The day had warmed nicely, into the sixties, without a thundercloud in sight. I left the protection of wooded grounds and hit the streets, chilled by the light breeze. I wished for my running shoes for the four-mile walk back but my shorty-cowgirls were up to the task.
I noticed the plates of a parked car. Ohio’s bicentennial license plate proclaims: Birthplace of Aviation. Really? We’re a long way from Kitty Hawk Dorothy. As it turns out, Wilbur and Orville Wright were Buckeye’s. Not only born and raised, they designed and constructed their flying machine at their Dayton, OH bicycle shop. In 2003 Congress made it official, yes indeedy, by virtue of Wright’s birthplace, Ohio - not N. Carolina - IS the birthplace of aviation. The vote passed 378 to 3 with the Senators from – you guessed it – N. Carolina casting ‘Nay’ ballots.
I came across a rather new-ish out-door mall with European flair: cobbled streets, bright awnings, and ornate, wrought iron balustrades. Reminiscent of our newest mall, The Fountains in Roseville, it must represent the latest in mall-making fashions across the US. I wandered its storefronts and cobbled streets.
Ever notice that people who should not wear spandex in public – do? Enough said. More people: men, women, and children wear hats in Ohio, not baseball caps, rather cabby caps, Greek fisherman caps, porkpies, and fedoras. Perhaps I was observing a seasonal trend, that on the heels of winter, Clevelanders would not bare their heads until spring sprang.
Dress in California seems more flowing, airy, diaphanous, not necessarily loose but less constricting. Their clothing reminded me of… Nantucket. Nantucket? What is that? White collars, cuffs and cufflinks – I could stop right there; couldn’t I? But I’ll continue: striped cloth belts, khakis, geometric versus abstracts patterns, primary colors, high-heels, long and stylish overcoats. Young adults however, seemingly conform to a national dress code standardized by Abercrombie & Fitch.
The Legacy Village was organized around a central, grassy piazza and bandstand. Its marquee promised live music during summer. Part of its stubby, scrubby, brown lawn was cordoned off for reseeding. I was elated to see a CPK – California Pizza Kitchen – at one end of the piazza. I LOVE their salads though a single salad can be the caloric equivalent of two-full days. Grrr. At the opposite end of the piazza - the Brio Tuscan Grille.
I chose Brio and an eggplant-mushroom hors d'œuvre. Taking a corner table in the bar, opposite the entrance, I watched patrons come and go. The décor was ala Cheesecake Factory, walls colored in saffron, faux mortar and brick beneath crumbling lath and plaster, 20-foot ceilings with crown-molding and clerestory windows, all very faux Italiana – I liked it.
Not unlike the Cheesecake Factory, Brio’s portions are ridiculously large. My hors d'œuvre was served in a 12-inch boat of creamy, black-pepper sauce - spicy, delicious, if not a bit too salty – but you’ve heard that complaint repeatedly. I’ll save the diatribe.
There was a time in my life when I would forgo eating over dining in a restaurant alone. I’ve gotten over that but I must say, I do miss sharing food and breaking bread with others. It is perhaps this feeling of loss, so acute when publicly dining en solo, which has me wanting to avoid the situation entirely. Conversely, I am happy to eat what I want, when I want, and without a concern for the dietary preferences of another.
A very Morrie-looking man hobbled in on bilateral canes. His attendant, a young Polynesian woman, steadied him by his elbow. He was bent forward in back and knee, giving him the awkward gait of one inflicted by neuromuscular disease. Wispy, white hair stood straight up - for many inches - compensating for any loss in stature. An over-sized gray blazer, hinting of his former self, billowed loosely round his withering frame. Shape-ups? My mind did a back-flip and eyes a double-take. Is he wearing Shape-ups?
Skechers makes a line of sneakers promising weight-loss and gluteal tone to-die-for, and dog-gone if he wasn’t wearing a pair. You go-boyfriend! I suspected the rocking nature of their soles might aid in ‘push-off’ and thereby – ambulation. You know… like atrial-kick aids ventricular filling and blood pressure… just like that.
