Monday, September 4, 2017

My Mom Was Born in 1945. I Asked Her Some Questions About the World Then and Now. She Had Some Fascinating Answers.

1. Do you think the world is a better place now than it used to be, and if so, how?

The world is a big place, and I feel most qualified to comment on the United States and, indirectly, on other resource-rich countries. Compared to life 100 years ago, on average we live much longer, in much greater comfort, and with many more opportunities to travel and acquire new knowledge. We can save the lives of people who once faced certain death. I believe that every ill we see now, whether it’s interpersonal violence, war, natural disaster, epidemics, drought, famine or any form of social injustice, has been there all along and is not worse now, bearing in mind that governments are constantly changing and people in any given location fare better or worse depending on those fluctuations. I’m happy to have lived at this time and not at any earlier time.

2. How is it worse? 

It’s worse in terms of our ability to annihilate our own existence and that of other species. We have sufficient weapons of mass destruction to destroy the world many times over and we are making our planet increasing less habitable.

3. What's your biggest regret? 

I don’t believe in regrets, so I don’t have them. People make the best decisions they can at the time they make them. There’s no point in looking back and wishing you had been a different person who knew then what you know now.

4. What's your greatest accomplishment? 

Having my wonderful daughter. Nothing in my life has ever seemed more important than that or given me greater happiness.

5. Do you feel responsible for the actions of the Baby Boomer generation?: 

I feel responsible for the ways in which I have participated in exacerbating the world’s problems or shown indifference to other people’s needs or suffering. But I think of that as my personal failings rather the failings of my “group." I feel guilty about living so well when so many others struggle. I know how much of my good fortune is sheer luck.

6. What contributions/problems do you think your generation has made/inflicted? 

I don’t think there are clear boundaries between generations—one generation blends into the next, and there are always important interactions between younger and older people. If I think about what defines my “generation” best, I think it was the sixties. In the liberal Northeast we were against the Vietnam war and in favor of civil rights and the war against poverty, which I think were contributions. We also were into sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll. That was a bit foolish—serious epidemics of substance use problems and sexually transmitted infections have always been part of the world’s ills. Later, our generation was among those that actively or passively permitted corporations to severely compromise our democracy, proliferate weapons of war throughout the world, support dictatorships and destroy environments. We also passively watched genocides and other catastrophes take place. These are huge and disturbing failings.

7. How do you deal with living with your choices?

Because I don’t believe in regrets, I accept the choices that I’ve made.

8. How to you make peace with your limitations? 

I believe that humans are a highly flawed species with great capacity to inflict harm. I work to be the best person I can be given my particular strengths and weaknesses. I’ve always been highly motivated to know myself and this has included facing and accepting the good, the bad, and the ugly.

9. What is your overriding philosophy on adult friendships? 

I believe that the less you expect from people, the happier you’ll be in your relationships. I let “chemistry” guide my choice of friends. I strive to learn what they can and can’t offer and to accept that. I consider myself responsible for my own internal state, but I’ve been very appreciative when friends have been good and helpful to me in times of need.

10. What about romantic relationships? 

Everything I’ve said about friendships also applies to romantic relationships. In addition, the most important things to me in my 40+ year marriage to your dad have been his unconditional love in good times and bad times, his fidelity and reliability, his sense of humor, his love of the written and spoken word, his intellectual curiosity and keen observations about people, his unambivalent support of my career, and his problem-solving skills.

11. What is your biggest concern for the world after you die?

That it will become uninhabitable by humans as a result of environmental harms and climate change, and that this will affect the grandchildren I love so much in particular and future generations more generally. 

12. Are you afraid of dying? Why or why not? 

I was afraid when I was young and experienced the deaths of my parents, but after spending so many years processing their deaths, I don’t feel afraid now. However, who knows how I’ll feel when I’m actually dying—I just hope that I’m not disabled for a prolonged period of time.

13. What are your priorities for the next phase of your life and why? 

Since I spent much of my life believing that I could die at any minute, I always tried to do what I most wanted to do. I’ve been on the same mission since childhood, trying to understand the world and participate in it through the prism of the medical and psychiatric care that disadvantaged people need. That never changes. My relationships are more important to me now than ever. I adore spending time with Paige and Isaac and nurturing younger people in whatever ways I can. I find that having a 72-year-old-body is like driving an old car. It requires much more maintenance to keep it going, so of necessity I have to prioritize exercise and self-care.


  1. I LOVE #3. I am going to have to post that somewhere visible in my life.

  2. #9 has been a guiding principle in my life that's served me well. Love this.

  3. Wow - what a wise woman you have for a mother! And I love that she'd swing on a swingset even wearing what looks like a beautiful brocade outfit!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.