New York Times

The mid-life crisis myth

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porsche-826385_640The Middle-Age Surge written by columnist, David Brooks, is a fabulous expose on what it really means to be living in ones “middle ages.” He reviews the book, Life Reimagined, by Barbara Bradley Hagerty while also proposing that the idea of mid-life crisis is truly a myth that many don’t see as being applicable to them. I mean seriously, people, how many friends or coworkers of yours purchased a zippy sports car when they hit their mid-40s or later?

Many years ago I briefly dated a guy who drove a gold-colored early model Porsche. On my third date with him, I said, “You know what they say about guys who drive Porsches, don’t you?” His response was nowhere near the statement I was going to provide that centered around over-compensation for short-comings. He said, “Yeah,  they have lots of money.”

Not even close.

Anyway, Mr. Brooks quotes theologian Karl Barth who described midlife in this manner:

The sowing is behind; now is the time to reap. The run has been taken; now is the time to leap. Preparation has been made; now is the time for the venture of the work itself.

Two old ladies causing troubleI can unabashedly declare that I can look back on my life with a more refined foundation of wisdom;  I can move forward, not haphazardly, but with focus and intent. I know what’s important to accomplish before my time on this earth comes to an end, and I’m not going to let anything get in the way of my doing so. (So watch out publishers, I’m knocking on your doors!)

The people who find meaning at this stage often realize the way up is down. They get off that supervisor’s perch and put themselves in direct contact with the people they can help the most. They accept that certain glorious youthful dreams won’t be realized, but other, more relational jobs turn out to be more fulfilling.

One of the conclusions the columnist comes to is that the mature mid-life folks “are less likely, given all the judgments that have been made, to care about what other people think.”

And that describes me to a T.

See also:

App-licable to retirees

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Person with cellphoneSome of us have owned smartphones for quite some time now.  Others have finally joined the 21st century, just recently retiring their Motorola flip phone. (Love you Honey!)

Sure, the latest and greatest phones are used to make calls – oddly enough not as frequently as we send texts – but they can also help us through our day-to-day schedules.  Jonah Bromwich, New York Times columnist, provides retirees with information on apps we might find quite useful. Read the rest of this entry »

Renaissance – Baby Boomer style

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Abby Ellin, New York Times, writes about the late-life renaissances that many Baby Boomers experience when they re-decide what they want to be when they grow up.

Path of lifeWhen we were younger, many of us drifted into college studies and post-college careers that may or may not have been our first choice but at least paid the bills.  As we near retirement, or even years before retirement, we wonder, “Is this all there is?”  And when we wonder like that, we get dissatisfied, and when we get dissatisfied – if we’re gutsy – we’ll do what it takes to become satisfied.  If we don’t attain our desired level of satisfaction, we’ll languish: lose vitality, grow weak, and become feeble.  My oh my, is that what you want? Read the rest of this entry »

When being a control freak is a very good thing

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Think of a very uncomfortable subject that you don’t like to talk or even think about.

By any chance was that subject death?

Grim ReaperIf it is, you’re not alone.  Given the option of getting a root canal or talking about our eventual demise, many would leap into the dental chair.  Why?  What’s so yucky about death?  It’s an inevitable outcome of our life experience here on earth.  To my knowledge, no one has successfully hidden from the grim reaper when it came knocking at their door.  So what’s the big deal?  I’ll tell you what’s the big deal.

Read the rest of this entry »

Mice are our friends

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Allen Institute scientists try to decode mouse brain to understand our own | Local News | The Seattle Times.

DSC00021It’s not often – or ever – that I would tout the beauty and benefits of mice, especially since where I live in a very rural part of my city, mice are a force with which to be reckoned during their annual winter attempts to seek warmth in crawl spaces, attics, and home interiors.

Today, however, I am making a one-time exception because it appears that mice brains have become very valuable in the medical and science worlds’ attempts to map the human brain, and mapping the human brain contributes to the effort of solving brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s.  I’ll leave it up to you to read the full article, attached above, because my efforts at summarizing scientific jargon would fall short of doing that science justice.

What I will say, however, is that I am extraordinarily excited that valid attempts are being made to decipher the science of our brains; attempts that generate hope in the lives of those of us who have personally experienced the destruction of a loved one’s brain by Alzheimer’s – a disease that I’ve been known to call “a murderer.”  Read my article, Alzheimer’s disease is a murderer to understand the full impact of my feelings on the subject matter.

I know that a lot of behind the scenes research is being done to eradicate a disease that is always fatal, but we aren’t always privy to what that research looks like.  I’ve read numerous horrific statistics about the numbers of people who have – and will have – Alzheimer’s in the years to come.  Part of those statistics include the detailed monetary impact on society as a whole, as well as the personal and emotional costs to each of us who have dealt with, and who have yet to deal with, the disease’s intrusion into our lives.

