Author Topic: Talking Heads ~ Expectations for retirement living with author Bruce Frankel  (Read 32346 times)

BooksAdmin

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Talking Heads #10
A  forum for opinions on anything in print: magazines, newspaper articles, online: bring your ideas and let's discuss.

"Choices – For the Rest of Your Life?"

We are fortunate to have Bruce Frankel as our guest  in this month's Talking Heads discussion.  Bruce is  the author of  "What Should I Do With the Rest of My Life?" in which he presents us with more than a dozen profiles of individuals he calls "ordinary people who embraced new possibilities late in life - extraordinary late bloomers who have overthrown the usual expectations of age."
Profiled in the book is one of SeniorLearn's  own Discussion Leaders,  Robby Iadeluca, a practicing clinical psychologist, who still conducts a full schedule of therapy sessions, five days a week at the age of 90! A Review of  Bruce's book; Amazon link

Our questions for Bruce as we consider these profiles:
- Are these ordinary people like you and me...or do they possess extraordinary talent, wealth or physical fitness?
- What inspiration can we take from his research today
?
Thanks for joining us, Bruce!  We're looking forward to hearing your words of acquired wisdom!

*******************************************************************************
On the other side of the issue, ..."Gerontologists tend to think of successful aging as taking advantage of what potential there is, staying as socially and intellectually engaged as possible. Our culture tends to measure it more in terms of how active people are."
"Part of the pressure on older people to be successful and give back and volunteer and be active and play tennis is that we are a culture of doing. We don't really know how to be. That's something that late life gives us, is time to be. But that's stigmatized." "Turn 70.Act Your Grandchild’s Age"  Kate Zernike, NY Times
 
1. Are goals and expectations necessary for our “second life?”
2. What is ageism?  Outside of public policy decisions (i.e. Social Security, medicare, etc.) should age be a consideration?
3.  Whose Second Lives do you celebrate?
4. Do you or did you look forward to life after 65?
5. Did you have any specials plans.


 Your opinion?  Let's discuss!

JoanP

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Welcome to what should be a spirited discussion on retirement years.  Yours and mine.  We are so fortunate to have Bruce Frankel join us to talk about the  inspiring retirees he has interviewed for his new book, "What Should I Do With the Rest of My Life."  One of those profiled in the book is our own longtime Discussion Leader, Robby Iadeluca.  More about him later - maybe we'll be lucky enough to have him join us too.   One of my favorite stories in the book is found in the Introduction  - about Bruce's 85 year old mother's new career.  We'll talk about that too and how it came about.

Are these people of the book ordinary folks like you and me...or do they possess extraordinary talent, wealth or physical fitness? You decide!
- What inspiration can we take from the research Bruce has done?


pedln

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There are lots of good stories in Bruce Frankel’s book.  One of my favorites is about someone who used her pie-baking and cooking skills to create a place where people could gather and regain a sense of community.

But you all have good stories too, and we hope you’ll share them.  Did you plan for retirement or your second life, or did you simply say, “today’s the day.  I’m now free to be me.”

And on the other side of the coin, some gerontologists say, that in celebrating the remarkable stories, we make those not playing Radio City, feel inadequate.  What would Maxine say about that?   What are your thoughts here?

Robby

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A slight exaggeration in the introduction about my age.  I am still 89 and will be 90 in a month or so, specifically September 25th.

After I had read the entire book, I emailed Bruce saying that I couldn't understand why I was even in the book.  The rest of them had done all sorts of amazing things.  All I had done was managed to stay alive.  Yes, as it says, I still have a full time practice but in my mind that doesn't compare with their accomplishments.  Be that as it may, the book itself is a work of art.  Bruce is so thorough.  He came down from NYC in early 2008 on a Sunday no less, sat in my office, and interviewed me for NINE hours.  From noon to 9 p.m.  We did break away to have dinner in the hospital cafeteria but even through that he continued to quiz me.  The following day he traveled around interviewing people who knew me personally.  He even interviewed later over the phone people I had mentioned, for example, my dear friend, Nancy Walbridge.  I had no idea he had done this until she told me.  For obvious confidential reasons, I couldn't give him the name of any of my patients but one of my patients, Liliana, heard about the book and insisted that I give her name to Bruce.  So I did.  She now lives in Columbia, South America, and he contacted her there.  And then for the following year or so, he constantly quizzed me further, asking about all sorts of details to complete the profile.  I assume that he did the same with the other twelve people so you can see how thorough and honest a writer he is.

Robby

Annie

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Hi Robby,

I truly enjoyed this book and admire all of these fascinating people but, of course, your chapter meant so much to all of us here at SeniorLearn. Where do you get so much energy??

Some of these folks had dreams that weren't fulfilled until they made some changes and commitments in their lives.  Others had life just happen to them and now they are serving in another capacity.  The couple who runs the household mission to help the needy are fantastic.  Their energy and focus, now when they are approaching their 80s, is, as the kids say, awesome!

Another chapter that jumped out was about the teacher who didn't become one until her 60s. After she raised 6 children, married the same man twice!! Whoa!  She has become such a beloved 2nd grade teacher. She always knew she would be a good teacher but didn't ever expect to be able to fulfill her dreams. That we could be so blessed with such teachers like her, who are so dedicated to their work!  They hold the future in their classrooms.

My newly widowed sister, age 61, a dedicated neonatal nurse, has toyed with returning to college and changing her path.  I told her about the book and am getting her a copy for her trip to NYC in Sept  She will meet Mr. Frankel, at Sarabeth's. Her question was, "You mean I wouldn't be the oldest person in the classes??"  No, you wouldn't, Mary, so just rock on!! :D :D

In the introduction, Bruce talks of Marc Freedman, cofounder of Civic Ventures, a group "making a case for sociailly connected work in the second half of life as a source of individual and societal renewal. As a result, the discussion has been shifting away from how to protect the rights of older Americans to work to how to cultivate work that enriches their lives, allows them to play vital roles in improving and strengthening their communities, and emplys skills, talents, and creativity generated over a lifetime."

Most of us are aware of the senior lady, Maggie May??, who kept after Congress to improve, not cut, the rights of older Americans. And now we have Granny D the lady who walked across the US to demand that Congress pass campaign finance reform bill.  And they did!

