"You and you alone choose moment by moment who and how you want to be in the world." Such is the life challenge offered by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, who has thought more about motivation than most people: her life depended on it. At age 37, Dr. Taylor had a massive stroke. A Harvard trained neuroanantomist, she diagnosed the trauma as it was happening. She was also aware of the long, uphill battle she would have to face to fully recover. The process took eight years, supported by caring professionals and the fierce love of her devoted mother. When she talks about intentional living, owning your power, and finding peace, you know you should pay attention.
Dr. Taylor wrote about her experience and lessons learned in her book, My Stroke of Insight. She explains neurocircuitry and cortical organization, but in more everyday language, she encourages us to tend the "gardens of our minds" and show up for our lives. In her final chapter she states her right hemisphere consciousness is driven by the wisdom of Gandhi: "We must be the change we want to see in the world."
As the years mount in our lives, there's a certain pattern that appears. We grow up, we take care of loved ones, and then we have the chance to grow up again. I have friends who are learning new languages, mastering their golf swings, perfecting yoga poses, even working their way through Proust's seven volume In Search of Time. Some are also CASA volunteers, serving on non-profit boards, and devoting January through April helping those with limited resources file their taxes. I admire those who decide it's never too late learn to play the cello, but I'm most curious why some also welcome Dr. Taylor's challenge to "take that next giant leap for mankind...so we can evolve this planet into the peaceful and loving place we yearn for it to be."
It's remarkable there are individuals who complete 48 hours of training and then spend over 5 hours every week advocating for the needs and rights of residents in long term care facilities. Most of them were not social workers in their previous lives. This was not their training or career experience, but something urged them to step outside of their comfort zone and choose a new way of being. It's referred to as volunteering because it's done willingly and without pay. I prefer to think of offering one's skills, time and determination as civic and social engagement; it's a risk and a commitment that says I'm going to be part of something bigger than myself. My friends who help children learn to read, deliver nutritious meals to seniors, or advocate for pedestrian safety, often reflect on what they would miss if they weren't involved. The followup question is: what the world would miss without their courage and commitment?
AARP has a website, " Create the Good", which connects people's interests with opportunities for involvement. It's a great place to start when you're thinking about being the change you "want to see in the world". Locally, AARP is looking for volunteers to step up and lead their communities towards Age-Friendly practices, improving the livability for people of all ages. The rewards will be mutual and opportunity for growth guaranteed. Ethel Andrus Percy suggests this: "We learn the inner secret of happiness when we learn to direct our inner drives, our interest and attention to something besides ourselves." Or as Dr. Taylor would say, find and own your power.
Click here to learn more about AARP Oregon’s Age-Friendly Member and Volunteers events coming up on March 4 and 12 th.
Welcome to Livable Oregon.
What makes a community livable? What do neighborhoods need to help people of all ages live active, engaged lives? Livable Oregon explores the features of age-friendly communities, the people who help create them, and what we can do to make our neighborhoods in Oregon a great place for everyone.
This blog takes its lead from the AARP Livable Communities Initiative which seeks to improve the quality of life for older adults by promoting the development of safe, accessible, and vibrant environments. AARP Livable Communities policies address issues such as land use, housing, and transportation which are vital to developing communities that facilitate aging in place.
About our lead blogger:
My name is Elaine Friesen-Strang. I understand the need for lifelong, livable communities as a mother who raised two children, a daughter who helped care for her father, a professional guardian who served adults with developmental disabilities, and a woman who is experiencing the mixed blessings of aging. Volunteering for AARP empowers me to help make my neighborhood and city a more livable, sustainable place for people of all ages.