Row: Life, a Journey

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I have had the fortune to take a good many ‘journeys’ in my lifetime. During my childhood I went to the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933 or ’34. I visited relatives in Windsor, Canada and Sault Saint Marie, Canada sometime in the 1930s. Expo 67, The World’s Fair held in 1967 was another highlight in my life. I took my Mother and four children, ages 10 – 16 and was grateful my daughter could speak French. I could read French, and did fairly well at listening to the spoken word, but was far from being able to speak it well enough to suit me. Later in life I journeyed to several different countries – Mexico, Peru, Chile and Nassau in the Western hemisphere, and England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, Russia, Morocco and Sri Lanka in the Eastern hemisphere. To my surprise my limited knowledge of French came in handy in Russia and in Morocco. There were other journeys I would have liked to make but circumstances got in the way. I can dream about them, but not visit them physically.

That reminds me of another type of journey I have made many times. It’s called “Armchair Travels”. In the 1940s they became popularized by some of the greatest journalists of our time. They were journeys via radio waves and described by the journalist who took the listener by ship, bus or car to wonderful, exotic places where we heard smatterings of the languages, heard bells, chimes and music and could almost smell the tantalizing aromas of foods we never heard of and probably never would taste. Those journeys were worth waiting for each month. Those were the days when people, adults and children, had good imaginations and knew what to do with them.

As the years passed and money was not always easy to come by, I learned about yet another type of journey. For many it is the most difficult to understand and certainly the most difficult to take. It requires no special physical skill, no money, and can be achieved in mere moments of time or take months or years to learn how to interpret its curves, hills, valleys and peaceful plains. This amazing journey is from the mind to the heart and the mind to the brain.

It is true that the brain has a mind of its own (discovered in neurosciences of the 21st century), but what is most important is what goes on between one’s mind and the brain. Fifty years ago I was teaching my children that ‘thoughts are things’ so it was important to pay attention to your thoughts. Have you heard the comment that ‘we teach what we most need to learn’? How true! I did not always heed my own words and my journey became tortuous and wrought with dreams and nightmares. It was a long time before I learned and succeeded in ‘letting go’ to smooth the path of my journey. I liken it to climbing a mountain with few handholds and groping for places to put my feet before finally arriving at a comparatively level place only to be faced with another difficult climb. My journey was not easy but only because I created my own reality. We always do! Whatever we face on our journey through life, whatever becomes true for us is a reality that we have created.

“In sickness and in health, for richer or poorer”; you have probably heard those words before. I have, and never have they become more real for me personally than in the past few years. The ‘poorer’ part was my reality as I saw it, as my family and I fought government, insurance and health care systems for us and for millions of others. Some of the ‘others’ are people for whom I sought a way to explain how they, too, could find their way on their journey to better physical and mental health. The, ‘for richer or poorer’, does not necessarily have to refer to one’s financial status. My journey became easier to face and to deal with, as I changed my attitude about several things in life. With a change of attitude there came a change in my reality and my journey was no longer filled with a series of mountains, hills, valleys etc. Every day I give thanks for all that I have, and all I know will come with prayer, meditation and determination. My journey is now more fruitful and much more pleasant.

There are a number of myths about the expected journey of retired people and people who are aging. Neuroscientists are now addressing these myths, which were (and still are) the beliefs of many but are being proven to be untrue. A person who has retired from a job held for many years need not feel life has come to an end. Just because Aunt Jessica or Uncle Henry passed the age of 80 does not mean life is over. People who believe those conditions can be found in rocking chairs with hands folded simply because they believe there is no more journey left. As they sit and no longer use their minds, the physical components of their brains, the neurons, dendrites, axons and more, actually shrivel and become useless.

Is there an answer to this problem? How can a man who was a truck driver for many years, but now can no longer drive, continue his/her journey? Many retirees never took the time to cultivate a hobby or anything of interest to indulge in ‘after hours’. First the individual must accept the fact that their life need not be over. Perhaps the person had a passion. Perhaps there was something he/she wanted to do but had no time for. Perhaps the passion was a hobby but now lies dormant. Here is a list of possibilities. Check off any you have thought of or think you can expand upon:

  • Whittling: sell the products in a local fair; teach a child how to whittle; teach a child how to use a knife safely; donate products to an organization that will use them as gifts for less fortunate folks.
  • Wood carving: small objects can be used as mentioned above; pieces of furniture; (I had a nephew who carved scenes from Disney stories on each side and the ends of cradles he made for each of his grandchildren.)  Learn something about the areas through which he/she has traveled whether cities or states. There is a lot of history in the United States as well as other countries. If you feel you must ‘do something’ with the information find a local school or organization that cares for children after school and tell them stories about your travels.
  • Men and women have become involved in different types of needlework: weaving, counted cross-stitch, knitting, crocheting, and others. Find a group in your community that donates things such as hats, scarves and throws (for laps, couches, chairs) and join them. If there is no group available, form one.
  • Plan a special event (Christmas is the most popular) and visit the people you donate to.
  • Read about whatever interests you. Try a different genre than you have read before. Are you aware of how many illiterate or just poor readers there are in your community? I live in a city of more than 800,000 residents. One-fourth, or more are illiterate. Check your area and offer to help a group of adults, or volunteer as an aide to an elementary school teacher to work with children. I have been working as a volunteer tutor for over ten years and continue to find my contribution interesting and fun.

I could go on and on but perhaps you get the idea as to how your journey can take different roads or paths and continue to be fun, interesting, challenging, or whatever you want it to be. First you must be willing to understand that you create your own reality no matter what it is. Use your mind to communicate with your brain and then to your heart. Love what you do and your journey can become exciting and fulfilling. Be all you are capable of becoming. Your journey is like no other.


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-Rowena Nichols, Columnist ‘Row’

Rowena Nichols, RN, Dr. MMT, PTA. Registered Nurse with  BS in Nursing, Dr. of Medical Massage Therapy, and Physical Therapy Assistant(Certification). Beyond the use of her mass credentials, she has had a “full and rewarding life,” including living and teaching in Chile and returning to nursing at age 80.  Currently, she is  writing articles for several Newsletters and magazines, including problem solving for tutors of English at a Literacy organization in New Mexico. She recently celebrated a book release, Wired for Changes:  My Recovery from a Stroke. Send your request and a bank check or money order for $10.95 to; Rowena Nichols,  P.O. Box 65552, Albuquerque, NM 87193. Shipping is included.

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