Death is an inevitability. While this may be a hard pill to swallow, we still have a choice whether to live in the anxious unknowingness of it, or to live holding life’s mystery in gentle hands. The guest of this episode would prefer the latter. Host, Adam Markel, sits with Dr. Ken Druck to talk about this challenging topic. Dr. Druck is an authority on courageous living, a bestselling author, a mental health expert and a thought leader whose work in psychology over the years has included executive consulting, visionary leadership, the psychology of men, parental effectiveness, healing after loss, resilience and courageous aging. Dr. Druck unleashes his expertise during this episode and talks about the process of getting older, dying and the cycle of life. He shares his experience with the noble struggles we all face each time we think about mortality, including an understanding of the paradoxes that lay beneath. Dr. Druck also discusses living life not only for ourselves but for others as well, specifically in relation to living out “the second half of life”. This is the topic of Dr. Druck’s latest book, Raising an Aging Parent. There are many great insights awaiting you in this episode on making our life count, even as we get older, so don’t miss it!
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Getting Older And The Cycle of Life: Living Out Our Time in Mystery
I feel blessed just taking a few quiet breaths as we begin this show. We’re going to have a beautiful conversation about a challenging topic. Something that we’ve either all gone through or will go through at some point. It’s something that’s pertinent in my own personal life. I know that’s the same for a lot of other people. I’m breathing into the fact that this is a serious topic and as many serious things in life. It’s something that is beautiful, natural and according to God’s plan or the universe’s plan. There’s nothing to defend or be afraid of. We’re going to talk a little bit about dying, a little bit about the process of getting older and the cycle of life and other things that may show up in the space. What’s delightful for me in terms of this is that I have somebody to speak to that I’ve known for a number of years, a gentleman that I think very highly of and I have a lot of respect for. He doesn’t just have my admiration but had the admiration of a lot of well-respected people, thousands and thousands of people for many years. He is a bestselling author and somebody that’s been an expert on a number of different topics.
Dr. Ken Druck is an authority on courageous living and the author of the book, Raising an Aging Parent: Guidelines for Families in the Second Half of Life. He is a bestselling author and a mental health expert. He has spent four decades helping people grow more courageous, compassionate, and resilient through even the most severe adversity, tragedy, and loss. His pioneering work in psychology over the years has included executive coaching, consulting, visionary leadership, the psychology of men, parent effectiveness, healing after loss, resilience and Courageous Aging, the title of one of his bestselling books. Ken, it is a pleasure to have you on the show. I feel delighted that we get to have a conversation as friends, but other people will also enjoy and find something in it for them. Thanks for being here.
Thanks for inviting me. It is a joy and a special privilege for me. You and I, as busy as we are, we get to spend this time together, dropping down into things that are life-changing and heart-opening. Thank you for this opportunity.
Ken, that’s a short little snippet of your bio and your history. What’s something that is not written there that I’ve shared that you’d love for people to know about you?
We were talking about the cover of my book. I don’t tell people, but I’ve got a lot of compliments. People say, “That’s beautiful. What a great cover. Who designed that for you?” They look at it and say, “It’s not written or told anywhere, but that’s my hand in the middle. That’s my daughter’s hand on the side. That little tiny hand is the hand of my little grandson who’s one of two grandsons who came into my life.” What people don’t know about me is that my life has turned on a dime in all directions. It doesn’t turn on a dime when you suffer a tragedy. As you pointed out, I’ve been a part of many people’s lives in the darkest and most difficult moments after 9/11 of Sandy Hook families and in my own life after the death of my oldest daughter.
My life changed forever with the arrival of these beautiful boys. I was delighted in every day of life watching. It’s like, “They discovered they have a hand.” One of the boys found that he had an ear. He’s like, “I have an ear.” Watching them blossom into all of their greatest capabilities and being a part of that and watching my daughter as a mother. She’s incredible and my son in law. This is one of the great blessings of my life that isn’t written into my bio and that I don’t ordinarily talk about. It is part of raising an aging parent because my daughter gets to see, “Here’s her dad and he’s getting a little older and here are his grandchildren. Here’s my dad wondering how long he’s going to be on the planet, enjoying these grandkids, watching them grow to be 5, 10, 15 and maybe 20. How many years and how sacred is this moment to my dad and I get to share this joy with my dad.” Watching her father get older, watching your parents get older, even as she herself gets older and has these kids in her life is such an important thing for all of us to notice happening and to be conscious and talking about with each other.