I am sure that we have people right here on SeniorLearn who the author would like to interview.  I can think of several stellar stars right here in our midst.  
 

"No distance of place or lapse of time can lessen the friendship of those who are thoroughly persuaded of each other's worth." Robert Southey

brucefrankel

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 Good morning and thank you for inviting me to talk about my book, What Should I Do With The Rest Of My Life?

 And my mother, Anita, says she's game for coming online to chat, too. So, we'll see if we can get her ramped up and into action.

I see that Robby has been up and at it before me, as usual.

Of course, he is being entirely too modest. Or perhaps it isn't modesty. Robby's enthusiasm for learning, his devotion to helping others, and the optimism that his mother salted into his bones make it difficult for him to have perspective on what he accomplished and against what odds.

Today, many people in midlife and beyond can be found working toward degrees or involved in continuing education programs. But when Robby began his journey, at 51, he was almost unique. And many people have told me how inspired they have been by his courage to begin his advanced degree late, but even more, to undertake his internship in the treatment of substance abuse at the University of Virginia at 70. As I hope is clear in the book, Robby is revered in and around his community for hid dedicated service and skill as a therapist over the last two decades. I should say, too, that Robby served as an important model to me in the march to complete the book. When other pressures would mount and threaten to derail me, I was able to conjure Robby and others I profiled in the book. Indeed, early on, I conceived of the book as something like a Profiles in Courage after midlife.

So, let me take up the question posed: Are these ordinary people like you and me...or do they possess extraordinary talent, wealth or physical fitness?

First, I'm not sure what is meant by "ordinary" people. My experience over a career as a reporter and during the course of writing my book has been that, if you sit and really listen to the stories people tell about their lives, if you ask respectful question, you come into contact with what is singular. We tend to see people and things as "ordinary" when we don't take the time to look carefully and mindfully, and don't notice what's novel or different. Let those same people receive public attention and we think of them as extraordinary.

As I wrote in the introduction to the book, one of my goals was to find people who had achieved significant goals in later life, but not people who achieved those goals as a result of being able to transfer power or wealth from positions of achievement. There were a number of people whose accomplishments and projects were very worthy of attention. But they had been able to use their already enhanced skills, stature, bank accounts and organizations to help. When I wrote that I had looked for people considerably more "average," more like my friend Jim or me, I wasn't suggesting that people needed to be devoid of talent, only that they hadn't accomplished extraordinary things before 60. 

Only in one subject, Naomi Wilzig, was wealthy.  Yes, she had the money to collect erotic art. But she overcame formidable social barriers and she evolved into more than just a rich collector of art. I loved the fact that her development put her at odds with so much of her prior life, and that she developed an almost heroic passion for a liberated and historical view of human sexuality. She did this, not by virtue of special talent or wealth, but because she had found an identity and wouldn't buckle, wouldn't shrink back. And out of that identity, something else developed: a sense of purpose, a mission to educate and free others.  Because her progress began with a simple act of rebellion against the culture in which she lived and overthrew her husband's bias about what a woman's body should look like, I was confident that women would identify with Naomi, despite her wealth. And that has proved to be the case.

And yes, Margie Stoll possessed innate athletic talent - to a degree. But it had never had a chance to develop. And at 60, developing athletic talent is not quite the same as when a naturally talented 16-year-old takes to the track. Margie could never have achieved what she has without amazing dedication and an an iron will. Had she not applied herself and done the hard work day after day, she would never have set the records she has or be ranked #3 among U.S. women runners over 65 -- a ranking she achieved again in March 2010. But again, it was not until she tuned 60 that she was able to access all of that on her own behalf, to claim her right as an athlete.

One could look at each of the chapters and say, Ah, s/he was able to do what s/he did because s/he was not ordinary. But I think it's a somewhat specious way to look at the stories in the book and would deprive the reader of the benefit of their examples. I didn't intend for the stories to prescriptions. Nor was I trying to suggest that everyone needs to achieve at the level of these examples. My aim was to illustrate how much is possible, even when people must overcome extraordinary adversity, as was often the case in the stories in the book.

I had been struck, in my own life, by how debilitating, frustrating, and depressing it is when, because you turn 50, the world begins to  turn away, as if little more might be expected -- and that the idea of continuing to develop gets withdrawn. Amazingly, that is already less true now than a decade ago.

But it was my hope that the people profiled in the book would inspire others to push the envelope further. I also hoped that readers might see that our expectations of ourselves don't need to be static, or pre-determined by the past or convention, or in decline simply because we are growing older. In other words, we have choices. What we have not done does not need to control what we will or can do.  I hoped, too, that by trotting out some of the recent evidence of neuroplasticity and neurogenesis, that readers would see there is, in fact, a biological model of possible growth and change rather than the model of decline that most of us past midlife grew up with. Thomas Dwyer, the dancer, had absolutely no special talent or extraordinary ability when he began. Quite the opposite. He had to overcome lifelong physical and psychological handicaps. But he did, and he changed, and today he continues to enjoy a rich and rewarding artistic life that neither he nor anyone who knew him could have imagined for him 20 years ago.

Lastly, AdoAnnie, I look forward to meeting your sister and hearing what happens when she goes to school.

Robby

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Bruce is a very kind person.  Bruce, tell them about the birthday party you recently hosted.

Robby

JoanK

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BRUCE: WELCOME, WELCOME! I look forward to discussing your book with you.

We in Seniornet know very well how extrordinary Robby is. Although I do disagree with your statement that " when Robby began his journey, at 51, he was almost unique." When I got my PHD (at 54) the woman standing next to me was 80!

mabel1015j

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In one of the last classes i taught at a community college i had a most interesting class, especially since the class was U.S. History II - that's Reconstruction to the present day. It was interesting because of its entirety, not in the individual persons, because each was typical for a community college evening class. I had 35students in this FRIDAY night class from trad'l college age - for a trad'l college, but not a community college - from 19, 20's to age 76. It was the most diverse class i had ever had: more Black males than i had had in any class;  sev'l  Hispanic women between 20 and 60. Two white women who were in their 70's and white men of ages up thru 50's. It was especially fun for a U.S. History II class, since we had people who had lived thru the Depression - the big one - and WWII and understood the 50's, 60's and 70's and the various sides of Vietnam.

