A Centenarian's Happy Hour

The more I write, the more my brain connects with the universal truths that bring together this incredible human experiment.  In less than one weeks time, I have been able to share significant experiences with people that I vibe with that span every decade of life.  I’m feeling grateful today for the opportunity I have to go from the Six Man in Manhattan Beach to happy hour with a centenarian in just a few days time. I talk a lot about the care I take and satisfaction I find raising my kids, who span just a seven year age range from 18 to 11, but today I’m thinking about what makes life great in the decades after we become independent adults, and how what we learn and pass on forms the generations that come after us. 

Tonight I had the privilege to be invited to “happy hour” with an incredible 100 year old man, Jack.  I’ve written about Jack and his wife before…six kids and 24 grandkids, a generational family business, and so much in common with the way I was raised, and the history that connects us and forms the people that we are. 

For a little backstory on Jack click here: 

https://theoptimistsjournal.com/blog/2018/6/6/as-fate-would-have-it

It’s amazing to take in the energy, flair and competence that goes into an almost 70 year marriage and the stories that go along with it. Their vibrance at 100 and 90 respectively has such an effect on my outlook, as I sit at 43, afraid that I have so much left to learn and do, and not enough life left to accomplish it.  They have the ability to take life at a pace that is both awe inspiring for people their age, and yet so comfortable that I felt at home letting them be the hosts, never feeling like my presence was a burden…what a blessing to be a part of.  

This morning I sit, finding clarity in the attributes and mindsets that connect the human spirit across these generations that I am fortunate to have in my life.  People who help shape me into the person that I am…one that can navigate the 405, while listening to George Strait, talk California history with the greats and analyze both my potential and my missteps and how to evolve.  I am so grateful for the people in my life that help me find peace with my past, enjoyment in the present, and hope for the future.  As I like to do, boiling these truths down into simple words, today I am paying attention to the attributes that create driven contentment in this crazy world. 

Observance - Greatness seems to be born first in the ability to observe others.  The people I am most drawn to are not usually the loudest in the room, they are actually the ones who, although not afraid to contribute, often sit back, take things in, and quietly learn from human behavior. From that place we develop a keen understanding of when to act but also how to improve ourselves. What we learn from observance of others, not always having to be the one at the forefront with our own story, and acknowledging that there is both time to learn and teach, is a hallmark of success over generations and time. 

Passion - Beginning with advice from my dad and progressing to my observance of human condition over my life, the presence of passion is critical to a life well lived.  We are all capable of finding what makes us excited to get up in the morning, but that doesn’t mean that we all do. Our passions can evolve and change over a lifetime, but without one, life is shorter, smaller and offers less to the world than what we were meant for.  We only get one go around, and the greats use their passion to define their purpose and inspire others to do the same.

Routine - I am so grateful that I have a personality that finds satisfaction in routine. Routine creates consistency in small things over time that build to great success.  Routine is inspiring to me because, so often today, we are looking for big results from lesser amounts of discipline and action.  Instant gratification, born of the thousands of choices that are readily available to us at the drop of a hat, does not lend itself to the type of long standing success that comes from good habits. Routine itself is not something that is acknowledged or gratified in the moment, but as time goes on, the rise to greatness is always grounded in consistency.  From the athletes I observe honing their craft in the South Bay to the 100 year old who’s answer last night to the question “What are you going to do tomorrow?” was “the same thing I did today”, routine is an integral part of creating and sustaining greatness in every season of life.

Relationships - Over time, relationships are perhaps the most important marker of a life well lived.  Caring for people, forming authentic connections, understanding a perspective that is different than our own and allowing it to have an effect on us, is something that requires a lot of intimacy and sacrifice.  So often, our defense mechanisms and egos will push us away from developing these types of deep relationships, but the greats, over time, seem to know the meaning of this connection. 

The level of care that I observed in the room last night, both spoken and unspoken, (at what will now be called “The Centenarian’s Happy Hour”) is something that I strive to emulate in my life and also look to have returned.  When relationships have mutual benefit, human potential that was good before becomes great. 

Memories - The longevity of memory, and how we keep those memories alive, was something that really struck me throughout the conversation last night.  To listen to people who can speak firsthand of huge stories like the day Martin Luther King was assassinated to the personal and vivid stories of raising children who are older than me, inspires me to keep my brain vibrant and alive.  People who connect to their past and can learn from the perspective it provides, lead rich lives and offer so much to younger generations, if we take the time to listen. Part of what I hope to achieve through my writing, which was reinforced by my friends last night, is the importance of telling our stories. In doing this, we teach younger generations the great connections we all share, why we attract what we do and how we are meant to live in community, strengthening each other.  

As I finish my thoughts, that have been dancing in my head since I got home last night, taking in the scene at Pleasure Point in Santa Cruz, where Matthew is having the surf lesson he has been asking for the last year, my two middle kids kayaking with the their closest childhood friends, and my oldest, who held the crew together until I could get here to enjoy,  is independent enough to return home on her own, I realize that the brief few days we have had to spend together, without agenda or hectic life schedule, has been marked by all these qualities.  Observance of greatness, passion for our active lifestyle and simple routine (thanks for the pancakes and bacon as always Sarah!), relationships span 20+ years and mean so much, and memories that we will carry with us forever, I am again overwhelmed with gratitude for the life and opportunities that lay before me…and hoping that I get the opportunity to host a Centenarian’s Happy Hour someday.