What Everybody Ought to Know About Change In Midlife and Beyond

Preparation Is Possible

Everyone says that change is inevitable, but no one really believes it. It’s fine that we see our children get older, but somehow we are left out of that picture. With the exception of those moments we look in the mirror and notice this or that is sagging a little, life goes on day to day like a comfortable trance separating us from something we don’t want to recognize.  In other words, we expect everything to stay the same if we act like the ostrich with its head in the ground. When we live in our expectations, we act and believe something will happen in life. Normally, expecting anything is a dangerous thing to do because, if unfulfilled, we can automatically devolve into a major upset.  In midlife, I’m very clear change is one thing we can all expect. Who would have expected to look the way we do now? Who would have expected life to turn out the way it did, good or bad? Who could have ever believed that anyone we loved would die, in our heart of hearts. How often have you felt shock when suddenly confronted with these inevitable circumstances?

You Never Know

The truth is, we live on the earth and, like the earth, we are in constant motion. On the outside, our earth moves in tandem with the planets, suns, and stars. Deep within it, there is a constant revisionary process of molten lava, churning and floating among  layers of plates upon which our illusion of solid ground is built. The floor of the ocean is moving constantly. New ridges are pushed up from the lava forming subterranean mountain ranges, earthquakes and tsunamis. These reshape the land, just as our external and internal environments change us on a daily basis. It can happen in increments or in major life shifts.

We never really know what a day will bring. For example, today I woke up expecting to go to lunch with a friend. She called to say she was sick. As a result, here I sit writing this post. I planned, without “expecting”, to finish it tomorrow, not today. This is a smaller shift. But I can remember a time when I went to visit my mother in the hospital with a catalogue in my purse ––  planning to ask her what she needed for Christmas. My brother walked out of a room and stopped me in my path. He looked down and told me our mother was dead. That was a big change in my life. Unable to stand and screaming a guttural cry that rang throughout the hospital, I collapsed into a chair that seemed to appear out of nowhere.

The only way we can prepare for change, in midlife or any other time, is to expect it. We clearly can’t protect ourselves from it. Change is everywhere. There is, in fact, no such thing as being immune or safe. Some say, change is the only thing in the world you can count on. Every day is an opportunity to fully experience the moment before it evolves into the next one.

Aging Definition

 Don’t Call Me Senior

Is it just me, or is it hard to swallow when someone calls us seniors? My self image isn’t of someone sitting in a rocking chair. I broke my ankle in May from hiking and rock jumping. One guy I told about it, said I was crazy. Lots of folks tell me I am not as young I used to be. It may be true that I’m crazy, but I have no intention of stopping my hikes. I think I’ll be more careful about how I land on rocks, but I am convinced I’d have broken my ankle regardless of how old I was. I have no osteoporosis, osteopenia or anything else that would dictate I should be extra careful. I don’t want to be extra careful, if I don’t have to be. Age can be an excuse as opposed to a real issue.

But, that still doesn’t change that I’m qualified to be a senior. I can see why so many people are having trouble with the designation. Senior doesn’t fit the number anymore. Jim Shea, and editorialist from the Hartford Courant, came up with some odd, if not cleaver monikers. One of my favorites is the idea of going to a sale at a specific time of day for the “You Look Good” people. This means you’ve played the game and are going strong. He also thought of “Club Med A Care”  as the new name for discount prices at the movies.  It could also be a reason for a sale on motorcycles, but only for “Those In God’s Waiting Room”.

There are other options too. One idea is “Boomers”.  I mean we have always been Boomer’s. People know what that means and we are used to it. Related to this possibility is” War Babies”, because we were born after World War ll.  And then there is always “Champions”, meaning we’ve just crossed the 50 yard line, or the 50 yard dash.

You Get To Choose

What do you think? Please write me a comment. I’ll put the results on Facebook and Twitter. Here are the options.

  1. “You Look Good”
  2. “Club Med A Care”
  3. Those in “God’s Waiting Room”
  4. “Boomers”
  5. “War Babies”
  6. “Champions”

Any others you can think of? Vote! I will share the results with you, never fear. I’ll send it out for 4 days over Twitter and then Facebook. Let’s choose the label that fits our age. And make sure to download my ebook about managing change.

Midlife Cafe Interviews Writer Peggy Bechko

 Born To Write

Peggy Bechko is a recognized writer of Western, Romance and, most recently, Science Fiction novels. A women seemingly born to write, she started very young and is still at it. Life has presented her with challenge and disruption in the form of her mother’s death and late marriage. Yet, she is a person who was able to get the support she needed, enabling her to rebound successfully into midlife. She  bloomed and created a new balance expressing her evolving passions in writing her first Science Fiction novel, Stormrider, and opening Silver Streak, a jewelry store.

1. You have written and been acclaimed for your westerns and romance novels. What led you to choose these genres?

It’s funny the twists and turns life takes.  I’ve always been fascinated with the west and read westerns (and of course I live in the western mountains now), but I was writing general fiction until a friend of mine dared me to write a western.

Okay, so who could resist that?

I did write one, and I wrote it as if I were a middle-aged man (first-person). In reality, I was a 20-year-old woman. The extra kick to this little tale was I found an agency which took me on when I finished that western –– and then promptly went belly-up. Of course back then, in the dark ages, we didn’t have computers and ‘back-ups’.  I’d sent them my only copy so panic ensued –– where was that manuscript?  Did I have to retype the whole darn thing? Ahhhhhh!

As it turned out, one of the defunct agents broke off to start his own agency. He took my manuscript with him and called me, asking if I would accept a contract from Doubleday for that first Western, Night Of The Flaming Guns. Would I?  Surely you jest!  Of course I did and I was only 22.

Then, that same agent, George, encouraged me to add Romances to my repertoire. He placed my first romance, Dark Side of Love (just re-released as an Ebook through Amazon Kindle at  http://amzn.to/KYtgDi ) with Harlequin Superromance.

2. How did you decide to branch off into Science Fiction writing with “Stormrider”?

For me it wasn’t a decision, really, it was kind of an inevitability.  I’ve also always loved Science Fiction and Fantasy.  I’d go to any Sci Fi movie that came out, read a lot of Orson Scott Card, Octavia Butler, Sheri Tepper, Jennifer Roberson, Laurel K. Hamilton and others. Sooner or later I had to give it a try. Stormrider was a blast to write. In addition to that novel, I’ve also written and optioned a screenplay titled Replica. It originally finished in the Quarter Finals of the Nicholl Screenwriting Fellowship competition. I would love to see that produced one day. Meanwhile, I wrote a Vampire Western which slips more into the horror genre –– I plan to put that into novel form as well in the next several months. I can’t help it, I just like variety.

3. You are a very prolific writer, how has your process of writing changed over the years?

Strangely my process hasn’t changed much.  The real evolution has come in the details of how I organize what I write.

I’ve always begun with thoughts of an interesting character with the potential for lots of problems.  Then came an interesting setting.

I’ve always had at least a couple of projects in the air at the same time, like a novel slowly becoming while I sketch out an idea for a screenplay.  I’ll also have notes and ideas floating and accumulating for another novel.

I usually try to finish up on a high note for the day, then jot a few notes to myself for the next day and leave that in the middle of my desk so I know exactly what I need to accomplish. It’s very important for me to remain focused as I do succumb at times to that writer’s malady – procrastination. The notes to self thing keeps me on track (well, most of the time).

4. You’ve been an active and successful writer since your twenties, how has midlife impacted you and your work?

I think midlife brings challenges that youth did not, even though while in youth we all think we’re pretty challenged.

One major change was marriage, the first for both myself and my husband.  It came late to us and that was good. We had some serious talks about my writing and what it meant to me before we got married. He’d always given me my space. He also had his own pursuits.  (He loves to study, read, and  has published a couple of young adult books of his own: one, Tales of Caer Alban in paperback and Ebook on Amazon.)

