Friday, March 30, 2018

Free is a good price


Storytellers are a strange bunch, who tend to be deeply invested in the stories they tell. They have, after all, spent months, even years, imagining and bringing to life the people, places, and events that inhabit their stories. Why wouldn’t they want the resulting book to be read and appreciated by as many people as possible?

Yet in today's brave new world of ‘Print on Demand’ publishing, where splashy promotional budgets are not part of the landscape, how will prospective readers ever know about self-published books they might find worth reading? 

The range of today’s ‘indie’ fiction is astounding, ranging from whodunits, young love, time-travel, zombies and vampires, or in the absolute extreme---October seniors stumbling toward relational success. As for the quality of self-published fiction, it ranges from ‘downright ugly’ to ‘better than you expected.’ The only way to know for sure is to check it out.

I will admit there was a time, as a youthful seventy-year old, when I was a too timid to stand up for my October Years stories. But I have moved past that. More to the point, I am proud of what they represent---tales of real people meeting late-life challenges head on. 

And---like many of my ‘indie’ peers---I have turned to Amazon’s Free Kindle Ebook promotions to gain additional exposure for my stories. With that in mind I have arranged for the Kindle version of yet another book to be available Free of charge on Amazon for the next five days. (March 30th thru April 3rd.) 

You see, I’m guessing that you were once a teenage, a high schooler, stumbling through the ebb and flow of adolescence. I'll bet most of you can remember those days? Those heady, and sometimes confusing, times provide the background for Second Chances - making the most of their 50th reunion. How would you deal with an October return to that earlier time? If you gathered fifty years later would you remember the names and faces that were perhaps special to you in those teenage times? Have your memories lasted that long?

        That might have the sound of a feel-good adventure, renewing your interest in the girl or boy who had won your teenage attention so long ago. Sounds like a story with the makings of happily-ever-after, doesn't it? Even when told from a male perspective.


But in the real world it might not be that easy, not fifty years after the fact. Adolescent infatuations can be complicated, even in October. As it was in those earlier times there may be rivals to contend with, possibly dangerous rivals. And from the beginning there can be doubts to overcome. With all that in mind would the following tease, from the book’s Amazon page, have you wanting to learn more?

Could there be Second Chances at their age?
It was their fiftieth high-school reunion. Widowed brothers Clint and Gary Harris
were expecting a quiet evening spent among one-time classmates they scarcely 
remembered. They were certainly not thinking of relational possibilities. Still,
sometimes those things just  seem to happen.

And the ladies? Were they buying into that?
What about Elly and Claudia, each of them attending their first ever high-school
reunion, each nursing her own history of relational failure----Elly’s bitter divorce and 
Claudia’s cruel betrayal. Small wonder neither of them had a Second Chance in mind. 
As in their long-ago high-school days, it would take a determined and persuasive suitor 
to win their interest.

There was bound to be mischief and mayhem along the way.
The Harris brothers might have been showing their age, but there was no doubting
their determined pursuit of a last Second Chance. Whether it was Clint’s
intimidating excursion into Elly’s country-club world, or Gary’s tense standoff with
Claudia’s son, intent on saving his mother from another heartbreak, they would carry 
on in the face of obstacles most seventy year olds had long since outgrown. 

Until finally, old men were fighting to win the one-time Prom Queen. 
Soon Clint and Tom Berry, Elly’s one-time boyfriend, the one with the nasty temper,
were locked in an increasingly-intense battle of wills, with Elly as the pawn in their
dangerous game. What began as a geriatric tug-of-war over the girl they had each pined
for in high school, would become a violent, potentially lethal showdown that had old 
men playing with guns. Before it was over everyone concerned had learned that
Second Chances sometimes carried a very high price.

If a 50th reunion story sounds interesting to you, here is your chance. Amazon sells the paperback for $11.95, but you don’t have to spend a dime for the Kindle Ebook version of Second Chances - making the most of their 50th reunion. Amazon is offering the Kindle edition for FREE right now---from March 30th through April 3rd. Just click on this Amazon page link to order your copy. 

