♥ Have you ever wondered if you spend time well? That thought occurred to me after spending 4,000 weeks (80 years) on this wonderful planet. I spend endless hours watching mind numbing TV shows and too much time keeping up with world events. I cannot determine if I’m doing these things because I enjoy them, or because I’m searching for something to relieve the boredom. It’s almost as if I need the distraction, that I need something to make life more interesting. I don’t think that’s the reason because I can’t remember when I last experienced it. I keep a daily journal of my thoughts and activities and as I look back over them, I seldom see negative comments or signs that I’m not engaged in life. True, I do fiddle with my cellphone a lot and I take my iPad with me just about every place I go, but is that evidence that I’m fearful boredom will ensnare me due to not having something to do? I surely hope not.
I certainly get pulled away many times from whatever I’m concentrating on. It may be a familiar “ding” that signals a new email just popped into my inbox, or my cellphone playing Johnny Cash’s, “I Walk The Line”, alerting me to a new phone call/text message. Distractions are everywhere, all of them demanding my attention, requesting I do something or the other immediately. Is this the person I have morphed into, someone that’s so involved in today’s technology that life seems incomplete without it? I know that if I end up in the hospital for some unknown reason, none of those devices will care if I live or die. Only the people I care about and spend time with will care, so why am I not spending more time with them?
I think the answer is that it happens so slowly, sorta like the extra weight you gain, but goes unnoticed because it happens gradually. Will I change from a person who needs to be engaged all the time to one that values human contact? Has this modern way of living inserted itself into the deepest regions of my being, or is there still hope for me? The first step to changing your life is to recognize the need, and the second is to have the desire to make it happen. Sadly, I think I need gentle persuasion on the second part.
Mahatma Gandhi said, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” Now, that’s the place I gotta get to 😊.
♥I read an article recently that said simply, if you have a negative mind, then you will have a negative life. I know people that fit that description (no, it’s not you), and the odds of them getting out of that rut in life are small.
I too have been in that rut and had to fight to get out, so I’m living proof that it can happen. It is so easy for negative thoughts to creep into our mind and infect us with a sourness that leaches into almost all of our actions. Friends slowly disappear and few appear to take their place, and we’re left wondering why we are lonely.
It’s hard to sit down and figure out what’s happening in your life and why you’re losing so many people you enjoyed being around. In my case, I was divorcing my first wife and the stress of the process was definitely taking its toll. It took quite a few visits to a psychiatrist for me, with his help, to regain my normally positive outlook on life. Since those visits many years ago, I always attempt to be positive about whatever difficulty I am facing. Of course, the pandemic made that difficult to do, but I soldiered on, keeping the old chin up and dutifully practicing the Covid- safe things that Dr. Fauci encouraged us to do.
My wife and I have experienced a whirlwind of changes in the last six months and I must admit they were necessary. Moving into a retirement community and selling our home was huge. It required us to see old friends less often, and make new friends to take their place as active participants in our daily life. We now eat our daily meal in the dining room at 6pm with newly gained friends (Jerry & Ruth), unless either couple made other plans.
In our previous life, my wife and I always had dinner alone while watching TV. Now we eat with someone we enjoy being around, and the conversation is always lively and fun. Who knows, maybe eventually, we run out of things to talk about and just sit there, chewing our food, saying nothing, but I don’t expect that ever happening around Jerry & Ruth 😊.
I remember reading this story a while back: A scorpion asks the frog for a ride across a river. The frog is leery, but the scorpion points out that if he were to bite the frog, they would both drown. Finally, the frog accepts the logic and as they approach the middle of the river, the scorpion strikes! As they are drowning, the frog pleadingly asks why he did it, and the scorpion blurts out, “I just couldn’t help it, it’s’ in my nature.”
Looking back at some things that happened in my life, I can easily understand the scorpion’s reasoning. Recently, I locked the emergency key for the safe, inside the safe, and when the batteries for the keypad died, I was forced to destroy the safe in order to remove its contents. Why did I do something so intrinsically dumb? I just couldn’t help it, it’s in my nature!
