Not long before I was anointed host of LIFE(Part2), the speedometer/odometer on my bicycle broke. Suddenly, I didnít know how far Iíd gone on my daily rides and how fast. Those numbers, along with my morning weigh-in, were the stats that measured me, defined my competition with my greatest rival, me. How would I know if I was winning or losing my race against time?
The local bike shop couldnít repair the little digital device but would be happy to sell and install an over-priced new one. I decided to wait until I could get to my usual bike store, a couple hours away.
For a few days, I was disoriented. With no numbers to keep checking, I was looking at scenery, concentrating on making sharper turns, inventing new routes, hearing birdsong, alternating sprints and coasts for fun. Incredibly, I began arriving back home a few minutes sooner than usual. I was actually going faster. Feeling happier at the finish.
Itís been more than a year now and I havenít fixed the speedometer. Iím still working on the metaphor of my unmeasured ride, trying to figure out how it applies off the bike. Once I became His Hostiness, I began to wonder if it would help Boomers, if not us all, to concentrate on the ride rather than the finish, take greater pleasure in the process than the outcome.
You think Iím on to something?
Welcome to the blogside of LIFE (Part2) the show thatís dedicated to making Baby Boomers braver, not necessarily faster. It starts airing in mid-September so please check your local PBS listings.
Iíll be clicking in here once a week or so with my take on Boomer issues, background gossip on upcoming shows, whatís on my mind. I hope youíll share whatís on yours. Iíll need your feedback for direction.
Like, just how can I start applying my new bike riding style to the rest of my life? Is it maturation or surrender when you stop keeping score? Is this the path to wisdom or am I spinning my wheels?
And why canít I stop weighing myself every morning?
How do you describe Life Part 2?
The showís a boomer generation campfire around which some very smart, experienced people tell stories and share advice on how to survive with style, whether itís about staying married, dating while gray, care-giving, grand-parenting or trying to reinvent yourself in a world that keep shifting under us. Iím just in charge of the marshmallows.
What were some of your favorite moments/people you met while doing the series?
I have a lot of favorite moments and they usually have to do with discovering the basic similar humanity we all share. Imagine Martha Stewart admitting that her daughter and her mother didnít always listen to her! Mike Huckabee on the impact of a big belly on his self-esteem, not to mention health. The comic actor David Hyde-Pierce revealing how Alzheimerís Disease ravaged his family Ė killing the caregivers ahead of the patients. Suzanne Braun-Levine on how the first 37 years of her marriage were the hardest. And Buddhist monk Robert Thurman counseling my road rage; he gave me tips on how to use those red lights to calm down.
What are the biggest lessons you learned from the series?
There were two.
You gotta have friends. One of the best predictors of a long and healthy life is a band of friends who support you on a daily basis and are there for crises. It can be your golf posse, book club, quilting circle, your fellow congregants, any social safety net.
And the clue to a successful Part 2, a reinvention, is found in the past. Somewhere back in Part 1 was the path you didnít take, often a passion you abandoned for pragmatic reasons. Could have been a musical instrument, a yen to teach or nurse or raise orchids, could have been anything that now can be the starting spark for starting over.
In your view, what are baby boomers confronting as they hit the 60 milestone?
Everything is coming at them at once. Aged parents often needing care, growing (or grown) children often needing care (and a place to live), divorce, death of a partner, disease, physical and emotional wear and tear, up-ending and downsizing in an uncertain time. Did I leave out anything? Enough already. Thatís plenty on the plate of a generation that came to expect so much, including its own inevitable triumph over the aging process. I hope our show can offer some helpful advice, at least a sense that youíre not alone.
What are the secrets to boomer happiness?? Have you found it??
First off, Iím no boomer. Iím the resident geezer. I think happiness is being able to keep hoping. Itís being in the mix, keeping on keeping on. There is no secret (which is the secret the snake-oil peddlers are keeping from us), no one-size fits all guru mantra or political mandate or joy juice, just the trek, the process of day by day living in which we strive to find pleasure in relationships, in personal improvement, in meaningful works.
You wrote a book, ďIn the Country of Illness: Comfort and Advice for the Journey.Ē How did it change your view of the medical profession and what should boomers know about dealing with doctors?
My college room-mates were doctors so I entered the country of illness with few illusions and some resources. And a good health plan. Even so, I was a frightened traveler, both as a patient and as a caregiver. The most important thing I learned was the critical necessity of entering that country with a spouse, child, parent, friend, paid sidekick, anybody who can help you take charge of your own healing by offering a sounding board, a steadying hand, keeping notes during doctorsí visits, checking you in the hospital, making sure that the IV bag has the chemical it should and is still dripping, and giving you a supportive shot in the arm when you need it. Donít go it alone. Donít let anybody you care about go it alone. Friends donít let friends be sick solo.
