Friday Book Club. Life Gets Better: The Unexpected Pleasures of Growing Older.

June 19, 2020

Friday Book Club. Life Gets Better: The Unexpected Pleasures of Growing Older.

May 29, 2023

I’ve never met author Wendy Lustbader, but I liked this 2011 book so much we named one of the sections of our MEA library after the subtitle. She’s a specialist in aging and caregiving, teaches at the University of Washington and her past books include “What’s Worth Knowing” and “Counting on Kindness.”

Wendy, you had me on your jacket flap when you wrote that getting older meant we have “an increasing capacity to be true to ourselves” and “grow into our individuality.” So true. Life is not about “growing up,” it’s about “growing into.” Have seen that over and over again at MEA. This easy-to-read book has 24 relatively short chapters on everything from Self-Knowledge to Generosity to Resilience. In the chapter on “The Great Leveling,” she writes, “Life gets so much lighter.” Her ode to aging is almost like a souffle recipe: it gets lighter and more tasty the longer it bakes. But, it takes a long time, just like your life.

While this is a light book, it’s also deep and doesn’t shy from the darkness. Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

  • “As the years pass, fissures slowly open in our facades.”
  • “Aging is public. We can hide other facts about ourselves, but we carry time so visibly that everyone can see in a glance that we left our youth behind. No matter how artfully a face has been adorned or hair has been colored, it is evident to all that an older person owns the altered visage. How we feel about the length of our chronology is therefore also on display, not only in our attempts at concealment but in a stance that bespeaks acceptance or resistance, pride or shame.”
  • “When we are young, we regard elders as fixed in their ways. Then, as we get older, we start to notice how encased we had been in our earlier assumptions and expectations. The more we open ourselves to outside influences, the more we recognize just how limited our previous views had been. Much of what we long regarded as fact may be revealed to be merely our opinion, and we may see how we have nourished subtle prejudices with our ignorance. Our preconceptions tend to get routed out of us one by one.”
  • “The shock of realizing we have gotten older often turns someday into now.

The book is also filled with many great quotes from others including this Swedish proverb, “The afternoon knows what the morning never expected.” And, I’ll finish with a quote from writer Frances Moore Lappe who is included in a chapter on difficult decisions:

“Walking into the unknown, whether a roomful of strangers, a dense forest on a cloudy night, or even a day without a plan can be scary...Yet we realize, too, that moving toward a life we choose requires letting go of the known, letting go of our story. Perhaps it means dropping labels we’ve relied on to tell us who we are, or giving up structures and paychecks we cling to. Perhaps it means feeling out of place with those we care about who can’t fathom what we’re up to...In any case, it means saying, ‘I don’t know.’ It means facing empty space and silence in a culture that equates stopping and silence with failure and indecision.”

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