Turning Eighty

This blog post is dedicated to all those who have turned eighty this year and to all those who have yet to turn eighty this year.


If, when you turn eighty, you’re not a cripple, if you have a semblance of health, if you are content even though your world has narrowed and finally if you can keep from growing sour, surly, bitter and cynical, people, you’ve got it (old age)


So many eighty year olds fear loss of physical and mental abilities to such a degree that they ruin what time they have left. They walk by a shop window and sneak a look at themselves, they do NOT recognize the image in the reflection.

After a few seconds they are forced to remake their own acquaintance. It’s a horror story, you no longer know yourself at first sight! They say to themselves:

“The past seems horrible, the present gray and desolate and the future utterly appalling!”


But, my friends, it doesn’t have to be like this. Your point of view can be less bleak. You don’t have to concern yourself with the future. As for the past, you have made the most of it, good or bad. All you really have is the PRESENT, but very few of us ever live it fully, which is what you should do.

When you get to be eighty you get the ability NOT to take things so seriously.

You view life as more of a comedy than a tragedy—you know, one of those comedies in which while laughing your guts out, you feel your heart breaking.

The person who takes themselves too seriously is doomed!


Now lets get to the nitty gritty.

When you get to be eighty, questions pop up in your head:

How to come to terms with death?

How we react to our personal death has a great impact on how we live in old age.

What meaning does this life have, this death, this suffering? For what have I lived?

Some people answer with: I was productive and contributed to society.

Is there something that transcends this life? Religious people believe in an afterlife. Atheists usually say: They were nothing before they were born and after death there is nothing.

Without a personal answer or position to the question of dealing with death, a seed of unrest will remain and disturb your last years. With a position on the question there is peace of mind.


How to deal with the transitoriness of life?

Everything is transitory—that means NOT lasting, brief and short-lived.

We have to say goodbye to a lot of things in old age: our work, loss of physical strength, loss of mental flexibility, loss of friends and relatives.

You MUST think of the things you have done, the opportunities you took and lived, they are an integral part of your life and can’t be undone by transitoriness.



How to relieve feelings of isolation?

You’ve retired and your world has narrowed and you are forced back into yourself.

Can I still maintain a conversation with myself?

You can talk internally to yourself and break the isolation.


So in conclusion:

Don’t sour on life, there is nothing wrong with life itself, it is the ocean in which we swim and we have to adapt to it or sink!

When an eighty year old looks back at their life they say to themselves:


Happy Eightieth Birthday!



Staying Sane

Are you sane? And if you are, how do you stay that way?

Two groups of personality disorders:

People in chaos, who lurch from crisis to crisis.

People in a rut who operate in a rigid fashion.

You need to be on the path between those two extremes and maintain a stable, flexible demeanor. In other words, the path to staying sane.

If we are falling deeper into a rut or deeper into chaos, we need to interrupt our fall. We need to change. We need a new focus in life. We need new behaviors and thinking.

Change Happens In Four Areas: They are the cornerstones of sanity:

  1. Self-Observation
  2. Relating to Others
  3. Stress
  4. Personal Narrative

SELF-OBSERVATION—We learn to stand OUTSIDE of ourselves to experience and access feelings and thoughts as they occur and see how they affect us.

It gives us space to decide: HOW TO ACT. We need to develop self-observation to increase self-awareness.

Self-observation is a tool that enables us to become less self-absorbed, because it teaches us NOT to be taken over by obsessive thoughts and feelings.

The ability to observe and listen to feelings and bodily sensations is essential to staying sane.

We need to be able to USE our feelings but NOT to be USED by them.

We should try to separate ourselves from our feelings. Also, it is necessary to be able to observe our thoughts.

Then we can notice the different kinds of thoughts we have, and can examine them, rather than BE them.

This allows us to notice which thoughts work well for us and which are self-defeating.


To begin self-observing ask yourself these questions:

What am I feeling NOW?

What am I thinking NOW?

What am I doing at this moment?

How am I breathing?

After answering, the next question is:

What do I want for myself in this NEW MOMENT?


These questions are the “GROUNDING EXERCISE”.

When you do the grounding exercise it helps to place ourselves in our INTERNAL EXPERIENCE. This tells us how we are functioning at any one moment.

There are two groups of people: those who externally reference and those who internally reference.

Externally referenced people are more concerned with the impression they make on others.

Internally referenced people are concerned with what something FEELS like. Do I like how it feels or do I want to change?

Internally referenced people want to feel comfortable with themselves.


A helpful exercise—repeat out loud:

I have thoughts and emotions, BUT I am NOT my thoughts and emotions.

My thoughts and emotions are many, contradictory and changing.

Yet, I always remain I, myself, whether in joy or pain, whether calm or annoyed, whether hopeful of despairing.

Since I can observe, dismiss, understand and label my thoughts and emotions, it is evident that they are NOT me.

I am NOT my thoughts and emotions.

I am separate from them!

Relating to Others—people need people!

We all need safe, trusting, reliable, nourishing relationships.

We need nurturing relationships, someone who listens to us and reads between the lines and even challenges us.

Would we exist if NO ONE witnessed our existence?

We need others to check in with and pass the time of day with.

We need to be affected by and to affect others.

Stress—moderate levels of stress keep our minds in condition and help keep us sane.

It keeps our brains plastic so we can adapt and cope with the changes that life brings. It feeds our curiosity and habit of leaning.

Learning gives us more things to think about so we have less time to get bored, depressed and under-stimulated.