What was your experience working with Twin Cities Television?
I loved it. They treated me like a star and I had moments when I actually believed them. Only magenta jellybeans in my dressing room! Everyone must call me, Your Hostiness! No snow in St. Paul in January! (On that one, they will have to do better in the future.) Twin Cities offered that rare combination of professionalism and just plain niceness. And as you know, Iíve been all over the TV and print map. I wanna go back!
MY FIRST REACTION WHEN THE PRODUCERS OF LIFE PART II INVITED ME ON THE PROGRAM WAS, THEYíVE GOT TO BE JOKING - IíM STILL A KID, A SPORTSWRITER, IíM ON ESPN FOR GOODNESS SAKE. BUT ITíS VERY HARD TO TURN DOWN A FREE TRIP TO ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA, IN FEBRUARY.
ONCE I GOT THERE, I WAS AMAZED BY MY FELLOW GUESTS - THEY WERE SMART, FUNNY, SEXY, AND MOST OF THEM WERE YOUNGER THAN ME Ė LIFE PART II WAS NOT JUST ABOUT RETIREMENT LIVING AND CODGERITIS, IT WAS ALSO ABOUT TEEN-AGERS INTERACTING WITH BOOMERS AND BOOMERS FACING CHANGE. I LEARNED A LOT THAT WINTER IN ST. PAUL Ė (ACTUALLY, TPT HAD ARRANGED FOR THE WEATHER TO BE WARMER AND SUNNIER THAN IN NEW YORK Ė THESE PEOPLE HAVE CONNECTIONS.)
AS EXPECTED, I LEARNED ABOUT BRAIN FITNESS AND DENIAL AND LONG-TERM CARE AND THE SANDWICH GENERATION (I HATE THAT TERM, IT SOUNDS LIKE COMFORT FOOD, WHEN PEOPLE ARE BEING TORN APART) AND IT WAS FUN BECAUSE IT WAS GUILT-FREE Ė THERE WAS NONE OF THIS ďIF YOU ARENíT RUNNING MARATHONS, FIGHTING CITY HALL AND HAVING THE BEST SEX OF YOUR LIFE, ITíS YOUR FAULT AND HEREíS A PILL AND SEVEN STEPS TO MAKING YOUR GOLDEN YEARS INTO PLATINUM.Ē
I WENT HOME WITH A FRESH TAKE ON MY OWN LIFE Ė WINDOWS WERE OPENED. I FOUND NEW WAYS TO REACH INTO MYSELF, FIND WHAT WAS THERE AND USE IT. AND I LEARNED THAT LIFE PART II IS NOT NECESSARILY BETTER OR WORSE THAN PART I Ė BUT IT IS DIFFERENT. AND PART II STARTS AT DIFFERENT TIMES FOR DIFFERENT PEOPLE.
I ALSO LEARNED THERE ARE PEOPLE AND ORGANIZATIONS AND BOOKS Ė NOW EVEN A PBS SERIES - TO SUPPORT YOU IN PART II. - TO MAKE YOU BRAVE.
IN MY OWN CASE THERE WERE AT LEAST THREE WINDOWS THAT WERE OPENED, OR AT LEAST OPENED WIDER, BECAUSE OF THE SHOW:
ONE Ė FOR SOME TIME NOW, IíVE BEEN SERIOUSLY RE-THINKING COMPETITION Ė PHYSICAL AND PROFESSIONAL ĖAND HOW LETTING IT GO IS NOT GIVING UP - ITíS FINDING NEW MOVES. IN MY CASE IT MEANS NOT FEELING I STILL HAVE TO BUTT ANTLERS WITH EVERY YOUNG MALE SPORTSWRITER AND CHILDRENS BOOK WRITER Ė I CAN FIND MY OWN NICHE PLAYING TO MY OWN STRENGTHS WHILE BEING A MENTOR. AND I CANíT TELL YOU HOW MANY TIMES YOUNG PEOPLE IíVE REACHED OUT TO HAVE COME BACK YEARS LATER AND HIRED ME.
IN THE SAME SPIRIT, IT ALSO MEANT DITCHING THE ODOMETER/SPEEDOMETER ON MY BIKE Ė I DONíT NEED TO KNOW HOW FAR OR HOW FAST IíVE TRAVELED, ONLY THAT IíVE PEDALED THE BEST THAT I CAN. (ALAN HAS AN ACRONYM FOR THAT- NATO Ė NOT ATTACHED TO OUTCOME - TO REMIND US THAT NOT EVERYTHING HAS TO BE A RACE.)