Mostly, it’s those outside issues at ‘midlife’ that have had a big impact on me. My grandfather always told me, “in this life we either get older…or we don’t”.  The second choice doesn’t have much appeal.  He made it easier for me to face the challenges, the tragedies of life.  My Mother’s illness and death tore a five year chunk out of my writing career. With the help of that same wonderful, unexpected husband mentioned above I’m recovering and coming back strong.

5. What  is your new Science Fiction novel, “Stormrider”, about?

Oh, I loved writing that one. It’s filled with adventure, action, mysticism and a bit of romance.  Stormrider is the name given to the heroine by a native people when her aircraft crashes and she survives. She’s a Janissary, a loyal supporter, amazingly trained, fierce and determined. Her mission is to retrieve an amulet that’s been stolen, which must be bestowed on her people’s leader to legitimize his reign. But the amulet is more than stone and metal as the wolves of Nashira are more than wolves. Heroism, strength, weakness and leadership come from a very unexpected source. I hope your readers will read a sample, get hooked on the story and want to finish it.

Tony Award winning actor John Cullum, who read it and said, “Its a wonderful book, not just for science fiction readers – once I started reading Stormrider I couldn’t put it down. It’s a great read – exciting.”

*Samples and downloads are available at:
Kindle http://amzn.to/pjY0HP
Smashwords http://bit.ly/9R0Gcn
Barnes & Noble  http://bit.ly/q0axXr
IBooks http://bit.ly/NyzLwZ
On the Indian subcontinent, in hardcover at http://bit.ly/qKgzlF*

Also a guide for new and young writers: http://amzn.to/OUuwT3

6. How did “Silver Streak Jewelry” come into existence?

My SilverStreak Jewelry shop ( http://www.silverstreak.etsy.com) is an outcropping of what I’ve believed all my life. Creativity simply IS and it finds different outlets.

I’ve always made things with my hands, knitted, crocheted, worked with paper mache, and doodled in addition to creating unique pieces of jewelry. For me, and for many writers I know, doing something else creative feeds back into your primary focus of writing. I have notebooks filled with doodles and  sketches (and I do mean stick figures). Over the years, doodling jewelry took center stage. Then, I decided the jewelry needed a place to be seen and the shop was born.

The truly wonderfully amazing thing about creating in a different venue is it frees my mind in other ways. It goes wandering off into story-telling even while I’m designing and working on a piece of jewelry I love.  The new metal clays are fantastic. The wire is something I can pound on. The beads a riot of color and texture.

Creating jewelry of many medias is a passion that’s really come into it’s own. As I’ve gotten older and sought a balance in my creative life, one activity is nourishing the other. More than a change, it’s an evolution. I give the jewelry creation a little more time these days and my writing grows because of it.

Thank you Peggy for sharing about the woman behind the novels. Your latest work is a fascinating turn in your life path. Jewelry making and selling is clearly helpful in your creative process. It sounds a little like going for a run when you have something on your mind. While running, the mind is distracted. Free to work on that thing festering beneath the surface of awareness. Suddenly, the right course of action, or the best idea to further the creative process comes up ready for expansion. I love the way you express it here.

Thanks for your time and energy. I am sure our readers will enjoy this interview and the introduction to your work


Midlife Opportunity

If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.”  Milton Berle

Building A Door

In the last blog I wrote, the 70 year old singer songwriter, “Rodriguez”, is becoming successful in the US because a Swedish director decided to make a movie of his remarkable life. His success was a gift from the universe. But, some of us in midlife, need to see a vision of something. A vision forms and defines the specific door that we want to open to enter a new career, or interest of any kind.

For example, the well known 86 year old comic Jerry Lewis, opened such a door by directing a slated for Broadway stage-musical adaptation of “The Nutty Professor”. The original, 1963 version he directed and co-authored, is a take off on “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde”. Only in that show, a “secret formula” is developed in a lab “unleashing a love-struck scientist’s inner crooner”.

