Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The (Sometimes Surprising) Power of Connection

Have you ever been in a situation where an important connection or affiliation made a huge difference in your life? If you think about it, there is virtually no aspect of our lives that isn’t touched by the power of connection, or sometimes the loss of it. This realization can come on fast and can show up in some unlikely places.

Any young person with their nose stuck in a cell phone is actually devoting a ton of time to maintaining and expanding their circle of connections, even though they are doing it in a solitary fashion. We can grouse about how much they’re missing, but these high-tech connections may be as valuable as the “low-tech” activities that we value like reading, talking to friends, even connecting with a spiritual community.

How we connect is far less important than realizing how meaningful connections are.   

As I’ve aged, the significance of what I will relinquish after leaving the physical world has been on my mind more and more. Some of what I’ve thought about are material things: my written words, endowments, and my stuff. But lately a new thought has been creeping into my spirit about something far more valuable than any of my stuff:  the idea that connections aren’t just experiences; connections are our LEGACIES. Connections we establish during our lives can influence families and communities, and these influences may live on long after we're out of the physical realm.

The three primary things that connect us are family, friends, and shared experiences. These can be good connections or bad connections. They can be joyous, sorrowful, or stressful. They can be thrust upon us like family that we don’t get to choose or they can be connections we seek out, like taking a class where our love for art, cooking, gardening or some other subject puts us in the company of “fellow travelers.” If we attend the same spiritual home or church, share an occupation, or have a close sibling, we’re part of a group and therefore connected by what we have in common.

Connecting with others

Aren’t some of the most powerful experiences in your life those you shared with others? Knowing you’ve done well is enhanced by sharing your experience with someone who has perhaps gone before you. 

As humans, our connections can represent the difference between a healthy outlook based on constructive emotional development and being vulnerable to pessimism and painful isolation. Our connections with others add support and perspective. Sometimes connection looks and feels like love. Only the test of time will tell if a connection is truly the deeper feeling of love. Sometimes the connections that come on fast and end just as quickly, catch us by surprise. And we are different than we were before.

Connecting to yourself

As we age, we bear witness to the loss of parents, spouses, friends, jobs, and sometimes homes. That’s why making sure we’re connected with ourselves is one of the most important connections of all.

But what does that mean?

It’s almost easier to define by looking at the opposite end of the spectrum. You’re not connecting with yourself when you move through your day in a fog, without the full awareness of what you’re doing; you’re distracted, feel out of touch with reality, like something is just missing. And maybe it is.

The thing to remember is that connecting with yourself can come in both big and small ways. Thinking back on an experience or a relationship may create an “Ah-ha!” moment where some larger meaning is revealed for the first time. But connection also comes from just walking as mindfully -- literally and figuratively -- through the minutes, hours and days of our lives. What’s critical is to have the same enthusiasm for connecting with ourselves as we have in being connected to someone or something, and to never limit our imagination as to what form self-connection can take.

My connections.

Because I’ve never had children, I’ve developed strong connections with the women in my life. Many of these connections have turned into lasting friendships that have shaped my experience profoundly. In addition to these individual connections, I am thankful for the many group connections that have been a large and loving presence. These range from connections with the people in my spiritual home to those with whom I share hobbies, books, and the love of our pets.

You can certainly move through your life with a minimum number of connections. As seniors, however, this can be especially unhealthy. If anything, getting older should precipitate more and stronger connections. We can become more dependent on family, friends, and strangers, and durable connections will make those interactions more joyful for everyone involved.

I truly believe the connection of elders within our community provides the backbone of positive growth for the future. Who better to share with and learn from than those who've been in trenches? We can provide some of the best connections around!

Perhaps now that I’m older, I can see connections as the most powerful and meaningful influences in my life. I’m beginning to see that, rather than tangible stuff, what I leave behind in the form of strong and meaningful connections may serve a wider arc of community. And I know I’m not alone.

The more we think about our lives, the more we’re likely to uncover about our connections.

Is there a time that you’ve been surprised by the power of connection? Don’t be afraid to share your comments!

Contact me at antonia@thejoyofaginggratefully.com 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Senior Moments: The Best IS Yet to Come

For many years, society has said don’t trust anyone over 30.

The senior population has historically been shoved aside and told “It’s all downhill now, baby!

You’ve lived your best life, had the most fun, amassed your greatest wealth, enjoyed the most rewards life has to offer and had the best sex you’ll ever experience.” However, this is changing and advertisers are seeing the potential with the older crowd. More and more we hear comments like, “Sixty is the new 40 and 80 is the new 50.”

