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                                            “We're the Live Wires!

                                       

Did I hear that correctly? Did he say “We’re the Live Wires!”? Upon inquiry the older gentleman confirmed the statement. He was a member of a senior adult group at a large local church. His group of seniors had chosen the name “Live Wires” to reflect both their personality and their purpose. Intrigued by the term I listened with great interest as this particular Live Wire described some of their recent activities and several upcoming events. This group appears to practice a good balance of social interaction and service involvement. Fellowship is clearly an important feature of their time together, but they also believe in putting their spiritual faith into action through meaningful service activities. By the time the speaker concluded his presentation I had made my own conclusion: every person traveling the Seniors Highway should be a Live Wire!

What does the term “live wire” suggest to you? My first reaction related to an electrical wire. I recalled the unexpected experience of touching a live electrical wire during the repair of a wall receptacle. The result was shocking! Well, thankfully, not too shocking. No serious damage was done and I made a quick trip to the circuit box to turn off the circuit breaker. We understand that a live electrical wire has the inherent power not only to shock a careless repairman but also to fulfill its primary purpose, that is, to provide energy to light a lamp or to cool a house. In contrast, a dead wire might look good but it lacks the inherent energy to provide the service for which it was intended. Furthermore, an electrical wire connected to an appliance or fixture must be plugged into a “live” receptacle for the power to get to the object you want to work properly. No doubt you’re already considering potential applications to senior adults. As we try to adjust to life in the later years we certainly need lots of “juice” or power to enable us to achieve the purposes and tasks that are important to us. Hopefully, we can all see how this “live wire” concept is very fitting for a group of travelers along the Seniors Highway who want to be useful, productive, and vibrant during their later years.  

  

                                                      “Older and Wiser!”

                                       
Is that what you prefer for yourself as your travel down the Seniors Highway—to be older and wiser? That choice reminds me of a birthday card I saw a few years ago that included the question, “Are you older and wiser—or just older?” Clearly, the process of aging (getting older) may or may not include the process of growing wiser. I also recall another birthday card I bought and gave to a friend who was celebrating a “sixties-range” birthday. The card I purchased for this friend included the following message: “Aging is inevitable; maturing is optional.” In my personal handwritten message I complimented the individual on successfully completing the optional component. The message in that card has prompted within me an assessment of my personal journey. Frankly, I’m all for aging (especially when I consider the alternative) but even more so I want to be maturing as each birthday comes and goes. I wish that maturation and wisdom could be automatic results of the aging process, but such is not the case. Aging is simply a matter of letting nature take its course; maturing requires a great deal of continual commitment and appropriate action.
 

In a prior article (Part One) we looked at the “A” letter of the word “AGE” in terms of acceptance:  “Accept Your Longevity!” In this article (Part Two) we want to explore the issue of growth suggested by the letter “G” in the word “AGE.” As we age we need to “Grow in Learning.” At what point in life should we stop learning—and growing? Infants who do not grow might be described with the phrase “failure to thrive.”  People in the later years can have a similar problem with a failure to thrive simply by a lifestyle of non-growth. Growth comes with learning, so our challenge is to continue learning. Since we learn in order to grow it makes sense that we would want to grow in our learning! Our commitment is to life-long learning; there is no point in life in which we should stop learning. That commitment certainly includes learning throughout the later years. Time and space do not permit us in this brief article to identify and explore all of the areas of life during our later years in which learning and growth are important. As I consider my own travels along the Seniors Highway I have particular interest in three specific growth areas: wisdom, worth, and wellness. These three areas are vital components to safe and successful travels along the Seniors Highway. I invite you to examine these issues with me in relation to your own personal journey through the later years.

  

                                       “I’m Eighty-Four and Counting!”

             
Are you interested in longevity? Before you respond please allow me to phrase my question in a different way. Are you interested in being eighty-five years old? Here’s why I’m asking you that question. Several years ago I coordinated a seminar entitled “The Later Years” that focused on some of the issues related to the aging process. I invited a specialist in gerontology to provide our keynote lesson. His opening question was both startling and stimulating. He simply asked, “Who in his right mind would ever want to be eighty-five years old?” My initial mental response was, “No one! Not me—that’s just too old.” Following a pause for impact the speaker answered his own question with “I’ll tell you:  the person who is eighty-four years old!” Our smiles and chuckles covered the realization that his statement is true. Let’s face it; his statement makes sense. If I’m eighty-four, then I want to be eighty-five. Literally, I’m eighty-four and counting! In fact, at the age of eighty-five the age of ninety is looking better all the time. If I heard the speaker’s question at this point in my life, I would respond without reservation:  “Eighty-five! Bring it on!”
 

Until recent times the age of eighty-five was a mere dream, a goal far beyond the reach of the majority of people on our planet. Nowadays more and more people believe in a life expectancy that exceeds the proverbial “three-score and ten.” With modern medicine and terrific technology our description of longevity is continually changing. The number of octogenarians increases with each decade, and many more people are living even into the upper nineties. However, while we welcome the additional longevity we also must face the challenges that are generated by the longer lifespan. If we want to excel with life in our later years we must cultivate the attitudes and demonstrate the actions that promote safe and successful travels along the Seniors Highway.