Finally, if I am able to transport you back to that time, if only for a while, would you be willing to give me your unvarnished opinion of the story I tell and how well I tell it? I would appreciate your feedback in the form of Comments, emails, and especially Amazon Reviews, which are the holy grail for any self-published writer wanting to win an audience. 

Amazon Reviews are a straight forward process. On the Second Chances Amazon page (see above) click on ‘Customer Reviews,’ which will take you to previous reviews and a box labeled “Write a Customer Review.” Click on that. Once on the review page click on the star rating you are offering and the ‘Comment’ space will appear. Just leave your comment and check out. It’s that simple.

Thanks again for checking in. I hope I can interest you in taking a Second Chance.



Saturday, March 10, 2018

Redefining Normal


     I suppose by now you have a pretty good idea of where you are on the ladder of life. Suppose for a moment you are like me, somewhere on the October and November rungs---a septuagenarian or octogenarian if you prefer a bit of drama.

If that describes you too, you know that by now you are allowed to have opinions---as if anyone could stop us from that. Thing is, no one expects old fossils like us to actually solve the multitude of worldly ills that surround us. We’re too old to do that. Instead, we are free to bitch and moan, growl and grumble about things we may not understand, and certainly cannot change.
So it was last Sunday, as I perused the morning paper, I bounced from one head-scratching headline to the next, reading about some of the ways the world in general, and my beloved country in particular, has wandered off what I always assumed was a well-worn and usually-sane path to the future.
To be sure, that morning’s list of complaints and questions was not exhaustive. It was, however, about all I could take for one day. I invite you to join me as I revisit what I found there. But remember, we don’t have to create any answers or solve any problems. As I read those stories my eighty-one year old mind had just one role to play.........to grumble about “How the hell could that be?” or “ Can’t they see how wrong that is?”
I suppose each of us has our own unique threshold for the sort of things that upset us. With that in mind let’s consider some of the items that registered on my Grumble Gauge that morning.

*1*Oregon public schools rank last in the nation in dealing with students’ mental health issues. The story claimed that as many as 1 in 5 Oregon students deals with some degree of mental illness---problems that are too often aggravated by drugs, alcohol, and single parent households.
*2*Across the nation neighborhood ‘Surgery Centers,’ often
understaffed, under-qualified, and ill equipped, are increasingly favored over more-expensive hospitals, sometimes putting patients at risk.
*3*Nationwide, blacks are twice as likely to go hungry as the rest of the population.
*4*Virtually everywhere in the country the cost of housing has put our most vulnerable on the streets. Some places have small cities of tents, trailers, motorhomes, and campers serving as homes, not to mention the ‘under the bridge’ homeless camps that spring up everywhere.
*5*And finally, there was this ultimate sign of the times. US New and World Report recently rated California’s quality of life last in the nation---based on Sunny Cal’s air quality, environmental pollution, traffic congestion, and low voter participation.  