The New York Times, in Sunday’s 7/22/12 edition, reported Mr. Lewis, was not sought after to participate in this adaption. Instead, like most of us, he had to see the possibility and make it happen. To start with, there was a lot to discourage him.  Physically fragile, he required a scooter to get around and earphones connected to microphones so he could hear. Even worse, up to now, he has never overseen anything in musical theater. He’s also rusty. The last feature film he directed was in the 1980′s.

His lack of recent experience and physical problems are  further compounded by the possible risk to his reputation. He’s creating a new work that’s likely to cause critical assessment, which is a common consequence of developing any craft. Why risk his reputation while he’s ahead? He doesn’t have to prove himself at this time of life. Clearly these are all good reasons to avoid the project.

Instead, when Michael Andrews, brought the project fully formed to Mr. Lewis’ attention, it was the fulfillment of a secret ” prayer” Mr Lewis had harbored for a long time.  Andrews had experience playing similar roles to the character’s of Julius Kelp and alter ego Buddy Love in the Nutty Professor. But, he was uncomfortable doing the new project without Mr Lewis’ “blessing”.  To Andrew’s surprise, Mr. Lewis saw a new vision and built a new door to ride through when he said, “Blessing? I’m going to direct it and your going to play those two characters. This made it happen for both of them and the show is expected to open soon.

Making Your Vision Work

Is there a vision, or a door for you to build? Mr. Lewis admitted he was scared. But, he also said he’d felt nervous and tense in the early stages of several projects that became great successes. In other words, being scared wasn’t a deal breaker. Don’t let the challenges of change stop you. If you want some help with building the door, check out my e-book. Otherwise, know that anything is possible.


Midlife Rejuvenation

A Dream Revived

George Eliot said, “It is never to late to be what you might have been.”

Have you ever heard of “Rodriguez”? Unlike most of us, he didn’t have to do anything to initiate a full fledged reincarnation into what he might have been. But, he did have to step into it and make the new film, “Searching For Sugar Man” to get where he is now. He had to accept a new life.

I am talking about Rodriguez, a singer-songwriter, who signed a contract with producers from Motown Records in the late 60′s. They found him in a Detroit night club called the Sewer. Musically, he grew out of the protest tradition and was influenced by Tim Hardin, Tom Paxton, Phil Ochs and Bob Dylan.  At the time, he made a couple of albums, sold almost nothing, and dropped out of sight.

In 2006, director Malik Bendejelloul, went to South Africa to find ideas for a new movie. There, he heard about Rodriguez. South Africans had made Rodriguez as famous as Hendrix, The Stones or the Doors. Long story short, after locating the singer in the bohemian Cass Corridor of Detroit, they made a film that won festival circuit awards and generated emotional responses in audiences everywhere it’s been shown. See The New York Times film section 7/22/12.

But, aside from the circumstances of this story, the most amazing thing about it was the attitude of Rodriguez himself. After his failed career, he became a construction worker tearing down and renovating buildings to support his three daughters.  He earned a college degree in philosophy, specializing in logic and ethics. He even dabbled in politics as a candidate for mayor of Detroit. Now, at 70 years old, he told The New York Times, “You can’t linger too much on your decisions, so yes, I chose to face reality. I’m a family person, and you make those choices. You have to embrace it, my father used to say. You don’t hold it over there, where it can hurt you. There’s no shame in hard work.”  In other words, you leave your decisions in the past. Don’t hold them out in front of you as something to regret and punish yourself about.

He’s a notably calm “serene” man who has accepted his failed career and reluctantly accepted his success. When confronted with the fact that he hasn’t made a dime on anything he’s done up to this point he said, “there have already been rewards just from the opportunity to do all this. I guess we all want to get there right away, but I believe it’s never too early never too late.”

It’s Never Too Late

It’s odd that Rodriguez and George Eliot had so much in common. No dream is really dead until you let it go. And the life of Rodriguez illustrates that even when you turn your back on those dreams, they cam be revived and help you be the person you’ve always wanted to be. Remember, it’s never too late.


Science Supports: Age Is A State Of Mind

Wisdom Quote Leads To Experiment

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.”

