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LIFETALK: Finding value in resurrected relationships

April 24, 2014
By ROBERTA RUSSELL , Lake Placid News

After 20 years of an adventurous, richly involved life in a huge, overwhelming homestead on the breathtaking west shore of Lake Placid, my husband Harold and I left in a hurry on the top of the housing market in 2007.

We downsized to another beautiful home, this time on the unfamiliar shore of Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. We had cleanly escaped from very high taxes and a stressful road rights battle begun decades before with our predecessors on Blodgett Road. Deeds were writ in blood.

Now new stresses were in store for us.

In New Hampshire, we were once again surrounded by natural beauty, but we foolishly had never considered the fact that we knew no one. I only appreciated the diversity, familiarity and fascination of Lake Placid once we had moved away. Our New Hampshire neighbors were welcoming, but many subsequently departed due to ravages of time or the economy; friends died and gradually our tentative sense of community turned into a wasteland.

To make matters worse, I progressively developed bone-on-bone hip arthritis, which led to a penguin-like gait. That exhausting problem made the thought of packing up and moving somewhere else completely daunting.

Instead, I spent a year gravely investigating my best medical options all over the world. I wanted to act as soon and as precisely as possible before the prospect of eventually losing my independence loomed up.

Last year at the Hospital for Special Surgery, less than a mile away from my home in New York City, I finally came full circle and miraculously had both hips resurfaced (not replaced) by Dr. Edwin Su, who does seven of these complex procedures per day. He had previously posted that he would not perform this operation on a woman over 55. Nevertheless, my daily walking and light weight helped change his mind. The tide had turned.

Fully healed, I can now easily ride a bike again, walk 10 miles and even run with no limp or discomfort. My energy and optimism have returned.

So last June, Harold and I finally got up the gumption to return to Lake Placid. Without having sold our New Hampshire house, we went back to Lake Placid and started looking for a home again. Nothing that worked for us was available to buy, but just arriving here made us both breathe easier. Everywhere we went, people we knew from the past greeted us warmly with their interconnecting stories. We were no longer living in a vacuum.

Relationships define us. They add meaning. Meaning gives us strength and the feeling of well-being. People who have a purpose have more survival power. I walk with friends in the service of keeping fit, but the joy in sharing their stories, our mutual good intentions and the richness of the histories we have shared over the past three decades enrich my life. Our bonds are part of my tapestry of life.

In 2000, Sis Hillman, a Saranac Lake, friend took me by the hand to Jean Parker, who still runs TOPS, a not-for-profit weight-loss group. Jean helped me to go from obese to normal weight.

In turn, I have stayed at normal weight since then with the help of others who have chosen to log their calories and exercise daily with me and sum up in weekly meetings from wherever we are. We do that with each other individually or in a group. At the moment, this is done mostly online at, where you can see how we stay at normal weight, nourishing each other with our attention and mutual commitment for the long haul. It works! If you think that some version of this might help you, please let me know.

I would like to do more of that, in person in the Adirondacks, an inspiring place with a tradition of healing. There is great wealth in our gorgeous natural surroundings and good-hearted people that abound. Givers are energizing.

And what do you know? After nine months of frustrating searching and several aborted contracts, we actually did buy another dreamy house with windows on Lake Placid and Whiteface mountain.

Wonderful people to help us take care of it are with us, too. I can't believe we got so lucky to return to this amazing, ever-growing community and the glorious environment we left behind, forever wild, but more suited to the way we are now. Even the ducks have just returned.

When I rediscover someone I have cared about, the caring comes back, a buried treasure brought to light. I feel delighted.

Reconnecting is a natural high. According to Adam Grant's new book, "Give and Take," "Extensive research reveals that people who give their time and knowledge regularly to help their colleagues end up earning more raises and promotions in a wide range of settings."

He provides strong evidence that once-helpful people whom you revive from the past will offer even more valuable support than those you already know because they share their less familiar connections. That should work both ways.

We are all connected. The more we sense that the safer and happier we will become.



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