FEATURED READER: SUSAN, age 73
Born and raised: New York Currently live: California
Pets: None at this time, though I have had dogs, cats, birds and fish in the past
Do you have a place where you feel happiest? Where is it? Right now I feel happiest in my little cottage in the woods in Marin County, CA
I feel like everyone, whether they know it or not, is driven by a question, and their life is lived in service of answering it. Do you have thoughts about this? Do you agree? Disagree? I do agree.
From an early age I was taught that being of service to others was a great life purpose. When young I was a Girl Scout, and took part in activities to help my community. When I grew up, my career was in Customer Service/Support.
I also owned and ran a successful restaurant in Mill Valley, CA from 1974-1977 that donated to many local clubs and activities.In addition, for 15 years I sang for people at the end of their lives with the Marin Threshold Choir. The choir started out as a local endeavor and grew to encompass over 2000 women in the US and many countries abroad.
What is the question your life is trying to answer? “How can I use my talents, money and interests to be of service to others, while also supporting myself and living my best life?”
What are your views on marriage? I was married for 18 years to a man 25 years older than me.
We had a lot in common early on, but as he grew older it became harder for me to relate to him, as he needed to slow down, and I was just hitting my stride. This caused irrevocable problems and the marriage ended. I have never wanted to remarry.
Growing up, did you have siblings? Did you get along? Where did you fall in birth order? I had twin brothers who were 2 years younger than me. We got along pretty well, and once we were adults we really liked each other a lot.
One of them passed away at the end of 2020 as collateral damage to Covid. The other lives across the country, but we communicate almost daily.
Do you have a singular passion? More like multiple – I love cooking and enjoying food. And gardening, and walking in Nature
Do you have a favorite book or poem? Cross Creekby Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings is my favorite non-fiction book, and I reread it every few years. I also deeply enjoy detective fiction by women writers like Laurie R. King, Rys Bowen, Nancy Atherton, Elizabeth Peters, Sue Grafton, Louise Penney and Jacqueline Winspear, each of whom has written series with wonderful characters.
I love the poetry of Rumi, especially this poem.
Do you, or did you have a career? What was it?
Initially I went to college to become an art teacher, but the birth rate had dropped in the early 1970’s and schools were being closed. So I went to work as a grocery clerk, where I met my husband, who was a customer.
The short version of our romance is the he checked ME out!
We opened a restaurant together a few short months after we married, and ran it for three years. Afterward, he became a cabinet maker and carpenter, and I went into sales, marketing and customer service, working for a variety of local businesses, and even helping to start a secretarial recruiting company in San Francisco.
What do you find are the four hardest things about aging as relates to your physical body? Loss of physical strength, loss of hearing, loss of memory, and loss of bladder control!
What do you find are the four hardest things about aging as relates to your mental health? I have to constantly fight loneliness, physical decline, pain and worry about money.
Why do you think that America overlooks its elderly population? Our culture worships Youth. When elders are slow, hard of hearing or otherwise impaired, l feel that there is little compassion on the part of many younger people to understand and be willing to accommodate us.
Are we afraid, and if so, what are we afraid of? I don’t feel we’re afraid of the elderly, per se. Some people may shy away from them because they fear their own aging or death. Others may feel that the elderly are taking up space and precious resources. In my personal experience, I feel loved and respected by those close to me, for my wisdom and humor.
Do you think we’d be better off if life and death were topics that we all grew up learning about in school? Yes, I do. I was about 6 years old when my aunt’s only son passed away in his sleep.
My parents brought me to the funeral. My aunt questioned why my mother did so, and mother replied “She has to learn sometime.”
My father nearly died of a heart attack two years later, and I learned that my parents were also mortal. In 2002 I joined the Threshold Choir and learned to sing gentle songs for those in struggle, to prepare me to handle my own mother’s death, which didn’t happen until 2008.
I was able to sing a her bedside as she went down the path to the end, It was a most blessed form of service.
When you look with clarity at the world today, what is your fear for future generations? Each generation has had its trials and tribulations to figure out. I feel that the future will either bring lasting peace, or our species will end up dying out, like so many millions of others. But I am betting that the next generations will figure it out, and continue to evolve.
What would you tell them right now if you had their ear?
I would tell them to always seek the path that comes from Love, and Honesty and Faith.
Is there something you’d like us to know about you, or life as you see it, that I didn’t ask? What is it?
The poem “Desiderata” by Max Ehrmann has guided me for many years. These last few lines are what I truly believe:
“And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”