2018. I like the sound of that. It seems somewhat auspicious. But perhaps it’s simply that I’ve just turned 60, and personally I’m in transition—on many levels. From child raising to empty nest. From Michigan to Minnesota. From married to unmarried. I know 2018 will be a momentous year in my life. A new chapter.
As I moved officially into the life stage of “young-old” I’ve been thinking of friends, family and mentors who made big changes successfully. Those who faced down huge challenges and joyfully embraced a different life. The realization of how fortunate I am to have so many inspiring me is very heartening. Role models matter.
At times they waded their way through the muck of hard times, and naturally there was pain involved—heartache and sorrow and fear. But very few individuals reaching the age of 60 or 70 do so without challenging years. In honor of those survivors, I’m adopting the mantra “You must navigate the narrows to get to the open waters.”
Those of you who read this “A is for Aging” blog on a regular basis realize this post is far more personal than most. I started this website and blog because I believe strongly that it’s important we show even young children strong role models of every age. Choosing to highlight Positive Aging picture books made sense. Presently I am fully realizing the importance of older role models in a very personal way.
Our beliefs around the possibilities in each life stage drive our decisions, also our attitudes to ourselves and our confidence that we can transcend tough times. Knowing deep down that happiness is possible in later life strengthens me. I’ve seen with my own eyes—careers continuing into the 80’s, 90’s and beyond. Satisfying new work found—either paid or unpaid. New friends made and new love embraced. Relationships strengthened. Each day enjoyed.
Like a lighthouse on my beloved Lake Superior, I have a bright spot beckoning me ahead—the excitement of my first picture book to be published this June 2018 by Sleeping Bear Press. And the thrilling news that a second picture book biography will be published by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers in the near future.
You might not be surprised to learn that both books shine a spotlight on the lives of those who lived long—real people who made a difference to the world in the last third of their life.
My picture book bio coming out in June features Gwen Frostic, a Michigan nature artist and early environmentalist. For most of her 95 years she strived to open people’s eyes to the importance of our natural world. Gwen fought negative stereotypes of people living with disability in addition to the low expectations assigned to women of her era.
So, if I’m blessed with continued good health…I’m determined to not only survive, but hopefully to make a small difference somewhere.
Gratitude to stroke survivor friends met in my past career encourages that aim. People like Judi, Herb, Marion, Justin and Dave whose lives were turned upside down overnight. They proved it’s possible to do more than survive.
These stroke survivors thrived—despite physical abilities that changed drastically, jobs that evaporated, and important relationships that disappeared. These stroke thrivers made the lives of others better.
Life isn’t Candyland, all sugarplums and lollipops. You and I know that the vast majority of people must stand up to difficult days, months and years in their lives.
I’m holding an image in my mind—one of stones worn smooth by the waves and polished by tiny pebbles and sand.
So join me in resolving to enjoy each day as much as possible? I think that’s a most important resolution for 2018. (I also resolve to post to A is for Aging more frequently!)
What about you? Are there fresh challenges to face? New goals on the horizon? Are you inspired by an older role model? Please feel free to share in the comments.
I’m wishing you all the very best life has to offer in this New Year.
For writers—Please consider seeking inspiration from author Cynthia Leitich Smith’s series of blog posts by longtime writer survivors. Find them here at Cynsations. (Special thanks to Cynthia who has been a tremendous champion of this blog and of avoiding negative age stereotypes in our writing.)
Also, check out a few older role models in these fantastic picture book biographies. Read about: