Isabel Allende, on aging, living with passion, and the wisdom of having fun while doing good.

Isabel Allende, TED Talk, Vancouver 2014I fell down a rabbit hole this morning, and it left me anxious to share this TED Talk given by 71-year-old Chilean author, Isabel Allende:

How to live passionately — no matter your age.

(Click the TED Talk tab to the right when you’re ready to watch).

There was astonishing synchronicity for me, from the quote she shared by another favourite author, Mary Oliver:

“Tell me, what is it that you plan to do with your one precious and wild life?”

to her invitations to embrace the wisdom of adopting an ageless attitude; of living in the moment; a hearkening to care deeply for others, fueled by her mentor, Olga Murray (another Adventure Diva who found her calling at age 60, rescuing more than 12,000 young girls from domestic bondage, changing both the culture and the laws, and ensuring an education for more than 4,000 children); and even a later revelation, as I went on a hunt to learn more about her, in a serendipitous trip to India (something I have been planning for myself).

As I dug deeper it simply left me overwhelmed.

There is so much about this woman that I wanted to come back and share, but I didn’t know where to start. I worried about doing her justice, and finding a simple way to bring back such a complex berth of wisdom and “Aha! moments” that I thought I should simply put this aside.

But I’m learning that it’s best to be in the moment, while it’s fresh and full of life (something that Isabel reiterates in her talk), so, I simply asked myself the question: “What do you want to say?” And’s it’s just this:

  • that this woman is funny, smart, owns her age like gold, and is certainly as passionate as her talk invites us all to be;
  • that our aging may come with certain losses (people, our energy, some of our independence); and yet what we gain is so powerful (freedom, lightness and the art of letting go, when we have nothing left to prove, and can simply be ourselves; and as Brené Brown has taught us, the wisdom of embracing vulnerability as a power, not a weakness);
  • that there is a desperate and delicious urgency to saying “Yes!” to life. “Retirement” in her native Spanish tongue is “Jubilation”, celebration. We have paid our dues, and now it’s our time, and it’s a great time. (Amen to that! ) That there is much to be gained by choosing to stay passionate, and engaged with an open heart;
  • that as I am discovering more and more these days, behind the laughter there is often pain. (She lost her 28-year-old daughter, Paula Frias, to a rare blood disorder and hospital negligence, and was plunged into a deep despair); and,
  • that a soul trek to India took her by the hand to another mother, and a dying baby, and an epiphany that changed her life, and lead her to begin changing the lives of so many others.

There is so much more to know about Isabel …

(for instance, how a military coup and her family’s exile from Chile to Venezuela in the 70’s, and finally the U.S., both changed her and guides her now).

So I invite you to put the kettle on, fill a cup with your favourite elixir, and simply welcome her in. She is an extraordinary woman who starts by embracing us with a conversation about aging, then takes us by the hand and guides us through garden upon garden of the moments and opportunities that continue to shape our lives.

First, watch the TED Talk I’ve shared. (Click the tab to the left). You’ll fall in love with this woman’s generous spirit and mirth.

Then, let me offer a few more places to start.




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