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The celebration of Thanksgiving Day reminds us to actively give thanks for all the good in our lives. We may be grateful for some combination of our health, life partner, family, friends, achievements, financial means, work, play, food, etc.

In moments of gratitude, we may think about people near and far, in every part of the world, who are living tragic lives of ill health, poverty, oppression and other sorrowful and maddening plights. Recent, horrific, climate change-related fires may have left us feeling stunned and powerless. We may find ourselves feeling guilty or at least relatively powerless to help affect positive change on a worldwide scale or even close to home.

Such questions may arise: Should I be sharing much more of my resources with people who barely have enough to survive? Should I become active in a social action movement or humanitarian organization? Should I change my will to leave more to charities that I believe in?

This is a personal struggle that can benefit by sharing it with a trusted advisor or a dedicated group or organization. The dilemma of “What can I do to make the world a better place?” can be addressed on a small, substantial or even radical scale.

We can contribute more time and money to one or more local, statewide, national or international programs. Each of us can examine our values, resources and readiness to do more. We don’t need to compare ourselves to some billionaires’ huge donations to causes they believe in. So many people give from their hearts in quiet, anonymous ways like taking someone in who has lost their home from a fire or visiting a lonely elder on a regular basis.

The answer to this challenging dilemma is very personal. At this Thanksgiving and beyond, we can give it thought, make and act on a decision, and go easy on guilt tripping ourselves. Our energy and resources are best spent on looking at giving options and making and acting upon decisions that will make a difference.


By Sandra J. Cohen and Roger Cormier

A friend told us that she tends to her e-mail correspondence too infrequently, but added: “I forgive myself.” Later she spoke of her experience with someone close to her who was not treating her well and reflected, “Separate from how anybody in my life treats me, I continue to love myself.”

We can all take a lesson from our friend. More than almost anything else, we all need to love and forgive ourselves.

If we were hard on ourselves in our earlier lives, it’s all too easy to continue cheating ourselves of these necessities. However, it is never too late to take a fresh look and change such negative attitudes. This applies to deep-rooted and toxic, or annoying put-downs of ourselves.

A good place to start is by exploring how such attitudes developed and what has been keeping us from replacing them with a healthy regard that can lighten our spirit and help us to carry out our life’s deepest purpose. Does it go back to our child-rearing, to a damaging pivotal event, or to prevailing social pressures? Or do we simply need to take stock of a habit that we may now be ready to change?

People sometimes feel better about themselves by consciously coming to the realization that they are lovable, separate from any of their unhealthy behaviors. It can help to have at least one, hopefully more, people who accept them for themselves.

In some cases, professional help may be needed to get at the cause of an attitude or behavior harming our emotional or physical well being. Once we do, what a relief it can be to clearly see why we are rejecting ourselves in a certain way, and to find the power to reverse such an attitude! Not only can we breathe a deep sigh of relief, but we can redirect that energy to enlivening pursuits and people we care about.

Confucius said, “The more you know yourself, the more you forgive yourself.” This makes no sense to people who loathe themselves. But this wisdom resounds with anyone who has experienced the liberation of unconditional love.

Think of our friend’s ease about her e-mail delinquencies and her constant self-love separate from how the world is treating her. Does an emerging awareness in your own mind and heart offer you hope, insight and power to recognize, forgive and love your true self as never before?

A familiar expression comes to mind: “Try it, you’ll like it.” Our message today is “Try your deepest, most valuable self. You’ll like yourself.”

Reading: “The Self-Forgiveness Handbook: A Practical and Empowering Guide” by Thom Rutledge

By Roger Cormier and Sandy Cohen

Looking at our surroundings with fresh, attentive eyes and a truly open mind can reveal more than meets the eye. Take certain trees as reminders of continuing and even new life after middle age.

A dried out, 4-foot-high tree trunk with no bark stands at the side of a walking path in the English countryside. For whatever reason, it was not cut to the ground.

Consequently, it sprouted a new tree, which is reaching for the sun and spreading branches to host birds. Before long, it will provide a shady resting point for contemplation of the adjoining rolling hills.

This amazing feat of nature, upon reflection, mirrors the later lives of many older people. They may have closed certain chapters of their life story as they retired and survived life partners, soul mates and other earlier journey mates. Their health may have declined and their family may live at a distance.

But look at their new shoots and branches of keen interests and activities, as well as sanctuary for old friends and new acquaintances. Such new life may be easy to recognize among elders who passionately travel to explore other lands and cultures, or who choose to embark on a later life career or to offer their skills and care to people in need of help.