I took my wife to the grocery store the other day and, on the way home, we were gleefully gabbing about something and suddenly I realized we were arriving at our old home, not the one we just moved to in April. By the time I turned around and went back, I had made an eight-mile loop. I just couldn’t help it, it’s in my nature. I could continue reciting similar occurrences, but I think you get my point.
Rene’ Descartes said, “Except our own thoughts, there is nothing absolutely in our power.” This quote emphasizes our thoughts are our own and If we have a bad idea, then it is our responsibility to make it better. We should not blame our bad decisions on someone else, strictly because we created the decision. If the frog had listened to Descartes, he would have concluded that it was ingrained in the scorpion’s head to bite, regardless of the fact that it would cost him his life too. I don’t remember what I was thinking when I placed those emergency keys in the safe, but I take responsibility for doing something so destructively simple minded. I have power over my thoughts and over my actions. Somehow, I have to get better at both 😊.
Currently I am reading, “Down The Great Unknown” by John Wesley Powell. It’s about his 1869 Journey down the Colorado River and through the Grand Canyon.
I just finished, “Wheelmen” by Vaness O’Connell & Reed Albergotti. It’s about Lance Armstrong and the Tour de France and the doping that all the cyclist try to hide from race officials. The race lasts for 3 weeks and covers 3,000 miles. I gave it 3 stars.
The other day, as I was celebrating the birthday of an old friend, and reflecting on my recent 80th birthday, I was thinking about my life at the start of each decade, and it was an interesting journey.
As I mentally walked through my life, I could see my development and the changes I made. I was also aware of the struggles I was experiencing at the start of each decade, and I could see how they affected me and how I resolved them.
The most startling observation I made was that my life really started being a positive experience after I met my wife in 1992. Up to that point, it seemed to be a fruitless struggle just to get from one day to the other. Margaret Mitchell famously said, “Life’s under no obligation to give us what we expect.”
I am living proof of the veracity of that statement. When I met my wife at the start of my 5th decade on this planet, everything changed, and my life ceased having so much turmoil. I can say that not for one moment of my life, since our relationship started, have I not felt loved by her. From the very beginning she made me feel special, and that was something I wasn’t used to. I think I was unaware of how much depth a caring person could add to my life.
So, here I sit, starting my 8th decade and browsing around in the many rooms of my mind, peeping in to see what was happening during time long past, finding joy in some, and sadness in others, hoping I have been a positive influence on those I met along the way, knowing that you are in one of those “happy” rooms.
Possibly, there are people that think of me negatively, but that comes with life. I have tried to keep that to a bare minimum. I believe there are only a few, but you can never be sure of how someone perceives your actions. As Summer stares at us, letting us know that hot, sunny days, and hurricanes are here, we can now get out and socialize with our friends and neighbors, take trips that were set aside during the pandemic, and just enjoy life. As Helen Keller so wisely said, “I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, then alone in the light”.
⌘ Rumi (Persian poet born 1207) said, “Wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed every corner of your life.” I believe that and I want to use it in my life. Some say that gratefulness can increase our sense of happiness, decrease our perception of pain and depression, and increase our appreciation of the accomplishments of others.
I never realized that gratitude could be so impactful in my life. Surely, it wonders in and out of all our lives, but it is fleeting and never stays long. It now appears that it should be a part of our being and influence us daily. So, I have developed a plan to ensure that it stays with me: write or make mental notes (bad idea) of the things I am grateful for, and nothing should be too small to be on that list. I also think I should start writing thank-you notes for kindness’ shown to me by others. I know, it seems like a lot of effort, but on closer examination it’s not, and I would feel better knowing that I expressed my gratefulness in ways other than words, which can flow so effortlessly.