TWO Ė BECAUSE I WANT TO BE THE ROLE MODEL FOR MY SON AND DAUGHTER AND FOR MY GRANDCHILDREN, IíVE BEEN THINKING ABOUT WHAT MADE MY FATHER THE ROLE MODEL FOR ME. AND WHAT ALL OLD PEOPLE CAN BE. DAD DIED TWO YEARS AGO, AT 100. WHEN WE WENT TO OUR FIRST BASEBALL GAME TOGETHER SOME 60 YEARS AGO, HE WASNíT AS IMPRESSED WITH THE GREAT JOE DIMAGGIO AS I WAS Ė HE HAD SEEN BABE RUTH. I HATED THAT Ė OLD PEOPLE THINK THEY KNOW EVERYTHING. BUT HE HAD ALSO LIVED THROUGH WORLD WAR I AND II, THE DEPRESSION, THE FLU EPIDEMIC IN WHICH HIS OWN FATHER DIED AND THE SINKING OF THE TITANIC Ė HE HAD A LITTLE CRYSTAL RADIO SET AND HEARD THE FIRST CALLS FOR HELP. HIS BROTHER WAS A SEAMAN, SO DAD KNEW WHAT THEY MEANT.
SO WHEN JFK DIED, WHEN POLIO AND AIDS AND THE COLD WAR AND 9/11 TERRIFIED US, DAD WASNíT SO IMPRESSED. HE COULD TELL US THAT LIFE, PART ONE AND TWO, GO ON.
THREE Ė IíM MORE INVOLVED IN THE AFFAIRS OF MY COHORT Ė IN THIS CASE SPECIFICALLY MY 7TH GRADE CLASS. WE STILL MEET, WE CRAB AND GROUSE ABOUT KNEES, PROSTATES, UNGRATEFUL KIDS, BUT WE ALSO SEE EACH OTHER AS WE WERE IN 1950. CERTAIN UNFULFILLED DESIRES STILL FILL THE AIR. WE MARVEL AT THE REALIZATION THAT WHEN WE WERE IN THE 7TH GRADE, PEOPLE OUR AGE NOW, PUSHING 70, OUR GRANDPARENTS, WERE ON THE SCRAP HEAP, NOT EXERCISING AND CERTAINLY NOT PLANNING THEIR NEXT FORMAL REUNION Ė WE HAVE THESE ENDLESS LUNCHES AND DINNERS AND E-MAIL ORGIES PLANNING IT . WE HAVE HAD REUNIONS IN WASHINGTON, D.C. SANTA FE AND LONDON Ė ALWAYS IN A PLACE WHERE ONE OF US LIVES AND CAN BE THE HOST.
THE CURRENT PLAN IS EITHER A REUNION IN BRAZIL Ė A SMALL CITY NORTH OF RIO WHERE TEDDY NOW LIVES Ė OR SOUTH BEACH, WHERE TEDDY ALSO NOW LIVES.
TEDDY BECAME A DENTIST, MARRIED, HAD TWO CHILDREN AND NOT ALL THAT LONG AGO REALIZED THAT FOR HIM LIFE PART II NEEDED TO BE VERY DIFFERENT FROM PART I Ė SO HE CAME OUT AND RAN OFF WITH A BRAZILIAN HEAVY-METAL DRUMMER AND NOW MANAGES HIS LOVERíS BAND. THEYíVE BEEN VERY HAPPY FOR THE PAST TEN YEARS OR SO. TEDDY WILL BE THE HOST OF OUR NEXT REUNION.
I DONíT WANT MY LIFE PART II TO BE THAT DRAMATIC Ė NOR DOES MY FAMILY Ė BUT ITíS GOOD TO KNOW YOU HAVE OPTIONS. OUR PROGRAM IS NOT ABOUT THAT KIND OF RADICAL CHANGE Ė ALTHOUGH THERE MAY BE SOMETHING RADICAL THESE DAYS ABOUT THINKING THAT OLDER PEOPLE ARE JUST PEOPLE WHO ARE OLDER, STILL USEFUL TO THEMSELVES AND TO OTHERS IF GIVEN THE CHANCE.
NAOMI AND HER GANG HAVE CREATED A GREAT SHOW WITH ONLY ONE FLAW - I WASNíT ABLE TO TELL MY WIFEíS FAVORITE JOKE -
OLD GUY RUNS INTO THE NURSING HOME AT DINNER TIME YELLING SUPERSEX, SUPERSEX, WHO WANTS SUPERSEX
AND ONE OF THE WOMEN SAYS, EHHH, IíLL TAKE THE SOUP.
IN LIFE PART II, WE WANT BOTH. THANK YOU.