The most interesting student re: this discussion was the 76 yr old woman who now knew she had dyslexia. She didn't know that when she was in public school and dropped out of school. After her granddgt was diagnosed, she recognized her situation, in her 60's. She returned to school, had gotten her GED, and was pursuing an Associates Degree and said to the class that she would continue thru her Doctorate if she lived that long. A good thing for the younger students to hear. ..... jean


pedln

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Robby, it’s good to see you here, and thanks for the insight into Bruce’s research techniques.  So thorough, and what painstaking work. And you, regardless of what you say, are unique, in more ways than one.

Bruce, what a delight to have you join us.  I have been enjoying your book, and the people I’ve met there are indeed an inspiration.  There are probably not many who could accomplish what Margie Stoll has achieved in her athletic endeavors, but reading her story pushed me to add a few more laps to my pool routine.  Just like Loretta Thayer’s café inspired me to again try baking popovers, which I had not done in 30 years.

Quote
I had been struck, in my own life, by how debilitating, frustrating, and depressing it is when, because you turn 50, the world begins to  turn away, as if little more might be expected -- and that the idea of continuing to develop gets withdrawn. Amazingly, that is already less true now than a decade ago.
Bruce

This reminded me of my children’s piano teacher years ago, a talented musician and teacher. She wanted to pursue further training, but found there were age deadlines for beginning a doctoral program.  I would gather that this is no longer the case.

Annie, that’s exciting about Mary wanting to go back to school. What path does she wish to pursue?

And JoanK, what led you to pursue a PHD after the age of 50, and I hope you can tell us more about your 80 year-old colleague.


CallieinOK

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Marking my spot.  I have read the book.

Annie

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Is there any chance we might be able to attend a dance program with the unfatigueable modern dancer--Thomas Dwyer?? Wouldn't that be a treat!
I looked up his bona fides and besides appearing with his troupe, he has also been teaching older adults at community centers?? Have I got that right?
My mother was a dancer from age 5 and stayed with her dance troupe 'til she married at age 21..  Because of that intense training, no matter her medical problems, she always stood straight though not tall.  At age 82, she had no arthritis, was very limber and loved laying in the sun, on a towel in the grass, while my sister worked in the flower garden.  I saw her do the splits at age 72 and she could still "Shimmy like her sister, Kate" 'til the day she died.  
I never accomplished any of those movements but my previously mentioned sister has always wanted to learn how to dance.  Hmmmmm, maybe I will suggest she try a class.  
When we don't do much physically or mentally are we disappointing our minds and bodies? Maybe our minds and bodies had great expectations when we were born.
"No distance of place or lapse of time can lessen the friendship of those who are thoroughly persuaded of each other's worth." Robert Southey

brucefrankel

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Thank you again for the welcome and the comments. This is really quite wonderful.

I'm reminded of when I drove up to the Silver Leaf Diner in May to keep the promise that I made to her when she agreed to let me tell her story. She only asked that I come back and do a book signing. The day I returned, I was caught in traffic in upstate New York and arrived 30 minutes late. I didn't have high expectations. These days, book stores don't even want to do signings because the turn out and sales are usually so disappointing to authors unless they have a bestseller.

When I walked into the Silver Leaf, Loretta, her blue eyes twinkling, said, "Now, because you're late I'm going to make you go sit in the corner!" The she said, "If you had been any later we would have had a lynching."

I looked around the diner. Every table was filled. And one after another, as in a dream, people lined up to have the book signed. I sold 40 of them that morning. But the dollars meant nothing compared to the satisfaction of knowing that the stories in the book were being read and valued, not for the writing, but for the example of the people.

It's enormously gratifying to hear, as I often do, how taken people are with Loretta's story. I had feared that despite my personal pleasure in learning and experiencing it (love those pies!), it might not translate in this day and age. But honestly, I suppose more than any other single individual in the book, I hear about Loretta. And I think it's because we identify with something so inherently good and familiar from our pasts, the community values that many of us can still recall. By the way, I spoke to Loretta last week, and she said the pie business has never been so good. What is it that made Loretta so appealing to you?

JoanK: I'm interested in hearing more about your decision to go back to school at 54. What sparked you? What sustained you? What did you study? What was your goal in getting your PH. D. then?  ... As for Robby's uniqueness, I'll stand by that. I'm not saying he was the only person in the U.S. in a PhD. D. program, but I think, as he would tell you, he was the only older person in the PhD. D. person in at the Gerontology Center at Syracuse. And when he first applied to programs, his applications were dismissed BECAUSE of his age.
We've come a long way since then.

As for seeing Thomas perform: September 10 & 12, 2010; The Matter of Origins, World Premiere; Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center
University of Maryland; Individual ticket sales begin August 16th. ...

And AdoAnnie - Our bodies were meant to move, not sit for all but an hour a day. This is something I have become passionate about since doing my research. Note: Robby walks two miles every day!


JoanK

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Bruce: thank you for your interest. My decision to go back to school was an easy one. I always loved (and love) learning. But I met my husband in college. After I graduated, although accepted in graduate school, as many women did in the fifties I got married, worked while my husband went to graduate school, traveled, then had children.

A wonderful life, but I never forgot my interrupted education, and, when my children were older, my husband earning plenty to support the family, off I went to school again. I supported him through school, years later he did the same for me.

The story has a further twist. My husband was so impressed by my rejuvenation of a new career, that as I was finishing, he quit his job and went back to train for a new career.

What sustained me was both the love of my family and the love of the new earning : new horizons opening up. It wasn't always easy: my elderly parents became ill and needed care just as I was taking my qualifying exams. But I mase it through.

Robby

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Most of you here know and Bruce, you should know, that Joan is one of the mainstays of Senior Learn (formerly in Senior Net.)  She is in absolutely everything.  When I first became involved here -- what was it, Joan, 10-12 years ago? -- she was the person who encouraged me to be a Discussion Leader.  I started by becoming a co-leader with her in discussing, I believe, Studs Terkel's "Good War."  Then I went to Chicago where I met Joan and all you wonderful people and where we all met Studs.  I've been promising Joan I would send her a picture of me interviewing Studs but somehow I never get to it.  From Chicago on I immersed myself into our program here leading various discussions -- "About Men," Darwin's "Origin of Species," Seniors in the Future," and finally "Story of Civilization."  Throughout this, Joan and Ginny -- is she going to join us here, Joan? -- were by my side, supporting me when I needed it.