Now take a moment to consider those five items that made the news on a random Sunday morning. Just think, twenty percent of our youth, a huge portion of tomorrow’s problem-solving adults, deal with mental issues that are not likely to get better over time without appropriate intervention. What might that mean for our future?
More than that, decent housing is beyond the reach of an ever-growing segment of our population---including many of our October/November peers. In addition to sub-standard housing, a significant number of our people go hungry every day. And then, to top it all off, they tell us that California, long our sun-bathed Nirvana, has become an unpleasant, even unhealthy place to live.
Of course, in the next breath we are told that help is close at hand. Those problems will be overcome. Our leaders, the public servants who step forward to lead us into the future, are on the job. 
Except, the ones we entrust to address and hopefully remedy our shortcomings, are often no longer beholden to those of us who pay the price of their inattention. Instead they, Democrat and Republican, Liberal and Conservative, State and Federal, are on the job to do the will of their sponsors, acting as faithful servants, following the dictates of their Special Interest masters.
As you can imagine, that too often means the odds of finding the political will and the funding to seriously address those obstacles, and the many others we deal with on a daily basis, are very slim indeed---especially given how cruelly divided our nation and government has become.
I won’t pretend to know how all that strikes you. God knows there seems to be precious little agreement on what should be done. But I will charge ahead, offering my personal take on our dilemma---the reality I believe we late-lifers have carried with us from childhood. You tell me, does the following resonate with you?
We are children of another time, shaped and molded by the late 40s and 1950s. That was the springtime and heyday of our October/November lives, the time we came to accept as ‘normal’---the way life should be. But in fact those calm and apparently secure years were something of a rarity---a most unusual time---a warm and comfortable oasis in the constantly shifting sands of time. 
Chances are most of us grew up, and have grown old, assuming that our ‘Becoming’ during that peaceful interlude was simply the way the world worked. We came of age assuming that opportunities abounded, good jobs were there for the asking, affordable housing, and a burgeoning economy were facts of life. 
For many of us, and I’ll admit to being one of them, our understanding of a promising future and successful life was constructed from lessons those glory years taught us.
But we know now how much of that has changed. Looking back, it is clear that we children of the 30s and 40s were blessed to have lived in a time that was nowhere near as ‘normal’ as we believed. While on a selfish level that was great for us, it may have impacted how well we prepared, or failed to prepare, our children and grandchildren for the ‘real’ world they have inherited.
All of which brings me to the conclusion I have drawn from this life experience of mine. Though I am reluctant to surrender my right to grumble about this new and sometimes frustrating world, somewhere along the way an emerging maturity has produced this new and more realistic insight. The only life I can change, the only ‘Becoming’ I can direct, is my own. Which probably means that from now on I ought to grumble less, and pray more---a lot more.
What do you think? Can you think of a better way to address the world our generation has produced?


Thursday, February 22, 2018

Elder Orphans -a November epiphany


  I won’t apologize for this bit of repetition that I offer for those who did not see it the first time, or perhaps need to be reminded. It is one of those subjects I have dealt with before, and may well address again some day. It is, in my muddled, moss-covered opinion an increasingly serious matter---one that deserves another look.
For thirteen years now I have tried to make the case that late-life, our October and November Years, works best as a shared effort, when two or more of us---friends and lovers, family and caregivers, face that sometime harsh time together. I have written whole books making that case---following my Tanner Chronicles friends as they stumble toward the relationships that will help support them in October and beyond. 
Having spent so much ink stressing that point, you can perhaps imagine my pleasant surprise when, I came across an effective and incredibly descriptive way, just two familiar words, of defining the unfortunate seniors who are forced to face late-life alone.
It may be those folks are Elder Orphans. Take a moment to repeat those words out loud. When I first heard them they had the ring of an epiphany---a striking, suddenly-revealed truth. In two short words, catchy and amazingly accurate, is captured the essence of a growing, wide-spread October/November crisis. I was impressed at the time, and still am. Like a lot of things, the more aware we become, the more we are able to see the all-too-obvious signs all around us.
Lest you think my not-so-nimble mind has created that simple, yet startling insight, I am happy to credit a Huffington Post blog by Carol Marak (www.twitter.com/Carebuzz), part of an extended blog series on Aging Alone that addressed Elder Orphan problems and possibilities from a personal perspective. 
“Who will care of them?” she asked. “Who will look out for those unfortunate ones?
"Dealing with late-life complexities is hard enough in the best of circumstances. But who will help the aging, the childless, the single---when they are alone and in need?”
Those 'lonely ones' are, of course, the Elder Orphans. Like their infant counterparts, they are literally on their own at a distressingly vulnerable time of life, and just as much in need of caring support.
Chances are they are socially and physically isolated, living without a family member or surrogate. Too often they are lonely, depressed, and perhaps dealing with diminished decision-making capabilities. To make matters worse they are seldom acknowledged as a group or class that needs help.
So what does the future hold for our Elder Orphan population? By all accounts their numbers are increasing, and the help they need grows accordingly. Going forward it is likely that more seniors will need more help for a longer period of time. According to Ms. Marak a recent AARP report offers precious little solace, confirming that the demand for elder caregivers continues to grown faster than the supply. In the face of funding shortfalls and rapidly increasing costs, Caregiver per Orphan ratios are steadily declining across the country. Being an Elder Orphan is not about to get easier.
Though I operated without that catchy label for all those years, my Tanner Chronicle stories often focused on those who qualified as Elder Orphans. Take for instance Johnny Blanton, one of my favorite Tanner friends, who happened to remind me of someone special, someone many of you knew. 
In Best Friends and Promises Johnny lives in a low-cost, county-owned apartment, surrounded by neighbors who scarcely acknowledge his presence. Though he would be unwilling to admit as much, (actually he would scream like hell.), in many important ways he had become an orphan. You tell me, is this a viable depiction of an Elder Orphan?

