My amazing Mother is 89 and thriving.
I believe it is because of one philosophy she has, and has had, for as long as I can remember.
And that is that it is truly never too late to start or do anything, no matter what age . . . until, one day when you can no longer hold the hand of a loved one who has passed, physically get out of bed or until your own life journey ends. But until then my Mom implores us all – no matter what age – to “Go for it!”
Born in New York City, 1929, bullied as a kid because of being “a dirty Jew”, married at age 19, Eileen Greene raised 3 sons (Richard, Edwin and Laurence) and then started an unrelenting campaign to educate herself and experience life to the fullest with a BA at 49, NLP Certification at 57, Human Services Training at 61, Certified Interior Designer at 64, Hynpnotherapist at 70, Bat Mitzvah’d at 73, Masters Degree at 75 and, now, doing yoga, balance therapy, acupuncture and attending two book clubs!
Two years after losing her life partner, Marty, after 66 and 1/2 years of marriage, I was finally able to convince my Mom to share her secrets with the world via a TED Talk. Here is the text of her amazing talk, one that received a full standing ovation from a large audience of young and old . . .
SO, I’m standing on top of a 50ft telephone pole. The goal is to jump and reach the bar swinging below.
I stand, paralyzed, hoping for a helicopter to lift me up and rescue me. No such luck.
I was getting very hungry so I finally take a deep breath and (with a rope attached to my body) I jump. Never came close to the bar.
How many of you often say I shoulda, woulda, coulda, finding excuses and procrastinate? I could no longer procrastinate!
Fear was inhibiting my life in many ways but specifically being petrified of flying in small planes. My husband finally accomplished his dream of becoming a private pilot and expected me to fly with him. I needed to get past my fear. Gratefully I did and we had many exciting trips near and far. I even took flying lessons. When asked if I could land the plan I responded, of course, but it may never fly again!
The Pole was one of the challenges that I voluntarily accepted in Palm Springs attending A 2 week NLP certification course (Neuro Linguistic Programming) with Tony Robbins the summer of 1986 at the age of 57.
Among the most memorable challenges I was presented with was walking on 40 ft of hot coals. DID IT. With no burns.
But of all the activities that I can’t believe I did . . . and my husband, when he found out, shouted, ‘She did WHAT!….was the challenge to get all the way to LA from Palm Springs, and accomplish a good deed.
We would leave in the evening, without money, credit cards or ID and no cell phones (which, of course, was easy because back in the stone age of 1986 there weren’t any!) So how does one make that journey?
Well, to start, one sleeps on a sofa in a motel lobby in Palm Springs. Had to promise I would rise and depart very early in the morning.
When I wake up, I head for a coffee shop. I didn’t think I looked much like a begger, but I guess I was as I begged for a cup of coffee and a piece of toast.
Then, the fun really began – hitchhiking. I stand at the side of the road with my thumb in the air, but nervously put it down when the first few cars drove by, until I finally keep it up.
A car stops and I jump in. It takes 3 separate rides to arrive at the intended destination. For what? My group had agreed to meet at an elementary school in LA at a specific time that had been arranged with the principal to perform our good deed. We all arrive, safe and hungry and teach several classes a smattering of NLP.
Why did I put myself through all of this? At age 57 I realized it was never too late to re-invent my life. Thank you Tony for your Fear into Power challenges.
In 1947 I attended Hofstra Collage, well known now as Hofstra University since Trump and Clinton debated there. After 1 year, at 19, I quit to do what many women did in those days . . . become a wife, for me also an army wife, and then mother of 3 sons.
Juggling Car pools for Little League, Boy Scouts, Music lessons, Religious School, Tennis lessons, Doctors, Dentists, Marketing, Cooking and even cutting my boys hair! I also was a Cub Scout Leader and Room Mother for my boys.
Saving my sanity was a Design job or two, thanks to a Home Study Course from the New York School of Design,
But it was never really quite enough. So one night after playing Mah Jong with some girlfriends I started thinking that there had to be a more stimulating and interesting something I could do, rather than consume so much coffee, so much cake and engage in so much idle chatter, topping it off with trouble falling asleep.