                                                        "I Want a Divorce!"     

                             
For fifteen years Barry and Barbara had traveled the Marriage Highway in a journey that was mixed with periods of contented happiness and episodes of painful conflict. In recent years life had become much more complicated and stressful for each of them as roles and responsibilities increased. They began arguing more and more about issues related to managing the finances, parenting their two children, and coping with personal stresses. During one such argument Barbara’s frustration reached an all-time high, and she blurted out, “I want a divorce!” Initially her statement shocked Barry, but he knew that the same thought had also crossed his mind. Out of his own deep frustration he responded, “Perhaps you’re right. Maybe divorce would be the thing for us to do.”
 

Can you connect with Barry and Barbara? Have you considered an exit from your marriage through a divorce? If you have, you can identify with many married couples who choose to divorce. The prevalence of divorce in our culture is corroborated by the fact that 50% of first marriages and over 60% of subsequent marriages end in divorce. Public media and persuasive movies seem to encourage the choice of divorce at whatever point a spouse becomes unhappy in the marriage relationship. The signs along the Marriage Highway tempt us to consider the divorce exit. The billboards portray divorce as an attractive option, and the exit to Divorce City promises “greener grass” ahead. As the marital journey becomes more stressful the temptation to exit becomes more appealing. Many couples succumb to the temptation and later see their divorces included in the local newspaper’s Relationship Obituaries column (also known as the Divorces Granted column).

  

                                        Goodwill Road—Next Exit!

             
A few months ago I was driving across northern Louisiana on Interstate-20 and noticed an intriguing exit sign that read “Goodwill Road.” I took the exit and paused long enough at Goodwill Road to take a photograph of the actual road sign itself. If time had allowed, I would have driven north to explore the town or community of Goodwill. However, since my travel schedule was not that flexible, I could only visit Goodwill in my imagination as I continued in my journey. I wondered about the people who lived in Goodwill and their personal relationships. Did the name of the road reflect accurately the basic lifestyle of the residents? Was their community really a place where goodwill was both preached and practiced? What would it be like to live in a place named Goodwill? Months later I’m still pondering these questions. Perhaps on a future trip I’ll take that exit and explore life in Goodwill.
 

My questions and ponderings about Goodwill, Louisiana led me to imagine the implications of traveling through life on the Goodwill Highway. More specifically, I began to consider the issue of “goodwill relationships.” What would life be like in a goodwill relationship? What does a goodwill relationship look like—or feel like? What would happen within our society if every marriage was literally a goodwill relationship? Additionally, what would occur if every human friendship was a goodwill relationship? Is having a goodwill relationship the ultimate goal for our relationships? If so, what’s the roadmap for reaching that destination? If these questions intrigue you as they did me, please journey with me as we explore further the Goodwill Highway. 

  

                                        “There’s No Time to Rest.”

       
That was Jerry’s* response to his wife’s request for a stop at the next interstate rest center. He was driving like he worked—no stopping until he achieved his goal. Jane was aching from the past three hours of constant travel but her workaholic husband seemed oblivious to her request. She knew that his timetable was an arbitrary schedule he had chosen before leaving home. His custom was to set a time for arrival at his mother’s house—exactly eight hours from departure. His margin of error was only five minutes (plus or minus), meaning that any stop had to be an emergency with minimal time lost. For Jerry, achieving that goal would result in a bit of boasting; being “late” would lead to hours of irritability and moodiness. Over the years Jane had learned to adjust to his demanding travel pattern, but now she was reaching her limit. Thankfully, their three children were almost grown. They had suffered many miserable trips with a father who refused to deviate from his self-determined schedule. Jane closed her eyes and tried to doze, hoping that the hours would pass more quickly. She pondered the growing resentment she felt toward Jerry. Her anger increased as she questioned, “Why does he have to be a workaholic in everything he does?”
 

Unfortunately, Jane’s assessment was correct. Jerry was a devoted traveler on the Workaholism Highway. During their eighteen years of marriage he had acknowledged on several occasions that he knew he was a workaholic.  Added to her frustration was the apparent pride he took in his work style. She had heard him brag to friends about the overtime hours he was working and the consecutive days he had worked without time off. Jane was also correct in her assessment that Jerry was oblivious to the stress he had brought upon his family and the many ways they had suffered as a result of his relentless pattern. He was unaware of the continuing damage being done to their marriage and the growing distance between them. In her hopelessness she was convinced that Jerry would not change his lifestyle even if he knew his marriage was literally at stake. For Jane, the marital future felt ominous and overwhelming. She knew from eighteen years of personal experience that the relationship highway with Jerry would always be a rough road to travel.  
 

Jane’s feelings of disappointment and resentment are typical of individuals who are in relationships with workaholics. However, workaholism is usually much more than a relationship issue. On a personal level many long-term workaholics eventually become disillusioned with their own lifestyle. In spite of hours worked and goals achieved they feel empty, numb, and burned out. For many of them serious health problems occur which serve as a major wake-up call and a motivation to travel a safer highway in life. Because workaholism poses such a serious threat to both individual and relationship health and happiness we would do well to consider the problem itself as well as potential solutions.

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