Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Conscious living...

 This past week I attended an online seminar on growing old, a series of lectures by scientists and doctors, nutritionists and public personas who talked about how aging means something different today than when my parents turned 50. We baby boomers are not going to go quietly into the night! Jamie Lee Curtis and Anne Lamott both talked about how addiction recovery changed their perspectives, with the realization that time is not endless, and that we've been given a second chance. To a person, each speaker addressed the ideas of healthy nutrition, sleep, movement (as in, get your heart rate up) and the benefits of staying active and engaged with life as important elements of one's "health span" (as opposed to lifespan).

I got to see a living, breathing example of that as part of my on-call work with the Elections Board. I'm with the Voter Access Team, groups of two that go to people's homes (when requested) to assist with voting. Our first stop on Friday was at a senior living facility, where our 95-year-old appointed person met us wearing a tiara, and in the course of our visit, shared a few amazing stories of her youth. At one point she remarked, "I don't know why people complain about things they have no control over!" speaking to the importance of changing what one can and releasing the rest (my first thought was, "Is she in AA??") as well as the beauty of having a lifetime of memories to reflect on. That fit with the t-shirt one of our next people was wearing that said, "Live a good story." Truth is truth, wherever and however it shows up.

So, aim for healthy habits, stay connected to community (or develop one), stay engaged and curious about life, and then carry on. No guarantees, and nothing new, but a recipe for aging consciously vs waking up one day to say, "Oh shit - how did that happen?!"

I felt so fortunate to be a part of AA and Alanon, listening to various speakers expound on the value of community and service. We have a built-in avenue for both, if we so choose. I think about AA elders I've known over the years who kept coming back until they couldn't, and then, folks took meetings to them. Moving to a new neighborhood or town, a change in circumstance, travel - program is there if I want it, whether phone calls, meetings, literature, or in the way I incorporate the principles into my way of being. 

That business of making small changes today to reap benefits in the future can be a challenge. A friend recently posted a video of a woman talking about her wonderful life - a loving spouse, comfortable home, a pleasantly full social and family calendar, good health - and all she could focus on was her chubby tummy. I could relate, having bought into the dominant cultural myth that my female body is not OK as is. Most of the time I'm content with my strength, endurance, and the ability to move and sometimes what masquerades as my still, small voice whispers, "Just five pounds." It goes back to that push/pull between surrender and effort, acceptance of what is while doing my part. Yes, I am the one at the grocery store, or putting on my walking shoes, and...  life is life is life until it isn't, and 5 pounds one way or another doesn't impact my value as a human being. One of my goals as I age is to move further into self-acceptance, whether that is deserved pride at completing a 10-mile walk or cutting myself some slack for that slice of pizza, satisfaction at utilizing the "pause" or simply moving on when I've been cranky.

I had another good example of making the effort on my morning walk yesterday, internally whining as I prepared to cut my route short. Up ahead I saw the fellow who walks (up steep hills and public stairs) toting his oxygen tank. Just suit up and show up and do the footwork, literally as well as figuratively. One step at a time.

Truth is truth, and motivation is motivation, whether from the joy of an elder in a tiara or admiration at seeing someone with an oxygen tank attacking a hill; from shared gratitude at a 1st year anniversary or hearing the heartbreak of relapse. Teachers are everywhere, if I'm paying attention. Sometimes the lessons and insights are internal, but often they come from connecting with those around me.

Do you utilize the Serentiy Prayer in day-to-day life? How do you envision your aging process, and do you have any specific goals related to growing older? How do you balance surrender and action, whether in working the Steps or daily decisions? Who are your teachers today?

A reminder that, if you wish, you can post a response to this post (or any other), and I believe you can do it anonymously. If not, I very much appreciate your social media comments and emails as part of the conversation of life-on-life's terms.

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Fall is a great time to start a small group discussion, or work with a sponsor or sponsee with the Now What? workbook. See the Feb 4 post for a sample or contact me at for more info. Available for purchase on the WEB VERSION of this blog page, and at Portland Area Intergroup.

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