Proven: Older IS Wiser – and Smarter (from 2006)

How Aging Changed the Lobster Story (from 2006)

EDITORIAL NOTE: One of the best things that can happen to a blogger is taking place for me this week – meeting in person an internet friend.

Yesterday, Time Goes By Elder Music columnist, Peter Tibbles, arrived to stay for a few days along with his Assistant Musicologist – all the way from Melbourne.

So I am taking off the week from blogging. In place of new posts are some vintage TGB stories that I kind of like and hope you will enjoy them in rerun. I won't disappear entirely. I'll be checking in now and then to see how it's going and perhaps join in the comments.

And, IMPORTANT, all Elder Storytelling Place stories linked at the bottom of these repeats are NEW.

category_bug_journal2.gif Many years ago, in the 1970s, I produced hundreds of local television shows in New York City that were similar to what Regis and Kelly and The View are now - morning programs aimed primarily at women which, over time, covered a wide variety of topics.

One of my favorite guests, when family issues were being discussed, was Eda LeShan. She was a family counselor who had once hosted a show on PBS titled How Do Your Children Grow?. She also wrote books, many of which are still available.

Eda opened one of those books with what she and I referred to as "The Lobster Story," which became, the more we talked about it, one of the important ideas we held about how we each chose to live. Here's the story:

One evening, Eda found herself at a formal dinner party, the kind where seats at the table are assigned with place cards. Following the cocktail hour, as Eda was settling herself in her chair, she realized her dinner partner was an oceanographer. "Oh, damn," Eda said to herself. "What am I ever going to find to talk about with this man?"

As the thought was running through her head, the man said, "Mrs. LeShan, I'll be bet you think we don't have anything in common. Let me tell you about the lobster.

"Every year, a lobster molts," the man continued. "It takes 72 hours for a new shell to form and harden, and during those three days, the lobster is the most vulnerable it can be. But, Mrs. LeShan, a lobster can't grow without making itself vulnerable."

Lobsters. People. No difference to Eda, after that story, in terms of vulnerability. She and her dinner companion had a sensational conversation that evening over good food and wine.

Eda and I came to believe that if we went for longer than a year or so without a crisis to overcome in our lives, we were not being challenged enough to continue growing.

In those days, I thought of "crisis" as always negative. If like me, you spent the majority of adulthood as a single woman, a crisis often involved a man - or lack of one. Other times it might be a difficult boss. Or being unemployed for a time. Or lacking confidence in one's ability to succeed in a new endeavor. Or the death of someone close.

Each of those events happened to me, some more than once, and they left me bereft for a time. But I never came out the other side of a difficult period without having gained a deeper understanding about myself, about another person, about life in general. So much so, that I came to rely on Eda's and my belief that one should have a crisis at least once a year and if too much time went by without one, I began to watch for something to overcome. It doesn't really work that way, but it's good to be on the lookout.

In recent years, I've come to see that the nature of the event that triggers some self- or life-examination doesn't need to be either a crisis or negative. Reading a new idea in a book, magazine, blog or in a movie - if it is original or striking enough (sometimes only its phrasing) - can set me on a new thought path and realization that I have changed in some manner.

For several weeks, I've been mulling a phrase from a statement made by Ang Lee, the director of Brokeback Mountain: "...the power of movies to change the way we're thinking..." which led me to consider how the power of blogging has changed the way I think (more on that some other time) in quiet, but dramatic ways. Who I am has been altered during two years of blogging, something I could not imagine when I began TGB.

And that thought, of course, led me back to Eda, who died in 2002, and how much I wish I could tell her what The Lobster Story, adapted to my later years, continues to mean to me.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Barbara Sloan: Collector or Hoarder?


I had not heard that story before (at least I don't remember it) and I can see how that would prompt a change. Have a good time with Peter and his assistant.

You are such a lucky duck!:) Having known Eda LeShan (love her)& spending time with Peter. How wonderful. And BTW, Eda LeShan wrote at least one very good book on aging & it's about time for me to read it again. Dee

Thanks so much for Lobster story. I'm going to share it with some friends who were discussing just this need for a shake up regularly in order to really come together. So I guess it works on a community level as well as for us individually.

