Meredith Maran’s 2017 book, The New Old Me: My Late-Life Reinvention, was born from what she describes as a “cavalcade of catastrophes.” The year was 2012 and her best friend died of cancer, her finances demolished, her dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and her marriage broke up. What she expected to be the cruising stage of life turned out to be totally upended.
And yet, instead of looking at it as life demolished, she says it turned out to be the first chapter of starting over. It’s not just a cautionary tale of what can go wrong, might indeed happen, but it’s also about picking oneself up, dusting off the debris, and diving right back into life.
The Fine Line caught up with her while she was literally on her back, recovering from an injury. She says the old saying “Make plans and the gods will laugh” is true. She thought her whole life was mapped out, including her finances. When it was all upended, she left San Francisco and moved to Los Angeles to start over. She left her freelance writer’s life for a 9-to-5 job in a town where she knew almost no one. This new “Plan B Life,” as she calls it, was not smooth sailing. She was lonely and says the word felt like “loserdom.”
“It’s one thing to say I’m sick or broke or sad. But lonely is a tough word. I had to be willing to acknowledge that I needed people.”
Here she gives advice on making friends, chilling out, and what to read.
How did you go about finding new friends in such a huge city?
It’s not an easy quest in your 60s, but I went public with my intent, posting on a variety of social media networks. I put the word out for an introduction; “If anyone knows anyone who knows someone who likes me and would like to meet me.” You have to be willing to make a fool out of yourself but I did it anyway. I went on “speed-dating friendship” meetings and tried not to ‘reek of desperation.’ The effort eventually paid off and I have a good group of friends.
How does your “New Old Me” self feel about growing older?
I’ve so far half-heartedly fought it with the usual Botox, fillers, and coloring my gray. But, while it may sound trite, I believe I have accrued wisdom. You know: Accept the things you cannot change. Now I’m less likely to react in the same ways I used to. I found there’s not a correlation to the things I used to worry about and the things that actually happened.
What does self-care look like for you?
Before my back injury, I embraced a boot camp program and worked out five days a week for three years. I felt stronger, and exercise was big part of my life. I need it emotionally and physically.
Any pithy advice for your young self?
Take a chill pill. Looking back, things that seemed the most important were not. I actually thought I was in charge. I wish I’d been able to have faith in the universe or higher power and less of a sense of self-importance.
How is life for you now?
It’s really great. I have amazing friendships, stopped drinking a year ago, created a community. I feel better, but it’s been hard; alcohol had a big role in my life. I had to develop new skills, but I have more of a spiritual practice than I ever had.
Give us a couple of book recommendations?
To purchase The New Old Me: My Late-Life Reinvention, go to amazon.com.