Ask Joan to tell you about her work as a docent.

Robby

Annie

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Well, it put me back on my treadmill on rainy days and I do things like walking uphill and downhill plus speeding up and slowing down while walking.  Yes, I have fallen off the treatmill!  Whoa!

I also noticed that Bruce mentions that most of these people are thin. I believe that.  Who wouldn't be thin leading the active lives that they do.  Dancing, running, walking across the America, following Granny D around and making a movie about her(even though you have never made a movie before), stepping into a classroom full of 2nd graders everyday after 60.  The enthusiasm that these people have is catching!
 
There must be a million stories like these in the world.  For instance, I just spent an hour talking to a friend about her interest in Paleontology which she found she had after reading a book about it.  She returned to school and got a degree in it and intends to go back again for a higher degree.  She is 73yrs old and works full time in a grocery store plus is writing a book.  Yes, she is thin!  She walks to work and home, about 2 miles, through the rain, snow, and high summer temps that we have here.  I have never heard her complain about her life.

Born in the Boston area where her father and mother were on staff at Dartmouth, she applied to a college in New Brunswick and met a student whom she later married.  As an American citizen who spent all of her married life in Canada, without becoming a citizen, she, raised 6 children, divorced and returned to school, at age 50, after which she came back to the states to be with her daughter who lives in Ohio.
  
At this time, she is working to return to Canada where she will be sponsored by one of her sons and then will become a Canadian citizen.  She considers the benefits better there.  It will take 37 months for this to occur but as she says, the first 30 months have already been accomplished.  So she waits for her sons to finish the paper work and get her back in her adopted country.
"No distance of place or lapse of time can lessen the friendship of those who are thoroughly persuaded of each other's worth." Robert Southey

Ella Gibbons

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TIME TO BE!   I like that, I've had time to be.............

I'm a bit younger than Robby, just 82, but I've lived through the same era, wars and all!

WELCOME BRUCE to our site.  WE've been around on the Internet since 1996 and have met some outstanding seniors through the years.  That alone has been an education.

Just to brag a bit, JOANP, would you tell Bruce a bit about our history; our connection to the National Bookfest?


Annie

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Are we failing to point out another one of our indomitable leaders here? Ms Ginny!  Who has put together a wonderful study group of Latineers who have won some impressable medals in a world wide or countrywide Latin contest.  Who also runs, in between teaching a Latin class at a university or college in SC plus teaching 6 classes of Latin her on SeniorLearn (she started this on SeniorNet) but also has a family business to run--a pick ur own grape business.  She told us that the grapes mostly go to vintners.  She has attended many seminars about the learning capabilities of seniors also.  Get her to tell this better, Bruce (we can call you by your first name?? right?)
"No distance of place or lapse of time can lessen the friendship of those who are thoroughly persuaded of each other's worth." Robert Southey

pedln

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Quote
The story has a further twist. My husband was so impressed by my rejuvenation of a new career, that as I was finishing, he quit his job and went back to train for a new career.

Wow, JoanK, now we want to hear more – about both you and your husband.

Callie, and Ella and Jean, it’s great to see you here.  I loved hearing about your history class and the dyslectic student, Jean.

Robby, I’m so glad you are talking about JoanP and Ginny.  For if not for these two terrific women we would not be having this conversation today. SeniorNet Books came into being through their efforts, and then several years later they again saved the day by starting SeniorLearn. And then after age 60, Ginny started the Latin classes, and for a while, Greek.  How many classes, how many students?  Lots. More about them later.

And while there are lots “doers” here, some of us are happy “being,” but just by virtue of all of us being here, on SeniorLearn, no one is letting life pass them by.  And everyone has a story or two, like Annie's story about her friend.  Let’s hear them.

ginny

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Ann, you're no slouch yourself. hahaa And neither are you, Pedln, winning a Gold Medal on the 2010  National Latin Exam,  Latin III, which 14,842 high school and university students took in March of this year but only 1,205 made Gold Medals in, and you were one of them!

Congratulations over and over, it's nice to be surrounded by active, intelligent doers past the age of 60, it does make a difference and is very inspiring.

Welcome, Bruce. I love the way you write and I love this book. You said yesterday:
Quote
I had been struck, in my own life, by how debilitating, frustrating, and depressing it is when, because you turn 50, the world begins to  turn away, as if little more might be expected -- and that the idea of continuing to develop gets withdrawn. Amazingly, that is already less true now than a decade ago.


That is beautifully written and so true.   There does seem to be a  disenfranchisement, in all areas as you age.   The "world turns away." How well you put that.

In some ways for every person it's a decision and choice on what to do about this situation  and what to do with the rest of your life. I'm so thrilled to see Robby in the book, and look at Joan K!!

I loved Harry's story ("Ruby of a Writer"). What a life story, almost hard to believe. At his age I'm afraid to ask if he's still with us, but what perseverance, what must it have taken to keep trying all those years! I found his story profoundly moving, and I'm so glad there was a happy and triumphant ending. I wish every person who keeps trying had the same, on some level.

What happens to the person without that talent?  What can or should he do?

Harry said, "When you're old, it can seem as if you have no place to go. It seems as if you have no future. "

He found writing about the past "made the present more tolerable because I could immerse myself completely in it and just forget everything."

And that was his solution, his way of coping. What can we take from that?

 I loved this from him:  "You live in a sort of dream most of your life. Your dreams are wishful thinking of what you want to be and want to have. It's not until you face the harsh reality of yourself that you can do or say anything intelligent."

I think that's about as inspiring as it gets. And life over 60 seems to provide a lot of harsh reality. I think everybody wants to make a contribution, in some way.  But what IF you have no talent, particularly? What's the message, Bruce, you want these inspiring tales to carry over to those reading it in their own lives?

I would also like to know what  gave you the idea to write this book? It seems a perfect time to write it, as the country now seems more interested in the thoughts of those over 60.. (*** My Dad Says as an example).

But we won't all get $40,000 grants from the Guggenheim Foundation. Or can we? Or can "success" be measured in other ways?