For all his gregarious instincts Johnny Blanton led a spartan, decidedly isolated existence, the unfortunate result of circumstances over which he had little control. In the course of his four-year residency in the County-operated Senior Housing Complex he had concluded that, as a group, his neighbors suffered from a multitude of shared failings. To a person they were old, financially strapped, grouchy, and judgmental. Most depressing of all, not one of them subscribed to his long-cultivated interest in having a good time.
Wary, unsmiling widows were everywhere. He passed them in the hallways. They crowded the dingy activity room. Without exception he found them  unnaturally distrusting of his well-intentioned attention. At one time or another he had approached nearly all of them, hoping to spark some degree of interest, and had struck out at every turn.
Except for Mrs. Perkins, who lived across the hall from his apartment and provided him with a steady supply of day-old newspapers, Johnny had not made one female acquaintance in the entire thirty-unit complex. He took that sad reality, and the slight it represented, very personally
To make matters worse Johnny’s success at making friends among the male residents, he called them “inmates,” had been only slightly better. Many were deaf, blind, or immobile---which tended to limit their “good time” potential. Sadly, the few who still found drinking beer a viable social pursuit were no more affluent than Johnny. After years of having Aaron Peck and others pick up the tab, he was reluctant to cultivate drinking buddies who expected him to play that role.
As a result, his social life had become seriously constrained. For three years Willie Thomas, who did not drink at all, but played a mean game of cribbage, had been his most reliable ally among the residents. With Willie’s passing the previous December that welcome friendship had been lost.
In his heart of hearts Johnny Blanton was a very social creature. It appeared, however, that in the sterile confines of the Senior Complex his declining years were destined to be lived out in a state of stagnant depression. To his way of thinking it would take a miracle to change that unfortunate situation.

An unfortunate situation, eh? One that begs for a compassionate storyteller to provide the “miracle” Johnny is hoping for. That, however, is something for another day. After all, storytelling---fictional accounts of non-fictional situations---is one thing. Living real life in the Elder Orphan fast lane is something very different. It is, however, something that you and I can play a part in addressing.
You see, most of us know an elder orphan, probably more than one. They sit in the midst of our congregations. We may pass them shuffling behind their walker in the supermarket aisle, or rub elbows with them at the senior center. You may  also find them in hospital emergency rooms, their only source of the health care most of us take for granted. They are, in fact, everywhere---out of sight right before our eyes.
So, from the first time I read Ms Marak’s post I wanted that label and what it stands for to be part of my personal October & November Years dialogue, with you and myself---now and in the future. 
And along the way I hope I can be observant enough, and bold enough, to spot the elder orphans who cross my path---to acknowledge their place in my world, and perhaps take the time to hear a bit of their story. 
That’s an important thing, you know, showing them that for at least a few minutes someone cares enough to listen. There are so many folks out there who need our casual gift---the simple act of acknowledging and affirming their presence. Isn’t that what every orphan wants, no matter what their age?

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Let's pretend - take two

  I know. It takes a lot of nerve to repeat myself like this. But I am in a 'remembering' mood this morning---'remembering' again about my earlier 'remembering.'
I posted this bit of nonsense a year ago to the day. I enjoyed where these thoughts took me then, and I still do. Hopefully you will join me as this old man meanders through his past. Heck, if you are old enough you may 'remember' too.