Not so easy to recognize is the glow on the face of an elder reflecting on the next steps of a creative project or treasuring special memories or new feelings of oneness with natural surroundings and people.

A large old oak tree at Lafayette Reservoir not too long ago was uprooted and fell. After it became barkless and seemingly dried out, shoots began to reach up and out. Doesn’t it know it was finished off after a long, productive life? We can only guess its future configuration and contributions to its living environment.

Whatever our chronological age, each of us has something old, dried out and seemingly useless in our physical, relational or vocational makeup. We also likely have openings out of which can spring shoots that will become new branches and limbs that will reach out from what may have seemed an unlikely base.

Fresh eyes and trees can mirror our ageless beginnings of creative, productive and satisfying relationships, adventures, contributions, insights and oneness with ourselves and our world.

By Roger Cormier and Sandy Cohen

Nothing seems to spread as quickly as inspirational e-mails via family and friends. One such e-mail inspired us to post about it as follows.

The subject of the e-mail was “A dog named Faith.” Born effectively without front legs, his mother rejected her and her first owner considered “putting her to sleep.” However, another person felt sorry for her, adopted her, vowed to teach her to walk and named her Faith. Within six months he was standing erect on his hind legs and jumping forward. Later he learned to walk like a human.

Faith received much notoriety in person and in the media. Her owner decided to give up her teaching job and take Faith on a world tour to preach that even without a perfect body one can have a perfect soul.

Statue of Tasmanian Antarctic explorer Louis Bernacchi and his dog Joe at harbor of Australia’s Hobart, Tasmania

This got us thinking about each of us human beings and our own personal stories of faith, perseverance and accomplishment in the face of physical, psychological, prejudicial and other limitations and bad experiences. Far from being featured in an ever-spreading e-mail, we ourselves often lose sight of what we overcame and achieved, and few if any people even know or recall our story.

Such stories involve acts of faith in ourselves, by ourselves, and often by others in our lives. Today we can take some moments to reflect on our faith stories. Perhaps we will consider thanking someone who believed in and encouraged us, and sharing one or more of our faith stories with those whom we want to know us more completely and/or with those who might benefit from exposure to our stories.

Just as important, we can take a fresh look at current challenges in our life. We then can summon enough faith to meet a challenge as an opportunity for growth, personal satisfaction and giving of ourselves to others in new ways or with renewed purpose and fervor. If we face what seems like an insuperable stumbling block to faith forward, maybe it is time to seek reinforcement from someone close, a professional or a support group.

Whether we face an unwelcome or an inviting challenge, it is important to go beyond stuck patterns, discouragement, stereotypes and myths about whether we can consider and accomplish what calls out from deep wells and sparkling cascades of faith within and outside of ourselves. We can say yes. We can start today and persevere tomorrow with or without an inspirational e-mail.

By Roger Cormier and Sandy Cohen

A friend in Mexico recently wrote: “Since you are bloggers about life – what are the metrics for success/satisfaction at our age? My story is that life consists of three phases: Learning, Earning and Yearning. Each phase has distinct metrics or so it seems to me.

“Getting good grades and mastering the rules was the first phase’s metrics. The bottom line was key in the earning phase. But now that we’re no longer on the achievement wheel, how do we know if we’re getting to where we want to go? Surely, it’s not all tacos and sunshine. I’d like to hear your take on this phase of life. I have questions, but few answers. All I know is that the stuff I used to know is no longer as true as I once thought, and the stuff that counts in life isn’t stuff.”

There is much wisdom in this friend’s experience. After our formative and work years, most of us reach the third phase, which may or may not include paid work. Our friend works part time.

Without directly asking him what he yearns for, we experience him as a person with a unique joie de vivre, and whose choices are not based on age but on personality, family life, spiritual yearning, personal values, and cultural expansion derived from living in a foreign country (Mexico).

Regarding his question about “the metrics for success/satisfaction at our age,” we would encourage him to be clear about his deepest values, yearnings and means of satisfaction, as well as the needs of people and nature in today’s world. Balancing those factors is an evolving process that requires exploration, gratitude, patience and self-acceptance. Reaching out (and inward) for insight and support can make a big positive difference.

Our friend’s yearning is not primarily about stuff but about deeper experiences of what counts for him and his world in his life. As “bloggers about life” as we grow older, and, more importantly, as friends, we look forward to learning more about and supporting our friend’s yearning as well as his explorations, discoveries and affirmations in his third stage of life as it unfolds.