If I ever doubted at 67 the best is yet to come, all I have to do is think about Louise Hay.

Metaphysical teacher and motivational author, Louise Hay is currently 89 years old. She was born into a poor and abusive family and ran away from home at 14. She dropped out of school and married at 15 and was pregnant at 16; she gave the baby up at its birth whereupon her husband left her for another woman. In the late 1970’s, she found she had cervical cancer but refused conventional medical treatment and began a regime of forgiveness, coupled with therapy, nutrition, and reflexology. She claimed in an interview that she rid herself of the cancer by this regime. While many would have boohoo’d that the best was nowhere in sight either then or in their future, she saw the positive and turned things around. She studied the New Thought works of authors and spiritual teachers including Ernest Holmes, who taught that positive thinking could heal the body.

Louise Hay has, among many other things, written 27+ books on affirmations and the power of positive thinking to heal anything that needs healing, mind or body. In 1984 she established the Hay House Publishing firm and has worked with the likes of Deepak Chopra, Ester and Jerry Hicks, Oprah Winfrey and Wayne Dyer. Her bestseller, Heal Your Body, has sold more than 35 million copies around the world in over 30 languages. She loves to sing, dance, paint and sculpt, endeavors she didn’t even start until well into her 70’s. She is a true representation that the best is ALWAYS yet to come. There are many other celebrities like Louise in the news every day.

I appreciate positive role models in my life.

While it’s nice to see well-known people who remind us that life can always be very fun and rewarding, I find it particularly heartening to personally know some seniors who epitomize the positive attitude that attracts more of the same, regardless of age. 

Barbara with another friend
My friend Barbara was one of those people.

I met Barbara when, at age 75, she came to volunteer for me doing some research when I worked at the Sheriff’s Department. She and I became friends and when the project she worked on for me ended, she went to work for another department where she completely organized an in-house library of many thousands of books. She acquired and cataloged the entire collection and eventually the library was named after her. We had lots of fun together, playing cards, going out, even traveling abroad.

When Barbara was 79 she met an 80-year-old British man on a Windjammer cruise. They corresponded and visited each other for a year and ultimately, when Barbara was 80, they married and she moved to England. I attended her wedding overseas and, on the last day of the trip, we took the Euro Star speed train to Paris for lunch. The last time I saw her she was wearing a bright red beret and a brilliant smile. She and her husband had a lovely time enjoying each other before she passed away a couple of years later.

Think for a minute, and I bet you’ll realize you know someone just like Barbara. 

They’re not famous or necessarily rich and they’re probably older than you. What DO they have that makes them open and receptive to the best when it appears? If I were to guess, I’d say a significant factor is attitude. Sure we all have our bad days but, in general, these people are fairly upbeat and positive. They’re sure there’s good stuff ahead regardless of their age or financial circumstances or marital status, etc. I think, when given the chance, they’re the ones who’ll see the glass as half full, that the grey and rainy days are good opportunities to stay in and read and that the actions of others don’t dictate their happiness.

I’m grateful there are outstanding role models to keep me knowing the best is yet to come! I believe like attracts like and the best is now and forever. I aspire to this way of life and I enjoy working on it. 

Contact me at antonia@thejoyofaginggratefully.com

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Third Anniversary - Changes Ahead

Antonia’s Senior Moments has been a thriving blog for three years. During that time, over 200 posts have been published, which have been viewed over 36,000 times by readers in 10 different countries including Poland, Ukraine, Russia and China.

Now Antonia’s Senior Moments is growing up, hitting the big time. Early next month this blog will be changing its name to The Joy of Aging Gratefully, and will become a full on website that will grow and expand to meet the needs of my senior audience.

Did you know older women are the largest demographic in the world? I'd like to continue to grow a community of readers who are interested in making our seniordom a vibrant and joyous time.

As a result, you'll continue to see myriad age-related information and subjects that hopefully strike a chord with you. We’ll also be open to any suggestions you have for subjects you’d like to see or issues you’d like to share.

It’s going to be the same, but different. That's how I've felt about getting older … the same as I did in my thirties but different in my older body. I bet I’m not alone in this feeling.

As I go forward, I’d like to thank all my friends and readers and specifically the following people for motivating me to keep going:

Ruth Barnhart
Jane Beach
Fran Bolduc

Debbie Butterfield
Randall Friesen

Lorna Johnson
Chris Michaels
Norma Miller
Barbara Stafford
Christine Sullivan
Rod Sverko

Edward Viljoen

Contact Antonia at antonia@thejoyofaginggratefully.com