The Mortality Club

Beware the Shrinking Comfort Zone

November 19, 2016

Tags: comfort zone, tension, curiosity, growing old

Last Tuesday I had an 11:00 appointment with my cardiologist. She’s in Seattle, which is ninety miles from where I live. A few years ago, I didn’t think twice about driving down and back. It was, as they say, “a piece of cake.” My husband, David, used to accompany me. We would use the appointment as an opportunity to get out of the house and do something interesting. Often, we’d go out to lunch and then spend the afternoon at the art museum. Or, we’d explore the new technology offerings at the Apple store. Or, we’d just walk the city streets getting what I called our “city fix.”

We scarcely noticed when we made the transition from voluntarily accompanying one another to medical appointments to the stage when it became necessary. Driving both ways and enduring the inevitable stress of a medical examination became too fatiguing for me. We got to the point when one of us would drive down, and the other, drive back. As that happened,I began to find it too physically demanding to see the doctor and then fill the day with other diversions, especially since those other diversions were located in the center of town, even further from our home. “We’ll see the exhibit next time,” I'd suggest to David. “After all, we don’t want to get stuck in rush hour traffic.” (more…)

GROWING OLD: A CURSE OR A GIFT?

May 29, 2016

Tags: aging, dying, death, growing old

Mindsets toward Aging and Mortality
At today’s meeting of the Mortality Club, I would like to talk about the different attitudes or mindsets we have about growing old. Some of us, the Stargazers, would prefer to deny that they are aging. They try to surround themselves with younger people. When they look in the miror, they see their younger selves.

Confident of their own capabilities, Celebrants manifest a persistent “can do” attitudeThey are energized people who embrace each day enthusiastically. Adept at finding the silver lining in even the darkest cloud, Celebrants remain optimistic even in the face of aging. The celebrate cataract surgery because it frees us from the need to wear glasses. They call their pacemaker their buddy, and focus on it as a welcome life-saving device.

The hallmark of the Warrior is courage, or tenacity in the face of fear, and strength in the face of pain. Warriors feel empowered, in control and confident, and ready for battle. They are convinced that they will be able to meet the challenges and overcome the obstacles that are on the horizon. That includes aging. They exercise like crazy and adhere to stict diets in order to force their aging bodies to perform like they did when they were younger.

Like shipwreck survivors, Castaways expect to be thrown about or even battered by life. Aware that nature can be punishing and that every life ends in death, they anticipate misfortune. Castaways accept Buddha’s first noble truth, “Life is suffering.” They understand that aging is a curse against which they have no antidotes. They console themselves with the reminder that it is better than the alternative––dying.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could look at getting old through the lens of the Sage? Sages manage to transcend the boundaries of their own ego, experiencing a sense of being connected to all other living things. Sages are resilient, and able to bounce back each time they receive disturbing news. Because of their realism, they know when it is time to surrender. Blending the best characteristis of the other mindsets, the Sage regards getting old as a gift rather than as a curse. (more…)

GROWING OLD by Gordon Nimmo

May 21, 2016

Tags: elderly, growing old, soul, after death, dying

Gordon Nimmo, a New Zealander whom I met while taking a cruise up the Danube, told this about his life. "I had to laugh when, five years ago, one of our granddaughters' friends at school said to me -- ( she was 5 at the time ) -- What is wrong with your
face ?? -- I said, I don't really know, -- has it got a red mark or
something ?? -- She said no, -- Its got cracks all over it !!-- Oh dear Oh
dear. That prompted me to write a story about how it feels to grow old."

GROWING OLD.

A few years ago, one of my Grandchildren innocently asked me what it was like to be old, and due to the fact that I had not, at that stage considered myself to be elderly in any way, I had some difficulty in answering the question. To say it was good, or not so good did not seem to me to be an adequate answer, and since then I have given considerable thought as to what would be more suitable and to the point.

The way I see it, growing old can be reasonably well compared with a situation where on one side of a street stands a line of people of varying ages from young to old, and on the other side, a street of houses with the same variations in age. The young people are in the newer houses and the old folk in the older ones. (more…)

Selected Works

Psychology/Aging and Dying
In youth we are invincible. The world is forever: we are forever. But, sentient creatures that we are, time inevitably plays its part. Aging and illness shadow those early sensibilities until one day we feel the lurking presence of death itself. Fearful of our own dark thoughts, too often we keep such anxieties to ourselves. To deny our own mortality is a parlor game of sorts, played within our own heads and frequently played alone. Pamela Cuming will have none of it. In her latest book, The Hourglass, she throws back the parlor curtains and lets the light stream in. This is a powerful, objective, unflinching, and yet profoundly empathic work that explores the rewards of honest caring⎯the privilege and the pain⎯not only for one’s friends and family but also for one’s self. Drawing upon an uncanny intuitive understanding of human foible plus a broad knowledge of character development, honed from decades of consulting in the business world, this is a book filled with personal stories both engaging and instructive. In short, The Hourglass is a must read for all those who seek to live life to the full, from start to finish. ________________ Peter C. Whybrow MD, Director of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Beavior at UCLA and award-winning author of The Well-Tuned Brain: Neuroscience and the Life Well Lived.
Fiction: Publication Date Nov 14, 2014
Set in New York City and Los Angeles between August 1999 and November 2001, The Stranger Box is the story of a mother and a daughter caught like two white dwarf stars in separate orbits, destined to collide. Though she does everything in her considerable power to insure the child never finds out who she is, the vain and self-obsessed Katherine Blair is unable to change the course of her destiny or evade Eden, the resourceful daughter whose pursuit is fueled by the desire for revenge and the determination to steal the family that has been denied her.
Memoir
Widow’s Walk is a bold, brave, and candid admission of bereavement, weakness, and, ultimately, strength.
Nonfiction
A strategic guide to organizational and personal effectiveness
Turf is a direct, and sometimes disturbing book about the use and abuse of power in organizations.

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