And, as they say in Mexico, “igualmente,” meaning the same goes for you and for us – as we grow older.

By Sandra J. Cohen and Roger Cormier

Here we are at the start of another year. How many years have we been living and how much longer might we live?

People have varied attitudes about these existential questions. Some feel they have lived long enough, and they await their end. Others want to live indefinitely if they retain their physical and mental health, as well as meaningful activities and a support system. Still others want to live in the moment without concern about longevity. What are your feelings about your now and the duration of your future?

Jesus Castillo Rangel (Don Chuy), Mexico’s oldest man at 121 (Yes, 121!) died last month. At 14, he joined the Mexican Revolution of 1910. Married in 1922, he and his wife were together for 90 years until her death in 2012 at the age of 104. Mentally alert as ever, the oldest man in Mexico woke up on the day of his birthday last October, opened his window and breathed in the morning breeze. One of his neighbors said that Don Chuy usually walked around the neighborhood every day. “He’s a strong man, healthy, a good person and very respectful,” said the neighbor.

While most people don’t live past 100 (let alone 120), many of us in current times will live well into our 90’s if not to a centennial-or-beyond birthday. We may have vague feelings about how we want our future to unfold regarding, for example, our health, spiritual life, connection with communities, and contributions to improve the world near and afar.

Is now the time to clarify and decisively act upon those feelings? If not, what are we waiting for? If such feelings and decisions evoke a fear of aloneness, is there someone or a network or group with whom we can share them and welcome their caring input? Before taking any such steps forward, it might help to remind ourselves about all that we are grateful for and proud of in our lives to date. Then it can be one step at a time to add to what is positive and redeeming in our life story.

No matter our current age – 50’s or younger, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s or 90’s. We and our world deserve for us to build upon our past, to make life- and self-affirming changes going forward, and to welcome unplanned opportunities to grow in self-acceptance and solidarity with people close to us and with others in our local and world community. Let’s go for it while the going is good.


By Sandra J. Cohen and Roger Cormier

Now that we have the prospect of living at least 20 to 30 more years than previous generations, how can we prepare for and use those years? Our choices are no longer limited to work, then retirement; good health, then quick decline and death; expanding horizons, then sunset and darkness. Whether we are in our 40’s, 60’s or 80’s, we can choose to grow, contribute and thrive within ourselves, socially, and in a world hungry for what we can offer.


People of any age can take a fresh look at their bag of tricks, and add a few for opportunities and challenges on the road ahead. Retirement no longer is either/or regarding work or involvement in the community. Health is not solely a function of our genes. The world’s problems are not only for the next generations to solve.

Organizations such as Second Journey ( encourage and gather people who are creatively aging or who are working with and dedicated to such people. This online organization helps aging people find their untapped potential for growth and for social, civic and environmental engagement.

Aging advocates such as psychiatrist Gene D. Cohen suggest such tools as a social portfolio, analogous to a financial portfolio, to build up and diversify interests, activities and involvements for active and satisfying aging, and for the prospect of reduced mobility, energy and social interaction in one’s advanced years. His book, “The Creative Age: Awakening Human Potential in the Second Half of Life,” offers some why’s and how’s toward this goal.

Not all people want to continue to work when they reach a financially viable retiring point. For those who avoid change, anything new and different makes them uncomfortable. Some are skeptical toward people who choose new paths and involvements in their later years, and they assume that such joie de vivre is possible only for people who have been lucky to live “the good life.” Security and familiarity remain the top values for some, even if they are bored, bitter and bereft of purpose and people in their lives.

What a shame it would be if we failed to respond to the gift of prospective longer lives with wide-eyed anticipation. Whatever our personal history, we can choose to enrich and deepen our own and others’ lives today and throughout our time to come. Today truly is the first day of the rest of our lives, a good day to revisit our life ahead with fresh eyes.


Sandra Cohen and Roger Cormier

Seniors and younger baby boomers often find themselves torn between wanting to address the big picture of people and planet problems, and getting through days filled with too many tasks, choices and decisions. How can we resolve this dilemma?

Comparing ourselves with people who are featured in the media for chucking a career and starting an amazingly innovative and effective medical, social or environmental program can be very discouraging. Putting ourselves down because we barely get our work and domestic activities done, and cannot even find time to volunteer in our community will make matters worse. Resolving to stop thinking about it may make us feel guiltier.

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We sometimes hear exhortations like “Follow your passion or your heart’s delight and you’ll find your role in the world and your own personal happiness.” Yes, we can pay more attention to what makes us feel good about ourselves and alive to our experience. But how can we be sure that such attentiveness will help reveal who we really are and how we can contribute and make a difference in a world full of so much injustice, suffering and waste of the gifts of the earth?