This quote inspired me so much that I spent most of my time at a recent party listening to what people spoke about.  A mix of approximately 100 Boomers and others over the age of 45, who knew each other pretty well, divided themselves into groups. I listened in on 3 group conversations. One group, mostly of women, discussed the accomplishments and the life events, of their children and grandchildren. They never spoke about themselves.

The next group, including men and women, watched the first group and spoke in hushed voices. They gossiped about the first group of women and their kids. For example, one child was into drugs and the mother was so clueless all she could see was that the girl was getting good grades. For me there was one huge similarity between the two groups. They never shared about themselves. I thought they must be hiding behind their chatter and bravado. There is a kind of bond and community when someone is impressed with whatever you say, no matter how critical or boastful.

The third group, actually left the living room where the other two groups were talking. About 11 men and women sat in a small cozy den with the door halfway open. The age ranged between 45 and 75. Some were leaning against the wall, others sat on a couch, or in chairs, still others sat on the floor. As I came in, it was very quiet because everyone was listening to a friend of mine, who is in his 70s, as he told a story. I pulled up a chair to listen too. He was talking about Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer’s famous study. She took a bunch of elderly men in their late 70s and early 80s and relocated them to an isolated house somewhere in the woods. The house was remodeled and redesigned so that everything about it indicated it was 20 years earlier. Everything from the TV shows, music, clothes and decor was from that earlier time. The men were told not to ever discuss or fantasize about the past. Instead they were told to pretend they’d traveled back in time.

The purpose of this was to discover how these changes affected their their health and fitness. After only a week, they had more joint flexibility, dexterity, and less arthritis in their hands. Their mental acuity had increased measurably. Even their gait and posture improved. The ideas being my friend described were so fascinating no one moved as the man spoke. The room was quiet right until he said. “The aging process had been significantly reversed”.

Reacting To The Number

It left me pondering ways I could change my life.  I realized thoughts about aging could be subtle. I had long ago accepted the idea age that was only in the mind. Yet, suddenly, I realized something I didn’t know that I didn’t know.  My attitude had actually shifted when I  reached my last birthday. The number itself triggered a mental search in the form of a question. Every time I forgot something, I wondered whether or not I had dementia. Yet,  I noticed, when I concentrate, I do retain new information. In midlife, I had just gotten lazy. This was familiar ground. It was in high school, when I realized for the first time, that I needed to pay attention, if I wanted to get good grades. It was an old script and I was just doing it again.

Be a member of Eleanor Roosevelt’s great mind club. Be brave enough to question your old ideas about being “old” or “older”. You might learn you’re talking yourself into old age. Aging backwards is possible, just by paying attention to your thoughts and ideas. Notice that in our core you are still young. Notice this is who you are.


Midlife Spirit

Are You Successful?

Most often, our spiritual vision expands as we age. We didn’t have to face this in younger years because we were pressed to develop our navigation skills. Developing these skills is important, because we want to get somewhere fast. Parents, teachers and friends were concerned about our success. That meant finding some way to succeed. It’s that old story of getting the good grades so we can get a good job. It’s important to qualify for the best certification, school, and professional contacts. We work to get something to move up to somewhere. Though the specifics of how we do it are unknown and uncertain, we know when we are successful or not. It’s measured by the trips abroad, the house we buy, the way our kids turn out, and the money we make. All this happens in the context of settling down in a city, suburb or exurban community. Being settled down means we work incredibly hard to maintain and expand our bank accounts and influence. The pace is intense and we learn a great deal about people and what we do for a living.

After a while, we look around and wonder if all this stuff is necessary? It’s taken a long time to reach this point. Many years have passed and people our age start to retire. We consider it too. When we leave the job, a new door opens. For most of us we have made what we’re going to make. Even now, with people continuing to work, that old drive and energy shifts. Other things become important.

