I have always been known for being optimistic, or as I have often said myself, unrealistically optimistic in spite of reality. Hope was the one thing I could always cling to when things got tough. I think I learned very young, after the suicide of a family member, that your life was going to be whatever you made it and that giving up was far more painful for those you left behind than you could ever imagine in your temporary moment of despair.
This isn’t always easy. Some days things just seem to pile up. Some days I just feel old, past my prime and I wonder what the years ahead hold for me. It’s hard not to feel down, especially when the news lately has been filled with so much heartache, so much suffering. Of course, the news has always been filled with heartache and suffering hasn’t it?
We forget sometimes though, as we look back at “the good old days” that memory seems to cloud over the bad and focus on the good, both in our personal lives and in our memory as a country. There were other years when jobs were hard to find, when education was inaccessible to many of our citizens and when discrimination was rampant. We have to remember, that while television and movies can make past generations look romantic and wonderful, there was also much suffering, not so unlike today.
The same is true when we look back at our own lives, sometimes longingly, to the past. There were good times then but also struggles and we have to remember how far we’ve come and how much we’ve survived. One thing I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older is that you never come to a time in your life when you can say “okay, everything is perfect now.” There will always be challenges. There will always be illness, and struggles. There will be divorce and unemployment. The key, for me, is to not get discouraged by this, as maddening as it can be. We are human. We live in a world with other humans. Things will never be perfect. They can, however, always be made better. This is the example I have tried to set for my children. That you don’t give up, you survive, no matter what. No matter how hard it is, you get up every day, put your two feet on the floor, and keep on going.
I put this to practice a few months ago, after a routine mammogram (talk about feeling old). I was called back for more tests because they spotted “something of concern.” I, of course, freaked out! Then I stopped, took a deep breath and made a decision on how I was going to face this, whatever it turned out to be. Damn it, I was going to do it with dignity! So, I showed up at my scheduled tests in bright red high heels. Now this may seem silly, but it was my way of bringing attitude to the situation! I was not going to let it drag me down, I was going to face it head on and I did! It all turned out well in the end but during those tests I never took off my red heels. Focusing on them reminded me of my own power to get through whatever life throws at me.
We can’t get bogged down by the suffering, or give up because the fight has taken too long. We must keep moving; keep going, always, always, always!
A beautiful example of this was a story in this week’s news about Pete Seeger. If you are young enough not to know Pete Seeger, I urge you to Google him the minute you finish reading my blog! He is an extraordinary musician and social activist. At 92 years old, if anyone deserves to be discouraged and to give up, it would be him. If anyone deserves to rest on his accomplishments if would be him. Yet, here he was this week, Occupying Wall Street!
Another article I found recently was about Elena Salvoni, a woman in her 90s who lives in London and oh by the way, just retired again from her career as a Maitre d. She retired at 65, tried again at 75 and then worked until she was 90. Why, because she loved her work and those she worked with loved her. Now Elena may not be as famous as Pete Seeger but she has walked her path with pride and dignity. Who knows how many people’s lives she may have changed with her hard work and positive example!
Elena and Pete are proof that you can have a vital, productive life well after the typical retirement age of sixty five. In fact, maintaining a productive life is what keeps people going. Retiring and sitting around doing nothing is actually bad for you! Study after study has found that the key to living a long, healthy life is not necessarily how much you exercise or what you eat. The key to living a long healthy life is to keep active, keep moving, and to keep doing! The secret to a long, active life is your ATTITUDE! How do you handle the inevitable challenges of life? Can you keep going, can you bounce back?
So today, I’m going to keep moving, keep showing up! I’m going to “keep on keeping on” and I’m packing my attitude, so watch out! Now I don’t know what Elena and Pete have been wearing for shoes lately, but I think I’ll go shopping for a second pair of bright red heels, just in case!
If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.
– Maya Angelou
Want to read more ~