Talking about it with a professional or personal friend can help. Putting it aside at times can give us much needed relief. However, a good option is to consider a few ways to contribute that speak to our personal values and financial resources. Examples might include:

  • Empower people and communities in situations of poverty, illiteracy, disease or social injustice by making a micro loan to a person or group to help them start a business or resolve a community infrastructure problem (Examples of microfinance organizations: Finca International –; Kiva –
  • Contribute to supporting the education of young people in a third world country (Example of a nonprofit organization that accepts donations for scholarships: Journeys Within Our Community (Cambodia) –
  • Name in your will one or more nonprofits, whose missions and outcomes appeal to you.

As they say, “Try it, you’ll like it.” It may help you resolve guilt and uncertainty about the nagging question: “What more can and will I do to share my resources and improve the world?” What’s more, you can always add, subtract or change your initial commitments as other needs and opportunities come to the fore in your awareness and your heart.


By Sandra J. Cohen and Roger Cormier

In the words of Desmond Tutu, “Without forgiveness, there is no future.” Why and how do we forgive and free ourselves of pain from our past?

Studies have found that people who forgive are happier and healthier. Yet forgiving can be one of the most gnawing and difficult challenges in our lives. A Gallup poll found that while 94 percent of respondents feel it is important to forgive, 84 percent said they need help to do so.


It’s easy for most of us to forgive someone who accidentally bumps into us on a crowded bus. It is hard to imagine forgiving someone who has abused, betrayed or left someone bereft of support during vulnerable times. The amount of damage, pain, humiliation and feeling of indignation and powerlessness that such behavior causes naturally adds to the innate difficulty of practicing forgiveness.

Here are some quotes that offer some helpful insight into the process.

Alan Paton: “When a deep injury is done us, we never recover until we forgive.” Regardless whether forgiveness benefits the person being forgiven, and without respect to an offender’s remorse or changed behavior, the forgiver can find healing, release and a freer present and future.

Lewis B. Smedes: “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” Another factor that makes it hard to get off the starting block toward forgiveness is the previous degree of intimacy, trust and perceived loyalty in a relationship.

William Blake: “It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend.” Violation of such bonds can level us and leave us feeling painfully vulnerable for a long time. But forgiveness is not necessarily synonymous with toleration. If the person shows remorse or attempt at improved behavior, it may be time to forgive the other person and then terminate the relationship.

Forgiveness can release both the offender and the offended to grow in mutual respect and caring. Close, longtime spouses, family or friends often reach the point where a gentle, forgiving reminder is enough to abort or prevent yet another annoying or hurtful behavior.

It is just as healthy and freeing — and sometimes harder — to forgive ourselves, when needed, than to forgive someone else. Chances are that something in our mind, heart, soul, behavior hungers for such a tender look from our forgiving selves. Maybe today we are ready to gaze upon ourselves and/or someone else with such tender forgiveness.

Resources: (inspiring stories of forgiveness) and “Forgive for Good: A Proven Prescription for Health and Happiness” by Dr. Fred Luskin (available in hardback, paperback and as an e-book).


Sandy Cohen and Roger Cormier

As we grow older and want to make the most of our boomer and senior years, we can take a fresh look at the various parts of our lives. Many of us retire and then volunteer, travel and read more and/or delve into lifelong or recently emerging passions like spirituality, art, cooking and forms of exercise and relaxation. Such decisions may address the “what, when and where” of our daily lives but not necessarily the “with whom.”

We are fortunate if we have friends with much shared history and mutual support. As we transition from our careers to retirement, we can make new, special friends who can further enrich our lives.


But then there are people who have tended to take advantage of our loyalty without having done their share of initiating communication with and showing genuine interest in us. We can allow ourselves to feel hurt and resentful that such relationships have been mostly about them, and rarely about us. We also can consider whether to continue investing in them out of unreflective loyalty, or to withdraw our time and energy from them in order to invest more in mutually enlivening friendships.

It is up to us to discern whether such personal histories have any potential for redemption. Can we imagine directly communicating our concerns and receiving a response that shows promise of true friendship going forward? If not, maybe it is time for us to redirect our energy to mutually initiating, vibrant and caring relationships?

It has always been our choice. However, as we grow older, we can give ourselves permission to invest less in those who take rather than give. Looking forward, we can treasure more than ever our precious time and sharing with real friends.