A super discussion here!



ursamajor

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I would like to join this discussion.  Don't know if I have much to contribute, but I have a lot to learn.  I am one of those who migrated from Senionet.

Annie

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I remember your online name from way back in the way back machine, UrsaMajor.  Are you from England??? Aha, no, you are from Tennesee.  Do you live in Chattanooga or near Oak Ridge??
Please know that we welcome you to SeniorLearn and hope you do learn something from this most awesome book by Bruce Frankel.  Glad you are joining us.
"No distance of place or lapse of time can lessen the friendship of those who are thoroughly persuaded of each other's worth." Robert Southey

ursamajor

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Thanks for the welcome Adoannie.  I live near Oak Ridge and Knoxville.  We lived in Oak Ridge for many years before we moved to live on the lake. 

Recently I dreamed I was getting dressed for a grandchild's wedding - when I finally found my dress somewhere impossible after looking a long time the hem was pinned up with straight pins!   Maybe something is telling me I haven't adequately prepared for the next stage of life....?  Maybe this discussion will help......

JoanK

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Just to get the record straight, when Robby wrote that wonderful and well-deserved description of Joan, he was talking about JoanP, not me (JoanK). Joan was a popular name when we were born, and we have a lot of Joans on Seniornet. It can get confusing.

Mary, the 80 year old who got her Phd with me also had a story of balancing family and learning. She had returned to school, as I had after fifty, and was well on her way to her doctorate, when her husband died, leaving no one to run the family hardware store. She left school, and ran the business for many years. Now retired, she came back and finished the degree she started.

I lost track of her, so don't know where she went from there. I used my degree to teach and do research in my new field (social science). My earlier work had been in mathematics and computer science, and I found a knowledge of both often enabled me to bridge a gap in research which often exists between social scientists and statisticians.

Robby

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Bruce, wasn't I right about this wonderful group?  When Bruce came to interview me, I told him that my life was divided into three parts -- my profession as a clinical psychologist, my activity in the local community -- chamber of commerce, local hospice, etc. --- and my life with Senior Learn (Senior Net).  Ginny, Joan P:  Is there some way we can get all the old timers back here who may not know about this discussion?  I think especially of all of us who were together in Chicago.  And how about that week when we were all together in that beach house in Carolina?  (I was the only man!)  Maybe someone can tell Bruce about that.

And how about Marcie?  Where is she?

Robby



Ella Gibbons

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ROBBY, are you talking about that memorable Chicago trip when we closed the historic Blackstone Hotel for good?  I don't think any of us will forget that one!

And Studs Terkel came to lunch with us from his office in the Historical Society?  And you interviewed him?  What a time we have had over the years.

CONGRATULATIONS, BRUCE, ON YOUR BOOK! 

Robby

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That's the one, Ella.  And we all rode in limousines.  That photo of me above was taken in some bistro where we were and you were sitting a couple of tables away.  That's when my hair was black.  Studs came in with his famous red socks that he always wore.  His wife accompanied him.  Seems like yesterday, doesn't it?

And Joan P, there was something or other regarding you and Ginny where something was broken and you were both upset.  I forget the details.  After all, it was over a decade ago.

Robby

Annie

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  • Downtown Gahanna
    • SeniorLearn
I had photos of Robby and Eloise dancing in the house on the Isle of Palms in S.C. but they are really fuzzy so I won't be putting them up here.  
A picture of Robby at that nearby restauran,t famous for their breakfasts.  Ginny celebrating her birthday in that family restaurant also nearby.  Lots of stuff from the aquarium and the turtle that ate Judy's compact disk from her camera.  All fuzzy.  What a shame that I didn't know what I was doing with that new digital camera when it came to settings.  Oh,well, we still have the memories.
"No distance of place or lapse of time can lessen the friendship of those who are thoroughly persuaded of each other's worth." Robert Southey

JoanP

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  • Arlington, VA
Oh boy, will you ever forget the look on Studs' face when he walked in and saw that we were all wearing red socks too?!  Robby, you have quite a memory - I'd rather forget running through the hotel with a bedspread full of broken glass -

These stories are all so inspiring, aren't they?  I'm so impressed with your midlife changes and those Bruce has profiled in his book!
 Bruce F tells us that he didn't intend  the profiles in his book as prescriptions,  but to illustrate the possibilities of what people can do to overcome the challenges of ageing.   "In some ways for every person it's a decision and choice on what to do about this situation - and what to do about the rest of your life."

Ginny, your comment on Harry Bernstein story struck home with me -"You live in a sort of dream most of your life.  Your dreams are wishful thinking of what you want to be and want to have."  An aside...Harry Bernstein just finished writing his third book - Harry's birthday was May 30, 1910!  He just turned 100 years old!

Ann writes "some of the folks in the book had dreams that weren't  fulfilled until they made some changes and commitments in their lives."

When Ursamajor commented earlier today "maybe something is telling me that I haven't adequately prepared for the next  stage of life,"  I began to wonder how many of us feel this way?  What if we are still in the "wishful thinking"  stage...or worse, what if we are not ready to commit to change, because we don't have an idea of what we want to do with this precious gift of time we have left?  

In the Introduction to his book, Bruce tells the marvelous story of his mother's  success as a portrait painter- at 85 - after he persuaded her to her to take an art class.  I can't wait for Anita to get hear.  I want to ask her would she have done that without her son's encouragement.  I think that's what I need, encouragement.  My excuse is always, I'm a Gemini, with fingers in so many pies...  I feel I'm missing opportunities by not focussing on one area - as those in these stories have done.

Hopefully we will be hearing from more of those who still feel they have not yet chosen a path... Of course we want to hear more success stories too.... for inspiration!

As I read Bruce's book, I took notes to see whether those profiled had anything in common.  At first I noticed they were all "tall" - but then I met some who were not so tall - but they were all fit and "thin."  I see that Ann has picked up on that too.  I concluded it was due to their enthusiasm and energy - that burns calories, doesn't it? Made a note to kick up the workout sessions and walking time...while waiting for inspiration on what to do next.

So much more to talk about - tomorrow!

brucefrankel

  • Posts: 37
WOW! A lot of wonderful things to respond to. And yes, Robby, you did, from the start tell me what a wonderful group this is. And you are truly vindicated.

I don't know if this is the best way to do this, but I'll try to respond to everyone. Forgive me for not getting to this earlier today. It was a demanding day. It began with work early. I'm committed to writing 2 pages a day to make the deadline on the book I am currently ghostwriting. But I'm trying to push myself to 4 pages a day, to be done by the end of August, so I can spend September hustling for new work and re-writing. By 10 a.m, I took my 16-year-old son, Isaiah, to the Department of Motor Vehicles on 34th Street, around the corner from the Empire State Building, to get his learner's permit. He passed and walked out the proud possessor of the learner permit. Forget the fact that we don't own a car, it was a rite of passage. Then I scurried home, walked Uma and Nelly, my two dachshunds, and cranked out some more and some email questions to the subjects of the book. I took a 15-min. nap, because my head was still reeling from a cold. And then, then I had to run back downtown to Book Mitzvah! What, you ask, is a Book Mitzvah?

Good question. Susan Shapiro, the writer whose blurb is published on the back of my book, has a new novel coming out tomorrow, titled OVEREXPOSED. It has taken her 13 years to re-write it enough that she was happy with it. In the interim, she published a number of other books, mostly non-fiction. But she felt 13 years was deserving of a Book Mitzvah. And so, there was a rabbi to give a blessing; there was a reading; and there was a candle-light ceremony, to thank everyone who had helped her over the years. And just in the nick of time, her mother showed up from Detroit, MI. It was all done with humor, but a fair amount for real sentiment.

So, that's by way of apology. Now:

JoanK, what a fabulous story about the effect of your getting a degree on your husband. What was your degree in? When you look back on that time, do you both see yourselves as having had courage? Also, in your saying that it was love that saw you through I was reminded of Harry Bernstein -- and the neuroscientist Marian Diamond, at UCBerkeley. Harry because Ruby's love made it possible for him to continue all those years, and really inspired him to do the work after she died. There was no more touching moment for me in the two years of researching What Should I Do With The Rest Of My Life? than the moment he handed me the photograph of Ruby in leotards, in her late 80s, still teaching yoga. I have never felt someone else sense of love so intensely as I did his for her at that moment. By the way, Harry mentioned the birthday party: On May 31, we celebrated Harry's 100th birthday at a diner in Brooklyn, close to the Booklyn Bridge. It was quite amazing. There were cousins there from Chicago who had known nothing about their family until Harry's second book, The Dream, was published. Harry gave a little speech. It was a lovely day. A couple of weeks later, I called Harry. He had finished his fourth book in five years and sent it off to his agent. Last week when we spoke, he had begun a new novel.

AdoAnnie: I meant to say that while I don't want to speak of it too much at the moment, my next book will be about dance (and movement) and the brain. The more reasearch I do, the clearer it becomes how powerful and important movement is to triggering cellular life. It's not just the big muscles that count, it's those little micro ones that do, too. There is a reason why we see so many people walking around with thin white wires drooping from their ears and plugged into devices playing Mozart, Miles, or Madonna (well, maybe not so much Madonna these days).

PedIn: I'm so impressed with the Latin and Greek with the Latin and Greek teaching that Joan and Ginny do. And you and Anne, getting Gold medals. Just amazing. I'm a little jealous. I so wish I could make the time to take one of the Greek classes. I would love to be able to read the classic Greek texts in the original. One day, one day, one day!

Wish I knew how you guys were making those quote boxes. Anyway, PedIn writes:

And while there are lots “doers” here, some of us are happy “being,” but just by virtue of all of us being here, on SeniorLearn, no one is letting life pass them by.  And everyone has a story or two, like Annie's story about her friend

There's nothing wrong, of course, with "Being." But I do favor "Being" there mindfully. As a writer -- and particularly when I'm in a poetry writing phase -- I spend a lot of time just "being." I keep a box on my desk with a quote from Andre Gide which reads, "Existence is occupation enough." I fell in love with that quote when I was in my early 20s. It has come to mean different things to me over time. It's like Joseph Campbell's famous, "Follow your bliss." It means one thing as a bumper sticker, it means quite another when you really dwell on it. Campbell, the American mythologist and author of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, never meant quite what my Woodstock generation took it to mean. He really meant something much more like "follow your passion." But he never saw it as a prescription for a sybaritic way of life. He actually believed that people need to work with discipline at their passions, to fulfill themselves and to make an offering to culture. And really, what I've come to appreciate over these last years is just how much people can accomplish by following what they are curious about with passion and discipline. Not everyone has to achieve for public recognition or by making their passions professions. But I think there is something intrinsically life-affirming about devoting oneself to something that gives meaning to one's life, whatever that is. Viktor Frankl (no relation), the author of Man's Search for Meaning, in which he chronicled his life and observations as a Nazi concentration camp inmate, came to the same conclusion, with a bit more authority than I have.

Ginny: Good questions related to Harry. You write:

And that was his solution, his way of coping. What can we take from that?


Honestly, I think his solution was to find what gave meaning to his life. And I think the reason why The Invisible Wall was such a wonderful book, one that people are moved by and for which he won a Christopher Medal for "bringing light out of darkness," is because is a search for meaning; an amazing effort to bring back to life the stories and pain, the human drama and prejudice, on one little universal street in an English mill town. It was the story that Harry was born to tell. His earlier novels failed, in part, because, as he says, he didn't tell what he knew. Robert Frost wrote, "No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader." I think that Harry risked both tears and surprise in writing those books.

Ginny, you also wrote this:

 I loved this from him:  "You live in a sort of dream most of your life. Your dreams are wishful thinking of what you want to be and want to have. It's not until you face the harsh reality of yourself that you can do or say anything intelligent."

I think that's about as inspiring as it gets. And life over 60 seems to provide a lot of harsh reality. I think everybody wants to make a contribution, in some way.  But what IF you have no talent, particularly? What's the message, Bruce, you want these inspiring tales to carry over to those reading it in their own lives?