A New Definition Of Success

We’ve gone through the spring and summer of life. This is the early fall. We’re no longer accumulating. For most, we have achieved most of whatever we’re going to achieve. Who at this point determines if we are a success or not? It used to be the outside world. Now, we are face to face with our own evaluation. It’s here that some of the stuff we’ve worked so hard for, becomes more of a burden than a goal. What are we going to do with it? Give it away to family or friends, sell it? These objects lose their old designation and meaning.

The Doorway Of Spiritual Expansion

This re-examination is the doorway for spiritual expansion. Cleaning out the cellar and getting rid of those things you’ve saved makes you lighter, freer. You’re more able to move and live comfortably. This is a rejection of an old way of being and operating in life. Your spiritual vision opens –– questioning  the meaning of life. You start to ponder everything you thought life was about. You seek redefinition and a clearer experience of your inner self. Who is this experiencer that decides to refocus? When you divest yourself of your old ways of thinking and the stuff that comes along with it, what’s left? There is a sense of freedom and opening up to something.

For me, there has been a sense of acceptance. I made the decisions I made, chose what I chose, no matter whether it was good or bad. I don’t regret what I didn’t know, because I didn’t know it then. I couldn’t be standing in the driveway and sitting in a chair in the house at the same time. There is no longer any use in pretending I could have known what I didn’t know. This is such a relief. It is just one of the benefits of an expanded spiritual vision and the weakening of my attention on those earlier years. I invite you to come along and enjoy the ride. And to help with your new lighter self, download my ebook: How to Master Change.


Anatomy Of Aging

 Our Bodies Are Changing

One of the unavoidable aspects of aging is what happens to testosterone and estrogen in both female and male bodies. I took an Anatomy and Physiology Course about 10 years ago and learned that testosterone decreased in males leaving them with more estrogen than in their younger years. It made sense because, as we all know, estrogen decreases in menopausal women allowing testosterone to be dominant. But what amazed me was the impact this change can have on people at midlife.

It’s established that these physiological differences make men more nurturing and women more assertive. Though, oddly enough, these life changes aren’t necessarily experienced as stressors. As a matter of fact, Psychologist David Almeida, from the University of Arizona, says most people experience control over the consequences of these midlife changes. People describe them as life “challenges” that in turn promote new life decisions.

Adapting To Physical Change

But not everyone is comfortable with these new ways of operating. Dr. Margaret H. Huyck, a professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Institute of Psychology in Chicago, states there are certain men that do experience stress and depression in midlife. They have problems when their wives become assertive. These men grew up perceiving their mothers as strong and domineering and their fathers as weak and ineffectual. This causes them to fear they will end up with an aggressive wife, like their mother, and be captive to the impotent life of their father.

In either case, this is a challenging time for men. For example, when Gail Sheehy was interviewed by Bert Hoff in Men’s Voices Magazine, about her book “Understanding Men’s Passages”, she talked about the end of her husband’s career. Though the company wanted him to leave before he wanted to go, it appears to have been the best thing for him. Initially he was lost and wandered around with no direction. But, over time, he discovered the best way for him to think about his next step. He explored the question, what am I passionate about? His answer was to be a graduate school teacher at the University of California, Berkley. This was a more nurturing less aggressive type of job that fulfilled his need to shape and coach the next generation.

Move With The Changes

This stage isn’t necessarily a crisis. It’s a demanding time requiring new ideas and patience. Here, the sexes actually come to experience each other’s view of the world from the inside.  Our bodies change and, in turn, we alter our way of participating in the next stage of life. It is a time of growth. Hormonal change can provide a push to try something different. Like many of the posts in this blog, it’s about moving with the energy of change even if that change comes form our own bodies.

The Age Advantage

Social Wisdom

Smithsonian’s 8/12/12 issue contains an article called “Wise Up“. This article is special because it presents research debunking the myth that older people are stupid instead of being wise. Some cognitive functioning does decline with age, but that does not eliminate other places in which age has an advantage over being young. In one of the most important areas of life, that of dealing socially in the world, it turns out older people excel. This research indicates older folks should be consulted to help younger people who are struggling in social interactions.

Author Helen Fields states that older people are skilled in managing emotions. People in their 60′s were better able to imagine alternative perspectives and come to several resolutions. She also commented on a study by psychologist Laura Carstensen of Stanford, which followed people from ages 18 to 94 for a decade. This study found, as people aged, they were happier and their emotions became less volatile. In fact, the intensity of negative emotions, like sadness, fear and anger, diminished.

The Gift Of Balance

Here is a story that illustrates older wisdom, and creativity. It also illustrates the ability to entertain various alternatives and choose one, without letting fear or anger overpower the ability to think in a tense situation. Once a women, about 65, was walking in a bad section of New York. She was lost as she noticed dark shadows fall over her path. Suddenly, two large men in their 30′s came up to her and asked her where she was going. They pushed their bodies too close in a menacing way. They wore old disheveled clothes, smelled like musty unwashed bodies and stared at her pocketbook. She said she was looking for the subway. They asked her where she lived. She said, Yonkers and that she was just visiting the city.

When one of the men moved even closer, she said, “Oh, you have a loose button on your shirt, it’s going to fall off soon. I have some thread in my pocketbook –– and I can sew that back on for you, if you give me a moment. The man stepped back in surprise. He said alright and she sewed it back onto his shirt. Then, they started to walk with her, to show her the way to the subway. The man with the loose button, warned her to be careful of walking at night in “this neighborhood”.

Talk about one smart lady! This woman was able to choose a brilliant course of action. How, because she didn’t panic and saw a way out. With a caring gesture, she was able to save herself from a potential disaster. As people over 45, we all have our gifts and we can use them to make a difference.

Detail And Memory

Remembering The Details

This third post on memory loss issues in aging,  is called misattribution. As Harvard’s Healthbeat Archive reports, this occurs when we correctly remember something, but some part of the memory is lost to a different time, person or location. Though this does occur at younger ages, it’s more likely to happen as we age because we don’t absorb as many details from our experiences as we used to.

My friend, Vicki, lived next door to me with her grandmother for most of high school.  On one winter day, Grandma Morgan, Vicki and I sat in their kitchen eating cookies and milk. Suddenly, Vicki’s 11 year old brother, Michael, came running through the door. He lost his balance as he skidded on a throw rug. Flailing for balance, he lunged across the floor about 2 feet before he eventually hit the edge of the kitchen table. Gobs of blood poured from a gash on his jaw spilling onto the shiny wood floor. Everyone went into immediate action. Grandma grabbed the paper towels and gave instructions. Vicky got a facecloth with warm water and hand towels from the linen closet. I sat there stunned. Grandma picked him up and carried him to the car and drove him to the hospital. It all took about 15 minutes.

Grandma Morgan was 56 when the accident happened. About 3 years later I was over at her house for a family party. Vicki and Michael were there with about 20 family members all told. We sat around the large kitchen as Grandma Morgan started to tell the story of Michael’s accident. When it came to who got the facecloth and hand towels, she looked at me smiling and said, “Lois jumped up and got the towels.” Vicki and I looked at each other across the room. I said “No Grandma, Vicki got the towels.” Grandma shook her head repeating, “I remember clearly, Lois did it.” Vicki chimed in,”No, Grandma I did it.” Grandma wouldn’t budge.

This is misattribution. Grandma remembered most of the memory. Though I was there, she displaced Vicki for me as the one to help take care of Michael. She literally stuck me in the place of Vicki.

Pleasurable Brain Exercise

Apparently Harvard further tells us, the older our memories the harder they are to recall. This all points to how important it is to practice remembering details. Ever noticed the people who play bridge have to keep this talent alive and well to be successful at the game? I call this Pleasurable Brain Exercise. It can be with crossword puzzles or anything you like. Just enjoy whatever you do. Life is too short for anything else.

Forgetting some of the details from the past is normal. In fact, it’s amazing what we do remember at times. The good news is that we can help keep our memories shaper and more accurate, by engaging in Pleasurable Brain Exercise. Indulge yourself and remember to write and tell me what ways you exercise you mind.