It’s like watching the seasons change. I was thinking that there’s a great old Joni Mitchell song called Urge for Going. It is a beautiful song about the leaves changing and the grass turning a different shade of color and trying to hold. It’s like the summer had an urge for going. It is a metaphor for many areas of our lives and trying to hold onto it as futile because it’s not natural. It’s never seemingly any coincidence to anything. I was on a radio show based in Manhattan, New York, where I used to grow up. We ended up having a conversation about something that’s a foreshadowing of the conversation that we are having. I wasn’t consciously thinking at all later that day I’d be speaking to you about this topic.
I said to the show host because he was talking about some challenges that he’d had in his life and some things he’d overcome. I was working with him on some of the languages and I said, “It’s interesting that in light of the tragedy involving Kobe Bryant, these families and children that were on that helicopter that went down. It’s a natural reaction for people to say in the process of grieving and dealing with those things, ‘This too, shall pass.’” I don’t even want to call it a cliché, but it’s been helpful for people to acknowledge that this too, shall pass. I said to him, “That’s true of everything.” It’s not exclusively when there’s a loss, tragedy or some disappointment. It’s true of the best days of our lives. It’s true of every joy that we have, the things that make us truly happy. That’s the nature of the whole game.
You said it beautifully at the beginning of our conversation that the cycle of life, this is the way of life. My book is titled, The Real Rules of Life: Balancing Life’s Terms with Your Own. These are life’s terms. It’s a lease deal. It’s not a lease to own and we get to live in the mystery. That doesn’t mean that we have 100% certainty about what this life is, what death is, what it means that things pass. We don’t know what we transition into, what these changes in, what’s around the corner. We get to live in the fertile unknowingness of it. Some of us live in the anxious unknowingness of it, rather than holding the mystery in gentle hands. It’s embracing the fact that we’re part of a mystery. We don’t get to know with 100% certainty, but that is the way of life. After the death of my oldest daughter, a woman came up to me.
My daughter was on a study abroad trip in India and the bus that she was on to the Taj Mahal flipped over. She and three other beautiful young women died in that accident. A week after that, a woman came up to me and she said, “Everything works out for the best.” That was the first of many clichés that people used, “God needed another angel or do you have any other children?” People were saying these things to me, which felt insensitive. I thought to myself, “Maybe everything does work out for the best. Maybe God did need another angel. Maybe she is in a better place. Maybe all those things are right.” It was wrong for somebody to say those to me.
You can be right and absolutely wrong for telling somebody in a moment that they need you to stand with them. They need you to ask them questions about what it’s like. What you’re doing that’s helping you get to the next breath or the next day to invoke a cliché or to put a spin on something is lacking in compassion, understanding, and empathy. If you want to be present, you have to quiet your own sense of helplessness and unknowingness in the presence of the person who is suffering at that moment and needs more than anything for you to be with them, but not to be fixing them.Life is a lease deal. It's not a lease to own and we get to live in the mystery. Click To Tweet
Anxious unknowingness is an interesting way to look at this. I’ll ask you the question because you’re the psychologist, not me. I’m a recovering attorney. I’ve done plenty of psychology without a degree.
I’ve got the degree and I was that but then life changed and I realized that what I do can’t be contained or allegiant to certain professional rules and guidelines that I respect tremendously, but had nothing to do with me.
In that same conversation, it led to this discussion of impermanence. In Buddhism, one of the tenets that our suffering arises out of our attachment to things, to the fact that things might last. We can hang onto them forever or that we might live in this body forever. I believe we are eternal beings, although it’s a separate conversation. In this physical expression, when we’re alive now, our desire is to remain alive, there is a tension between our desire to live. We wouldn’t want to wake up in the morning and go, “I have no reason to live.” There’s a huge suicide issue that keeps getting bigger. There is a desire to live, we all get that and the other end of that tether is this wisdom of not being attached to that. Recognizing the impermanence of things so that we can be more at peace with the cycles.
I love that we’re struggling with this. There are some things that are such noble struggles that we try to wrap our hearts, hands and our thoughts around which are good struggles that are elusive that we need to learn over and over again. One of the ways that helped me deal with the thing we’re talking about is to understand paradoxes.
Say more about that.
Paradoxically, my daughter is gone and she’s right here. She’s always with me. I was brokenhearted and shattered and I still am by my daughter’s death. The fact that I have to live out the rest of my life without my beautiful sweetheart of a daughter, my soulmate, in some ways. I’m shattered in a million pieces and I’m more whole than ever. Our culture wants us to think of things as either/or. It’s either this way and I’ve learned to live in a both/and world.
