Dancing as Fast as I Can. . .

I am trying to take seriously all of the advice that is offered about aging. Truly. Not only do I comb newspapers, watch podcasts, attend programs throughout my community, but I actually do try to incorporate every bit of wisdom in my daily actions.

I am exhausted. And pleading for more than twenty-four hours in a day.

Exercise. Despite unable-to-be-diagnosed shortness of breath and some awful IT band nonsense, I have been trying , and failing, to get in my 10,000 steps a day (except in Paris, which has its own hazards like ubiquitous pastry shops, and no, the walking does not vitiate the effects of the daily croissant). I know for a fact I am not reaching my 10,000-step goal because my FitBit tells me every time the gadget clipped to my pants comes within a few hundred feet of my iPad. Setting myself up for success, I decided to lower my sights to 5,000 steps per day, which as the math indicates, is just a little half-hearted. And, to counter all of the pain induced by walking, I have Pilates classes and regular dates at home with my new foam roller. And stretching, always stretching.


My lungs protest, my heart pounds, and my hips hurt, not to mention my orthotic-shod feet. But that is not the real reason why the 10,000 steps elude me. The enemy is time. I am busy trying to squeeze in all of the other things I am supposed to do to remain healthy and vibrant into my platinum years. These include, but as lawyers like to say, are not (sadly) limited to:

Food: I shop and pause, often, to consider which of the various fruits and vegetables need to be organic and which I can let slide. Shopping occurs every few days, without which it is impossible to keep fresh produce in the house, organic or no. I cook every day, healthful, made-from-scratch whole foods that my grandmother would recognize. No quick nuking of frozen cardboard boxes or carb-loaded cold cereal, which some tell me, would make feeding myself close to instant. Je ne comprends pas.

Giving back: Volunteering is commendable, joyful, life-affirming, and time-consuming. The process of becoming a volunteer at my local hospital took a month, requiring my collection of medical records showing I had the necessary vaccinations. Admittedly I am picky about where I spend my time and talents, and so I attended meetings, visited with a number of people, and shadowed other volunteers in a few different roles. Now I am ready for two volunteer posts, and looking at how to be a meaningful contributor without taking up residence in the hospital corridors.

Socialize. One of the reasons I retired was to have lunch with friends more often. I have not failed entirely at this. But scheduling lunch with busy friends is as bad, or maybe worse, than scheduling those committee meetings I have forever forsworn. French class. Book group. Women’s salon. Did I mention I have a husband that I am trying to find time to cherish?

Brain food: A mind is a terrible thing to neglect. One has to keep sifting the data on this, which in itself might help retain intellectual acuity. One reads that crosswords help, then they don’t, except to make you better at crosswords. The tiny print has caused me to abandon a lifelong habit of the New York Times Sunday puzzle; better glasses have given me a second chance. I am addicted to Words with Friends and hope that it is a twofer: intellectual stimulation and socializing, all from the comfort of my couch. Which, by the way, is ever more verboten, since sitting (which seems to be required for most of my intellectual pursuits) has become fatal. This might also be the place to say, oh yes, I am also still employed as a law professor. I have an actual job, full-time for four and one half months per year, that both requires and helps my brain to remain alert. Hanging on to that health insurance—recommended for aging persons—means a job that takes thought, and hours.

Broadening (horizons, that is): No one, least of all me, cares that travel takes time. I mention it only to make the point that I no longer travel as easily as I did even a decade ago. See aforementioned physical impairments, then compare those to running through airports, negotiating broken metro escalators of the up variety, and cramming an aging body into the torture device that airlines refer to as a seat.

Writing. What am I doing at this very minute as the morning hours—prime time for walking—recede? I am blogging, on my own blog, after having finished a piece for another blog to which I am a regular contributor (where, by the way, “aging” is one of my “beats.”). I am fending off rejection letters (some exceptions) and submissions to literary journals for my more creative endeavors, and wondering when I will find the time to produce more soulful works of art. So I consult my inner muse while walking—see how efficient?–even if just through the food co-op parking lot.

I am dancing as fast as I can, and never fast enough. Certainly that morning mirror should be showing a reflection of a more youthful woman? No? Could it be bad lighting?

The Power of (Muscle) Memory: Published

Sitting on a bench with him in Bryant Park, I reached for my hair.

I am pleased to announce that The Power of (Muscle) Memory has just been published by Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and is featured in the introduction to the issue, #14. The above hyperlink should take you there. My flash nonfiction piece appears on page 25. Thank you for reading.

Update: new link, apparently, is this:


Learning While Older

I have just finished teaching a course on reproductive technologies at OSHER at Dartmouth. A small group of women, meeting each Tuesday for 2 hours, for four weeks. Eight hours, not counting the mid-class break for the snacks that someone brings, of conversation about the how and why of reproduction after death, the history of surrogacy, whether or not someone is considered a parent in the eyes of the law, and why doctors who assist in the creation of babies might want to help some but not all who seek their services. At the same time, in the classroom next door, was a slightly larger group studying the Armenian genocide, complete with a platter of Armenian pastries and a newspaper article about the Pope’s recent pronouncement. People would file in later that evening for the alliterative More Bliss: Basic Buddhist Beliefs, or a course on the Kingston Trio. And that’s just part of what was happening on a Tuesday in the spring quarter.

I should mention that no one taking these courses is young. OSHER is dedicated to providing continued learning to adults. Many, though not all, arrive on a bus from a local senior community. Hearing assistance devices curl up on the discussion tables; name tags are printed large enough for actual reading. Hardworking and endlessly patient OSHER employees must guide everyone gently into the digital age of Google Drive.

It should cheer we aging folk to know that curiosity and the need for interaction may remain with us until the end. I am told that people in nursing homes who may be frail of body and maybe even of mind will respond to bird feeders placed outside their windows, hungering to know all about the next avian drama. Never an athlete in any sense, (and having the sense to restrict my physical self to walking and Pilates), I am grateful for my lifelong love of reading, writing, learning, and conversation. Assuming available transportation to places where others gather, these appear to be the skills that will carry me into my next decades. It may be true that the brain, like the rest of the body, suffers various assaults from aging, but even if not in mint condition, we all like to keep on ticking. Contrary to our folklore, curiosity does not kill the cat; it gives it nine long lives.