How often do we say, “I love you”, or “thank you”, without putting in the effort to really showing it? I’ll be the first to raise my hand. We recently spent four nights with my cousin Harold & his wife Willis back in my hometown. I’m gonna sit down and write them a letter, expressing our gratitude for their kindness. Sure, we expressed our gratitude before we left, but I need to take the extra step of writing it down and sending it to them. No, I don’t think an email suffices, that’s so easily done, requiring very little effort. I’m gonna write a note to those fine people, put a stamp on it and put it in the mail. Then, they will know that we really mean it! Or maybe they know anyway and I’m just being paranoid 😊. I’m counting on what Rumi said about wearing gratitude like a cloak.
⌘ I recently ran across an old pair of my eyeglasses that were worn by me about five years ago. They differ totally from what I wear, being gold rimmed versus black rims today. I gently placed them on my face and could tell they were close to the strength of my current glasses, so I wore them to see if anyone would detect the change. A couple of days went by and no one noticed. I’m a little confused, these look nothing like what I normally wear and they’re a little old-fashioned (circa 2009), yet no one has noticed. Slowly, it’s sinking in that all the extra time and money used in selecting just the right frames is not money well spent. All the wasted time in front of the optometrist’s mirror, trying on countless frames, and wondering which one looks the best. Kinda wish I hadn’t done that now. After nine days into the experiment, someone finally noticed, and I was so relieved.
So, what lesson have I learned from this brief experiment? Well, that other people aren’t as aware of what I wear as I think, and maybe I’m not as important as I want to be? There’s a good possibility that if someone used that experiment on me, I would fail as well. I’ll probably never try that again, it’s so disappointing to find out that few of us notice such things. I’m refusing to travel down the road where only fools and horses survive.
Mary Oliver said, “Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” Turns out, I’m not the only one that needs to pay attention 😊.
⌘ My wife and I sold our beautiful home and moved into a retirement community on April 24th, and we are slowly getting used to our new place. It is much smaller than we are used to, but it is a necessary change. We always knew this day would come, and as we approached the age of 80, we knew it was the right thing to do. Our goal was to be in an environment where our children wouldn’t have to look after us as old age soaked into our creaky old bones and our health declined. That’s where we are now, in a place that allows us to go from Independent Living (our cottage) to Assisted Living (they help you do things), then on to Health Care (they do everything), or the Mental Unit (dementia). They furnish us one meal daily, usually dinner in the dining room, and send someone to clean our cottage every two weeks. Everyone here appears to be at least 70 and a lot of them are using walkers & wheelchairs. We are fighting the idea that will happen to us, but no one knows what lies in store, so we just take it one day at a time. The one thing you discover is that old folks are nice, we have yet to meet anyone that’s not. I think it’s because at our age, most of our friends have transitioned to the other side and we need replacements 😊. We have met some extraordinary people, and that has made our transition to the retirement community much easier.
So, what’s it like to make your final move, the one you make before “buying the farm”? Well, it’s kinda sad, but inevitable. We’re hoping for at least ten more years of good health, but you never know. We make daily exercise plans to keep everything working, try to eat right and get enough sleep, and see how it all turns out. We can still make trips to visit those we love, and travel for entertainment, but we can see far enough down that road to see the sign that says, “Dead End”. Hopefully, that’s when our family picks up the slack and comes to visit us 😊. As Frank Bruni said, “It’s all about aging, writ vivid and large.”
A few weeks ago, while we were back home visiting, we stopped, as we always do, at the cemetery my mother and father are in, as well as a lot of my family. They are in a crypt about 10 feet up, and as I stood there talking to them, I made the comment as I prepared to leave that I would probably join them before too much longer. As I walked away with tears in my eyes, I heard mom’s voice saying, “You’ve got longer than you think!” Boy, do I hope she’s right!
Well, this past week has been a busy one. We are still doing things that will make the move to our new, “cottage”, easier. We will spend three nights in a small apartment the retirement home provides us, while the movers spend two days packing our stuff and then 2 days unpacking it. The one thing I know for sure: Our life will change radically. I know that some of you reading this have already made the change and are perfectly comfortable with it. I know because I have been in your home and witnessed the contentment on your face. But I’m confident you had apprehensions when the process started. So many things to let go, so many memories brushed aside, like the pollen collecting on our sidewalk.