It was then I made a decision that, instead of Mah Jong, I would spend my one free evening a week at school and continue my journey to earn a college degree.
So I enroll at Santa Monica City College, followed by UCLA, followed by Cal State Northridge were I finally gather all my credits. And after possibly setting a record for the longest time to get a BA degree – after 29 years – I did it! I earn a bachelor degree at age 49 fulfilling my credo that it is never too late.
But it was really only the beginning of fully understanding what that credo really meant. So I continue to dive headlong into education.
To make my contribution to society I attended a Two-Year Certificate Program in Human Services Para Professional Training at the University of Judaism.
I chose to volunteer at Planned Parenthood teaching safe sex to children at numerous Los Angeles schools.
I also volunteered at Vista del Mar Child and Family Services on Motor Avenue.
In 1994 I created a support group called the ‘Tuesday Club’ for troubled students at Stoner Avenue School.
But that wasn’t enough, so I study to be a Clinical Hypnotherapist and receive my Certification in1999, at the age of 70.
But, apparently, there were still things for which . . . it was not too late!
My eldest granddaughter was born on my birthday – my first grandchild as my 57th birthday present – the very best ever!
She had been avoiding a Bat Mitzvah, usually done for Jewish boys and girls at age 13. Tired of her father’s nagging, at age 15 she told him she would do it if Grandma would do it, because of our joint birthdays, so sure I would say ‘no. It’s never too late to have a bar or bat mitzvah so to her chagrin I say, “yes, let’s do it!” I think she was ready to shoot me.
Lots of study and lots of partying. She was 16 and I was 73. It was a glorious 1999.
But the dares from family members didn’t stop there.
The next dare came soon after. My son nagged me to go to and through a 2-year Masters Degree course in something called “Spiritual Psychology”. After running out of excuses I agreed that I would, indeed, go for my masters.
Among my many projects the most intense one was to interview men and women in their 70’s and older who were still accomplishing new challenges. The icon of impressive grace in her later years, herself, Angela Lansbury graciously invited me to her home for a 2-hour interview. She is definitely an exceptional women and my role model. With her permission I repeat her words to me,
“You’re growing you know and that’s a wonderful thing to do at your time in your life. I won’t say age, because age really has nothing to do with that. Well, you and I are ageless women”.
After two years of incredible knowledge at age 75 I did it. I walk across the stage and receive my diploma.
I was born 3 months before the Wall Street crash in 1929. The beginning of a ten-year depression. I swear I had nothing to do with it although my father would always tease me that it was all my fault!
Men were jumping out of windows, my father lost his job and we had to move in with his parents. My family endured some very hard times; gratefully we rose above many of the challenges including dealing with my Polio. What was out of our control was racial discrimination. I remember when walking to elementary school nasty little boys would follow behind throwing stones at me shouting, dirty Jew go eat your matzo. I remember seeing many signs saying ‘restricted’. My parents explained that it meant Jews and blacks were not allowed. I was too young to understand the ramifications of many of those signs and restrictions. My most painful experience was when I was denied entrance to Cornell University in 1947 specifically because soldiers were returning from service and the already small Jewish female quota became smaller.
Age 87 I am still going to school. I give gratitude for what I had and what I still have; grateful I did not kill my boys when they drove me crazy because my rewards are 6 grandchildren.
Grateful for the opportunities to open doors, walk through and experience life remembering it is never too late, except…. when it is, when you no longer can climb Mt Everest, take classes, visit the countries on your bucket list, wake up without pain somewhere in your body or turn to a grandparent, parent, sibling, best friends or even your husband . . . hold their hand and tell them you love them.
It ultimately will be too late for everything and for everyone. But in between now and then, it is not . . . It Absolutely is Not Too Late!
So . . . what are your coulda, shouda, wouldas?
No matter your age . . . make your list and at least pick one and do one NOW!
You can join over 23,000 and watch my Mom here!