Sunday, January 06, 2008

LIVING LIFE WITH A CAPITAL L...Lessons From Bert Salisbury!

I teach an Intercultural Communication class where the theme of the course is "Seeing Yourself And Others Through New Eyes." The notion is that many of us, including me, live in a rut! We have pre-determined ways of doing things and ways of thinking about things and other people. We see ourselves and others, in a limited way and often play out our days taking few real risks.

What kind of risks you might ask? Risks to eat new foods, go to a movie you usually wouldn't see, try a new sport you think you can't do, get to really know someone before casting a judgement on who they are...the list goes on and on.

Recently one of my students asked me a very thought-provoking question. She said, "When you were my age (30), and thought about being in your sixties, did you come close to imagining what it would really be like?" Can I just add here that I absolutely LOVE how smart and insightful my students are, especially when they are in an environment that encourages independent thinking.

She went on to ask if other people who were sixty or older sometimes looked at me and thought I was just nuts for how I lived my life. "Well, Virginia" ...quoting a famous letter about Santa Claus..."probably so." But let's not stereotype all people in their sixties.

I then asked her "How do you experience most people my age?" She replied, "I experience them as predictable and cautious. My Mom and Grandma are really afraid to be visible, with their opinions, lives, or hurts. They just live with a lower case l."

I've thought about what she said all weekend. Perhaps I should write a book about "Learning To Live Life with a Capital L." And I do mean "learning" as I am learning too.

It's easy for life to get very predictable at any age. The "rut', or all too familiar pattern of life, is taking the comfortable road and not going outside your comfort zone. The "rut" is not taking risks...and by risks I mean learning about new parts of life, not by reading about them on the computer, but by really experiencing what that new way of life has to offer. Short answer...stop being SO AFRAID of change. Or perhaps on my fear!

My role model for being adventursome and living Life with a capital L is my beloved husband Bert. Bert is 73, but not a typical 73 year old (if there is such a thing). Bert is amazing...a wealth of knowlege about windsurfing (he named the sport and helped to develop it), world history, nutrition and health, exercise (he has a gym on our top floor and can do 43 full pushups..I've seen him do them), mental health and addiction issues, family dynamics and systems, the candidates for the current election, gardening (he is a master gardener), Native-American artifacts and history, the Lewis and Clark Trail, rocks, worms...the list is endless. Bert reads every night and he often reads outloud to improve his "reading out loud skills" for his poetry class. You see Bert didn't read until he was 19 because of dyslexia.

Beside all of this, and living his life courageously, Bert is an amazing husband, Papa,
Boppa and Grandpa. As a husband he has loved me completely for 25 years, adored me, done conflict with me, and kept every wedding vow he made. As a Papa to Jessi and Amy he has been SO unselfish and loving. He never made the girls compete with him for my attention. He
knew the kind of Mom I was and that meant that often the girls came first.

He won my heart when he let Jessi and Amy vote on whether he could come into our family. They have always been his daughters, even though not biologically. He once told me, after meeting the girls, "It was lucky I met you first because I feel in love with them the moment I met them." He build tree houses for them, brought dry clothes for them at school, stood up for them, and watched their boyfriend like a protective hawk! He taught them how to drive his old truck and wouldn't let me come because he knew I would scare them to death every time I pumped an invisible brake on my side!

And as a Boppa or Grandpa..well there are no words. He loves those grandbabies, no matter their age, with every cell in his body. Have you ever seen Boppa with Jacob? It's like watching true love in action! He has danced with Emma and done marching bands with her through our living room, talked Indian artifacts with Zac, had long talks with Kayla about counseling and why he does that (she asked!), and made countless drawings of aliens with Jacob!

Bert's life has not always been easy or predictable. He has overcome huge challenges like growing up in an alcoholic family, chrones disease, and surviving cancer! Yet Bert could be easily overlooked and misunderstood because he is older and sometimes quiet and humble in gatherings with many people. He is not one to "toot his own horn".

I cannot tell you how many people miss out on who he is because they don't take the time to get to know him. They are in a "rut" about how they see Bert and relate to him. They
forget to ask about and listen to his "story".

Bert teaches me every day about getting out of my "rut" and taking new risks. If we go to a restaurant, Bert will try the item on the menu that he has never eaten before. He'll order squid even though others may say " Squid, Yuk!"...even though they have never tried it. Bert is an amazing psychotherapist who still has a full-time practice. He will tell you, "You know, I am so blessed. I am getting better at this every day. I learn so much from my clients. I am there to serve them." What is also unique is that 1/3 of Bert's practice is "pro-bono" which means that he gives free counseling to those who cannot afford it or don't have insurance. On the other side of the fence, he also works with CEOs who run gigantic corporations.

Bert, on Mondays, is in a poetry class. He has done this for four years now. His poetry touches my heart as he writes about Jacob, Emma, Jenna, Kayla, Zac, Jessi, :), his experiences as a paratrooper, his hopes and dreams, his growth at 73!

It was Bert whose interest got us to Bethel AME, a small, primarily African-American church on the south hill. He had heard about Lonnie Mitchell...he wanted to stretch his faith so he went. I, however, was very reluctant to go. I had lots of questions and concerns...fears really. How did the women dress? What was the service like? How was this similar or different from the churches I was "comfortable" with?

Well, I'm here to tell you, it is VERY different. People know you, greet you, hug matter the color of your skin. The music is totally unbelievable! It is a Gospel choir! It's a party for Jesus every week. The service is two hours long.

Now before you say..."oh, how awful. I could never go to a church for two hours! How boring!"...(ie out of your comfort zone)...have you ever been to THIS church for two hours? I would liken it to going to a ZAGS game for two hours...not boring!

Had I not stretched myself and gone outside my comfort zone, I would have missed out on an AMAZING, Life-Changing experience! And that is Life with a capital L!

So here's to taking risks at 60...almost 61! :) Here's to trying new things, reading new books, going outside my views! Here's to really seeing myself and others through NEW eyes! Here's to being more like my beloved Bert in 2008!

God Bless! Love and Hugs to all who read this! Love, Linda


The Farrell Family said...

Boppa is one of the best people that I know. He has an amazing heart for the Lord. He is generous and kind. I appreciate that he includes my family in his life because we are blessed by his presence. He is a role model for how to take life by the horns.

WE LOVE YOU BOPPA (and you too Nans)

Nana Boppa Yeah!

LORIE said...

What a beautiful tribute to your husband. Thank you for your comments, thoughts, and prayers.

Kayla Jode said...

Boppa is such a wonderful person! I love you all tons!

Anonymous said...

Wow! What a tribute to a wonderful man. Keep on with your zest for life and the Lord, experiencing new adventures that He has ploanned.
Love, Eileen

jessithompson said...

Boppa is amazing, kind, wise, creative, hard-working, generous... he's a one-of-a-kind. I also love how he loves you. Wonderful post, mom. XOXO

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Kim said...

Love it. Life with a capital "L". This could be a book you know...if you get a little extra time on your hands. :-)

I love the heart and soul in what you write and share Linda. You are amazing.

Kim M.

Anonymous said...

Hi Auntie Punk,

What amazing grandparents you guys are! Fun to see pictures and hear the latest. Miss you.

Love you,

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