What’s Your Story?—personal narrative.

Your autobio tells your story which you live by, but you can edit and change it if you need to.

What do you think is important in life?

We live by our stories!


The definition of Sanity:

You are sane if you do the daily jobs you need to do to take care of yourself and live up to your responsibilities.

You need hopes and dreams.

Do you have a passion, a hobby or interest? You need them for sanity.

The world is our school. We are not alone. We are all in this asylum together!

Are you aware of yourself, your surroundings and circumstances? If you are, you are sane.

You should be able to deal with stressful situations and if you can’t, you should ACCEPT the fact and come to terms with your reality.


Or are you just ECCENTRIC? These are people considered strange. They have strange habits and behavior. But they are usually harmless.

They are NOT insane!

Insanity in humans is characterized by dangerous behavior to themselves and others.


In conclusion:


I hope this blog was helpful.

If and Why–Life’s Game

“Hey Tom, I’m going to play Life’s Game with some “IF” questions followed up by the “WHY”. And I would like you to comment on my answers. Are you up for it?”

“Bring it on, Dave, I’ll try to be objective.”

“Great, here’s the first question:

If I could change some things about my childhood, what would they be and why?”

We both pondered the question for a minute.

“I’ll answer first and then you can comment, Tom.

Two things I would change:

First—I wish I didn’t have to contend with the affliction of clubfeet, which pain aside, affected my personality. Because of early stays in the hospital I developed the attitude of the world being hostile. Plus I couldn’t play sports as well as other kids because my feet and ankles were weak.

Second—I wish my Dad didn’t die when I was 15 and we bonded. My Dad had night work and I hardly saw him so we didn’t do much together. I believe the relationship between father and son has a big impact on what kind of man a boy develops into. A father’s influence is very important when a boy hits puberty, it’s the foundation of the boy’s development. A boy wants to look to his father for clues as to how to act as an adult. When there is no Dad there is a big VOID.

What do you think, Tom?”

“Well Dave, as far as your affliction goes, I think on the plus side, it could be something that could make you a stronger person ready to meet the challenges that life poses.

As to number two, I lost my Dad also as a child. I agree with everything you’ve said, father-son bonding is incredibly important to a boy’s development, I missed that bonding also.”

“Good comments, Tom. Here’s the second question:

If I could have stopped aging at any point in my life up to the present, how old would I remain and why?

I believe there are two ages at which I would want to remain:

First—When I meet my first wife and our courting year. I was 26 and at a low point, I was lonely even though I was living with my mother. Then, out of the blue, I met my first wife on a blind date. We hit it off immediately. We talked and talked, we had wonderful communication. We went everywhere together, movies, museums, restaurants, and walking in parks. I was so happy I actually felt that the world wasn’t hostile anymore!

The second age I would want to remain would be when I met my second wife. I was 61 and had been living alone for four years after my first wife died of cancer. I needed to have a sounding board again and the support of another partner. We met through a dating agency and we got along right away. I didn’t think I could be happy again but it happened and I was floating on air when we held hands.

Comments please.”

“Dave, I too have a tale of two wives and happiness. Everyone should have a healthy, loving relationship with the right person by your side.

You need to have a supportive partner. In a good relationship you and your partner will support each other and treat each other as equals. That feeling of happiness is wonderful.”

“Thanks for that, Tom. Here’s the third question:

If I could suddenly possess an extraordinary talent in one of the arts, what would it be and why?

Even though I have dabbled in writing, I would like to be an extraordinary writer like Hemingway or F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Why? Because I would live on through my classic books. Writing helps heal the wounds of life and clears them out.

Writing also hones your powers of observation, giving you a fuller experience of life.

Comments please.”

“Well Dave, I too dabble in the arts, my interest is dramatics, acting. I love to do plays. I also believe this talent gives you a better experience of life. I enjoy your books and blogs.”

“Thanks, Tom. I would love to see one of your plays.

Here’s the fourth question:

If I was instantly able to play one musical instrument perfectly, what would it be and why?

It would be the piano, because my Dad played classical piano. He was forced to study piano as a child for 7 years even though he wanted to go out and play with his mates. My regret is that he didn’t teach me to play, but like I said, we rarely saw each other. I think playing music would be fun. I still might try to learn the keyboard!”

“Yes, there are many benefits to playing a musical instrument.

It even makes you smarter! Do you believe it? It stimulates your brain and improves memory and reasoning skills. It also relieves stress. But, importantly, playing music is FUN! It makes you feel happy and occupied.”

“Here’s the fifth question:

If I was rich and younger what would be the one thing I would do and why?

I would travel the world. Even though I have seen quite a few states in America plus Canada, England, Wales, Scotland, Italy and France, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I would like to see the whole world!

BUT, now at 80, I don’t have the energy, not to mention the money, to travel.

Why, the whole world? Because, as they say, it’s THERE!

I feel traveling provides new experiences and memories, it breaks the routine and allows you to meet people from all cultures.”

“I, too, wish I had traveled more when I had the energy. But we always had to make a living and that took up a lot of time. You also appreciate family and home more when you’ve been away. When you travel to distant places it seems it’s easier to chat to strangers and make new friends. Different social interactions make us happier and we learn a lot too.”


“We will have to do this more often, Tom, it clears the cobwebs when you’re old. Plus it is an excellent medium for revealing some of the truth about yourself.

Tom and Dave walked out under the blue sky feeling that the “IF” questions and their answers had left them feeling good.