I suppose you have Anita Frankel to thank for the answer that I will give, Anita being my mother. She was not at all unlike Robby's mother. We were both brainwashed from an early age with the belief that talent was a matter of effort, not a gift. And I believe that even more now after writing this book and reading all the studies that I have read on neuroplasticity. Yes, there's no doubt that some people have an advantage over others. Certainly, as Malcolm Gladwell points out in his book, children whose lives are enriched and get to experience more, acquire a healthy advantage. But it is my counter to that view, that advantage is not an endgame. We have all known people who were sublimely talented and wasted it. As a writer, I have repeatedly seen people develop from crude work in the classroom to work that is widely admired. Talent is a factor. But it is not the only factor. That's the lesson. I know there is much we can't control in this life. And there are things that we might hope to achieve and might never succeed at. But it seems to me that another lesson in the book is that sometimes when we devote ourselves to achieving something -- if we set a goal -- where we end up might be different, our contribution may not be what we expected, but that does not make it less than.

One of the saddest things I ever heard anyone say was in an interview I did 30 years ago with the American philosopher William Barrett, the author of One Dimensional Man. The book was an enormous success. It was taught in every class on existentialism in every university in the United States. It was filled with important and wonderful insight into modern culture. But on the day I interviewed Barrett, at an oak table in the dining room of his home in Tarrytown, New York, he was feeling mournful about what he had done with his life. I remember it was fall and the trees were a stunning amber color, lit by the late afternoon light reflected off the Hudson River, just down the street. "I never became what I hoped," he said, telling me that he had wished to become a novelist like his friend Saul Bellow. I was greatly saddened by the interview. Barrett was, of course, brilliant. And he had a generous soul. But he saw himself as a prisoner of a life he hadn't intended. He even looked at where he lived through a disappointed lens. While he worried about teach Kant and Hegel to students at NYU, they went off to work each day on Wall Street and Madison Avenue, to make money.

My reason for bringing this up is that it depicts the opposite side. Barrett had all the talent in the world. And he had even made something of it. But he could take pleasure in it; he didn't feel as if he had used his "true" talent. And as a result, everything else acquired a dark coloration. Who knows, maybe that was the result of depression or too much alcohol (I'll tell you another Barrett story later). But I have always wondered, what if Barrett had gone ahead, even in his 60s, and tried writing, had applied himself to it, had experienced the joy of doing what he loved?

One other thing. Most of the people in the book are led further on their paths because of some positive feedback, some affirmation they receive early on. But that doesn't mean that in the beginning they are touted as the "best" or the "greatest." Someone gives them a pat on the back. Someone tells them the really like what they've done. They work more, they work harder, and way leads to way. Passion, discipline, and the ability to go forward in doubt, these are the true handmaidens of talent. And none of those are impossible for anyone.


Eloise

  • Posts: 247
  • Montreal
Hi! Robby and everyone here, yes we had a nice time on the Isle of Palms didn't we Ann?

Bruce, thank you for joining us here. I joined SeniorNet about 14 years ago, when I was a mere 70, and I can assure you that it has taught me more than I ever expected to learn at that time in life. My primary language is French, but my aim at the time was to try to retain my English language which tends to weaken if I don’t use it enough and discussions on SeniorNet helped me in doing this.  

When you mentioned Marian Diamond it reminded me of the “Curious Minds” discussion we had on SeniorNet a few years back about an article she wrote ‘Successful Ageing of a Healthy Brain’. She mentioned that the healthy brain, unless damaged by illness, retains its capacity to learn until we die. I will always remember what she said about the things the human brain needs to stay healthy. The number one is Diet, Exercise, New pursuits, ideas, activities, Challenge and Human Love. Here is the whole article. Fascinating.

http://www.newhorizons.org/neuro/diamond_aging.htm

Steph

  • Posts: 7952
My word.. Everyone is joining in the discussion. Yes, I remember Isle of Palms.. and Robbie bringing enough chocolates to cause sugar shock in all of us.. The lone man among women did just fine.
I have been going through a huge life change after 51 years being a wife and now a widow.. Some of the things I have been looking at involve becoming a somewhat different human.. Next week, I am taking an elderhostel course in Law and Order and am very excited about it. I love learning, but in person. The online courses simply do not excite me.. I will read Bruces book, but alas cannot come to New York to meet him. I grew up in a tiny little community and graduated way back with a class of 70.. We are having our 55th reunion and since I have not lived there since college, I love to go back for reunions and see all of those people who still feel like kin, no matter how many years it has been.
Stephanie and assorted corgi

brucefrankel

  • Posts: 37
Eloise - Thank you for the welcome, and I'm so happy you posted Marian Diamond's piece. I interviewed her for my book and originally had a lengthy section in my introduction that featured her. But I trimmed it out to keep the flow going. She is an amazing person. You can watch her lectures on the brain on YouTube. She still hits the swimming pool at Berkeley at 5:30 or 6 a.m. every day. She practices her balance, too. I had read somewhere that she liked to balance on the curb walking to work. When I asked her about the balancing routine, I assumed she did it because she believed it was good for some part of the brain, the way that practicing juggling appears to grow grey matter and stimulate the memory centers. I was surprised when she told me that she practices balancing to protect against falls. She didn't bother with the science of it. But most of all, she focused, in our conversation, on the importance of love, noting again her great discovery about why the rats in a German lab were outliving hers by such a considerable amount of time: the German rats received time out of the cage where they were held and petted. And so, when she returned to her labs she mandated 15 minutes of caressing a day for the lab rats -- and their longevity skyrocketed. --- Very nice to meet you Eloise.

brucefrankel

  • Posts: 37
Hi Steph - I'm happy to meet you online, if not in New York.

I'm sorry to hear of your loss.

But it's great to know that you're pushing ahead with what engages you. What prompted you to take the law class?

Bruce

pedln

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  • Posts: 6692
  • SE Missouri
Oh my, Bruce, definitely a rite of passage.  Congratulations to Isaiah, though I can’t imagine anyone really wanting to drive in New York City.

Welcome Eloise and Steph. You bring back good memories of the Isle of Palms get together. Steph, I’m sorry you can’t join us in New York, but am glad you’re getting together with old friends.  Eloise, I’m counting on you giving Kindle lessons in NY, and when we’re all back home Steph can tell us about mastering the art of the Ipad.  Talk about stretching the brain!

Quote
My excuse is always, I'm a Gemini, with fingers in so many pies...  I feel I'm missing opportunities by not focussing on one area - as those in these stories have done.


