Is she OK?

It has been a wonderful week! A brisk, “nip” to the air…hearing from old and new friends…celebrating life and renewal with those I love…What more could you ask for??? Hope your week was wonderful also!!

Because I travel a great deal, and because I find human beings to be so wonderfully odd, interesting, bizarre, motivating, frustrating….I do a lot of “people watching.” I try to figure out their “stories,” as I am observing from my “viewing seat.” I have been offended, reassured, surprised, disgusted, delighted, and my heart has been touched at times by the actions of other people…”casual strangers,” if you will…

Until recently (when a new grocery store opened closer to my home), I did most of my grocery shopping in town at a large franchise grocer. I will admit, on occasion, I did like to get one of their deli lunches and eat “on site,” before hitting the aisles for groceries. This particular store had an outside covered dining area that was very pleasant. A friend of mine had come with me on this trip, and we had decided to get us a bite to eat before shopping. As we were eating, we noticed a much older Asian woman sitting about two tables from us with her buggy and purse. She was not so much actually sitting at the table, as she was sleeping at the table. She would occasionally rouse up, look around and go back to sleep. Of course, with my background and field of work, she was like a “red flag” waving in front  of me, calling for my attention. Not wanting to assume that there was something wrong with her, or that she was lost and did not know where she was, I had observed her for a while to determine what my action should be. Before I could get up to check on her, a young lady came from inside the deli, and asked if she could sit down with the older woman. The woman said, “Yes.” I was interested in where the conversation and interaction was going, so I did indeed eavesdrop. 

The young lady, with kindness, respect, and empathy, began talking with the older woman. During their conversation, she found out all of the necessary information to determine if the elder woman was lost, in distress, or needed help or assistance of any kind. She spent a good amount of time with her, just “visiting.” She never exhibited any condescension, impatience, or lack of respect as she interacted with the older woman. Finally, after apparently being satisfied that nothing was amiss, the young lady took her leave, thanking the older woman for giving her time and conversation.  After a few minutes, the older woman rose from the table, got her buggy and purse, and approached the entry door back into the grocery store. We stood up to help open the door, and the woman started a conversation with us. She said with a chuckle, “You know, I think that young lady thought there was something wrong with me. I had come to shop for groceries, but it looked so nice out here, I thought I would just stop and rest for a moment. She was so sweet to check on me, but everything is fine.” I chuckled along with her and commented that wasn’t it nice someone cared enough “just to check on you.” You could tell that she was pleased at both the concern and the interaction that she had experienced.

The young lady could have handled this situation so much differently…she could have “fussed” at the older woman for napping at one of their tables…she could have assumed that the lady was lost, and could have insulted her…she could have assumed that because she was older, that she was not capable of making “sound” decisions…Any of these scenarios would have ended up badly, because there really wasn’t anything wrong with the woman. It made me wonder how others might have handled the situation. Do we automatically assume the worst, when we see that an older person is involved? Do we automatically assume that an older person needs our guidance, that they don’t know what to do and can’t make decisions? Do we automatically speak to them in that child-like, sing-song voice, as if they have no sense at all??? Oh my, I think many of our elders just chuckle to themselves, and humor us… As I teach in my sessions, don’t label a person by age, race, ethnicity, gender, geographic region, religion or medical diagnosis – just to name a few…Get to know the person individually, and give them the opportunity to show you “who they are,” and what their capabilities, strengths, and needs might be. Look at the person as an individual…a real, live human being, who should be treated with all the respect and dignity that you can provide. That’s what I do! Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

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Act my age????

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This week is my birthday week…so I have been reminded by many that it IS my birthday and, oh my, have we been celebrating!! Lots of good meals, getting together with friends, biking, hiking, and LOTS of LAUGHTER…I have never been one to be concerned with my age. After all, it is just a number. In fact, for two separate years, I actually was placing on documents and forms the wrong age…a year older…until a friend saw me do it, and reminded me of my current age. So…here are some “ponderings” on aging…

I have been asked many times, “When are you going to grow up, and act your age?” Oh, you mean like Nola Ochs, who at the age of 95, graduated from Ft. Hays State University in Kansas with a degree in History? Or like, Frances Woofenden of West Palm Beach, FL, who at age 81 was still competing (and winning in her age group) water skiing? That’s right…water skiing…Or like the woman, age 75, who was in line in front of me at Busch Gardens, with her daughter and granddaughter, waiting to board her last roller coaster of the day? (She had already ridden four, one of which was rated the #2 best roller coaster in the world!) Well…if that’s what you mean by acting my age, then yes! I will agree to do just that!! 

What is the deal with aging, in that once you reach a certain age, or “look” a certain age, everyone begins treating you a little differently? Like you have morphed into a totally different person! The only thing that has changed is that you have been around for one year longer! Most of us are very thankful for that! We do not need to be treated any differently. We have not just “all of a sudden” become “cute,” “adorable,” “sweet,” or “little” anything!!! Don’t be condescending! Most of us could leave a number of you “younguns” in the dust!! Don’t assume that all the cells in our brains are not firing properly! 

A friend of mine came to visit this past summer (she is two years younger than me). We had both been wanting to zip line, and I had found a wonderful one in the Smokies. Supposedly, the series of seven lines included one of the highest and longest in the United States. We could not wait!! We got there, and of course, we were the oldest ones in our group. Each time it was our turn to get “hooked up” on the line, the guide would say, “Come on up, young lady!” After about the third time, I had had enough! I very nicely turned around to our group and said, “See, another benefit of getting older…people say you are young all the time…” The guide never said those words to us again, and began treating us like the rest of the group members. And just as an aside, there were about fifteen people in our group, and we had to hike from one zip line to the next…straight up the mountain…My friend and I were always the first two to reach the next zip line, and we never broke a sweat or was labored in our breathing…unlike the rest of the “young” group!!

