Monday, September 17, 2007

Letting Go With Grace

I was given a great gift in my life, starting as a very young girl. Our family's next door neighbor, Lucy, was already retired when I was about 5 years old. I was fortunate in that she seemed to really like me right off, and she always treated me like an actual person. Not all adults can do that with children, but Lucy really treated me with respect and equality. She was like another grandmother to me. From my earliest memories I can draw images of my nightly visits with her after dinner. My love affair with tea was born in her living room. Every night I would go over to Lucy's for "a spot of tea." We'd have tea and some sort of great cookies... ginger snaps or 'mystic mints' which were dipped in chocolate. I can smell and taste them as I type this!

I was an emotionally sensitive and often troubled child. My evenings with Lucy were a critically important, balancing, confidence boosting element in my early years. We talked about everything. She had a dollhouse full of miniature furnishings and even real lights that turned on and off. Another obsession was born in me for all things miniature!

She taught me to make little bookmark mice by sewing tear dropped shaped pieces of felt together and using cotton for stuffing. We used a hair ribbon for a tail and waxed thread for whiskers. My little mice became my equivalent to the barbie dolls that other girls played with! I was always a little... different. :) Those little mice were a huge part of my childhood. I created houses for them using a potato chip box and my dad's carpenter's pencils. Later, my very talented dad built me a wooden 'mouse house' with a footprint that was almost as large as a twin sized bed! He made one for my best friend as well, and we had such a great time creating our own unique floor plans, painting each room a different color, using carpet and linoleum scraps to decorate and coming up with ideas for how to build furniture out of scraps of wood, bottle caps, nails and basically anything else that our imaginations could create. It all started with Lucy.

I could write a book on all that I learned from Lucy. She was a strong, independent woman who had been married a couple times, basically raised her daughters on her own, never took 'guff' from anyone and lived exactly as she wanted to. I owe a lot of my current personality to the exposure that I had in early life to such an amazing and inspiring role model.

Lucy has always loved life and never let a little trouble get her down. She's been through a lot in her life, yet I've never known anyone with a more consistently optimistic attitude. She rolls with the punches and just keeps on truckin!

I had the great honor and privilege to attend her 100th birthday party in California a couple years ago. Lucy is still going strong! She still has her amazing, infectious laugh, and although she has a little trouble seeing and hearing these days, her attitude about life is as upbeat as it always was.

What impressed me most about seeing Lucy at age 100, was the way that she has let go of things that her aging body has required her to release. She had to stop driving a few years ago, which was a huge hit to her independence and freedom. Lucy was always going! She explained to me that it just became unsafe for her to drive and she willingly surrendered her car to her daughters. She didn't want to hurt anyone else or herself. "It was time," she told me. She moved into a retirement community a while back, and kept after her family until she was in the place that suited her. She walks 'laps' around the retirement home every day - 3 times in the morning and 3 times in the afternoon. She still loves to read and she still takes her showers at night (which is something she believes has helped her maintain her health all these years.)

Her walks are yet another area where Lucy is a perfect role model for us all in how to gracefully make changes and let things go as we need to. For a long time, she walked outside around the grounds to accomplish her walking goals. Then, she said, "As I was walking around on the sidewalk outside, I realized how much that would hurt if I fell down on the cement, so I decided it was time to take it inside." With that, she moved her 'lap walking' routine indoors to the carpeted hallways.

Her kids bought her a walker and for a long time it sat in the corner. "I wasn't ready yet and I didn't need it. I promised them I would use it when I needed it." That day came and she decided it was time for her to rely on that little bit of extra support and security, and she started using the walker.

She explained to me that once she started using the walker, she realized how many people in the home were using theirs incorrectly! They were all hunched over doing terrible things to their posture. So, Lucy decided to make it her personal mission to teach everyone in her retirement home how to walk properly (completely upright) with their walkers and save their spines. At 100, she was cruising around giving 'walker lessons' to all the folks in the home, many of them 20 or 30 years her junior!

Needless to say, Lucy is the treasure of her community. Everyone loves her. Everyone respects her. No one 'messes with her.' No one ever did!

As each passing year has brought new aches, pains and limitations to this amazing woman, she has simply let go of what she needed to with grace and dignity and has continued to look for what she can do - each and every day - to make her life meaningful and to contribute to the quality of life for those around her.

I will consider myself lucky to be half as enthusiastic and productive at her age (if I even make it that long)! Come to think of it... Lucy would say there is no luck involved. It is a choice that only I can make and act on. It's true for all of us.

This living legacy is a great example of what we all can do in this world, if we learn to let go of what's time has passed... and embrace what is - as enthusiastically and optimistically as we possibly can.

Some 40 years later... and Lucy is still helping me live a happier and more meaningful life. I will be forever greatful for her presence in my life.

Thanks for all the lessons Lucy!

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