But, JoanK, think of all the things that you are doing that you love to do.  What matters is how you feel about what you’re doing.  I like Loretta Thayer’s philosophy,  “I’m very content with what I’m doing every day.”  In such sharp contrast to William Barrett – “I never became what I hoped.”  How sad to feel that way, especially after a life full of achievement.

Now it's time to work on balance, but in the safety of the pool, not like Marian Diamond's curb balance activities.

mabel1015j

  • Posts: 3546
Ginny said "What happens to the person without that talent?  What can or should he do?


I think we have to be careful of thinking about only BIG, extraordinary, perhaps difficult, things as being important for this or the next part of our lives. Ginny, you have a wonderful talent of being gleeful about what you read, visit or "hear" someone saying on this site. Your enthusiasm sparks me every time i read a posting by you. And your roles as discussion leader and teacher are cherished by many, i'm sure.

Being a grandparent is a talent. It's in our presence, hopefully, that children have a safe place to be, talk, act and always get a positive, or probing response that makes them feel good about themselves. We expand their world just by taking them away from the parent household. When they are infants and toddlers, at that fear-of-the- strange phase of their lives, they learn that they can enjoy their time w/ someone other than their parents, and that parents do come back.

Some of us here and at the Seniors and Friends site do handwork. Most of us do it to entertain ourselves or to make gifts for frineds and relatives and would never consider ourselves artists, but it is fulfilling and satisfying to the receivers of our gifts as well as to ourselves. Some of us make objects for charities that are more than artistic, or gift-giving, but fulfill an emotional or physical need for the receiver.

Meeting friends for lunch or coffee often puts us in a comforter, counselor, listener mode. Not to the extent that Robby does for his clients, but i remember reading how helpful talking w/ friends can be to people who perhaps can't afford or aren't inclined to go to a professional therapist.

I think we often dismiss the things that we do that seem so easy or sensible to us as just the ordinary thing that any human being does, but it can be just as important to others and to ourselves as getting a Phd, or directing a volunteer program, or being on a Board of Directors. We should pat ourselves on the back for those "ordinary" things also.

I didn't say before how grateful i am that Bruce is willing to come chat w/ us...........welcome Bruce and thank you so much for spending this time w/ us.........................Jean

brucefrankel

  • Posts: 37
Hi -- Taking a little break from Africa. Technical question: How you set a quotation from an earlier message into a call-out box?

Yes, I too, love Loretta's statement of contentment at doing what she does. But hers is hardly a passive contentment. Despite so much loss in her life -- a son, a daughter, and a husband -- she practices gratitude; she does her spiritual work in front of the big window that looks out onto a beautiful north country pasture; and she affirms her life in the making of those pies every baking day. I think what we respond to is that her life is aligned with her values. That is true of Robby, too. It became true for Dana Dakin, the New Hampshire women who founded Women'sTrust, and for Betty Reid Soskin, and for the Smiths, and Myrna, and Alidra. And when I stop to consider the others in the book, I see clearly how true it is for them.

Now it's time to work on balance,

I'd love to hear how you work on balance, physically and within your lives in general.

Achievement itself wasn't the goal of the people in What Should I Do With The Rest Of My Life?, it was a byproduct of working toward personal goals. The amazing thing, really, is the way, over a long period of time the act of being engaged itself replaces the goal that is initially set in its importance. This is really something I didn't see clearly when I was working on the book, but which I have begun to understand more fully. And that ability to shift from imagined goal to a state of engagement, and from expected out outcome to allow engagement to take us toward our goals in unexpected ways that alter the outcome, takes mindful balancing.

I am very grateful to have recently received an enthusiastic blurb for the forthcoming paperback edition of the book (out in March) from author and Harvard psychologist Ellen J. Langer (Mindfulness. Though it was available in time for me to include some of its insight into my book, I didn't get a chance to read On Becoming An Artist, her book on reinventing yourself through mindful creativity until a few months after I finished my book. She makes a very important point, which she supports with her arsenal of insights and psychological studies included in this wonderful book about her own venture into painting, that our ability to begin something is far too often injured by the myth of ending. She also points out the way in which working on something we believe has an ending leads to disengagement. Worse, it is that fear of making mistakes that cuts most of us off from our creative impulse. The reason, she says, mistakes have such power over us is that the idea of them is rooted in our belief in plans and our fear that we will fail to execute them properly. A mistake means things have not gone according to plan.  And I see now that while setting goals is critical, equally critical is the ability to have, or attain, a flexibility of mind that allows for doubt and change in plans. Improvisation, I suppose. That is, I think, a balance. If I had better perceived this when I was writing the book, I might have underscored it more. James Joyce (quoted by Langer) wrote, "Mistakes are the portals of discovery."

brucefrankel

  • Posts: 37
Jean -- Just saw that you had posted while I was writing. And I thank you very much. Your point is very important.

Indeed, I had another quote from Gertrude Stein that Langer cites, that I deleted from my last post for fear of going on too much.

"Anything one does every day is important and imposing and anywhere one lives is interesting and beautiful."

The critical thing is not how big or how much regard from others our activity draws, it is how deeply we are engaged in it; maybe, too, how open in the engagement we are to discovery of the new as well as how willing we are to make choices and be changed by them.

Thanks, Jean. - Bruce

mabel1015j

  • Posts: 3546
Bruce, we were posting at the same time.................

That issue of people, especially at our ages, who fear making mistakes annoys me so. I know women particularly who apoligize about every 15 mins for something they MIGHT have done improperly. But, i also know men who would like to try an activity, or participate in an activity, that are not doing so because they might not be able to do it well. I just find that so sad................on the other hand, it is a time to get rid of some of those activities that we've been doing "because we are supposed to" but haven't really liked doing, or don't want to do anymore. .............. i guess i see this time as a time of NO RULES except those we want to i mpose on ourselves.

Jean

Robby

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  • Posts: 245
Hi, Eloise!  Good to "see" you again and "hear" your comments.  Hope your family is doing well.  Eloise used to put up with my French because I didn't know anyone else speaking that language and would purposedly choose speaking in French when I was with her.  Some of us here in the Literature group and others in the Seniors and Friends group used to travel to different cities in the USA and Canada where the Senior Netter living there would host the gathering.  Eloise hosted a wonderful few days for us in Montreal ending with a party where we all danced and listened to a musician who played and sang in French.

Robby