Tag Archives: senior reinvention

The Health Obsession Spiral

This blog is written by Lee Gale Gruen to help Baby Boomers and seniors find joy, excitement, and satisfaction in their lives after retirement whether from a job, career, parenting, etc. Her public lectures on this subject are titled, “Reinventing Yourself in Your Senior Years.” Her memoir, available on Amazon.com, is: Adventures with Dad: A Father and Daughter’s Journey Through a Senior Acting Class (Website:  AdventuresWithDadTheBook.com)

Obsessing about IllnessAre you obsessed about your health or that of someone else such as your child, spouse, or parent? Do you always manage to work it into the conversation?  People spend so much time focusing on health issues: thinking about them, reading about them, discussing them, going to doctors, taking medicine, getting treatments, and on and on.

I’m not saying people don’t have legitimate conditions and concerns. Sometimes health issues totally interrupt our lives. I’m talking about becoming obsessive about it—making it into your whole life.

I don’t want to use the H word (that’s hypochondriac to you), but some people are or come pretty close. Maybe they learned that behavior as children from some influential adult in their lives who behaved that way.  Or, maybe they found that they got a lot of sympathy and attention when they had ailments, and now it has just become a lifestyle without their realizing it. Those who obsess about the health of another may get attention onto themselves that way, too (shades of Munchausen by Proxy).

People who engage in this obsessive behavior seem to think that subject is also fascinating to others. One day, as she waxed on about her husband’s latest health issue, a friend started discussing his bowel movements.

“Okay, stop right there,” I screamed.

That snapped her back to the moment. She hadn’t even realized how inappropriate her discussion had become, and that most people are simply not interested in hearing about other people’s elimination patterns.

It always amazes me how often sickly people rally when there’s something fun or interesting to do. They manage to get themselves dressed and to an event, and they don’t seem to think about their health issues until the event is over.

The constant discussion of health issues weighs on me, whether my own or the health of others. Does it on you? Or, are you the one who discusses it ad nauseam, totally ignoring those raised eyebrows or glazed looks in the eyes of anyone within the sound of your voice?

When I was a young mother, much of my conversation centered around my children including their health issues. I’d discuss with other mothers things like pediatricians, shots, and typical childhood illnesses. It often got to be a subtle pissing contest of “my pediatrician is better than your pediatrician.” I learned then that those types of discussions become tiresome, to me anyway. As people get older, many focus more on their own health and play a version of “my health problems are worse than your health problems.” Another popular game is “my therapist said” as I get often from a relative who uses it as her weapon of choice to beat any opponent into submission.  Therapy can be very beneficial.  However, used in that manner, it is counterproductive.

Then, there’s the crowd that focuses on the health of their pets.  I was at a luncheon recently, and some of the women there lapsed into discussing the size and consistency of their dogs’ poop. Although I love dogs and all animals for that matter, there are some issues about them I’m not interested in discussing.

In her final years, my mother’s only focus became her declining health. It was all she wanted to talk about, and she’d get angry if we didn’t want to discuss it constantly. On the other hand, there was my friend, Priscilla. She refused to give in to her cancer; she rarely discussed it. Four months before she died, I went on a trip to Alaska with her and another friend. Yes, Priscilla had to rest more than we did. Yes, she was sometimes quiet. However, she participated in activities to the best of her ability and got real joy from the beauty around her. I have another friend with serious Parkinson’s disease. She calls me to give me book recommendations. When I ask her how she is, her answer is usually, “fine.”

When my dog and I were a pet therapy team visiting patients at a local hospital, the patients usually perked up when we came in and forgot about their health issues for the five or ten minutes we were there. The diversion took their minds off their conditions.

If you have health issues, you don’t have to moan and dump on others as a regular practice. You can create your own diversionary activities and make yourself into someone people want to visit and be with rather than avoid.

I’m not implying that health issues aren’t important nor advocating ignoring them. What I’m saying is that there must be something else of value in life than just that. Certainly talk about your health briefly from time to time, but be sensitive to whether others want to hear long, detailed discussions about it. Consider the reverse: are you really interested in a constant diet of hearing that type of information from them?

Please pass my blog along to anyone else who might be interested and post it on your Facebook, Twitter and other social media. If you want to be automatically notified when I post a new blog, click on the “Follow” button in the upper right corner of this page and fill in the information. To read my other blog posts, scroll down on this page or click on “Recent Posts” or “Archives” under the Follow button.

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Filed under Baby boomers, gerontology, longevity, retirement, seniors, wellness

Having a Bad Day

This blog is written by Lee Gale Gruen to help Baby Boomers and seniors find joy, excitement, and satisfaction in their lives after retirement from a job, career, parenting, etc.  Her public lectures on this subject are entitled, “Reinventing Yourself in Your Senior Years.”  Her memoir, available on Amazon.com, is: Adventures with Dad: A Father and Daughter’s Journey Through a Senior Acting Class (Click here for website link:  http://AdventuresWithDadTheBook.com)

NEWS:  I will be interviewed on Blog Talk Radio “Giving Voice to Your Story,” with Dorit Sasson on Feb 5, 2015, 7:30am (PST), link: blogtalkradio.com

Now, on to my blog:

Lion Roaring

Have you ever had a bad day? I can almost guarantee the answer is, “yes.” I don’t think anyone can get through this life without having one. Well, last week I had a doozy. I set my alarm for 7:30am to allow plenty of time to get dressed, have breakfast, and drive carefully over a one-lane, winding, canyon road to pick up my friend for a writers’ club meeting.

