"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

Tag: aging

an early blanket chest . . . and a new lease on life!


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Looking back, I think that one’s thoughts about life go in phases. For example, for the few years before I turned seventy, I found myself preoccupied with cleaning the house and disposing of things so the chore wouldn’t be left to my family afterwards. I read clips about “four boxes” – getting all of one’s possessions into those boxes so that you would clean up everything before you were carried out with your toes up. Finally, it got kind of tiring because, while I made some progress, a lot actually, I was worn out thinking of what I would leave behind, rather than living for the moment each day.

From my seventies, I started giving away precious things to my daughters that I had wanted to leave them anyhow – but would get the pleasure of sharing their (hopefully) pleasure in receiving them. An interesting thing that I discovered, is that this didn’t placate my feeling of aging either. Instead, I found that I still wanted to find new treasures and even bought an 18th century blanket chest at an auction online because I had submitted a very low bid and forgot about it!  I was fiddling around with online bidding and put in a very low bid on an early blanket chest in old red paint with a fabulous base like one I used to have. Lo and behold, I was flabbergasted to learn that I had won the chest for far less than the estimate (which is usually set low to begin with.)

Still shocked, I also began to rearrange my main living area to accommodate the chest in the third floor of a Queen Anne Victorian house that my husband restored years ago – wide board floors, a vaulted ceiling and old New England bowls set in a tableau on the kitchen soffit. It’s not a big space but it’s roomy enough and we underwent a transformation of our space where we haven’t rearranged the furniture for over a decade! Isn’t it amazing the way the Universe works?

I used to be an antique dealer and I was happy to see it when I picked it up – original cotter pin hinges, lovely flower-engraved William and Mary brass handles, wide dove-tailing on the edges of the drawer construction, etc. etc. Most beautiful of all was the graceful curved base known to originate from the Connecticut River Valley. So, all of a sudden, an early New England blanket chest appeared, virtually out of nowhere – and I remembered how excited and wonderful I felt when I was in my thirties after stumbling upon some early piece of history with it in the back of my car driving home.

So instead of feeling that I had to give away everything and wait until I got hit by a truck or ebbed away with some late-blooming illness, I decided to live again. HAHA! It feels good and I’m glad that I’m done with that long phase of preparing for leaving this earth and my family – and being back here, doing the Jumble puzzle in the newspaper every morning, brewing rich cups of Peet’s French Roast coffee when I feel like it and enjoying a good night’s sleep with my beloved husband, knowing that I’ll probably wake up to another new day!

And while the closets and things have been sorted through and organized, I still have more than four boxes of stuff left! Oh well.


good advice . . .

  Today, I noticed a quotation by a venerated Japanese painter, Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849). Hokosui was a late-blooming artist who was remarkably well-traveled and turned out more than ten thousand woodblock prints.

 “All that I made before seventy is insignificant. At seventy-three, I began to understand how animals, plants, trees, birds, fish, and insects are constructed. At ninety, I will enter into the secret nature of things. . . and when I am one hundred and ten, everything–every detail–will live.” 

I was happy to come across this perspective and to learn that instead of feeling marginalized as you get older, that there’s still time to be creative–and moreover, that it need never stop.

Later this morning, I noticed an interesting observation made by James Schiro, a lead director of Goldman Sachs who passed away recently from multiple myeloma.

“Shortly before he left Zurich Financial, Mr. Schiro was asked by The New York Times to cite the most important leadership lesson he had learned in his career as an executive. He quoted Colin Powell who said:

         “People don’t like change, but they can manage change,” he said in part. “They can’t handle uncertainty. I think it is the job of leaders to eliminate uncertainty.”

So I guess for people like you and me, we can manage change, like growing older and being creative; what’s harder is feeling certain that we can still find ways to be creative.

free at last . . .

When are we finally free of that period in our lives when we look back in order to look forward? I’m just about there, I think. Perhaps it’s because my next birthday is what they call a “milestone.” Or that everyone of us, at one time or another, goes through the Scrooge-like exercise of looking over our lives to see who we have really been so that we may muster up the will and willingness to live a “better life” or at least one that is truly our own.

The Taoist books, thin and succinct, make the argument to simplify our personality, to recognize that problems are mostly derived from our ego lurking around in the background, and to stop wanting things that we don’t need.

The other day, Bel Kaufman, the writer of the book “Up the Downstairs” turned 101. She was quoted as saying:

“I’ve lived a long time, a very long time, 101 years, and I’m still here. I’m done with the doubts and struggles and insecurities of youth. I’m finished with loss and guilt and regret. I’m very old, and nothing is expected of me. Now, provided good health continues, I can do what I want. I can write my memoirs. I can edit my works for future eBooks. I can even do nothing—what a luxury that is! I have new priorities and a new appreciation of time. I enjoy my family more than ever, and also a sunny day and a comfortable bed. I keep up my interest in books and theater and people, and when I’m tired, I rest. My former students write to me and visit me. I had many problems and disasters in my life; fortunately at my age, I don’t remember what they were. I’m glad I am 101.”

I also ran into this saying about change from William James, of all people:

To change one’s life:

Start immediately.

Do it flamboyantly.

No exceptions.

~William James