The Dalai Lama says altruism is the best source of happiness.
Happiness all the time may be an unattainable goal, however the pursuit and maintenance of positivity is a worthwhile and satisfactory goal that leads to a more positive life. So how do we stay positive, especially now? How do we even get positive in the first place?
I spoke to my 91-year-old mother, Lou Stewart, about how she stays positive. A little background on my ever-positive Mom. She still drives, lives alone, amazes every doctor she visits, volunteers with several groups, and walks miles every day. She talks to strangers, still sends hand-written cards-often written in rhyming prose and found second-love with a great guy after her husband of 62 years (my Dad) passed-away in 2015. She has traveled the world, written a book and hosted hundreds of visitors from around the world for dinner at her home. In 2017, we rode a camel together in India. Lou Stewart is amazing.
She’s shown CARE for as long as I can remember! She loves to bring people together and enjoys throwing a party any chance she gets. Each event has a mixer style vibe to it; pairing people together that don’t know each other as they parade around the house looking at celebrity photos, trying to guess which celebrity they are based off verbal clues. This almost always leads to people walking away from a Lou hosted mixer with new friends. If you visit her home, you will leave with a full belly and a full heart.
She defines the concept of random acts of kindness. She often takes flowers to the pharmacists at Rite Aid and frequently delivers her mouth-watering homemade banana bread to neighbors all while wearing stylish outfits and statement piece jewelry. She takes care of herself and nurtures her friendships and community.
These friendships have allowed her to care and feel cared for. At 91, she has outlived almost all of her closest friends, her husband and even a son but she carries on. She goes even farther than carrying on, she thrives.
So, how is she faring COVID and staying positive? “Staying home and not being able to see people, have lunch with friends, see my kids, and throw parties has been very difficult,” she shared with me. She has stayed positive through talking to my sister on the phone every day, creating collages on greeting cards, checking in with her neighbors, walking her dog every day and keeping herself looking sharp. She explained, “I tried to pick a new outfit and piece of jewelry I haven’t worn in a while every single day. If I look in the mirror and like what I see, I feel good throughout the day,” she said. That may also be referred to as suiting up and showing up and acting better than you feel and it has led the way to her staying positive and sharing that positivity with others. I have yet to meet anyone who is isn’t inspired at just the sight of her once they hear her age.
She lives by the motto “I don’t worry about getting old, I worry about getting boring.”
Right before COVID, she decided to get her left hip replaced so she could keep up with her dog on their hour-long walks. I asked her how she managed that on top of the isolation of COVID-19. “I had faith. Playing jazz and the Bee Gees really got me moving and I love playing Earth, Wind and Fire! It made my hip-replacement exercises more interesting.” In addition to impromptu living room dances, she went through cards and memorabilia, cleaning out some and delighting in and saving others. “I have to stay busy and stay connected with people. That keeps me going,” she explained.
So, here are a few things to consider that Lou does to stay connected, positive and happy. She’s got 90+ years of experience, she might know what she’s talking about.
TAKE A CLASS
Lou took Memoir class at Cal State Long Beach. She began writing her history and got to hear other people’s life stories.
Stay connected with friends and family by sending a card, care package or a simple text letting someone know you care.
Volunteer at a civic organization or in your community: it’s a great way to help others and meet new people.
Walk, get out, dance around your house to your favorite music, just move!
Get a hobby or a project; do something creative, it keeps your mind active and stimulated and it gives you something to talk about with all the new friends you’re making!
And whatever you do, don’t get boring!