It was the early-dinner hour, that time when seniors are typically discounted. Morrie-like was seated immediately, he shuffled off, my study of him over before it began. While the bar filled for happy-hour, the elderly streamed into the dining room. People seemed shorter, dark-haired, olive-toned; I imagined them all Italian: little Italian men from the old country sporting thick-framed, Larry-King glasses under a cabby’s cap, their forearms coated in thick, black hair and belts deviating slightly south, who could say paesano with perfecto. And tiny – almost frail - Italian women with thin, gold-edged tri-focals and tailored pumps of maroquin, impeccably dressed for dining out. Notably absent were the willowy blonds of California and Stetsons.
People are not so obese here, I wrote. On the heels of The Longevity Project publication, one of the emerging observations was: thin people consort with thin people. No mention of casino buffets, the American diet, or super-sized portions; simply put: thin people consort with thin people. Hmmm – interesting.
My simple statement on a page, “People are not so obese here,” led my mind to The Longevity Project. Let me give you the backfill. The Longevity Project was published this year. It is the analysis of a study by the same name that followed 1500, San Franciscan, public school children continually since 1921 - from childhood to death. All remaining participants turn 100 this year.
Is longevity associated with being married, daily jogs, living with pets, or faith in God? “The Longevity Project uses one of the most famous studies in psychology to answer the question of who lives longest— and why. The answers will surprise you,” says Malcolm Gladwell.
The project examined other factors conferring not only longevity but also health and wellness. I examined my own group of friends. Do I consort with thin people? The answer is an unequivocal YES. And I admit, before completing the Wisdom Course, I had virtually no girlfriends who were not women athletes. All reasons point in a single direction: how I choose to spend my limited leisure time, nothing more.
I am intensely interested in wellness, my own and that of others. I am interested in healthcare models that not only manage disease but provide pathways to wellness. The Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Program is one such model. The Longevity Project may provide guidance.
Outside, shadows lengthened and dissolved into dusk. I phoned my hotel and requested shuttle service. Their van was en route, for a deposit at the Apple Store, two doors up. “Look for a white, unmarked van. Our driver Jamal is wearing a hotel uniform.”
“Jamal?” I asked as I approached.
“Ms. Bacon?” We both smiled and I stepped into the van. Jamal made two additional stops, retrieving hotel guests along the way.
At the hotel, Jamal arranged for my 0430 pick-up for an 0600 flight due southwest connecting to long flight due northwest to Sacramento. I would be home by noon. I repeated the previous nights visits to gym, sauna, and hot tub before curling in bed with Morrie.
I returned to dog-eared page 126 and began reading. I turned into dog-eared page 127 where Morrie says, “Remember what I said about finding a meaningful life? Devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community, devote yourself to something that gives you purpose and meaning. …Status will get you nowhere. Only an open heart will allow you to float equally between everyone.”
Most of you know I participate in on-going training and a body of teaching by Landmark Education. I would describe their teachings as philosophical in nature, an amalgam of great philosophical truths taught by all religions and practices coupled with communications, exercises and projects that internalize the lessons.
The entry course is called the Landmark Forum. Participation in their courses create a fundamental shift in one’s life from inward focus to outward focus, from me, to us, to all-of-us, to the open heart that Morrie describes. There are many bodies of work that espouse such theology and philosophy, however Landmark produces that result with reliability and velocity. Morrie woulda dug the Landmark Forum.
Dog-eared page 135: I believe in being fully present. That means you should be with the person you’re with. When I’m talking to you now, I try to keep focused only on what is going on between us. I am not thinking about something we said last week. I am not thinking of what’s coming up this Friday…”
Do you know there are exercises that teach presence? To really BE with the people you are with? Do you know that upset does not exist in the present? What if you could move with velocity through upset, anger, and suffering? Would that make room for more love? What would life be like with more present and presence in your present?
