As I was catching up on my magazine subscriptions, of which there are so many, I came across an article about how to live longer. The article toted expert advice from “really” old people around the world and what they had to say was profound, comedic, sensible, and sometimes crazy. In other words, it was exactly as it should be. There is no formula that guarantees we get to be one hundred and twenty two like the oldest person on record, even if we do swear by a Mediterranean diet. We could go out and an exercise everyday and focus on low inflammation, heart healthy diet and still not exceed fifty. Life has zero guarantees and that my friend is 100% accurate. Sure people don’t want to think about the fact that we all eventually die, but we are the only species who seems to constantly reflect on that fact. And while it is most definitely true, so what. I still think I’ll pass on Tim McGraw’s vocal wisdom to “live like you were dying” because I think making hasty choices with that in mind is equally as ridiculous as hiding from the possibility. The magazine article didn’t have any definite plans for longevity but suggested that people live longer when they live in a state of happy. Now that doesn’t mean one should be so optimistic that they overlook potential issues but nor should a person be so anxiety ridden that they stress them selves out to the point of creating issues.
Finding a state of happy isn’t easy, but the article boasted one simple way of doing that and increasing both your life line and laugh lines, make friends. And maybe you don’t need more friends, but then you should nurture the friendships you already have. Cultivate your relationship by keeping in touch, making real plans, going on adventures, be congratulatory when it applies and sympathetic when it’s needed, just be a good friend. I thought about it in my own life and I like to think I work hard to cultivate my relationships in an earnest way, but I’ve also come to the conclusion that I can do better. I can make sure to call that friend from college I haven’t talked to in a few months, send an I was thinking of you note to my bestie in California, shoot a text message to my “almost” sister in law and soon to be maid of honor. I can make sure I check in with my colleague who I rarely see even though we are stationed down the hall from one another. Those are the things that matter. Think about how much happier you are when you are sharing an experience with a friend, or laughing about an inside joke that only you and she or he might understand. The other day, I was watching How I Met Your Mother with Josh (and yes I know we’re behind the times) when Barney referenced Terrence Trent D’Arby and I knew in my soul I had to send one of my best and oldest friends, Tammy, a message to let her know about the reference for reasons only she could understand. And she did and then sent me a message when the show she was watching made a reference several days later. It was meant to be. I love moments like that! I love finding secret messages in my mailbox from a high school friend, turned colleague, stating that she’s happy we are in high school together again. Day made, instantly. The friend connection makes even the worst day bearable so imagine how much better it can make an already great day.
I was thinking about these connections and how they come to be. Some people you happen upon, others you chased from a class once so you could force a meeting just a little quicker (Sorry about that Camille, still glad it happened!), sometimes you meet them at work or through other friends. No matter how it happens those connections matter. My most recent connection has been with my donor. I wrote her a letter of gratitude for saving my life several months ago and thanks to some red tape, I just received her letter five months after she sent it, but so what. How awesome is that?! I opened the mail and there was this beautifully penned letter, hand stamped with a gorgeous bird on it. She clearly has my affinity for stationary, which is an added bonus. I learned that she is just an incredible human, which I already knew but now I’m sure of it and I look forward to cultivating that friendship. I already purchased some new stationary to write back. I look forward to the day when I can someday say thank you in person for giving me a second chance at a life I wouldn’t have had otherwise. We are infinitely connected.
I like to connect with people and finding out that it may help lengthen my life makes it even better. Other suggestions were to maintain faith in something, whether that be religious or spiritual or something else. I had a student recently ask my why religion matters and what would happen if it was taken away like Stalin did in Soviet Russia and I said that people would struggle with the absence of hope and find ways to reignite it. I believe that, hope and faith offers solace. It may not fix the world’s problems, of which there are many, but it may offer some comfort to those who believe in it.
So while there is no formula for how to get to be a hundred, I would say that making and keeping friends, having faith in your life, and finding your happy makes for the years you are granted all that much better. I think of Josh’s grandmother who has a social calendar that makes mine look sad. At ninety five, she gets out and walks daily with her furry companion, attends Church services, belongs to a book club, frequents the theater, turns up the volume on the Red Sox, wins pretty much every game of corn hole, still golfs, and sends e-cards and real cards for all sorts of occasions. I think she’s pretty remarkable but more importantly I think she figured out what makes her happy a long time ago. I hope when I’m that age, my social calendar is full and I’m still sharing inside jokes with my favorite people.