I congratulate the Seattle Times and the New York Times, for publishing the above article.  And I sincerely thank the Allen Institute for Brain Science for taking on a task whose efforts will benefit every last one of us in this country, and around the world.

You are my hero Paul Allen.  Keep up the good work.

Life everlasting – is it a good thing?

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A recent NY Times article, On Dying After Your Time, poses many topics for discussion that must be addressed.  I knew before I even started to read the article that readers will have varying opinions on the matter of extending life beyond its appointed time to die.  These opinions will be based on ethics, biases, age of the reader, and religious beliefs, to be sure, but another factor that comes into play is the personal experience of each reader.

My father and my sister-in-law, both of whom have died from Alzheimer's in the past five years.
My father and my sister-in-law, both of whom have died from Alzheimer’s in the past five years.

If the reader has watched a loved one perilously balanced in limbo with a ravaged-by-disease body and/or mind, that reader might lean towards declaring that too much is being done to artificially prolong life.  In the past five years of my life, I have watched both my father and my sister-in-law die from Alzheimer’s.  Who they were at the end of their lives didn’t come close to resembling who they were pre-disease.  If the reader has had no experience with this aspect of life and death, that reader may feel more comfortable with the decision to throw every treatment possible at the patient with the goal of allowing that person to live as long as humanly – or scientifically – possible.

One of the issues presented in the NY Times article is the fact that as we live longer, there is an increase in the amount of chronic illnesses – a fact that certainly stands to reason.  “This rise in chronic illness should also give us pause about the idea, common to proponents of radical life extension, that we can slow aging in a way that leaves us in perfectly good health…The evolutionary theory of senescence [growing old; biological aging] can be stated as follows: while bodies are not designed to fail, neither are they designed for extended operation.”

The author of the NY Times article is an 83 year old man who closes out the piece by stating, “We are not, however, obliged to help the old become indefinitely older.  Indeed, our duty may be just the reverse: to let death have its day.”

If you haven’t yet formed an opinion on the matter of  life-extension at all costs – I encourage you to do so before it’s too late.  Life and death decisions are best made well in advance of the necessity of such decisions.

The world as we know it – the good, the bad, the ugly.

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In a recent NY Times post, Catherine Rampell writes about how the economy is affecting Baby Boomers; more specifically that it’s not just a matter of postponing retirement, it’s the need to hold down more than one job to meet the daily – and future – essentials of their lives.  Ms. Rampell is quick to point out, however, “(I)n the current listless economy, every generation has a claim to have been most injured.”  Certainly that seems to be the case as I have heard that Generation X and the Millennials have complained that Baby Boomers are to blame for the state of the economy – present and future.

English: Crowd gathering on Wall Street after ...
Crowd gathering on Wall Street after the stock market crash of October 1929. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of this I am certain – each generation before us, and every generation after us, will contribute positively and negatively to the world as we know it.  I have to believe that every generation has pointed their fingers at generations other than theirs, and talked about the good, the bad, and the ugly that permeates their times.  Let’s look at those generations as posted on CNN, American Generations Through the Years: (figures and personalities provided by the Pew Research Center and CNN)

G.I./Greatest Generation: Pre-1928; Kate Hepburn and George H. W. Bush

Silent Generation: 1925 – 1945; Martin Luther King, Jr. and Tina Turner

Baby Boomers: 1946 – 1964; Oprah Winfrey and Michael Jordan

Generation X: 1965-1980; Jay-Z and Tiger Woods

Millennials: Post 1980; Christina Aguilera and Mark Zuckerberg

We’re all struggling in some way, and we’ll continue to struggle as we mimic the overall consensus felt through all generations.  There are carefree times, and then there are all the rest of our days, and we get through them, because we must.  We’re better for it, but it doesn’t feel like that while we’re going through it.  I have to look to Brendan Marrocco, a twenty-six year old Iraq war veteran who lost all his limbs because of a roadside bomb in 2009.  In an Associated Press story, in the Seattle Times, Brendan said he could get by without his legs, but he didn’t like living without arms.  “Not having arms takes so much away from you.  Even your personality  …  You talk with your hands.  You do everything with your hands, and when you don’t have that, you’re kind of lost for a while.”

The end of January 2013, six weeks after getting a double arm transplant, Brendan said the following at a coming-out press conference about how he’s made it thus far:

Just not to give up hope.  You know, life always gets better, and you’re still alive.  And be stubborn.  There’s a lot of people who will say you can’t do something.  Just be stubborn and do it anyway.

Sobering words, and ones that force us to reassess our current situations.  I’m not trying to minimize what you might be going through, nor of what’s going on in my life.  It’s just that I personally can’t help but focus on Brendan’s plight and then consciously turn my eyes away from my me-ness, and towards other-people-ness.  Is Brendan worse off as a Millennial who lost so much but gained a huge dose of intestinal fortitude, defined as strength of character; perseverance?  If it were me, I would be wallowing in a very deep pit of self-pity.  That doesn’t seem to be Brendan’s current location.