I am a Bothist. I want to get people on board with a new religion that’s called Bothism. Are you ready to join?
I think we have started it. Every cell in me wants to live and I aspire to live and to flourish as I pass through. I will turn 70. It’s like, “What time is it? I’m 70. When did that happen? Am I aging out?” I’m in the most creative phase of my life. I’m aging in. In parts of the world like India, you’re waking up at 60. I’m waking up at 70, but the experience I have, what I know as a priority, precious, and irreplaceable. I want attachment, connection, meaning, purpose and to be in this world for as long as I’m going to be here. In that both ends, the feeling of being a part of something larger. The enormity of this universe that we’re in and feeling connected. It’s the equanimity of feeling that I am a part of the cycle of life.
I am a part of the great beyond that is part of where I will go and where I was before I got here, whatever theory or belief about how things progress. Whether it’s karmic, whether we evolve, whether we reincarnate, whether we die and turn to dust it, it doesn’t make a difference. Both are true. Do I want to be a part of what this is in essence? Yes, I aspire to be in harmony with that, but I also love and cherish the idea that I got to run around on the anthill for as many years as I did having an identity and feeling at times.
Having such absolute views of the world.
We are feeling alone and empty and realizing that if I allow myself to feel the emptiness or to feel sorrow, that behind the emptiness, there’s a fullness that awaits us. Behind the sorrow is a joyfulness and to keep the faith in those things that grow and occur in us organically. That’s how we evolve. That’s how we become the resilient version of ourselves.
I want to talk about resilience. It reminded me of something that my dad, who is still with us and is doing great, Mr. Kenneth Markel. He shared this wisdom when I was a kid and I still hear it from him. He still says, “There are a front and back to everything.” You think about that. It’s a simple explanation of what you’re describing, the front and back of things.
We could ask every man who’s reading, “What did your mom or dad say to you that has stayed with you that was a piece of sage guiding wisdom?” My dad always used to say, “Pace yourself.” That came from him learning that he had to do that. He had a heart attack at age 35. He had learned this eminent wisdom to pace himself and that stays with me, just as it stays with you that there are a front and back to everything.
My beloved Randi says this, “Slow and steady wins the race.” We went through those stages of life. We were always rushing. I was rushing into my business. I was rushing to get rich. I was rushing for everything. I was rushing to buy houses and any number of other things you could think about. We are rushing through life. It’s interesting because I remember my mother-in-law, who would say to Randi and to myself, as we were starting our family and having kids. She’d say, “Don’t wish the day away.” If you think about that, how quickly we’re thinking about tomorrow. We find ourselves in planning and our goal setting that we’re already a day ahead, a week, a month, a year, five years ahead. When this one beautiful, glorious and sacred day is in our hands at the moment and we’re paying attention to other things.
One of the blessings in my life was having a mentor named Meyer Friedman. Remember way back in the day, there was a book called Type A Behavior and Your Heart, he wrote that book. It was his research as a cardiologist working with Stanford that did that. He used to talk about type A behavior as a hurry sickness. He used to try to encourage people. His clients are amongst some of the great corporate leaders in this country, all the great corporate executives. Bob Haas, who ran Levi Strauss. James Harvey who ran Transamerica. I interviewed him at the top of the Transamerica building in San Francisco. These were all his clients, who Mike would tell, “Just arrive at that moment.” I remember being with James Harvey at the top of the Transamerica building after his quadruple bypass. He was telling me, “Ken, I’ve been up in this office for decades, but what I’ve realized is look out the window. You see that weather system coming in? I’m finally here. I am finally arriving at the moment of my own life. I’m waking up and I’m breaking free of that hurry sickness.”
Isn’t that what all of us are challenged to do? We want to get stuff done. We want to accomplish things. We have our to-do lists and we are more organized than ever. There’s more to do and there’s less time and there’s more activity. We have a world that we could completely engage from second to second, yet the things that are most precious that make this life most joyful and most meaningful are right there. They’re already happening. I got to tell you what I did for Lisette. I thought, “What a compliment to getting candy, cards, flowers and doing the usual Valentine’s Day thing?”
