“Getting knocked down is one thing—being a coward is something else.” So says, Sally Field who knows a thing or two about getting knocked down. She won her first Academy Award for her performance in the film, Norma Rae, (1979) but it was a role for which she was not the studio’s first choice but their sixth. Steven Spielberg also initially rejected Field to play Abraham Lincoln’s wife in his recent film about our 16th President. She persisted, however, and for her portrayal was nominated for an Academy Award. (“Field Trip,” by Janice Kaplan, Ladies Home Journal, May 2014 pg.48-53)
I’ve always admired Sally Field’s spunky attitude and was reminded of her the other day when I sat down to lunch with a group of women who had come to listen to my talk about changes in the publishing world. As it was an afternoon in the middle of the week, I wasn’t surprised to find my audience composed mainly of women in their 60s and beyond. As we talked over our mixed green salads, I listened to their stories and couldn’t help admiring their spunkiness, too. One had recently been widowed after a long, happy marriage. Another was coping with the aftermath of a stroke. A third was caring for an irascible mother who refused to admit she needed help.
Getting through life at any stage takes courage, despite the adage that it is required of the old. Challenges exist no matter the age and the key to surviving them is to look for the opportunities they provide. Take the woman with the irascible mother, for example. Each of us can understand the older woman’s fear of losing independence, but her refusal to plan for the inevitable ensures that one day her fate will be left in the hands of someone else, possibly a stranger.
Perhaps I was thinking about spunkiness, too, because I’ve recently decided to move into a retirement home. I admit I had to talk myself into the idea. But when I realized I would no longer be at the mercy of plumbers and roofers and house painters, I began to see advantages. No longer needing to shovel snow from the sidewalk or pick up dog poop from the parking strip are two additional benefits. These days, I think of myself as moving into a resort where someone else does the tedious work and comes running if I fall and can’t get up. All I had to do to arrive at my decision was to change the measuring stick I used to assess the quality of my life.
(First Published 5/12/14)