Sunday, July 11, 2010
BABY BOOMER WISDOM: A RECIPE FOR LIFE
By Dr. Mel Waldman
I’m moving fast and I’m moving slowly at the same time. I can say that because I turned 65 a few months ago. I’m a baby boomer (although according to some definitions, I’m not). Now I experience and watch my life rush by, contained in a time capsule moving at the speed of light. If it’s true that life is but a dream, I am, like other baby boomers, discovering the phantasmagoric nature of reality. And yet, although my perceptions reveal a rapidly-changing life, evolving so fast that I can’t catch up to Time, I’m also keenly aware that part of me is moving and growing slowly. That’s OK.
Like the tortoise in Aesop’s fable, I can win the race and achieve my goal by moving slowly and steadily, persevering to the end.
I’m a paradox, a contradiction. At 65, that’s OK. I’m learning to accept and enjoy ambiguity, chaos, and confusion. It’s taken decades to become emotionally comfortable and wise about such things. Festina Lente! I make haste slowly.
As a child, I discovered and saw the miraculous in nature and the universe, and in human beings. I believed in G-d and in the divine nature of all living beings. I also perceived inanimate objects as sacred and holy. Yet one day, I lost my faith and the ability to see the miraculous. Slowly, after decades of searching for myself and G-d and the divine, I have rediscovered the miraculous. Inspired by my discovery, I have created a recipe for life that I wish to share with you.
Before I do, however, and before you decide that I’m just another positive thinker, let me share with you a few important facts. Approximately seven years ago, I was diagnosed with an apparently incurable, life-threatening disease. I was cured. A few years ago, I developed a second disease, Type-2 diabetes. I was diabetic for about half-a-year. Then, in another amazing miracle, I once again became disease-free. Now, I suffer from a weak heart. And six months ago, I was laid off. I was Clinical Director of the Mental Health Department at a Bronx Community Health Center. My department was eliminated. My former patients, many of whom suffer from PTSD and a major depression, wait for me to find a new job so they can see me again in another clinic. I can’t see them in private practice because their managed care companies pay so little to independent therapists.
I’m unemployed and have a weak heart. But like other baby boomers, I’m hardworking, independent, goal-oriented, and competitive. And like Norman Vincent Peale, I’m a tough-minded optimist. At 65, I’m rediscovering my resilience and spirituality. Perhaps, I’ll play tennis this summer. Who knows?
And within a few months, I’ll be working again.
I’m a baby boomer and I believe. Here’s my recipe for life:
1. DISCOVER THE MIRACLE OF LIFE. Life is a miracle. Each day, meditate on your breathing. Notice how you breathe, discover your optimal rhythm, and realize that with each breath, you continue to exist and live. Also become aware of the gift of consciousness. Consciousness is a miracle granted, it seems, only to human beings. Become aware of this gift and meditate on the mysteries of Being and Consciousness. Each day, look for the miracles in your life.
2. USE TIME EFFECTIVELY. Time is a beautiful gift. It is precious. Don’t waste it. As my life flies away, I am aware of my mortality. But with this awareness, I embrace and celebrate life every day.
3. BE PASSIONATE AND ENTHUSIASTIC. My life on earth is limited. I have a choice to make. Will I live my life fully and joyously? Or shall I live in fear and hide in Plato’s cave of darkness? I choose to live with passion and enthusiasm (en-, in + theos, g-d), the latter word literally meaning in G-d.
4. PURSUE YOUR DREAMS. I have discovered that when I pursue my dreams, I’m passionate and enthusiastic and happy. Joseph Campbell, a professor of anthropology, often urged his students and TV audience to follow your bliss.
5. CREATE A NEW BEGINNING. Most of my life I have treated patients in clinics and medical centers. I have also dreamed of completing a mystery novel inspired by Sigmund Freud’s case studies. I wrote isolated chapters ten years ago. Now, I’m ready to finish writing my manuscript. Each day, I work on the novel.
6. PERSEVERE. I am persistent and never give up. When I stopped working on my book, I was not disheartened. I needed time to figure out what I really wanted to write. I completed other projects while I struggled with the characters and plot in my mystery.
7. CHANGE NOW. I believe that change is possible at any age, any time. As a therapist, I have witnessed and perhaps, have been a catalyst for miraculous change in my patients. What is the secret? You must believe, let go of your fears, and take risks. With self-awareness and courage, the impossible becomes possible.
8. LEARN SOMETHING NEW EACH DAY. Exercise your brain daily. Be curious and excited by life. Explore and discover new ideas.
9. HELP OTHERS. Put your troubles aside, forget them for a day, let go of your narcissistic concerns, and help others. Now repeat this altruistic process every day. As a corollary, become political and vote. Your vote counts. It makes you an agent of change. It empowers you. It helps others.
10. LAUGH EACH DAY, AS OFTEN AS POSSIBLE. Laugh and get your endorphins, morphine-like substances, flowing. Laughter enhances your immune system and reduces physical pain. As a senior, I know a lot about physical pain. My antidote is laughter.
11. DISCOVER YOUR SPIRITUAL SELF. FEEL CONNECTED TO THE UNIVERSE. Whether you believe in G-d or not, connect to something bigger than yourself, in order to get in touch with your higher self. When I write, I transcend my earthly existence. Writing is my prayer to G-d.
12. SOOTHE YOUR BODY WITH YOUR MIND AND SOUL. By discovering and developing your spiritual self, you will cope more effectively, especially with regard to managing your physical pain. Thus, you will feel better. Your mind and soul can heal your body. Like other baby boomers, I suffer from a plethora of physical ailments which, at times, are debilitating. When my body is in harmony with my mind and soul, I experience less pain and more joy.
13. BE TRUE TO YOURSELF. When I am true to myself, my mind, body, and soul are one. It is time to be real. Rabbi Hillel said: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I? And if not now, when?”
14. DISCOVER PEACE OF MIND. If you follow my recipe, you may discover peace of mind. If not, keep searching within. It’s free and the most precious gem in the world.
Dr. Mel Waldman has authored stories in numerous literary reviews and commercial magazines. His mystery novel, "Who Killed the Heartbreak Kid?" was published by iUniverse in February 2006.
Paintings and photographs by Claudia Ricci