I sat down and I wrote a list. I put on a blank piece of paper in my handwriting, not on my computer of 25 things I love about you. I listed, including times. “I love the time that you did this. I love how much you take care of your family. I love the way you love me. I love the way you listen.” I’m going down the whole list. It was a matter of arriving in those eternal fleeting moments and experiences that we have that each of us has every day. Sometimes when I’m working with people who don’t have much time left, what I will ask them is, “Tell me what happened that’s a lifetime memory. Tell me what was wonderful that happened even in the middle of your pain and anticipatory grieving your own death?” Those are the things to cherish.
I think we’re in the woo-woo zone anyway, and I don’t remember where you’re from. I grew up in New York.
I was born in a flushing hospital in Queens.
This is not borne out of somehow my parents being flower children or raising me in a way that would invite this. I do believe that my parents were inviting this into my experience of life because they were open-minded people. They cherished conversation, especially at the dinner table. Almost nothing was out of bounds or off-limits. They are good people that respected other people. I’d never heard a racist thing come out of my parents’ mouth. It’s things like that that I could attribute for sure to my ability to go into this space. That’s a preamble to what I’m going to say to you about Lisette. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all of us to give our present of presence to another human being? What’s more of a present than to be present with someone else? Especially when more often than not, we check ourselves. I check myself all the time. Am I with that person? Am I here in this or am I thinking about the next thing I’m about to do? Am I physically looking at my email while I’m on a phone call, checking my texts while I’m speaking to somebody, or even being interviewed in a radio broadcast?
I am not 100% present. This is going to lead into s question of you Ken, which is I’m curious about and it might take a wild guess or it might be something you’ve thought about before. We live up to 80, 90 or 100, whatever life we’ve got. Let’s say we live to be 100 years old and we’re healthy and happy. How much of that time where we present in our lives versus the time we’ve spent thinking about the past, thinking about planning the future and not at this moment? What do you think? What’s the percentage that we have?
I will put it on a continuum. Here’s somebody who has never woken up. Somebody on one end of the extreme who is caught up in activity and in tracking activity. They squirreled and they run over there and here’s the person who shows up. You show up and doing these interviews. You’re asking me. You’re drawing me out. You’re meeting me in a place of what I know, what I don’t know and mystery. That’s showing up. I think it’s a continuum. In some parts of our lives and with certain people, we can show up. Whereas, other people, it’s meaningless. What we want to do is start moving over to the things, the people, the situations, the conversations, and the state of mind and the state of heart that we have that gives us the ability to be present. If we’re exhausted, we’re not balancing rest and activity. That’s going to move us over to that side of the continuum.
We have self-care as part of showing up. It’s part of being present. We have to take care of it. The other thing is eliminating as many of those harshly critical. My theme has been, “Getting your foot off your throat and put your hand on your heart.” When we have our foot on our own throat and we’re prosecuting ourselves, we’re producing evidence, we’re constantly critical. We’re judging, we’re evaluating and assessing ourselves. It’s like being in a courtroom where there’s no judge, no jury, and no defense attorney. Only a prosecutor waving that admonishing finger of blame and finding negative evidence that proves. When we are in that mindset, we can’t be present. We’re embedded in the conversations of self-judgment or judging other people, gossiping, evaluating and diminishing other people. Our own mindset and mental hygiene, how we take care of our minds and our thoughts. Whether we rest and we know that there’s something beyond our thoughts. Those of us who meditate and rest our minds rather than attaching to every thought. We breathe, we relax and we realize there’s something beyond my thoughts.
Your intention among other things is to take your prosecutorial foot off of your throat and move more into your heart. Mine was to find myself in my body through mindfulness. It’s an interesting integration of those things. Because when I’m present, I’m present to what my body is feeling and where I’m sensing it in my body. That doesn’t happen all the time. That happens certainly at the height of certain flow states, whether it’s on sports, in writing, in conversation or speaking. You find yourself in that flow state, even in the process of whatever activity you’re doing, you feel. This is important in public speaking. Your body movements, the physicality that you exhibit as you’re sharing something, either match with what you’re saying, it’s congruent or it’s a mismatch. That’s what the difference between an impactful, effective public speaker, whether it’s on TED or it’s in a corporate setting or anywhere as somebody that’s just yakking. Their bodies doing one thing and there’s crap coming out of their mouth. Whether it makes sense or not, you can’t feel it. People in the audience can’t feel it. There’s a difference. To embody that on a day-to-day, minute-to-minute, moment-to-moment basis, it is interesting.
