Laurel Herman
Chef Instructor, Culinary Storyteller, and Culinary Medicine

Navigating Choppy Waters, on Aging, Plants, and Swimming

Bird of Paradise (Laurel Herman)

At the end of April, I’ll be 65. No biggie. People turn 65 all the time. The past few months, I’ve noticed I’m a bit more tired, things ache more. I call my friends 65 and older and ask” Is this normal? Am I supposed to feel this way? ” and my favorite, “When did you notice you started feeling shitty?”  Even Benny is riding this out with me, He’ll be 11. In doggie years, he’s a senior.

The text messages started rolling in,” Sign up for Medicare NOW”. Google must be reading my mind. Every ad on Facebook has silver haired people, dating, and buying retirement homes. The idea  of retirement has  people traveling, and enjoying a lifestyle without a care of financial stress. It’s  a thing of a past, as more of us have to continue to work. Suffice to say,  I was a bit down.  I am still working, not as much,but I still love what I do. I have tons of experience, I have paid my dues and I still have something of value to offer. Wisdom  does come with age and I’d much rather get paid for that.   The questions and  still fears arose, ” Will I still be relevant? ”

What if I become obsolete?” My dear friend and first ex husband ( I have collected two), assures me, “Laurel you are far too involved to ever become obsolete.”  Will they trade me in for a younger model? Well, eventually yes.

To allay my fears, I turned to Ram Dass and his lecture on conscious aging. He talks about the ashramas, the stages of life. At 60 years old you leave your attachments and become a free being. It’s like entering a new ashram. He talks about slowly letting himself feel in to being a senior citizen. In  western society we are treated as less than.  He talks about his trip to India, and how a friend said he was looking older.  In India, older is a sign of respect. It wasn’t the comment that bothered Ram Das, it was his  Western conditioning. Something to notice.

A few days ago, a 40 something told me” age is just a number”. ” Sure”,  I laughed as I rolled my eyes while swallowing  my turmeric for my swollen and aching knee.

On Plants

The other day I bought a new plant. A Bird of Paradise to be exact. It had some wear and tear. I got it for $5 dollars because it was torn. I felt like the plant, torn but still viable and beautiful.  I took my new friend home with the promise to love and care for it. In my research I learned that it may take years for the plant to bloom. It may grow new shoots, but the flower, could take years, and maybe it blooms only once in a life time.  That flower only comes with time.   This is beginning to feel like the new ashram.  Maybe I’m blooming.

On Swimming 

One of the people I admire the most is Simon Jordan. He designed my website, and did my branding, always encouraging me to stay true to my self.  Simon is the founder of  5 Things Clear, and One Planet One Place. This summer, Simon is swimming the English Channel.  Simon wears many hats and this is his way of bringing awareness to the environment. He has begun a rigorous training schedule to make the swim. He is unstoppable.  One thing that struck me was Simon’s training sessions with famous swimmers  Beth French ( from the film Against the Tides, and Adam Walker, aka The Ocean Walker.

He is teaching Simon how to swim without  injury. 

Frankly, I was relieved for him when he posted  that. What he is doing is unimaginable to me. But, there is a way  to navigate these waters, whether it is the channel, or aging without suffering. We are going to have dings, be uncomfortable. Life is a marathon. Unfamiliar waters, sometimes choppy. Both training for the big swim ages and miles apart.  He said to me this morning;

“Mind is everything in this challenge,  I’m also having to adjust my body to being cold.”  Ill take a cue from Simon and substitute the word cold for ” older”. Thanks for always cheering me on,  I’ll be rooting for you too, across the pond.   

With love, Laurel

About the Author
Laurel Herman is Chef Instructor and Culinary Storyteller, and Culinary Medicine practitioner, residing in Richmond, Virginia. A classically trained chef in the European style( Thames Valley University, London, U.K. and The Institute for Integrative Nutrition) Her style is anything but classic, its fun, and relaxed. A lifelong career in food, Laurel had the unique experience of being the only woman in a kitchen brigade of 30 men, ( 40 years ago) earning their respect and affection through hard work and determination. Laurel's passion is bringing people together through food, her joy is to watch people arrive as strangers, and leave as friends. Her workshop and retreat work use storytelling combined with cooking and music to evoke a sense of remembrance. She currently teaches at Mise en Place Cooking School, and various venues throughout Richmond . She is a strong believer that one way we can fight racism and bigotry of any kind is by helping people have access to clean and abundant food, supporting farmers markets and local vendors. Although not a chef himself, her favorite mythological character is Robin Hood, the revolutionary defender of social equality. Her books, The Blissed Out Chef was published in 2015 and the Inner Kitchen, Balboa press in 2011.
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