I'm sitting here grinning not only at the Lobster Story, but at you taking time off. Bravo. And hello to the musicologists....she says waving.

Eda wrote a lot of good books. One, which begins with the lobster story, is The Wonderful Crisis of Middle Age. You're right - time to read it again.

Ok, is the Assistant Musicologist Peter's significant other? I would like to see a snapshot of both of them. What would be really perfect would be a snap of all three of you doing something fun. Maybe at a lobster dinner lol?

Luverly to think of you and Peter, both of whom bring us so much pleasure and knowledge, together. Have a brilliant time.
Will be going stateside this week for my lobster moment this year, but not on the West Coast, unfortunately! Hope to be able to check in occasionally, if not as regularly.
Keep well, both of you ... or all three of you, as the case may be.

One thing about being older, the "crisis" or well-phrased idea is more recognizable as a possibility
for change and growth.

You all have a wonderful time.

I am sorry to say I'd forgotten Eda LeShan, she was a mainstay of my early kid raising. Wonderful writer.

I was thinking of "It's Better to be Over the Hill, than Under." And trust me: at 75 yrs. this is the one for me! LOL. Dee

Oops..."than Under It." Dee

Enjoy your time with your guests from down under. Please tell Peter how much his wonderful posts are appreciated. I listen to each and every song while reading a paper on Sunday morning. It is helping with my music listening. And the biographies of the artists are just frosting on the cake.

I am sending this post to my struggling daughter whose life has become one giant crisis. I know Eda LaShan's lobster story will help.

Jeannie, Norma isn't my significant other. She snorted when she read that. Last night we had a crab dinner, but were enjoying ourselves so much we didn't get around to photos.

I just realized I am (and have long been) a lobster! Love this story, Ronni. Now I've got to add an Eda LeShan book or two to my Must Read List! Thanks!

Oh! I so appreciate that you shared this lobster story! Coming into a new life after losing my husband is challenging, and the social stuff is sometimes high on the list of challenges...This opens a new perspective. Thank you, Ronni!

Thank you for reminding me of Eda LeShan's wonderful books, and think I read every one. As I recall, she also contributed articles to various magazines which, whenever I spotted one was eager to read. Have fun with your friends this week.

I hope Portland puts on her best bloom for you all! Recommend Cadillac Cafe on NE Broadway for brunch--pear mimosas! Now I'm gonna go count the times I've been that red crustacean...(sp?)


I hope you will let Peter and Norma know how much we look forward to and enjoy their Sunday column.

From Meatloaf to Mozart they has taught me so much about music... Thanks, and have a wonderful time with Ronni.

Nancy said exactly what I would have said!

Hope you have a wonderful week off! I just finished reading the posts related to your mother's illness and death. You are without doubt one H*** of a terrific writer! Your writing made the whole experience come alive to me (not the best choice of words perhaps, but true).

That said, when my time comes, I hope to drop dead on the floor or, better yet, fall asleep in my own bed and not wake up. I don't want to need "end-of-life" care!

Yet another wonderful post. Is it odd that I have just woken up from a dream about a lobster? :-)

Thank you for this beautifully written and thought-provoking post. As for blogging, it seems I don't know what I think about anything until I write about it.

Glad you're actually taking a whole week off. Tell Peter and Assistant I continue to enjoy his interesting music selections.

Just reflected on this post and your Saturday post of the 105-year-old French woman enjoying her lobster!

When I turned 30 my mother sent me a copy of Eda's lobster story, along with a little red lobster charm. My father had just died and I was going through a rough time. Now my daughter is turning 30 and is a new mother and I wanted to pass along the story and the lobster. I just couldn't put my finger on where it might be. Thank you for google! Eda was a friend of my mother's and her parents were good friends of my grandparents. One of our favorite stories that she told, which was about my grandmother, was "hamburgers for breakfast". I loved reading your blog on the lobster. Thank you,

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