                      ********

It’s okay, you know. I am used to it by now---showing my November age like this. I don't get hung up on what others may think. Actually, the more I do it, the easier it becomes, especially when I get lost in my slightly unorthodox memory.
  For instance, let’s take a moment to consider something as mundane as Saturday morning. Most of us like Saturday, don’t we? Especially if it is not a work day. But you can be sure I am not talking about just any Saturday morning. I happen to have some particular ones in mind, from a time when Saturday morning was still something special. And I hope you will join me for a few minutes as I return to some of my well-remembered, all-time favorite Saturday mornings---circa 1945, 1946, or 1947.
  What? You say you cannot ‘return’ to 1945, because it had come and gone before your arrived on the scene. Darn, I am sorry to hear that, because that means you missed some really good Saturday morning times.
Take this, for example. As I recall it was ten o’clock, mid-morning, when the living room radio greeted us with.........”It’s Big John and Sparky! And There’s No School Today.” Man, after all these years I can still hear that happy call to action as clear as anything. I’ll bet you would have loved it too.
  Or how about Chandu, the Magician? I think that was nine o'clock, or maybe nine-thirty. True, he was a semi-creepy fellow, at least the way I pictured him in my mind.. But he always had a trick up his sleeve. And in the end he was on our side. What I remember most of all was the spooky organ music in the background.
  Earlier that morning, at eight-thirty, we had tuned in to Smilin’ Ed and the Buster Brown Gang. It seems like I ought to remember more about that half hour than just the excited introduction, with Tige, the Buster Brown dog barking like he was happy to see us. At the time I don’t suppose I even realized there were other programs airing at that hour, or why anyone would bother to listen to them if there were. By then I was hooked.
  It was, as you can tell, a different time. Later, many of us would learn to consider Saturday a ‘sleep-in’ day. But not so in those post-war radio days, at least not in our home. Mom had to get us up early enough on Saturday to have breakfast finished before eight o’clock. Though rousing us for breakfast on a school day took some doing, Saturday mornings were different. 
  After all, brother Roger and I needed to be parked in front of the old hardwood Zenith radio by eight o’clock for Let’s Pretend, the storytime program that always started our radio Saturday. (Why was it we had to ‘watch’ the radio?)
  So, you might be wondering---what does that have to do with anything. What was there about my childhood Saturday mornings that warrants these ramblings? I will try to explain.
  Have you ever wondered why out of the blue you stumbled across some obscure thought or memory that you had not considered for decades? Was there some existential purpose at work, or was it purely accidental? Whatever the reason, that’s the space I find myself in this morning. 
You see, as I have mentioned before on these pages, I have spent my October Years writing stories---fictional stories. By definition that means I have made them up, created them out of thin air and a dose of dubious brain matter.
  Yet not until a few days ago, for reasons I still don’t understand, did it dawn on me that I was in the 'What if?' business. That is one way to describe fiction, isn’t it? The writer, any writer, begins with a question---What if an alien force is threatening the earth?---What if zombies are about to invade?---What if the killer is about to get away?---What if an eighty-year-old guy falls for Lady Gaga? Thing is, no matter what the question, the resulting story will attempt to provide an answer. 
  That is what writers of fiction do. They answer 'what if?' questions. That is what I try to do. Except, my stories are not about world annihilation, zombie invasions, Donald Trump’s crowd-counting skills, or the hard-to-define allure of Lady Gaga. Instead, I tell ‘what if?’ stories about October people facing October life---and then November.
  It was those thoughts that brought me to an awkward pause, wondering how I would introduce my latest story, Closing the Circle. I stumbled around a bit before it dawned on me. In a very personal way it felt like I was closing my own circle---from Let’s Pretend to What if? My sometimes muddled mind saw the irony of that. Having learned to pretend as a child, here I am spending my October Years creating 'what if?'---i.e. 'pretend' answers. In a very real way I was right back where I had started.
  So what about Closing the Circle, you ask? (At least I hope you do.) What if a young man, adopted at birth, sets out to find his birth parents? What sort of story might I create to answer that ‘what if?’ question? Then to further complicate matters, what if the birth parents he finally finds have their own deep regrets about having separated before his birth, leaving each of them to wonder about the future they might have had together.?
  Of course, there are as many answers to those questions as there are persons who choose to answer. I happen to like the answer I 'pretended' into being. And at the same time, when I was done it felt a bit like closing my own circle---from ‘pretending’ to ‘what if?’ and back.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

  Following that same line of remembering I invite, actually I urge, those of you who remember those long-ago radio days to use the 'Comment' section below to offer your own examples of radio favorites. 

