Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Three related stories.
One. Last Wednesday, at the boxing gym, I had a brief conversation with AraJane. She is thirty-four years old, I think. In reply to how she was doing, before our exercise class began she said, that she had been at home, feeling grumpy and achy and thought, “why go to the gym.” But she got up and came to the gym. Then she said, “I feel better already by just being here.”

I thought about her comment for a few moments and realized that it is actually a rather profound statement. Feeling lethargic, grumpy, achy, and not wanting to do anything is not an uncommon human condition. But, AraJane made the effort to get up and get to the gym. Just by the act of making that much effort and her mood and feelings rose. It may seem like “getting up and getting going” is not such a big thing, but I think that perhaps it is actually a very big thing. It makes, if not all of the difference, then certainly it makes an awful lot of difference to what we do and how we react to life and the stuff that Life puts in our way.

Some mornings I wake up and think for a brief moment, “Should I get up and go to the lake to jog around it?” Then by the time that I go out the front door I am looking forward to the run that morning, wondering what will come of it, what will the weather be like, how will the jogging be this morning. And almost always I think on the way back home from running, that it is really a great way (for me) to begin a day. Dawn at the lake is beautiful –even last Tuesday when the rain was coming down steadily with a stiff south wind. I was soaked before I was half way around the lake. The rain water running down my face was actually kind of nice. It added to the adventure of it. Certainly those few people that I met going in the other direction smiled or nodded giving me the feeling that we were out there in the wind and rain together. When the weather is nice there are more people going around the lake in the morning, but fewer make eye contact and acknowledge others.

Two. I had a haircut last week. That’s nothing. My current barber is a woman. The last time we met she told me that she was going to attend college studying sustainable agriculture. So, we had a chance to talk about her start of college while she trimmed my hair this time. She (I don’t know her name) is just a normal twenty-something woman barber who has not previously shown much of her personality. Barbering does not encourage expressing much of one’s personality, I think.

I asked her about here studies and her college classes. She came alive! Her personality blossomed and exploded. She is so very excited about her classes and the learning that she is doing. She frequently stopped trimming my hair so that she could talk more about her experiences with what she is learning. As it should be her course work is opening up a whole new world, a world of learning new things that are important to her. It was great fun just to watch her react and describe her experiences.

At one point she mentioned and then I asked more about it, that she is “by far” the oldest student in her class. I tried to encourage her that she is in no way too old, as she expressed her distress that she had wasted so many years up to now by not learning the things that she is learning when she was younger. I tried to tell her of the changes in the activities and learnings in my life from the time I was 30 years old and where I am now: When I was thirty I did not have even a thought about an making or owning an electric vehicle, my organic gardening, building my backyard greenhouse, working closely every day with my wife in the bookstore, and more. Perhaps it was just some ranting of this grandfather.

Anyway, her enthusiasm spread to me. I thoroughly enjoyed the time while she was exclaiming and describing her experiences in the past several weeks while she trimmed my hair.

Three. My sister is 65 years old. Last fall when she was “only” 64 her employer of more than 20 years laid her off. It was part of the cost cutting measures that are so common today. Janet is not ready to retire. What to do? She rallied her resources. She enrolled in a class to help her find a new job, to interview effectively, and other aspects of being wanted by a new employer. She is seeing a counselor, exercising, dyed her hair, and other activities to “get ready.”

A month ago she was interviewed for a case management position. It was much less than she was qualified for, but it would be a job. At the conclusion of the interview the interviewer said to Janet, “You are actually qualified for a management position. Would you be interested if one were to become available?” As Janet relates it, she thought, “Damn right!” and replied, “Why yes, I would be interested.” In the following weeks she kept checking with this organization and when a management position was posted she immediately contacted them. The result is that she starts next week at what she thinks is the dream job. It is exactly what she loves to do! She can hardly wait to get in and help them.

What do these three stories have in common? We each decide when we are ready to do what we want or need to do. We are never too old until we decide that we are too old. We don’t know where the next bend in the road will take us. But that bend in the road will take us very much farther than sitting at home complaining.

1 comment:

Will said...

I loved this post, Uncle John. Very inspiring and a great use of thematic observation -- the themes of life are all around us! Keep up the excellent thoughts!