observe the fact that we're aging, that we're moving along this continuum of life. I don't think it's good to deny that.

Health nut Jorge Cruise has interviewed Dr. Weil on the importance of staying away from flour and sugar as much as we can because they cause inflammation and joint pain. I also posted about inflammation and aging awhile back here.

There is also lots of helpful info on Dr. Weil's website above.


October 21, 2011

Aging Gracefully with a Disability

This week's beauty is Marion Leeds Carroll who is sixty-years old. Marion has quite a story to share about living with Multiple Sclerosis.  

I bring you Marion:

One day a friend with colitis and I were comparing our differing challenges. She pointed out: We have it all over our Temporarily-Non-Disabled neighbors. *They* find the limitations of age a frightening, depressing shock. *We've* been finding ways past our limitations all our lives!

So... when MS fatigue hits hard but I must eat *something*, I can find the pantry with my eyes shut, grab a can of soup, slide along the kitchen counter, and plop onto the stool I've set where I can reach the bowl, the spoon, the microwave- all without standing. I can even sit there and eat my warmed soup without getting up.  Is this disability? No, it's finding solutions.

Disabling fatigue is a hallmark of MS, so any career I might have pursued was impossible. The last time I tried to work a simple 40-hr week, I was hit with an MS relapse and had to quit. But I can't spend my life lying in bed, doing nothing! My solution: lots of little careers, working mainly from home.

- I joined a club, asked what I could do to help out, and spent ten years editing their newsletter (I still maintain their web site), making e-friends around the world in the process.

- Afraid of leg problems, I offered to direct rather than perform in a show- and fell into a long career of directing the shows I love.

- I went to services, sang along with prayers- and found myself leading the music for key holiday services.

- I accepted a role in an opera, moving carefully to avoid making it obvious that standing was becoming a problem. When the director saw me later, after I'd started using a cane, he asked me to join the chorus of another production... and when I said, "Only if I can come on as a little old lady who shakes her cane threateningly!", he replied, "That's just what I wanted you to do!"

- Hooray for the Web! Not just for shopping or researching on-line to save energy: A bit of training led me to a part-time, flex-time, telecommuting web-design job. I work enough hours to receive full benefits, but I can rest whenever I need to.

I've always been the one to hold a door, to move chairs, to help... but when my legs gave out, I had to let others help me. It finally dawned on me:  If it gives me pleasure to help others, it probably gives others pleasure to help me! So I can give pleasure by accepting help.

I can't sing for hours as I once did- but I can organize concerts and let others do most of the singing.When I heard about the Accelerated Cure Project for Multiple Sclerosis, I was so impressed by their work that I wanted to support them with a benefit concert. So I invited talented friends and started my annual Music to Cure MS concert.  If you are in the Boston area catch our 9th concert on October 30 in Arlington, MA.

When I turned 60 last month, I really wanted to sing an entire concert all by myself... but I got real: I called it a party instead of a concert, invited friends, warned them I hadn't rehearsed- and everyone had fun.

...and- what's next?  If a door closes, there's still a window open.There's always something I can do, and if I can't do it the way I used to, I'll find another way!

Thank you Marion for sharing your inspirational story.


October 18, 2011

Simple Ways to Live Our Dreams

Photo by Crissie Hardy  www.DesignEatPlay.com

About six years ago, when both my daughters were in the thick of being young teenagers, I found an interesting list in Organic Lifestyle magazine that I have posted for you below. At the time I cut it out and put it on the wall in the bathroom. I posted it as a reminder to everyone in our house. Somehow though over the years it disappeared...but I found it recently again on The Hole Thing.

My thinking is that I have to put it back up again- maybe framed this time- because it is such a great reminder no matter how old we are. With my youngest going off to college in less than a year I find myself in transition again in many ways. More on all this later, I am sure, but for now I wanted to share the list with you.

Maybe it should be called The Five Best Commandments:

  • Spend time alone and you'll hear your inner voice.

  • Break the rules. Do what you want, if it harms no one.

  • Follow your passion- whatever it takes.

  • Stop worrying about what other people think. It's your life.

  • Get over your fear. Fear is normal, so embrace it and then you'll get past it.

Have a good week everyone.
Do something that scares you.

October 14, 2011

He Aged Gracefully with a Message

This week's beauty is Steve Jobs who died at the age of 56 last week. Steve co-founded Apple and designed, among many other things, the Ipod, Iphone, and the Ipad. I personally never paid much attention to Steve Jobs. I knew who he was, I knew he was sick, and I knew he passed away.

It wasn't until I read the following quote of his that I knew that he had something really important to say:

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others'opinions drown out your own inner voice. And, most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.   ~Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs was given up at birth. Dropped out of college. Was fired by Apple. His second company failed. He had a major comeback 11 years later.

And he changed how the world will communicate forever.

October 12, 2011

The Beauty of Touch

Photo by Ambro

My dad once said that the best thing that retirement homes could do is to put residents in double beds so that they can hug each other and not be lonely. Excellent idea. I bet it would also help defray costs and reduce the amount of medicine people need to take.

I'm in the middle of reading The Happiness Project. Gretchen Rubin's #1 New York Times bestseller is chock full of ways to increase contentedness and her year spent researching satisfaction is inspiring. Happiness really is contagious.

I was particularly struck by what Rubin has to say about hugging. Apparently if we hug for at least six seconds it promotes the flow of oxytocin and serotonin which are the mood enhancing chemicals that promote happiness and bonding. Which kind of explains why some people pull apart before six seconds! It amazes me what scientists have figured out. Six seconds I tell you. That's all it takes. Imagine what 3 minutes does.

Hugging helps our body's immune system.