Thursday, February 1, 2018

A snapshot of the great divide

          
You probably know the drill by now. Whether you rely on Fox News for your ‘truth,’ or MSNBC fills the ‘truth’ bill for you, you are apt to end up with the same questions.

“How could the other guys, (be they Democrats or Republican) be so wrong? They must be sniffing something. Either that, or their irrational hatred of Clinton, Obama, or Trump (take your pick) has turned their brains to mush. In light of the plain-as-day facts, what else could it be?”

And so it goes, day after day---endless hours of  mind-numbing air time---talking heads debating ‘truth and fiction,‘ ‘facts and alternative facts,’  ‘news and fake news.’ And while those passionate adults carry on like unschooled children, the rest of us are growing tired of it, and longing for the day when the other side finally comes to their senses and admits they are wrong.

My advice, for what it is worth---”Don’t hold your breath.”

This will likely be one of my shortest posts ever. In fact, I consider it more like a homework assignment for you readers. You don’t need my input to interpret what it means to you.

The Pew Research Center is a reputable outfit. When they produce surveys like the one below, people ought to take notice. 

I offer this data with only minimal input, pointing out a couple of the more notable results. There will be no political commentary, beyond the obvious observation that our beloved country is incredibly divided over a wide range of social, economic, and political issues. As you would expect, when people view the world and the way it works through such diametrically opposed filters our political discourse is bound to be contentious.

Still, like it or not, we as citizens ought to know the information these charts reveal. Perhaps more importantly, our children and grandchildren should be aware of what it means for their future.

I apologize for the print size. I can't change that. Hopefully your tired old eyes can make it out. As you can see, the charts themselves demonstrate graphically the wide and often widening gulf between what the press labels ‘Conservatives’ (Republicans and Republican leaning-the top line on each chart) and ‘Liberals’ (Democrats and Democrat leaning-the bottom line on each chart). 

Reading the Charts --- In periodic surveys from 1994 to 2017 members of each of the two groups surveyed  (Republicans and Democrats) were asked whether or not they agreed with each of ten statements. Each group’s percentage of agreement with each statement was charted, creating a twenty-three year trend line of that party’s responses.. For instance, in the 2017 survey 63% of Republicans agreed with statement #1, while 30% of Democrats agreed with it.

Take a few minutes to review each of the results, especially the ones that reflect a wide and growing spread between the two points of view, in particular---statements regarding blacks, immigrants, the needy, and environmental laws and regulations. 



   To be sure, the interpretation of this data is a personal matter. You have your opinions and I have mine. I am, however, willing to venture a caution to those who lobby for the most ‘American’ of solutions --- “Why can’t men of good will simply put their heads together and sort it out?” 

Why can’t they do that? My guess is that as the opposing world views reflected in these charts become more entrenched, with each side turning inward to their own ‘truth,’ the already shrinking patch of middle ground grows ever smaller. In the end, no matter how the resulting conflict plays out, chances are the result will not remind us of those long-ago Social Studies classes that taught us about the ‘American Dream.’ 

Although these ten charts are a mirror of USA-2017, they may also serve as a coming-into-focus crystal ball, foretelling a future we would rather not experience.

Finally, not because of my insights, but because I consider the Pew Research charts so important, I hope this becomes one of the most ‘Shared’ posts we have done. Whether ‘Sharing’ on Facebook or ‘Forwarding’ an email, the process is simple. No matter what their political persuasion, people should to know the story these simple charts tell. Young or old, they ought to see these graphic representations of our democracy in action---or is it inaction?




