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Learning how to gather the blessings age has to offer

By MARY JANE PARK

© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 28, 2001


However old we are, birthdays that end in zeroes are regarded as milestones. I just celebrated my 50th, joining thousands of other baby boomers whom we are already sick of reading about.

The invitation to join AARP came, and I paid my $10, figuring the magazine and travel discounts were worth it.

I haven't yet had my middle-age crisis, haven't bought a red sports car, haven't taken up with an intern. (That's a joke.) I did purchase an Amtrak Florida Rail Pass and am planning my first trip to Paris next year. I have noticed a shift in my priorities.

Once upon a time, my goal was to get skinny. I've lost hundreds of pounds throughout my life; even so, I've always been overweight. I now realize that if thinness is my primary goal, I have to devote at least as much time to it as I do to my work.

A friend of mine did that -- twice. He sold his business, a deli, and enrolled in a residential university medical center weight-reduction program in which participants focus almost wholly on portion control, exercise and emotional issues.

Both times, he took off more than 200 pounds. Both times, when he returned to civilian life, much of the weight came back.

My hope these days is more realistic: It is to be healthy in all aspects of living. I may never get below chubbette, but I walk for fitness nearly every day, and I take a yoga class. My house has two flights of steps, which I climb six or seven times a day; I'm riding the elevator less often at the office. I clean my plate less frequently, especially at restaurants where one serving is sufficient to feed several people. I eat more fruits and vegetables.

My father died last year. Because he is gone, I visit with my mother more often, and we are enjoying a deepening friendship. My siblings and their families and I, separated geographically, talk with each other more.

I am neither married nor in a romantic relationship, nor am I a loner. I am blessed to have extraordinary friends who vary in age and marital status and interests. I am an active parishioner in my Episcopal church, and I believe in the power of prayer.

I am a perpetual student: I cannot ever read enough books, hear enough music or learn as much as I want.

Like most of you, I worry little about aging itself, although I'm not crazy about wrinkles, sagging places or reading glasses. What terrifies me is the prospect of being old and sick.

The stories in today's Seniority are a road map for all of us who hope to age well.

If our bodies are not temples, they at least can become revival tents. We can do better, no matter what the raw material. We can start with small steps and work toward the long run. We can stretch our minds, observe spiritual practices and love our families and friends.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe observed: "There are eight requisites for contented living: health enough to make work a pleasure; wealth enough to support your needs; strength to battle with difficulties and overcome them; grace enough to confess your sins and forsake them; patience enough to toil until some good is accomplished; charity enough to see some good in your neighbor; faith enough to make real the things of God; and hope enough to remove all anxious fear concerning the future."

For all of us, I wish such a life.

- Seniority editor Mary Jane Park can be reached at (727) 893-8267 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 8267. Write to her in care of the St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731; park@sptimes.com

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