Taking Charge of Your Health

Translator: Queenie Lee
Reviewer: Tanya Cushman I’m standing on top
of a 50-foot telephone pole to go, to jump and reach
the bar swinging below. I stand paralyzed, looking up, praying for a helicopter
to lift me up and rescue me. No such luck! I was getting very hungry,
so I finally take a breath – and of course, a rope
is attached around me – and I jump. Never came close. But it was exhilarating,
inspiring to overcome the fear, and I made it safely to the ground. How many of you often say, “I shoulda, woulda, coulda,” finding excuses to procrastinate? This experience helped me realize that if I wanted to have
the fullest life possible, I could no longer procrastinate. Fear had been inhibiting my life
in so many ways, but it was at this moment
in my life, specifically, that I had a petrifying fear
of flying in a small plane, which became very important because my darling husband had just finally accomplished his dream
of becoming a private pilot, and of course, he expected
me to fly with him. (Laughter) So, remembering the experience of overcoming the fear
at the top of the pole, at which time I would
walk up to his airplane, concentrate all my power
into a clenched fist and say, “Eileen, you have two choices:
you can walk away from the plane, or you can open the door
and step in and have a wonderful time.” So that’s what I did. And we had many
exciting trips, near and far. I even took flying lessons. (Cheers) (Applause) But when asked if I could land the plane, I responded, “Of course. But it may never fly again.” (Laughter) The pole was one of the challenges
that I voluntarily accepted, in Palm Springs,
attending a two-week NLP – that is neuro-linguistic programming – with Tony Robbins, the summer of 1986. I was 57, yeah, 57. A most – the most memorable
challenges I was presented with was walking on 40 feet of hot coals. I did it. 40 feet. No burns. I did it. But of all the activities
that I can’t believe I did – and my husband, when he found out,
he shouted, “She did what?” – was the challenge to get
all the way from Palm Springs and accomplish a good deed. We would leave in the evening, without any money, credit cards, ID, and of course, no cell phones. Who knew what cell phones were in 1986? [There] weren’t really any,
to my knowledge. So how does one make that journey? Well, to start, one sleeps on a sofa
in a motel lobby in Palm Springs and promises the manager that 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
like a beggar, but I guess I was because I literally begged for
a cup of coffee, a little piece of toast. Then the fun really begins – hitchhiking. Oh my God, 57 years old,
and I’m hitchhiking? I stand at the side of the road
with my thumb in the air, put it down nervously. The first few cars drive by
until I finally keep it up. A car stops, I jump in, and I move as far away as I possibly can
from the heavyset driver. It takes three separate rides
to arrive at the intended destination. For what? Well, my group had agreed to meet
at an elementary school in LA, at a specific time
arranged with a principal, to perform good deeds. We all arrived safe and sort of hungry, and teach several classes
a smattering of cool NLP. Bits of wisdom. Now, why did I put myself
through all of this? Because at age 57, I realized it was never too late
to reinvent my life. So thank you, Tony,
for your fear-into-power challenges. (Applause) But that kind of thinking had never been a part of life
for girls of my generation. So in 1947, I attended Hofstra College, well-known now as Hofstra University, since Trump and Clinton
just debated there. After one year, at age 19, I quit, to do what many women did in those days, become a wife,
a little later on, an army wife, and then mother of three sons, which meant I was juggling carpools for Little League,
Boy Scouts, music lessons, religious school, tennis lessons,
doctors, dentists, marketing, cooking, and even cutting my boys’ hair – they had long hair;
they were afraid to go to the barber. I was also a Cub Scout leader,
and room mother for my boys. Saving my sanity during these days was a design job for two or three, thanks to a home-study course
from the New York School of Design. But it was never quite enough. So one night, after playing mahjongg
with some girlfriends, I started thinking that there had to be
more stimulating things, more interesting things, something I could do rather than consume
so much coffee, so much cake, and engage in so much idle chatter – topping it off with
having trouble falling asleep. It was then I made a decision
that instead of mahjongg, I would spend one 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, where I finally gather all my credits, and after possibly setting a record
for the longest time to get a BA degree – 29 years – I did it. (Applause) (Cheers) I earned a bachelor degree at age 49, strengthening my credo
that it is never too late. But it was really only the beginning of fully understanding
what that credo meant. I continue to dive headlong
into education. To make my contribution to society, I attend a two-year certification program in human services, at the University of Judaism. And through that program, I choose to volunteer
at Planned Parenthood, (Applause) teaching safe sex. (Laughter) My method was I carry charts and, as a display, bananas – a horrifying thought to my three sons. (Laughter) And I taught this at many, many schools