Monday, January 29, 2018

Growing into our gifts


When the veneer is peeled back to reveal the reality of it, blogging---pretending to offer one’s own insight or wisdom---is like most human activities. It usually says more about the blogger than the world he or she claims to understand.
That was one of those personal insights that bubbled to the surface as I began a deeper look at ‘Becoming,’ especially late-life ‘Becoming.’ For a dozen years or more my stories and blogs have endorsed the virtues of using the gifts we have received and the time we have been given.
Yet rarely have I paused to wonder where that ‘Becoming’ obsession came from, or what it says about me. Then, somewhere in the course of this return to ‘Becoming,’ it began to sink in. For some reason I have developed an aversion to ‘wasting’ the God-given years I have left. I am not sure if that is normal, or even healthy, and I don’t pretend to know why that is, but I am sure that reality will color what follows.

******

Allow me to introduce Brene Brown, Ph.D. (www.brenebrown.com), an author and research professor at the University of Houston. As I noted in an earlier post, her emphasis on “growing into our gifts” strikes me as another way to frame the notion of 'Becoming.' I happen to believe that her closing remark ---”it’s time to show up and be seen” applies to us October and November types as much as it does to the midlife folks she is addressing.
Here is what she has to say.

I think midlife is when the universe gently places her hand upon your shoulders, pulls you close, and whispers in your ear:
“I’m not screwing around. It’s time. All of this pretending and performing - these coping mechanisms that you’ve developed to protect yourself from feeling inadequate and getting hurt - has to go.
“Your armor is preventing you from growing into your gifts. I understand that you needed these protections when you were small. I understand that you believed your armor could help you secure all of the things you needed to feel worthy of love and belonging, but you’re still searching and you’re more lost than ever.
“Time is growing short. There are unexplored adventures ahead of you. You can’t live the rest of your life worried about what other people think. You were born worthy of love and belonging. Courage and daring are coursing through you. You were made to live and love with your whole heart. It’s time to show up and be seen.”


              *******

With that, let’s move on to ‘Becoming.’ As I explained a while back I am devoting a few posts to the in-depth exploration of some of the ideas and concepts I have addressed over the years in my writing about seniors, and the daunting world they face. Today’s post, about ‘Becoming,’ deals with a reality I have addressed in both novels and blog posts. 
Perhaps I have returned to the notion of late-life ‘Becoming’ because so many of my peers seem to have settled for the status-quo, as if at their age they have nothing more to give? --- Disclaimer #1 - If that is my reason, it is far too presumptuous of me. How could I possibly know their degree of ‘settling?’ Besides, who am I to judge how they live their lives? I have trouble enough with my own.
On the other hand perhaps this ‘Becoming’ obsession of mine is a purely defensive mechanism, sparked by my own weakness---fueled by the guilt of having wasted so many opportunities, and having left so much of my own life undone. Or could it be that my extended exposure to Wayne Dyer’s mind-bending wisdom has tilted my brain in that direction.
Anyway, no matter the ‘why’ of it, ‘Becoming’ --- making the most of late-life in our own unique way --- has become an important focus of my stories and blogging---including today’s post. There is even a novel, of which I am rather proud, titled Becoming. The series of blogs I posted last summer, and the resulting book---Living With Dying---turned a spotlight on my efforts to continue ‘Becoming’ in the face of a serious medical diagnosis.
Along the way I have learned that in late-life, when the need to chase the almighty dollar is hopefully less urgent, there are many other satisfying reasons to keep ‘Becoming.’ Best of all there are few rules and no ‘right’ way to do that, beyond what you find fulfilling.
It was that thinking which had me subtitling these pages ‘Thriving in late life.’ True, at the time I was referring to our 60s and 70s. Now in my 80s here I am again, back for another bite of the apple. 

    *******

So, first things first. Whatever our age and whatever our goal, ‘Becoming’ is a matter of change---of moving our thoughts and actions from Point A to Point B. To be clear, that minimal understanding makes no judgment about whether tomorrow’s Point B, the result of our change, is better or worse than today’s Point A. In the same way ‘Becoming,’ as a process, which does not imply any particular outcome, positive or negative. 
There are other things we know about ‘Change.’ To begin with, it is a given---we are always changing. That is easiest to see over time. Take a moment to recall the person you were five or ten years ago. Can you identify some of the ways that you, the person you know best of all, have changed in that time. Now, take a peek into your crystal ball. Will the ‘you’ that appears four or five years from now look and feel like like today’s ‘you?’ (I realize, of course, that at 81 it is an act of faith to believe I will be here in five years.)

