I'll Have What They're Having

Please meet two of my favorite friends: Margery and Joel.

Margery is one of the smartest, loveliest and most vibrant women I’ve ever met. She is a great lunch date, has a heart of gold and tons of stamina.

Well-loved for his generosity, sweet nature and sense of humor, Joel also happens to be a man of excellent taste and intellect. He’s an enthusiastic foodie who cooks for himself when he’s not dining out with friends or family.

Though these two fine folks barely know each other, they have one very important thing in common - ME! Margery is my next door neighbor and Joel is not just my friend - he’s my dad. I have proximity to some serious greatness here! Hello Margery! Hello Joel! How do you both do? I can tell you that at ages 85 and 82 respectively, they’re both doing quite magnificently, thank you very much.

Recently, Margery joined my teenage daughter, Lexy, and me for a ladies’ day of lunch and fun in New York City. Up and down multiple sets of subway steps she went, with a smile on her face and unbridled enthusiasm for whatever the day had to offer. Joel, who lives in Brooklyn, drives into Manhattan’s Upper East Side several times each week for meetings, lunch dates, lectures and worship at his beloved synagogue. Both are also avid patrons of the arts and have full social calendars.

Speaking of patrons of the arts with full social calendars, celebrities are also pretty busy people, just like Margery and Joel. And these days they seem even busier than usual because besides looking good on the red carpet, bunches of them write books or have blogs about their health and wellness. How ever do Gwyneth, Cameron, Jessica and all the others find the time? Well, truth be told, they have a whole lot of professional help. Also, they’re nowhere near 80.

My friends Margery and Joel are not movie stars. Neither one of them has authored a cookbook or employed a personal chef or trainer. They’ve never appeared on the red carpet, though Margery has addressed large crowds at the United Nations and published works of literary fiction (way to go, Margery!) These two super cool people have crafted beautifully rich lives. They fascinate me because long after many people have slowed down, Margery and Joel just keep on keeping on in the most elegant way imaginable. I don't know about you, but I’m waaaaaay more fascinated by regular octogenarians like Margery and Joel than I am by pampered middle-aged celebs who think they’ve got it all figured out. Margery and Joel are the people that I follow - not on Instagram or Facebook (they are not on social media), but through daily interactions that mean so much more to me.

Have you heard of the Blue Zones? This is the term for the five distinct regions of the world (the highlands of Sardinia, Nicoya, Costa Rica, Icaria, Greece, Okinawa, Japan and Loma Linda, California) that have been identified as having the greatest number of centenarians and long-lived populations. In fact, studies show that for every single 100 year-old American, there are at least ten active and engaged centenarians in the Blue Zone regions.

Researchers decided to study the common characteristics that mark these peoples’ lifestyles to see if they could zero in on a formula for longevity. All of them are productive members of society with a strong sense of purpose. They lead active lives but they do not run marathons or have gym memberships. They do not adhere to restrictive eating regimens nor could they be categorized as vegan, paleo, raw foodists or anything else.  Rather, their collection of food is very plant forward and locally sourced. Perhaps most importantly, eating is a communal pleasure, not a soul-crushing process by which to fuel the body. Centenarians in the Blue Zones are not stressed-out zombies who rely on caffeine, sugar and alcohol to cope and get the job done. Though the Blue Zoners work hard, they also rest and relax. They even consume wheat, cheese and wine (prepared according to artisanal and traditional methods). The common thread they share is that there is a natural, easy and joyful rhythm that pulses through the days of their lives and connects them to one another.

So let’s get back to Margery and Joel, shall we? I am turning to them as my own little very unscientific octogenarian focus group. Since I know them both well, I can examine their optimal lifestyles under my microscope to learn and share what it really means to live beautifully and meaningfully at any age.

Inspired by Margery, Joel and the centenarians of the Blue Zones, I’ve come up with 12 questions that can be used to help gauge health in a way that feels both relevant and significant. So sit in stillness with these questions and listen deeply to the honest answers that emerge from within. The answers you receive may provide a clue about what you want to work on as 2017 comes to a close and a new year of new possibilities is on the horizon.

 

  1. Do you sleep well and wake feeling refreshed?

  2. Does your food and drink give you pleasure and a feeling of sustained well-being?

  3. Do you have normal bowel function? (This is hugely important and believe it or not, you may not fully understand what “normal” bowel function really is. Don’t be shy! Ask me!)

  4. Do you genuinely like and respect yourself and make lifestyle choices which reflect that?

  5. Are you content?

  6. Do you have a spiritual practice or a ritual that grounds you?

  7. Do you spend time each week enjoying and/or moving in nature?

  8. Are you susceptible to colds, flu and/or chronic or frequent infections?

  9. Are your teeth and gums healthy? Do you have a history of root canal(s)?

  10. When it comes to change and trying new things are you: Resistant? Resigned? Receptive? Exhilarated?

  11. Do you feel supported and loved by the people ( and/or animals!) with whom you spend most of your time?

  12. Are you guided by a purpose or intention that inspires you?

 

As I write this blog, Margery is looking ahead to the fall of 2018 when she and her husband will celebrate their granddaughter’s wedding on Long Beach Island, and around that same time, Joel will be packing his bags for his first trip to Rome. As I write this blog, centenarians in Sardinia are herding sheep and making cheese by hand. Okinawan centenarians are fishing and being revered for their experience and wisdom. Elderly Costa Ricans and inhabitants of Icaria are not doing crossfit as I write this blog. They are enjoying all the small moments of their long lives as they unfold, moment by moment. 

Now, what about you? As 2018 draws near, what can you resolve to do that will increase joy, relieve stress and re-frame the definition of good health in a way that’s attainable and also feels really good? Margery and Joel figured this out a long time ago and they’re just regular people like you and me. Now it’s your turn. Now is the time to make yourself a priority and by so doing, create a life that’s truly a pleasure to live. You can start immediately or in twenty minutes or tomorrow, or on January 1.  Just start in a way that feels free - not restrictive, delightful - not tortuous, sustainable - not severe. If you’re currently suffering through life, you might want to start with a few small improvements to your body which is your most important home. Or, you may want to dive right in and consider a major gut renovation (no pun intended!) I can help for sure, but perhaps it would be wise to go straight to the experts. Margery? Joel? Do you guys have any interest in coaching the rest of us because we all want to be just like you when we grow up.