throughout the Los Angeles area. And in 1994, I also created a weekly support group,
called the Tuesday Club, for troubled students
at Stoner Avenue school. But that wasn’t enough either. So I studied to become
a clinical hypnotherapist. What fun making my kids
count backwards and leave out a number. And that was at the age of 70. But apparently, there were things waiting for me
to test my never-too-late credo. One of the joys of my life was having my first grandchild
born on my own 57th birthday and sharing the birthday with her
for the past 30 years. It was the best birthday present ever, the best, the best. But Chiara had been avoiding
a bat mitzvah, usually done for girls at age 13. Tired of hearing her father’s nagging, at age 15, she tells him
she would do it if I would do it with her, so sure I would say no. She marches into the kitchen and says, “Grandma, I’ve decided I’ll have
a bat mitzvah if you do it with me.” Much to her surprise and chagrin, consistent with
my “never too late” philosophy, I smile, look at her and say,
“Yes, let’s do it.” (Laughter) (Applause) I think she was ready to shoot me. (Laughter) Lots of study, lots of partying –
she was 16, I was 73. It was a glorious memory in 2002. But the dares from
family members didn’t stop. The next dare comes soon after
my son emails me, “Friends of mine told me about a school, a cool master’s degree course
in spiritual psychology, in Santa Monica. It would be perfect for you.” I push back and finally
give the excuse, “No way, I’d be 75 at the end
of the two-year course.” My son immediately replies, “You’ll be 75 in two years
even if you don’t do the course.” (Applause) (Laughter) He was right, and he made it even more compelling
by offering to do it with me. That convinced me because as a loving mother,
my overriding thought was “It’ll help him, so I’ll do it.” (Laughter) (Applause) Among my many projects at school, the most intense one was to interview
men and women in their 70s who were still accomplishing
new challenges. Angela Lansbury,
she had always been my hero, and she graciously invites me
to her home for a two-hour interview. She’s definitely an exceptional woman. 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.” (Cheers) (Applause) Thank you, Angela.
Those words continue to inspire me. So after two years
of incredible knowledge, I walk across the stage
and receive my master’s diploma, 75 years after being born at one of the most challenging times
in American history, three months before
the Wall Street Crash of 1929, the beginning of 10 years
of devastating depression. I swear I had nothing to do with it although my father would tease me
that it was all my fault. Men were jumping out of windows. My father lost his job. My mom, dad, and I
had to move in with his parents. Gratefully, we rose above this
and many other hard times, including my polio and being literally quarantined
in a Brooklyn hospital as a result of the polio epidemic in 1935. What was equally tough was dealing,
as a young girl, with racial – not racial but religious discrimination. I can still see, in my mind’s eye, nasty little boys following me
to elementary school, throwing stones at me, shouting,
“Dirty Jew, go eat your matzah,” and remember seeing
many signs saying “restricted.” My parents explained that it meant, that it means we Jews
and also blacks not allowed. While I was too young to understand exactly what those signs
and restrictions meant, it became very real when I was denied entrance
to Cornell University in 1947, not because of my grades, they were good, but because soldiers
[were] returning from service and the already-small
Jewish family quota became smaller. So at an age 87,
I’m still going to school, now enjoying an autobiography
and memoirs writing class at Emeritus College. (Applause) But this is important,
because I googled “gratitude,” and it’s something that is so helpful
to the body and the mind. I give gratitude for what I have had
and what I still have. Grateful for my six grandchildren, which is the reward
for not killing my boys (Laughter) when they drove me crazy. And grateful for the opportunities
to open doors, walk through, experience life, remembering with every step that it is never too late,
except when it is. When you no longer
can climb Mount Everest; visit the countries on your bucket list; wake up without pain
somewhere in your body; or turn to a grandparent, parent, sibling, best friend or even your husband, hold their hand, tell them you love them or ask them what you have
been meaning to ask 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, shoulda, wouldas? No matter your age, make your list, pick one and do it now. (Applause) (Cheers)

29 thoughts on “IT IS ABOUT TIME TO REMEMBER THAT IT IS NEVER TOO LATE | Eileen Greene | TEDxCanonDriveWomen

  1. She's so tenacious. I truly admire her chutzpah. Her talk reminds me of one of Julie Andrews quotes: "When you're sad or facing adversity, learn something".

  2. I am sure this is a wonderfully inspiring talk by this great lady – I am her age 87 – and I only wish I could have heard everything she said. Surely someone could have arranged a better way of getting her miked up?
    But I enjoyed what I heard which encouraged me to continue learning to play the piano which to me is my lifetime dream!!

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