It helps depression.

Reduces stress.

Is invigorating.


Maybe it's a cure all!

No wonder why I love children, animals, and massages so much.

When it comes right down to it-

we just want to love, and be loved,

and embracing someone is a great way to feel this way.

Lots more on the Happiness Project here.

Ambro's photos here.

October 07, 2011

Aging Gracefully with Self-Acceptance

This week's beauty is Maureen Umehara. I met Maureen this past summer at a weekend gathering up in Maine with some of the women from The Revelation Project. I was immediately attracted to Maureen's warmth, honesty, and intelligence, and was hopeful that she would someday share some of her insights about the world around her with all of us at Lines of Beauty.

I bring you Maureen:

"Louise is such a kind and insightful soul. I am honored to have met her and to be asked to write a post for her blog.  In thinking of aging gracefully, as with many things, I have to say I don’t have all the answers. But I do enjoy asking the question and seeing what arises.  

I think aging gracefully is about staying active. One thing I admire about my parents is that they continue to stay active physically and mentally. Whether it’s a walk for exercise, a book club, a game of golf or just a social hour with friends, they keep busy doing the things they enjoy. Interestingly enough I think this can be both challenging and beneficial at any age.  

I found when I turned 40 that I had not been making time for the things I enjoyed (and started to lose touch with what they even were). So I made myself a “Passion Pact” to rediscover and make time for things that renewed and energized me. Ultimately that meant making time for and rediscovering me.

How would I describe myself right now? I'm a wife and mom of 2 beautiful daughters, an expressive therapist, an organizer of a women’s club (soon to be closed), and a writer for A Mom Knows Best and the Tiverton Patch. This year I am getting back in touch with myself and my creativity through art and writing. I also really enjoy finding opportunities to connect with insightful people for insightful and inspired discussions.

However, one thing I have learned is that these and any roles I choose to do and be don’t truly define me. We are so much more than any role we take. If I let one role go I am not less of a person. I am just making room for other parts of myself to surface (this took me a long time to learn!). I remember an accomplished, sprite older woman informing me that she figured she re-created herself about every 10 years!  

I think our self-concept continues to change as we grow older. As our old self-concepts break, we often grieve for the loss of that self-concept and feel broken. However, we can also choose a different perspective. We can choose to see our self- concept like an egg. It feels whole for a short time, however, eventually it needs to crack and break in order for new life and new opportunities to arise. If we cling to the old shell/self-concept we will be stuck in what is broken and miss out on the new expanded self-concept that can arise.  

think a big part about aging gracefully is accepting yourself for all of who you are, the good parts and the imperfect parts (the more we live the more we find of both). So maybe it’s about finding a way to be at peace with ourselves. The more we are at peace with ourselves,  the less time we’ll spend being distracted by our inner hurdles and the more time we can focus outward helping and connecting to others. 

I started by saying that aging gracefully is about staying active. Maybe we need to be active in many ways, including having and allowing movement in our self-concept. Who we “think” we are can never fully encapsulate all of who we are, life is a continual game of discovery.  

Ultimately I think aging gracefully is about accepting who you are and continually learning about and embracing life.  But actually, maybe it’s not just about aging gracefully. Maybe it’s more about living gracefully at any age."

Thank you for your great contribution Maureen. And thank you for your reminder that it is absolutely okay, and healthy, to let go of things that have formally defined us to allow us make space for the new.  I also like the quote that was at the bottom of your email:

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. ~ Viktor Frankl

Egg photo credit: Digitalart

October 04, 2011

Remembering What We Want

Photo by Belovodchenko Anton   Russia
I stumbled upon this quote recently:

Discipline is remembering what we want.

It's a good one, don't you think?

For some reason I have hardly ever been at a loss for knowing what I want. It shifts, and morphs, and re-balances to be sure, but like most of you probably, at any given moment, I am pretty adept at putting my finger on what it is that is going to ring my bell.

So maybe we know what we want, especially the older and wiser we grow. We could make lists about what we want in every little area of our life. From what we want to make for dinner this week to the big picture in life- like how we want our world to be. We could make lists about how we want to feel, how much stress we want in our life, how much downtime and together time we want. We could make lists about what we want to do with our time, who we want to hang with, and basically how we want to operate.

Every day we make decisions about who we want to be actually.

So where is the disconnect between knowing what we want and then doing something that is totally not in line with what we want?

Ahh yes- we forget what we want. Sometimes just temporarily but frequently for way too long. Or, what we want seems so outlandish and outside the possibility of who we have always know ourselves to be that we give up on what we want before we even try. Usually out of fear.

Or maybe it's that we get too tired or too hungry or too overwhelmed, or sick, or too exhausted from having someone else be sick, and we forget to listen to our internal compass. Life happens. Things get in the way. There are bills to pay, and fires to put out, and mouths to feed.

Sometimes there are just too many flies buzzing around our head.

Well this I know- the only remedy for remembering what we want- is to slow down long enough, and get quiet enough, so that we can hear ourselves. For some people it's meditation but for me I can pinpoint so many things in my life, and zero in my happiness, when I am out running, or hiking, or swimming laps.

Discipline is remembering what we want.

Gosh I wish I knew this back when I was fifteen.

For more related reading there is another post here.

And, if you are in the Boston area, there is an upcoming workshop with my good friend Brenda Stanton about reinventing your life here.  She is fabulous. If you click on her name there is a great post she wrote about trusting ourselves.

Have a good week.

Get quiet.

Listen to your heart.

Oh yes- and one more thing- be sure to click on the magnificence of the photo above. Among other things, like the lighting, I love the peeling paint.

Belovodchenko Anton, you have outdone yourself.