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That look into a future we can’t actually see is apt to produce an obvious question. What is it we want to ‘Become?’ As I’ve said, the word itself denotes ‘change.’ And no matter where we are headed we will continue to change. We will not be the same next week as we were last week. That is a given. But can we influence the course and direction of that change? Can we choose the change we want, using our ‘Becoming’ to accomplish or avoid a particular result?
Many of us know how October and November can sneak up on a person. By now our ‘status-quo’ has certainly deteriorated a notch or two. Some of what we could once do, we no longer can. It probably feels like we are decelerating---sometimes slowly, sometimes not so slowly. And there are bound to be times when we believe the opportunity to become more than we are has passed us by. 
I don’t want to sound like I spend my waking hours dwelling on nothing but ‘Becoming.’ Truth be told, it was the Living With Dying series I mentioned earlier that renewed my interest in how I could make better use of the time I have left, be it weeks or years. From that point of view, what options do we have? 
On one hand, we can accept that we are too old and too set in our ways to become something more---whatever that means to us. In that case we can settle for what we have, and remember the good old days, while bemoaning the sad fact that those days are gone forever.
Or instead we can draw on a lifetime of hard-learned lessons to steer us toward a modestly-optimistic use of the gifts we still have in our quiver. Of course, our notions of what amounts to a worthwhile result have changed over the years. In my own hopeful moments I like to believe that my understanding of what makes me ‘whole’ and ‘complete’ has matured with time.
On the plus side, however, I believe that everything we need to create such change is close at hand. Actually, it has always been with us. If I am going to ‘Become’ something more than the person I am now the implied change, however modest it might be, must begin with me. There is no one else who can do that for me.
We are already familiar with the seeds that create change. They are called thoughts, and most of us have them every day---by the thousands. It is our thoughts about a desired result that trigger change, promoting the urge for something more or different---first as a wish, then as a willingness to imagine how a desired change might feel, and finally as a determination to follow through.
Of course our dreams of change must be realistic, as well as age-appropriate. In the end, however, achieving those dreams, whatever they may be, is not nearly as important as knowing in our hearts that we have done our best in that pursuit.

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When all is said and done the choice---whether or not to keep moving ahead in our own way, at our own pace---is ours to make. The Divine Life Force I accept as real does not judge how far or how high our Becoming takes us. But rather, the test is how well we live out the Source’s love-based expectations.
To become more than we are today and expend our life energy, however limited it may be, on what we perceive to be a higher purpose---that is my idea of a worthy goal, something to strive for. That is especially true when those energies are pursued in the name of love, kindness, and caring, as opposed to meeting our need for ego-gratification.
You remember, don’t you---those dated images of late-life as ‘rocking chair’ time? I believe we are called to make it more than that. What form of ‘more’ works for us is our choice to make. No matter what we have in mind it will always begins with the same first step---a thoughtful decision to change, to keep Becoming.

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It is not often I can include such graphic evidence to support my rambling logic. But when it comes to ‘late-life Becoming,’ and making the most of our senior years there is convincing proof close at hand, in the form of the recently published The New Senior Man, a companion volume to the earlier The New Senior Woman, by my friend Thelma Reese and her late collaborator, Barbara Fleisher
Each of these books is devoted to contemporary examples of ‘Becoming’ in action---profiling dozens of men and women who have found their own very personal way of dealing with late-life. I recently checked out the following reviews for Senior Man, the latest of the two. I encourage you to click on the links below to read what the professionals think. 

    - HuffPost
 - BuyBooksPro
  - Elderchicks


I have read the Senior Man volume from beginning to end. It is an amazing collection of stories that show how ‘Becoming’ can be lived out in many unique and different ways. Disclaimer #2 -- As I noted a couple months ago Thelma and Barbara, the ‘Elderchicks,’ were kind enough to include my October adventure in their assortment of New Senior Men stories
With that you have heard my pitch for ‘Becoming.’ I happen to believe it should be an important fact of late-life. At any age we are on the way to somewhere. Why not chart that course ourselves, rather than trust some random fate to take us somewhere?