I love the question, “Am I listening? Am I paying attention? Am I listening to the people that I love that are most precious? Am I listening to myself, to my body speaking to me?” Maybe through aches and pains at times or through pleasure and exhilaration, or through my willingness to give it rest, to unplug. My willingness to move it, give it movement and joy. Am I listening to what’s happening in the world around me? We’re alive at a time. Are we listening to and watching what’s happening in our country now is historic? It’s monumental that we get to sit and watch, what does our nation and what is our world becoming? What are we saying is most important? What are we hiding from? What are we denying, repressing and running from, self-medicating and the busyness?
As you said, judging because imagine in historic times like this, I’ll set a high bar for myself, for all of us. Can you watch what’s happening? Can you listen without judgment?
I had an opportunity, I wrote an op-ed for The Hill. The Hill goes directly to the White House, Congress, thought leaders in the political world. It is the preeminent publication. I wrote something called A Nation Unsettled and On The Brink. The core of the piece that I wrote was those people, it’s on us. It’s not on looking to the government, looking to religion or looking to institutions to do it for us. We can’t outsource responsibility. It’s our responsibility that we need to listen to each other. Even those people who believe something completely different. We need to listen because underneath all that noise is a common ground. It is the realization that we both cherish the same kinds of things. We have different ideas about how to get there and we might be passionate about them, but how can we come together, find common ground. Show each other the respect and restraint of not judging, listening, asking those open-ended questions that would allow us to get to know one another, enough to discover that we have common desires, aspirations, and goals. There’s room for both of us to be good Americans or good world citizens, but we have to get to that point. Either that or we are going to divide, polarize, splinter and be at civil war. That’s the choice we get to make it.
We’re at a precipice for sure. This is a pivot point in many ways in our world. There’s a difference between passion and prosecution, and you pointed that out. We can have our respective passions for whatever the things are that are important to us and yet not be the prosecutor. I believe from A Course in Miracles and from other things that I’ve been thinking about for a number of years is that we can’t give anything to anyone else that we don’t possess ourselves. If our intention would be to give love to our country, to give anything that would be a part of our contribution as citizens, to do what John F. Kennedy said and show up in that way. We can’t give what we don’t possess. When you said how we have our own foot on our neck, that we’re constantly prosecuting ourselves. Is it shocking in any way that we should be ready to prosecute other people? Prosecute people for not believing what we believe or for being a part of a different party or supporting. Whoever it is that you know that they support, we’re ready to prosecute others because we’re used to prosecuting ourselves. Yes or no?
Yes, projection is one of the least understood things that we do. We psychologically project all of the shadow stuff that we don’t want to believe or think about or take ownership that we do to ourselves. Our attitude towards ourselves, our way of treating ourselves or our ways of having not having learned how to hold what we believe in a way that’s equitable. The social justice internally gets projected externally. If you look and listen carefully to the conversations that are happening in this country, so much of it is projection. Much of that judgment is laden with projection. We’re projecting what we don’t realize is a part of us and we’re putting it on other people.
What’s the antidote? It’s being with somebody. I had an amazing experience. I was promoting a couple of books. I was invited onto a radio show in Tennessee. It’s the biggest show in that region of the country. I found out that the guy, whose show it was, was one of the founders of the Tea Party. I’m a self-confessed California liberal. I was a psychologist, I thought, “I’m going to be California roadkill.” He is having me on his show to fillet me. He’s going to try to rip me apart and get into a political discussion and do the “what about” thing with me.
After spending hours dreading this radio interview, we got on the phone and the first thing he said to me is, “I’m sorry. I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose one of my kids. I don’t know if I’d survive.” I asked him about his kids and we started talking about our children and the future we wanted and the values we had. We never once talked about politics. We talked as fathers. We found that common ground. It was one of the best interviews I did. We became friends. I started telling stories about people that I know who became friends that turned into brothers who cannot agree. One loves Trump and one hates Trump. There are polarized politically. They believe in completely different things, but they have found each other. I call them awkward friendships or unlikely friendships. How many of us have formed unlikely friendships?
