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Mindful : June 2014
alive. What does it feel like to be really old? That ’s the blunt question I asked Nancy, a good friend’s mother, who is 93. She said she just started thinking of her- self as old. “But a couple of months ago I was still taking the bus all over New York, a nd walking over to the Metropoli- tan Museum, my home away from home.” From Na ncy’s point of view, when she was 92, she wasn’t old yet. I asked Nancy how she sustains her- self. She said she has a lust for life. She’s a devoted New Yorker, and she reads the New York Times every day—without glasses! She’s an artist. “ When I’m in the studio, it’s the only time I completely lose myself.” Most of all, she’s curious. She loves to learn about people and their interest- ing lives. She makes new friends all the time—the doorman, store clerk, or physi- cal therapist. “At my age, when you’re losing a lot of people, it’s important to make new friends. Human beings’ stories are endlessly fascinating.” My friend Frieda is another example of someone with a great attitude. She’s 74, on her own, with no family in the U.S. She has Pa rkinson’s Disease a nd other health problems. She’s retired a nd lives alone in a small house that isn’t paid off. She’ll soon have to make a change, but she doesn’t yet know where she’ll live or what she’ll live on. Does she mope around? No! She took me along with her to a New Year’s Eve party. She dressed up, with makeup, an iridescent scarf, sequins, bangles, and dangly earrings. When I was younger, I used to like to dance at parties, but now I feel stiff in body as well as mind, so I left elderly, though unlike them, I could expect to get better, not worse. This could be a rehearsal, I thought. And, there were nurses—Zoraya, Chizoba, Khadriya—who took care of my most intimate and desperate needs. Take Zoraya, for example. She wasn’t af raid of my body in pain, as I collapsed over my walker at 3 a.m ., in the hell realm of constipation. She ca me close. I won’t tell you how close. I got curious and asked them about their lives. They told me their a mazing stories that took me beyond myself. They came all the way from Honduras, Tan- zania, Afghanistan, and now they were washing my back. I’m 71. I’m practicing saying how old I a m because there’s a taboo against it. But people in their 90s are likely to boast of their age. They deserve credit for just being “Life is a moderately good play with a badly written third act.” Truman Capote “Old age is always fifteen years older than I am.” Oliver Wendell Holmes “Some guy said to me: Don’t you think you’re too old to sing rock n’ roll? I said: You’d better check with Mick Jagger.” Cher “114 isn’t as old as it used to be; they say it’s the new 104.” Craig Ferguson “My mother always used to say, ‘The older you get, the better you get. Unless you’re a banana.’” Betty White 62 mindful June 2014 happiness