My wife and I have gone from not eating out at all since March 2020, to eating out every day (dinner at the retirement community). I asked her the other day how it felt to know she would never have to cook another meal. She smiled, said nothing, but I could sense some sadness in her eyes. Sorta like me, knowing I’ll never mow another lawn, pick up pinecones and gumballs, or sit in front of my workshop after a hard day’s work and smoke my favorite cigar. Our new home is a “smoke free” campus and ‘cuffs await anyone that fractures that rule. I think the sadness comes from knowing that they are “last” things we’ll do. Sadness comes in all forms, and some are much more impactful than others. We just have to know the difference. I wrote a missive on August 16, 2013, titled, “Remember Your First?”, and it’s about things like, first kiss, first sex, first time driving a car, etc. So, here I am now, writing about “Last”. Amusing and sad. If you would like to read it, then click here.
When all is said and done, we should be sleeping in our new cottage on April 22nd? That’s when the newest chapter of our lives begins. When we sit down in the cavernous dining room to eat our dinner, I bring up the calculator on my smartphone and total up the calories for my meal (each item has it listed), and my selection is based on not allowing my total calorie count slide past 600. Maybe a little, but not by much 😊. So far, I have been able to keep my weight in check, but the fight has just started and there’s a lot of rounds left. We’ll see who won the fight in a year. I read an article online written by a woman who weighs over 400 lbs (here) and I felt so badly for her. With so much good food available, it is so easy to gain weight. Sometimes, I think it is like David fighting Goliath, without the slingshot. Anyway, the fight continues. I am determined that my family doesn’t have to hire six of the strongest men from the local gym to carry me out of the church 😊.
My youngest great-granddaughter (Taylor-15) sent me a text the other day and said she wanted to write some missives for my website. I was delighted to tell her I would love for her to do that. I also informed her that 99% of my readers are adults and that she should write with that in mind. Who knows, maybe I have a budding writer in the family. I suggested she spend some time observing her grandmother (JoAnn) writing her missives for my website, and reading some of mine, to get an idea of what I post there. Hopefully, she will have something posted soon. I’ll keep you updated. Since September 2017, I have had 161,000 visitors to my website. Hopefully, a lot of them will read her missives.
JoAnn has a new missive titled,” Let’s Play Fetch” about cats here, and I have rotated some of my “WoWs from The Past” if you are interested.
Wherever you are on this wonderful planet, I hope life is as good for you as it is for me. I know I am blessed and I’m sure you feel the same. If you have the time, drop me a line, I would love to hear from you…. Tommy
In 1935, a young couple in Armonk made a vow to chase rainbows together for the rest of their lives. Sixty years later, with many rainbows in their possession, they continue the chase.
Contrary to popular belief, not all rainbows have a pot of gold, but they contain other treasures. The first two pots were, undoubtedly, your two children, followed by two pots for your grandchildren.
Some other pots contained a sense of humor, the spirit of competition, loyalty, kindness, devotion, and that trait so hard to find, “trustworthiness”.
I have only known this couple for a short time.
I wish it were longer.
I hope to find their secret for making a long-term relationship work so well, when so many forces are at work to destroy it.
There are many people that profess to know exactly what makes love survive.
They will give you a laundry list of things that have to exist for it to endure.
Yet, they cannot stay married for 20 years.
So, where do we go to answer the age-old question of, “How does love endure?”
I say, travel north to a home atop a hill in Armonk, New York, and talk to a couple that is living the answer.
22,000 days of chasing rainbows together makes them expert “rainbow chasers”.
It is my belief that at the end of your journey on this earth; we are judged by the way we conduct our lives and by the promises we made and kept.
I only wish that I could make a promise and keep it for 60 years. I have known no one else that has done so.
It is too late for me to do so now, but I know a couple on a hill in Armonk…
Tommy Hale …written to his fiancé’s parents in 1995 as they celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. They are both now deceased.