I tell people, “Go out and make an unlikely friend.” Go out with somebody that you disagree with and find common ground. Find it within yourself to listen to them and to calm your thoughts and your judgments and see if you can learn anything. See if you can say something to them that may broaden their perspective on certain things. See if you can meet closer to the middle and in that middle ground, you will find there’s something that you both want in common and respect that you believe. Fight for what you believe and go for it, but let’s not be at war. We’re on the same team. We’re on the same planet.Behind the emptiness, there's a fullness that awaits us. Click To Tweet
You find your inner peace. This is something I remember bringing to the company I was running for a number of years in the personal development space. We started to talk about peace. The download for me at that time was, as we create our own inner peace, it’s the piece that we show and give to the world. We can’t give anything we don’t have. The gift that you give yourself is the gift you then have to share with others. Inner peace will create peace everywhere else. What we’re seeing in our country is a reflection of the turmoil that’s inside of us. That’s what’s disturbing about it. To me, the antidote is the thing we’re talking about. You learn how to love more unconditionally with yourself.
When we look at this nation, this incredible experiment and you think about what does democracy in a Republic like ours depends upon this weird government we set up? With co-equal branches of government and the justice system that we’ve set up, it depends on the best of us showing up. It depends on our ability to reach each other, to have dialogue and deliberation. To find out how the best in you meet up with the best in me. We create something on higher ground, not me bringing out the worst in you, attacking you, polarizing against you, condemning, name-calling and diminishing you. It’s interesting because I spent the last couple of months talking about Raising an Aging Parent book. A lot of people say to me, “Why did you use the word raising? What’s this raising an aging parent? Aren’t you diminishing them by using that?” I said, “I’m talking about raising up.” The way we raise our kids and not to diminish them. We want to raise them up. We want to empower them. We don’t want to diminish them, nor do we want to do that with our parents as they get older.
We’re going to become more involved in their care. Some of those are going to become their caregivers, but that doesn’t mean we take control and take over and we don’t work with them to come up with great options for the transitions and changes that they’re going through. Maybe they’re having to move out of the family house because it’s too big to manage. Maybe they have a new health concern and they need to make an adjustment there. Maybe one of our mom or dad has passed. The other one’s trying to figure out how they’re going to go on and how are they going to make life meaningful. How they’re going to take out the trash when that’s what dad used to do. There are all these transitions and changes and how can we show up for them and raise them up, not diminish them. It’s a similar thing that I think is going on, how can we raise each other up in our nation, in our relationships and our families in our world?
I’m thinking about your book and I’m going to ask you a question that’s based on my experience. I delivered a TEDx Talk called DOING THIS for 10 Seconds Can Change Your Life! It was these four little words that were a part of creating resilience. In preparing for that TEDx Talk and in our business, training other people to deliver TEDx Talks and those high stakes talks, we sometimes ask somebody, “What’s the through-line for this message that you want to deliver?” I’m going to ask you that difficult question because, for a book, it’s more difficult. My TEDx Talk was maybe 2,300 words and your book is probably 60,000 words. I do want to know what is the through-line for this book of yours?
Many of us are in the second half of life. Not that we know exactly how many years we have. The second half of life can be as rich if not richer than the things we went through in the first half. Whether you’re an aging parent, a parent who’s hitting on 65, 70 or 75. Whether you are the adult child of a parent who’s getting older or even the adult child and a parent is passed. There are incredible challenges ahead, but the opportunities are even greater. The opportunities to have some of your best, most beautiful moments and years of quality of life are awaiting you. If you opt into what a youth worshiping culture of ours, that sends people out to pasture because you aged out by the time you’re 65, 75, or 85. Our world is changing and we’re realizing the richness and the opportunity, emotional freedom. The opportunity for intimacy and closeness in our families. The opportunity to be a good son and daughter by helping an aging parent put their house in order. By helping them come to terms with things like impermanence, which they’re looking at their watch wondering, how can you be a part of helping them, loving them and supporting them? If their health is diminished or their ability to problem solve or think out analytically, how can you be a part of that and take care of yourself? As you’ve said, you’ve got to take care of yourself in order to know how to take care of somebody else.
Instead of caregiver fatigue, you create caregiver balance. You know what you need to go and refill your cup. When it’s time to rest? When it’s time to delegate, to talk to your brother and sister? When it’s time to bring in professional support and care? If you don’t have the money to do that, our communities have a tremendous resource that can assist families where you have an aging parent who maybe has a dementia illness, maybe has some physical incapacities or who maybe is without their husband or wife for the first time and is lonely and needs social activity or lifelong learning. There are resources exploding in this country and around the world with the realization that our population is getting older. My book is a roadmap to all of these conversations, all of these issues and how to meet these challenges and how to create opportunities so that the quality of the second half of our life even exceeds the quality and the wonderfulness that we’ve experienced in the first half.
