The Golden Girls of Sullivan County

Joy is found in the wisdom of age

Posted 11/23/22

MONTICELLO, NY — I frequently thought that life ended after the age of 65. With the aches and pains. From doctor visit to doctor visit. The boredom and non-stop complaining about all the crises …

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The Golden Girls of Sullivan County

Joy is found in the wisdom of age


MONTICELLO, NY — I frequently thought that life ended after the age of 65. With the aches and pains. From doctor visit to doctor visit. The boredom and non-stop complaining about all the crises in the world.

Until I noticed that my mom, Sheila Zayas of Liberty, was happier than ever, that she had this glow to her that I never saw growing up, and is a pleasure to be around. She goes out and parties with her friends often, and has more of a life than I ever had. I found myself, a 44-year-old in my prime, begging my mom to let me hang out with her and her friends. All this, ever since she waved goodbye to the workforce.

What’s her secret? Just a lack of work, or something deeper, more meaningful? It’s as if she and her friends found the fountain of youth, what we all long for. To be happier and more full of life as we age.

I recently sat down with my mom and her retiree friends, during their favorite pastime of playing a card game called canasta, to talk to them about how to find the secret of joy, and how we all can bring this joy to our everyday lives.

I asked my mom what joy means to her, and she responded, “Joy is having bliss in your heart.”

Some might say that this means joy cannot be found in a single activity, but rather joy is a state of being. A state of being that follows you around wherever you go. That might explain the sparkles I see in the eyes of my mom and her friends.

And how do you get to this state of “bliss in your heart?” I asked.

“Every single moment of every day, I can make the decision to either be joyful, or depressed and down on myself. And I really try to make the decision to be up” she said.

How do you shift your perspective?

She said that she must remind herself, “Oh that’s right, it’s gonna pass. Whatever I’m going through, whatever feelings I might have—in a week, I’m gonna forget about them.”

Just like the old saying, “This too shall pass.” That’s the motto that Mom goes by to help her stay in this blissful state of being.

When I asked Bobbi Rudick, of Kiamesha Lake, NY, if she had her down moments, she replied, “I have my moments. A lot of it comes from yourself, your perception of something that might not even be true, but you built it up in your head.”

She continued to discuss how she gets out of those downtimes. “I think girlfriends are very important. They lift you up. They’re there to listen to you… I’m a talker, and if something’s wrong, I find someone to talk to.”

As I was going around the table, this seemed to be a common theme for all the ladies with their glowing smiles, as they tried to remember whose turn it was. They agreed that their connections are the most important part of the games they play.

“In retirement, with my personal friends, they’ve all moved away,” said Jeanette Rosenblum of Monticello. “And so, at this time in my life, it has given me the opportunity to meet friends I never would have talked to. It gives [me] the ability to meet people that [I] never would have met before.”

When asked about the benefit of these close relationships, Fran Greenfield of White Lake, NY, said, “Laughing and feeling like you’re part of a group. That you’re accepted.”

Some might agree that it’s about having that sense of belonging to something bigger than yourself.

Fran added, with the famous sparkle in her eyes, “And we all want love. It doesn’t have to be sexual love.”

While Jeanette murmured, “Sexual love isn’t too bad either.”

With a roar of laughter so loud I had to ask Jeanette to repeat what she said. Some could relate to the joke; for others, it has been a while. Either way, you could tell that they all had a great sense of humor.

Which was another important aspect of joy they all agreed about—laughter. Not taking yourself or life so seriously is a key ingredient to happiness. Something else that we can all take in to enhance our everyday lives.

As the fifth Golden Girl, Joyce Garber of Ferndale, NY, entered the home to play cards—party-hopping from another party she just attended—I sat her down to discuss what joy meant to her and how we can all find this fountain of youth within us.

“Joy is the enhancement of your experiences and your relationships.” She added, “What brings joy is people who you connect with, who get you as much as you get them.”

And the interpersonal relationship theme continued.

Joyce talked about many things that brought her joy, besides playing cards—animals, painting and camping.

When I asked her what brought her joy in the games that she frequently played, she responded, “Well, I love to win. Any game I play, I want to win.”

Now there you go. Pure and wholehearted honesty. Winning can bring out joy.

Joyce also said that she hasn’t necessarily been happier since retirement. “I make my happiness. When I was working, I loved working. I loved my patients. I never had a patient I was bored with.”

The perspective shift again. Maybe it’s not so much retirement, but the pure wisdom that comes with age.

Let us all take in this wisdom, no matter where we are in life. Let us all shift our perspectives to the positive, find those interpersonal connections, laugh, talk it out, love, find acceptance, and of course, play games to win.

Then we can all embody this joy, that “bliss in our hearts,” this holiday season.

Sheila Zayas, joy, age, friendship, holiday season


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