Words of wisdom from 102-year-old practising doctor Gladys McGarey on how to live a satisfying life
 More about the book!

Dr Gladys McGarey is over one hundred years old and a still-practising doctor. She currently has a life coaching practice, maintains a healthy diet, and still enjoys a good piece of cake every now and then.

Having started writing books in her nineties, McGarey’s latest book, The Well-Lived Life, serves up six secrets to health and happiness at any age. Here are a few words of wisdom from this phenomenal woman.

‘It’s almost impossible to live without a community. You can live by yourself but create a community that feeds your essence.’

What have you learned in your 102 years about living life to the fullest?
Every minute counts. Some of the most important things that happen to us quickly, we hardly know they are happening. But when we are in the process of paying attention, we’ll see them. The most miniscule things can change our lives. When I was in Wellsville, Ohio on call, caring for 9,000 people day and night, I would return to my son Bob who was 18 months old sitting on the front steps. I would pick him up, take him to my rocking chair and he would pat my shoulders and I could return to being myself in my home. This was a life changing moment I recognised by being present.

What’s something anyone can start doing tomorrow to live life to the fullest?
Keep living. Be aware of the fact that you are actually breathing in and out. The sun comes up and life is real. Life and love are the two most important things that are alive. It’s the awareness that pops into your head when you are looking for it. It’s delightful, sometimes you have thoughts that mean nothing or ones that can change your whole life. You just have to be aware.

How do we mobilise when we are feeling impossibly stuck?
Sometimes it’s done to you. Sometimes you get mobilised by the world around you and what your life is doing. Even those times we must accept as real. But we won’t be mobilised if we are not looking for it. If you are actually looking for having an awakening or something new, that is important.

How does contributing to a community contribute to our own wellbeing?
We as humans need each other, if we don’t have a community. You can live in the Himalayas, and I know people who do, that have a community because the villagers around them will bring food and resources. They have their own angelic community. It’s almost impossible to live without a community. You can live by yourself but create a community that feeds your essence. I needed my son Bob on the steps of myself coming home after a hard day at work. We need to feed each other and be fed by each other. It’s love that does that. It’s like breathing in and breathing out. You breathe in the love from other people, you breathe out love to other people. Our world can’t function without this duality, the in and out.

You were lucky enough as a child to meet Gandhi. What did he teach you about love?
Gandhi taught me that love is real. I spent hours trying to unpack the word ‘love’ for this book so that it would be understandable. People have been trying to explain love for years in songs and poems, but I finally realised there aren’t words to use that are adequate. Anyone who has not experienced love does not know what it is. It is like asking a blind person to understand what the colour green is. How do you explain something they have never experienced? You do the best you can until you can truly live.

In your 90s you decided to take on a new ambition to become a writer. What led you to this decision?
I had a lot of things I wanted to say. I had written articles and people kept asking me questions. Someone finally asked if I could write a book and I thought, I could do that. My first book was in 2000 and from then more books came.

What’s wrong with the old adage about conserving your energy as you get older?
If you try to conserve your energy as you get older, it won’t work. Life doesn’t work that way. If you stop using your energy and being aware, your energy dies. Life can’t live without moving so we must be able to move our consciousness in such a way so life can continue. If we are going to be alive, we have to move, change, and live.

Can unpack the foundational 5 Ls for us?
The first two Ls are life and love, and they are one unit. Life as it is, is like a little seed. You can have a seed in a pyramid for thousands of years, and then give it some water and love and it will start to grow. Life can’t grow without love. Love is what activates the shell so that life can begin. Like the sperm and the ovum. Life and love are a unit.
The third L is laughter. Laughter without love is cruel and vain. But laughter with love is happiness and joy.
The fourth L is labour. Labour without love is drudgery. For example, I have too many diapers to change, I’m too tired, or I have to go to work. But labour with love is bliss. It’s why I became a physician. It’s why a singer sings or a painter paints.
The fifth L is listening. Listening without love is empty silence but listening with love is understanding.
These 5 Ls really are a starting point for understanding some of the things that we are really working towards.

What is a piece of advice you would give your younger self?
Trust yourself.

The Well-Lived Life hits shelves in June.


This article was originally published in The Penguin Post, a magazine about books for book lovers from Penguin Random House South Africa.   

Categories International Non-fiction

Tags Gladys McGarey Penguin Random House SA The Penguin Post The Well-Lived Life

1 Votes

You must log in to post a comment