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One of the earliest lessons I was inadvertently taught was that the truth can be flexible.  I learned it in the first grade when I was unceremoniously plucked from the line of first graders walking home for lunch from school.   I was made  to walk home with the kindergarteners line.  I remember crying from humiliation and shame.

It was my parents’ fault because they lied about my age to get me into kindergarten.  They decided I was ready. I was ready.  Unfortunately,  another parent let the truth about me be known and the powers that be set me back where I belonged age-wise.   My parents fought the ruling to no avail, but ultimately changed townships so that I would not be set back. My easy going father even had a stiff drink or two before he went to argue my case to the school’s principal. The bureaucracy wouldn’t budge.

I was always the youngest in my class when I moved back to school in my hometown. It was never a problem for me. Following that incident, the city decided to require birth certificates before a child could enter kindergarten. A wise move.

Fast forward 7.5 decades and my old school friends are now turning 80 this summer and fall, if they hadn’t already.  My Big Day doesn’t arrive until mid January.  I think most of us are a little shell shocked.  It’s given me lots of time to prepare for my own celebration or non celebration.  Covid has cast some confusion about making a decision .

A few days ago, as I was looking for inspiration, Rabbi Ted Falcon of Seattle, during his streaming Rosh Hashonah service, talked about Aha! moments in daily life.  He got my attention immediately as he suggested that a wise response to the world during these difficult times is to mark the Aha!’s we encounter during the average day. The key is to pay attention and be present to life and its wonders.  The times have been so chaotic and dismal it’s been very easy to overlook the still miraculous  faces of life on our planet.

I interpreted his suggestion to use the Aha moments as a mantra.  It can bring our addled minds back to the present and the miraculous.  I discovered that the miraculous has not gone away. JUst still patiently doing it’s thing on the sidelines of a more publicized show.

So today, I began to pay attention to things that were aha’s and were often right in front of me, largely unnoticed..  It wasn’t difficult.Covid and election concerns left the spotlight easily.

On the cusp of autumn I discovered the first bit of color showing on the buds of my camelia tree, planted by my front door. Winter in waiting.The caps of a few acorns were left as a reminder that the squirrels had most likely gotten to the nuts themselves, courtesy of our old giant oak trees in the yard. The bark, sensually curled around the branches of some eucalyptus shrubs in our front yard. unable or unwilling to cut loose just yet. The newly revealed branch looked as if someone had spent hours just sanding and buffing it down for our appreciation. Peek-a-boo.

I can easily admit that my almost 80 year old memory for words and names  is not ready for primetime.  But, with some patience, the words find their way to the surface.  It can be frustrating, but I can live with it, as long as I give my own brain a little retrieval space.

A few months ago, if I was seated on the floor,I found it almost impossible  to rise to a standing position. It was demoralizing.  I quickly told myself, ” This just the beginning of the end of a useful body.”  Not so fast, Dianne.  With the help of a personal trainer, I got that ability back fairly quickly. It’s the old  use it or lose it theory.

I’ve also improved my ability to tolerate unbusyness.  Thank you, covid.  It’s now ok not to be doing something 100% of the time. I cannot say to myself or others  anymore, “I”m too busy to do that.”  The truth is, I am most decidedly NOT busy and enjoying it as well.  At least some of the time.

I can say to options, I’m too old to want to do that.  That includes getting into a bathing suit and shaving my legs on a regular basis.  It also includes getting as tan as I can, because I now know it’s not much fun to have skin growths removed.

So welcome, Autumn.  If I’m lucky I’ll be able to give this 8th decade some direction.Let’s see how far we can take it.  Since I learned at an early age that lying is a risky business, I’ll do my best to tell the truth and paint a realistic picture of coming to terms with advancing age.

Each day, until I grow sick of it, I will look for an inspiring Aha! moment to share.  Please consider sharing yours as well.  Stay well and stay sane.











Dianne Vapnek

In an attempt to slow life's quickening pace, I'm writing to share my personal perspective on the aging process, its dilemmas, the humorous self-deception, the insights and the adventure of it all. I spent the bulk of my time in beautiful Santa Barbara, CA, but manage to get to NYC a few times times a year. I've been a dancer/dance teacher and dance supporter almost all my life. For the past20years, I help create and produce a month-long creative residency in Santa Barbara for contemporary American choreographers and their dancers. It's been incredibly gratifying. This year, I decided it's time to retire! Big change. I also now spend several weeks a year in Kyoto Japan, residing for several weeks in the spring and the fall. I've been magnetically attracted to Japan for many years. Now I live out a dream to live there part-time.


  • dbsite33 says:

    I tend to catch a lot of visual cues from the movements of fauna (and occasionally wind blown flora), and experience many in a day or evening – my peripheral vision is quite sensitive to movements, which is perhaps why I do what I do. A squirrel, butterfly, spider or bird moves and I’m on it, then often just appreciate some kind of beauty or extraordinariness there in what I behold. These are aha moments that transport me away from all the madness currently raging accompanied by a little wistfulness that it’s hard to stay tuned into those moments for long as the human world again re-imposes itself on my consciousness. I guess it’s what I would call the good kind of mindfulness, a word I kind of detest, but am really grateful for the brief respites.
    Thanks for another trip into the good, Dianne!

  • mark dendy says:

    Going to a shoot now. So glad I read this on the way. I will look for the a-ha moments today! Thank you! So glad to be reminded of staying in the present moment. Especially with the politics

  • Stephen says:

    Thank you, Dianne. I needed this. I had an Aha moment yesterday after being crippled with anxiety for a week. Will continue looking for more.

  • Judi Wallner says:

    Well I wrote a response about the Ahhh of watching the fading of the sun rays on the pine tree in the distance. I glanced away and it was gone. No more Halloween bright orange sparkle. Ahhhh……I typed in my name and all the particulars…and then everything was totally gone taking my erudite statement with it. Another Ahhhh is letting go

  • Judith A. Wallner says:

    Dianne I’m sitting here watching the last rays of the sun as it shines on the needles of the distant pine tree, turning them a bright Halloween orange. It’s gone now in my one glance away. Thanks for the reminder that Ahhh… life is beautiful and sad. It only takes One moment of Ahhh to find the beauty.

  • aletl says:

    You are amazing! Aha is something I have been experiencing a lot this year. We have been away every summer so now I am enjoying my garden and the lettuce and tomatoes, all the wonders of living here.

  • April says:

    Bravo, Dianne! One of my “aha!” Moments was to see 2 spikes on my Cattleya orchid I have been nursing for 3 years – and to watch the slow patience of nature as the promise of opening buds are coming, quite a contrast to today’s fast response internet world. It has given me a new appreciation of patience.
    Thanks for your always entertaining, real story telling, and insight. Keep it up! Xoxo. A.

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