I’m glad that you brought up the pushback that you’ve got where people have given you feedback on the word raising. I listen to Bill Maher sometimes who talked about the problem of ageism is that it isn’t acknowledged. There are a lot of isms that you can get in trouble for. We’re living in a cancel culture. If you make the mistake and you’re a public figure or you’re a celebrity and you do something wrong, they just cut you like, “Off with their head,” very quickly because it’s that woke arrogance. People that don’t make mistakes. People that don’t live in glass houses. It is the hypocrisy of another sort. We’ve got hypocrisy on one side that’s evident that we’re seeing around us and this is a more subtle form of hypocrisy, but it is hypocrisy nonetheless because people make mistakes and that doesn’t mean you get thrown out with the bathwater.
We’re playing, “Got you.” There are some people that are masterful at doing it. They make a career of it. They look for people that they can, “Got you.”
Ageism is interesting because with all that stuff that’s politically incorrect that you can get in trouble for, marginalizing people who are aging doesn’t seem to have this other than in the work context and the provisions that protect a person from being fired after 55. There are other places where marginalizing a person who is older is okay and they are putting them out to pasture.
It also becomes too okay for us to do it to ourselves. When I wrote Courageous Aging, it was with a fire in my heart. Let’s get a life. Let’s opt-out of this absolute BS about what it means to be turning 60, 55, 40 or 35. Those are the numbers. What did they mean to you? What hypnosis do you want to give yourself about that number?
Ken, in the tech space, there are people who turn 30 and feel as though somehow the best of themselves is behind.
I got a friend who played rock and roll. They were playing in front of 110,000 people in countries around the world when they were 21, 23 and 25. The last hit they had was when they were 26 or 27. They were has-beens. I’ve had the honor of working with a lot of rockers who had early success, athletes who had early success and aged out at 28. They’re wondering, “What’s left of my life? How am I ever going to get back to here?” They were spending their lives at age 28 grieving the loss of their younger selves. People in a state of perpetual grief looking back at their past and not realizing the horizons. The incredible opportunity of bringing together experience and sage wisdom and connections of people in our lives. the richness that we have to live with as the year’s pass. These great new seasons of life, let’s embrace them. Let’s live fully in them. Let’s live out our time and then hold it in mystery. Let’s hold it with gentle hands that we get to pass from this life. We got to ride. We have to crawl around in the anthill for a while.
We get to pass into another mystery because it leaves us in the last chapter in Raising an Aging Parent is called Leaving A Legacy of Love. It’s the part of us that lives on for certain by paying the good in our lives forward. By leaving this planet, leaving our children and grandchildren and future generations with the same kind of freedoms and opportunities that we’ve had as a privileged culture. Maybe even giving those things to other parts of the world. That’s our legacy. How are we going to live out these years, making room to pay the good forward? That’s one of the great opportunities. That’s how we live on knowing in our hearts and having a sense of peace that we gave the best of ourselves even though we weren’t going to be here.
How do you define resilience?
Resilience is not about bouncing and it has nothing to do with bouncing back. We don’t bounce. Resilience is something that grows organically in its own time and in its own way. We have to be listening and tuning into noticing, “Here are the things that are helping me dig out of this dark hole. Here are the things that are helping me transform adversity into the better version of me, the better, stronger, more courageous, more hopeful and faithful version of myself. At the same time that I’m being invited into despair, hopelessness, helplessness, fear, and dread.” Resilience is conducting that conversation in our own hearts, minds, and spirits. It’s allowing the strength, the part of us that knows. It is like our DNA that wants to live on. It is a part of ourselves, of our being, the one that aspires to find a way out of the darkness back into the light. It’s allowing that part of us to flourish.
It’s feeding it the nutrients that it needs. It’s noticing what fills me, what’s giving me the strength to go on and what depletes me, including people that I hang out with, the people that I bring into my circle. What people that give me sustenance and strength and what people deplete me, they’re exhausting to be with even if it’s some people in my own family. It’s noticing all those things and being attendant to the things that are going to make me strong, that are going to help me create, dig out of this and live in a new season of life and write new chapters of life.
Ken, what’s one ritual to create resilience that you’ve adopted?
I’ll go back to get my foot off of my throat. I’m putting my hand on my heart and I encourage everybody to find your own variation of that. It doesn’t have to be what I said. It can be your own variation. You might say, “Get my head out of the sand and up towards facing the warmth of the sun.” It’s something that’s personally meaningful for you. It might be something you wear on your wrist, a ring or necklace you wear that you touch, that is the reminder of everything you can do to be loving and caring for yourself and moving forward.