The hour was late as I flipped the final pages of Tuesdays with Morrie and dog-eared page 149 where he expounds on marriage. Happily, respectfully, and contentedly married for forty-four years gives Morrie license to pontificate, in my viewpoint.
There are a few rules I know to be true about love and marriage: If you don’t respect the other person, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble. If you don’t know how to compromise, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble. If you can’t talk openly about what goes on between you, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble. And if you don’t have a common set of values in life, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble. Your values must be alike. And the biggest one of those values… your belief in the importance of your marriage.
Morrie died on November 4, 1995. His respirations ceased just after his family slipped into the kitchen for a fresh pot of coffee. Ted Koppel recorded a final tribute that you can watch on youtube along with his Nightline exposés.
I wiped my tears, closed the book, and turned off the bedside lamp.
Four hours later I was airport bound. Let me just say that a window seat twelve inches from the turbine housing should not be billed as a window seat. The engine block consumes any view, the vibration loosens dental work, the sound deafens.
I sat with a young woman in jeans and a mohawk armed with a Kindle, a Shuffle, and earbuds. A chef of three-years, Amy was headed for the kitchen in Kings Canyon National Park. She planned to be there for dinner and the next several years. She was excited to see, in full-living-color, that which she had only seen in pictures. Amy described herself as a city-girl excited about the great outdoors.
We (of course) talked trails, and backpacking, and solo female trips, and on, and on, and on. She owned no backpacking gear and I assured her the REI in Fresno would not steer her wrong. At the end of the season, I encouraged her to get into Yosemite before snow made the roads impassable. She assured me she would. I loved her enthusiasm and tinkered with a trip to King’s Canyon to say, “Hey.”
During my second leg I was sandwiched between two large men, one whom overflowed the boundaries of his seat. A more than large woman ahead on the left, consumed 1.5 seats. Flight attendants relocated the person relegated to the 0.5 seat next to her. On a nearly full flight with few open seats, that was a task.
A little boy flying to California for the first time occupied the window seat and view of the engine housing. His grandparents begged to be re-seated, so he could see the earth passing beneath us. Flight attendants pulled another rabbit from their hat when a lady willingly relinquished her window seat.
Do you know that when the girth is sufficiently round, it moves one forward in the seat. And if one is sufficiently tall, knees push into the seat ahead. After that, the only place for them to spread is out. I sat thigh-to-thigh with a very large man for several hours. Do you know how much I like thigh-to-thigh for several hours with a stranger? Not so much.
I have more recently begun a regular practice of yoga in a studio. I don’t like strangers touching my mat or me. I am learning to deal with that. Sometimes the studio is crowded. I have learned that my practice is about my mat and me, nothing more.
My yoga practice was helpful in sitting thigh-to-thigh with this unknown man. I did not appreciate it but he did deplane without Monkey bites. (Y’all haven’t heard of Monkey for many, many moons. That is because I am involved in practices to tame Monkey – yoga is one. For those who are completely clueless, that which Freud called the id and Landmark calls the it, China calls the Monkey – that part of us more interested in survival and protection than love and connection.)
Home again, home again, jiggety-jig. I returned home with fuel added to my fire. Renewed in my efforts to create a pathway to wellness for cardiac and diabetes patients interested in disease reversal. It’s not for everyone though clearly, it IS for some. I had put this project on hold until I could experience the program at Cleveland Clinic. I journeyed there for myself. There is no tax deduction, no continuing education credits, no Kaiser reimbursement. I went out of a commitment to health and wellness. I have been to Mecca, it is time to put structure to this idea and sell it to my director and chief. I’ll keep you posted.
I’ll close this with thoughts: first from Morrie.
Keep an open heart and open it up further and further and further until you encompass as much as you can with your love. Sounds kind of soppy but it’s not; it’s not.
Be compassionate to yourself and others.
Second from the Navajo nation: We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.
Third from Hillel the Elder – Jewish sage and scholar: If not me – who? If not now – when?
Lastly me: Be well and dare I say – thrive!