She answered the door dressed in an old sweat suit.

“It’s tomorrow, Lee Gale.”

“What?” I responded without comprehension.

After she repeated it a few more times knocking me out of my denial, I fished out my calendar book. Yup, she was right. I had arrived at her house a full twenty-four hours before our date.

I couldn’t believe it; I was really bummed out. I didn’t have anything to do until 11:30am. I could have slept another few hours; I could have avoided a twelve-mile drive via a treacherous route; I could have done a million other things with my life.

I did some shopping to kill the time and made my way back over that horrible canyon road, fighting a traffic snag which made me late.  When I got to the restaurant for my real first appointment that day, all the parking spaces in the lot were taken. I found one on the next block and had to pick my way with my sore toe through an unevenly paved alley. When I walked in to join the senior center “dining out” class as an invited guest of some friends, there were about thirty people seated at a very long table made from several placed railroad car fashion. My friends had been unable to save me a seat next to them.

I had been to the same restaurant once before, and I wasn’t too crazy about the food. Because this was a large group, the restaurant had set a fixed price menu costing almost twice what I paid previously. That would mean I’d have to sit at the far end from my friends and eat a mediocre, expensive meal with strangers.

Right at that moment, I went on overload. I had to have a time-out from my so far bad day. I whispered in one friend’s ear that I was going to leave, and I did. I drove home and had lunch, some quiet time, and a rest.

That’s one of the few times in my life I’ve been able to do something like that. Of course, the circumstances allowed for it: I was alone with my own car, I was close to my house, and I didn’t know anyone at the event except for a few people. Nevertheless, the lesson was that I assessed my needs and acted to meet them.

It made up for the fact that the week earlier I had done just the opposite at a social gathering and brooded over it for the next few days because I hadn’t been able to take care of myself. It’s so difficult to learn how to take care of ourselves yet so worth it.

Please pass my blog along to anyone else who might be interested and post it on your Facebook, Twitter and other social media. If you want to be automatically notified when I post a new blog, click on the “Follow” button in the upper right corner of this page and fill in the information. To read my other blog posts, scroll down on this page or click on “Recent Posts” or “Archives” under the Follow button.

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Every Time I Drop a Spouse, I Blossom

Blossoming FlowersThis is a blog written by Lee Gale Gruen aimed at helping Baby Boomers and seniors find more joy, excitement, and satisfaction in their lives after retirement from a job, career, parenting, etc. Her memoir, available on Amazon.com, is: Adventures with Dad: A Father and Daughter’s Journey Through a Senior Acting Class (click on this link for the book website: AdventuresWithDadTheBook.com)

Someone emailed me recently suggesting I write a blog about suddenly finding yourself single in your senior years. She is in her late sixties and getting a divorce.

Loss of a partner be it a spouse, live-in relationship, or significant other, whether by death, divorce, or mutual agreement, is a blow at any age but maybe even more so in your later years when your resiliency has decreased. Such a shift is a major passage of life; we face the unknown future alone, scared, naked and shaking. I’ve experienced it, and what I’ve found is that no matter how hard it seemed at the time, my life eventually became better than before.

I’m certainly not advocating termination of a relationship if each party is enhanced by it. However, in my case, I blossomed after my two divorces. I found myself freed from a constraining existence which only served to restrict and diminish me. After the initial shock, fear, and devastation, I gathered my resources, struck out on my own, and flourished. The first time, I became much more independent, made new friends, and learned to ski. The second time, many years later and as a senior, I became an actress, author, motivational speaker and blogger—whew!

Although I make it sound easy, it was anything but. Each blossoming happened slowly over some years, and there were a lot of periods of self-doubt, misgivings, and lack of motivation. However, I finally did it, and I can honestly say that those new, wonderful things in my life would not have occurred within those marriages.

Divorce or a breakup of any type of relationship usually happens when it changes from one of nourishment and support to one of toxicity and isolation. If the deterioration comes gradually, we at least have time to get used to it. If the termination was sudden such as in the case of an unexpected death, the devastation can seem much worse. Nevertheless, in both instances, even if the relationship was positive, there might be an element of relief if it made you feel oppressed and stifled or forced you into the role of submissive underling (laborer to his/her CEO), full-time caretaker, etc.

Regardless of the reason you find yourself single, the healing process is the same. After grieving the loss, you must look inside yourself at your strengths (yes, you have them) and move forward with the goal of becoming healthy. You may have to alter your lifestyle: lower your standard of living, move to other quarters, or find a job. However, in the process, you might find those strengths you never knew you had.

Go check out that local senior center you’ve heard about. Sign up for a class others have mentioned or sounded intriguing. Take a trip with a friend or group. Follow up on a hobby, pastime, or something you always thought you might try some day but never had the time.

As I’ve emphasized so many times in my blogs, you have choices. You can become mired in your grief and turn it into a life-style, constantly discussing it with everyone you encounter until they start avoiding you. Or, you can proceed to carve out that new identity for yourself and blossom. This is your chance!

Please pass my blog along to anyone else who might be interested and post it on your Facebook, Twitter and other social media. If you want to be automatically notified when I post a new blog, click on the “Follow” button in the upper right corner of this page and fill in the information. To read my other blog posts, scroll down on this page or click on “Recent Posts” or “Archives” under the Follow button.

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