That got your attention. Mine, too! An eager seeker of the secret of eternal youth, of course I read it. Should have taken a better look at the source of the advice, or not. It definitely was not a rag mag as the secret to eternal “youth” revealed was mental, not physical. (Call me shallow but, I confess to a degree of disappointment.) Nonetheless, I read on:
The key to keeping mentally open and vibrant is having friends of all ages, the article expounded. It stressed that we should actively—purposefully—seek interaction with people of both genders from each decade. That doing so exposes us to new ideas, new music, new fads, new mores and conversely to old ones.
In case you’re doing as I did, mentally slotting friends & family into decades, go back and put question marks by “Family.” Do our interactions with children, grandchildren and parents counts? YES…and NO. Yes, culturally, family members will and do expose us to so much we wouldn’t know about otherwise. But as for interacting with them as “friends. That depends. . . .
What about your children?
Be honest, do you really want them confiding “those things” to you? Do they? Do you? (I don’t.)
Knowing this truth—befriending people of all decades is good for you—and doing this are, like many things that are “good for us”: not necessarily easy.
Shortly after learning this secret of youth, I shared it with a friend who’d recently moved to L.A. Ironically, the friend who was a decade and more older, physically recoiled at the idea. “Young people don’t want anything to do with me,” he argued.
Knowing my friend took photography classes—at UCLA and the Art Institute, not the Senior Center—I pushed him on the point.
My children’s writing community includes people of reading age up, literally. 10-20-30-40…70, 80, beyond united by virtue of being writers. Years fall away while we strive for similar goals. That common thread initially brings us together, from there other connections form. Surely the photography community was much the same?
“Don’t you discuss photography things with the other students?” I pressed. He did; they did. “So why can’t you try to extend the friendship? Ask them for coffee or drinks, to an exhibit…” He scoffed.
Water and time have passed since that conversation. I’m older. I’m more isolated. I’ve moved often and far, and my writing community has shrunk. My community while global is puny, too.
Frankly, the family and friends I have keep me so busy, I didn't even realize it was happening. That decades of people, are rising up with whom I have no contact.
To be honest, I hadn't missed that interaction with new, younger, older, different-- people--Or realized I missed it.
And, I must confess, like my friend, as I've gotten older, I've perhaps become a little, if not fearful, definitely lazy about reaching out.
It's what a twenty-something son of a friend I spoke with at a wedding said about dating. He'd recently broken up with his high school sweetheart, but was thinking about getting back together with her. I asked him if he'd been dating anyone else. He got a pained look on his face then answered:
Reaching out, making new connections, learning new--older, younger, different languages--takes energy. Perhaps way more than sticking with the familiar. And it's easy to let ourselves think we're doing just fine, why stir things up?
Decades apart, but so much the same, I totally got what he was saying. Reaching out, making new connections, learning new--older, younger, different languages--takes energy. Perhaps way more than sticking with the familiar. And it's easy to let ourselves think we're doing just fine, why stir things up?
I hadn't realized how much "stirring things up" and doing the "getting to know you" stuff mattered, and how much I've been missing it, until recently. . .
Earlier this month, at my sis-in-law, Marilyn Bennett’s invitation, I joined her for a week’s retreat on Sanibel Island. (Marilyn's an author, writing coach, video-biographer, documentary filmmaker, check it out at Truth in Progress).
Marilyn had been invited to stay in a beach-front condo by friends of a dear, departed mutual friend of hers and theirs, named Carolyn. (I’d met Carolyn and knew about her via Marilyn, but that was the extent of it.)
Clueless as to who our hosts were—beyond knowing they were retired—or what, if any interaction, I’d have with them, I was truly, along for the ride.
My first day on Sanibel, Marilyn and I joined our hosts, Deborah and John, for dinner at Trader’s Restaurant.
Marilyn and I arrived first, purposefully early. I don’t know about Marilyn, but I was What if they don’t like me? What If I don’t like them? What the heck are we going to talk about? Nervous!
“Buck up,” I told myself, as I ordered a martini “Up, dirty, large, extra olives.” Drinks and dinner—one evening—we can all make it through one evening.
That get-acquainted dinner, there was no “making it through,” we shut the restaurant down! (But only after John had taken Deborah for a spin on the dance floor.)
Conversation floated and flitted From one topic to another, as “friend” chats do, with nary an awkward silence.
Birth year-wise, we were 3 maybe 4 decades; conversationally speaking we were contemporaries—interested, interesting, and challenging.
After that first introduction, for me, it was not a question of “Are we dining together again” but rather “When can we?”
Each evening’s topics were rich and varied. Deborah and John's personal histories broadened what Marilyn and I knew of the recent past. May be we taught them some, too.
Decade to decade commonalities were never so pronounced as the night Deborah and John treated us to “So Good for the Soul”, a tribute to Mo-Town music at Sanibel’s Cultural Center, Big Arts.
It was standing-room only in the theater. And Decade-schecade, it was OUR music!
Truth is, if fate—and Carolyn—had not intervened, none of us (even if we were sharing the same sundown) probably would have made an effort to get to know each other. But we did and I, for one, am richer for it.
Be the one to take that first step—or leap—across those great age divides.
The fountain might be on the other side.