I get to teach this aging “concept” at a lot of conferences. I always tell people that if I was Cat Selman at ages 25, 35, 45, and 55…that I bet I will still be Cat Selman when I reach age 65 and 75!! I was at a recent conference where I had made that very statement. At break time I went into the restroom, and as I was washing my hands, I noticed that a woman kept staring at me pretty intently. She was staring to the point that I became uncomfortable and was wondering if I had toilet tissue hanging out of the back of my pants, or had lettuce stuck in my teeth, or ANYTHING!!! She finally came over to me and said, “You look marvelous! I cannot believe you are 75!!!” I looked at her with disbelief, and said, “that’s because I’M NOT 75!!!” But thanks for the compliment….

When I first started working in nursing homes, those precious elders would tell me, “I don’t feel old. I feel like I am still young.” I would always look at them and wonder, how can they not see that they have aged…that they really are old? I “get” what they are saying now. You DO feel the same, because you are the same…your body has just gotten a little more “worn for the wear.”

Let’s start treating older people just as we always have, because they are still the same individuals that we knew when they were younger. They are very unique, wonderful people who share a zest for life, with the experience of that lifetime, and always looking forward to the next adventure and challenge. So….I think I will act my age! Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

I Need To Look Beyond Myself….

As you can see, I am really late in my post this week. It has been about 10 days of various hotels, numerous states, and either poor Internet connections or no cell service at all. I finally have enough of a signal tonight to try and get this posted. So sorry for being late….

A while back, when all of the fires were burning so terribly in Colorado Springs, I flew up to New England to speak at a conference. I had gotten off the plane and was in line with a number of people, waiting to obtain my reserved rental car. As is usual in this type of situation, a lady standing next to me began a conversation. She commented that she hoped she could get a car…that she did not have a reservation. Before I could really offer a comment, she explained that she was from Colorado Springs, and had just lost her home to the fires. She had flown clear across the country to stay with a friend, and attempt to rebuild her life. Although she had lost everything, she showed me a picture of her and two friends, holding posters, thanking the firemen for trying to save their homes. I was so impressed and humbled by this woman’s spirit! We talked a while longer, hugged each other, and went our separate ways…her hoping for a new life, amid much sadness…and me, hoping and praying that she could rebuild a life from the losses she had experienced.

Sometimes when we experience a loss, even as severe and complete as hers was, that’s all we see. Maybe we should stop for a moment, in the middle of everything, look around, and really see the people who have invested themselves in us, and are either trying to help us, or save us. Those are the ones who believe in us, and know that we can overcome anything…with the right kind of help. They are the unsung heroes in our everyday lives. I am going to look beyond myself and see the individuals who have invested a good portion of their lives in me. I love and thank each one. Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

The Flight Leaves WHEN??

Most of you know that traveling is basically a “way of life” for me. When people hear that you get to travel a lot, their eyes light up, a smile comes on their face, and they say some of the following….”Gosh, you are so lucky!” “Oh, that sounds wonderful!” “Oh, I wish I could travel!” I know they mean well, and I am sure in their minds, they are thinking of “vacation” travel to exotic, luxurious places. However, “that” vacation spot is usually not where I am headed….

I started traveling as part of my work in 1975. For the first part of my career, I think I probably drove every main and back road in the states of Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee…MORE than one time….in fact, so many times that I could have almost done it blindfolded! And then my territory got larger and I had to begin flying almost every week. I usually flew out on a Monday, and returned home either late Thursday evening, or Friday. By most Tuesdays, I had already been to at least 3 different states. And yes, travel used to be fun! However, nowadays, I look at flying as simply the quickest way to get from point “A” to point “B.”

Currently, I usually have to get up at the crack of dawn, drive to the airport, strip for security, get redressed, and run to the gate, only to learn that my flight has either been delayed or cancelled…all of which is going to significantly impact the rest of my day’s flights. In the past, those type of issues would stress me beyond belief, and truly affected my health and attitude.

Whether I have finally aged gracefully, with infinite wisdom, or have just finally realized what’s important or not, I don’t know. I DO know, however, that it takes more than a delayed or cancelled flight to ruin my day! I have learned to simply “enjoy the life you are given,” and make the most of it. For example, I am fortunate to do a good amount of work for an association in North Dakota. One problem though…..the flight from Bismarck LEAVES at 5:00a.m. in the morning. Have you figured out yet, what time that means I have to be at the airport??? That’s right….at the very latest….4a.m. So, now….what time do you think I get up?!?! But here is what I have been so fortunate to see by being up that early….I’ve gotten to see snow actually coming out of the clouds as I was passing through them…I’ve seen the most amazing sunrises…so beautiful and wondrous that they simply leave you breathless! I’ve seen natures’s firework show in a distant thunderhead that would have rivaled any Disney production. I would have missed all of this, and much, much more, if I stressed about the time and the flying.

I think we each have a choice as to how we allow “uncontrollable” variables to affect our daily lives. See, if I had grumped and complained about that early flight, I am certain that I would have missed those beautiful opportunities to see God’s wonder and creation. I think I will continue to relax, stop complaining, and make certain I don’t miss any of those simple, day to day pleasures. Won’t you join me? Just for this week…