I adore that and I appreciate you sharing that with us.
Adam, you could be doing this show alone. You are a speaker and a thought leader in your own right. You draw out the best in me, in people like me and you have the space to do that with a sense of security, love, assurance, and generosity. Sharing your living room says everything about you that needs to be said.Let's live out our time and then hold it in mystery. Click To Tweet
It’s like when you’ve heard everything you need to hear and I appreciate knowing that from you, Ken. I don’t know that I’m the best receiver at times. I think a lot of us have that difficulty being able to truly receive something in the gift of a genuine compliment like the one you paid me. I’m going to sit with that after I say au revoir to everybody. I’ll remind us all to get to take those words that Ken shared with us and put them into action, to take our foot off our throats and put our hands on our hearts. It’s a simple way to do it. I end every show by reminding us all that when we woke up, there was no guarantee that that would be the case. When we went to sleep, we didn’t know we’d wake up. That’s a blessing and it’s the same all day.
My hope and prayer are that we all get to wake up again. Wake up in every sense of the word. As we’re physically waking up and taking that first breath, realizing that at the same moment, there are people who are taking their last breath and it’s sacred. Regardless of whatever challenges you are facing, you can be grateful. You sit in gratitude for a moment and take those ten seconds to feel your foot to not be on your throat and instead, be on your heart. If you have the audacity to even declare out loud something that makes you feel good about yourself, it could be, “I’m one with everything and everything is one with me.” It could be, “I wonder what miracles are coming now.” It could be those four little words that are part of that TEDx Talk, “I love my life.” I know you love your life, Ken. I appreciate you. Thanks for being a guest on the show.
Thank you for having me, Adam. It is great to be with you.
Have a blessed rest of your day. Ciao for now.
- Raising an Aging Parent: Guidelines for Families in the Second Half of Life
- Courageous Aging
- The Real Rules of Life: Balancing Life’s Terms with Your Own
- Type A Behavior and Your Heart
- A Nation Unsettled and On The Brink
- DOING THIS for 10 Seconds Can Change Your Life! – Adam Markel TED Talk
About Dr. Ken Druck
Dr. Ken Druck is an authority on courageous living and author of the new book “Raising an Aging Parent: Guidelines for Families in the Second Half of Life.” A best-selling author and mental health expert, he has spent four decades helping people grow more courageous, compassionate, and resilient through even the most severe adversity, tragedy, and loss. His pioneering work in psychology over the past 40 years has included Executive Coaching/Consulting, Visionary Leadership, The Psychology of Men, Parent Effectiveness, Healing After Loss, Resilience and, most recently, Courageous Aging, the title of his previous bestselling book.
Featured regularly in national and international news, including CNN, Huffington Post, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, Dr. Druck has shaped our worldview of what it means to live honorably, courageously, purposefully, and fully. He is widely recognized as a lifeline to the countless thousands of individuals, families, communities, and organizations he’s helped. His body of work, including the founding of The Jenna Druck Center to honor the life and spirit of his daughter, set a new standard of bereavement care and healing following tragedies like 9/11, Columbine, Katrina, and Sandy Hook. He was awarded the “Distinguished Contribution to Psychology” and “Visionary Leadership” awards for his community service and lifetime achievements.
Dr. Druck holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Fielding Institute and a bachelor’s degree from Hofstra University. He is a rock drummer who has jammed with bands including Blue Oyster Cult, as well as a lifelong athlete who played soccer on the US Team in the Senior Olympics and was named “All New England” in basketball and soccer in high school. Voted “Best of YPO” as a speaker, Dr. Druck was known as “Dr. Ken” on Oprah before there was a Dr. Phil. He started the nation’s first Community Editorial Board for the San Diego Union-Tribune, and trains his service/therapy dogs. A member of the prestigious Transformational Leadership Council, he is active in civil politics and in environmental causes through the Sierra Club and Torrey Pines Association. Dr. Druck is well recognized as a community leader in San Diego.
Dr. Druck lives and maintains a small coaching and consulting practice on the ocean in Del Mar, California, writing and speaking prolifically on the subjects he loves, working on community service and civility projects, and enjoying the quiet beauty of his life with his fiancé, Lisette, their four-legged boxer, Jack, and their family. Learn more at www.kendruck.com.