By Lizzy Stock
This story was first published in the June 2022 issue of “The Best Years.”
When Gail Lowrance retired from teaching special education in 2014, she spent a summer in a tiny town in California where everyone knew each other by name. On her third day there, a bookstore owner recognized her by her bright white hair and greeted her.
“I thought, ‘I have arrived! I have found my people,’” Lowrance says.
This kind of space — one that is personal and brings her joy — is something Lowrance is constantly learning to create in her life. A phrase that has stuck with her throughout this journey is that one is an entirely different person every decade.
“I think that’s so wonderful,” Lowrance says, reflecting on her upcoming 67th birthday. “Every decade has just gotten better and better and better. And I think, ‘Wow, what will [my] 70s do?’”
Lowrance attributes the growing quality and richness of her life to learning self-compassion. She says she loved working as a special education teacher, but she needed to release the baggage she shouldered from the children she was working with.
Now, with four grandchildren, Lowrance describes her main focus as being how she can make their lives better and make a difference in gentle ways.
“Not just their own personal lives, but what can I do to create a bigger, kinder existence for them? That’s kind of what I’m striving for now, is to be kinder than you need to be,” Lowrance says. “I believe in that ripple effect. I just think the kindness thing — eventually, it’s going to help.”
A powerful lesson Lowrance has learned is that kindness and self-compassion mean learning to say no, as well as doing what you need to do and not what other people want you to do.
Being in control of what she chooses to spend her time and energy on allows Lowrance to intentionally fill her life with things she loves. From her apartment decorated in a way entirely unique to her to the town Cape Girardeau she calls home, Lowrance has worked hard to create her own personalized space.
“I’m just so eternally grateful to be in Cape Girardeau, and to know — even the young people at Burrito-Ville, they know me,” Lowrance says. “Everybody knows everyone, and we’re just lucky that the town’s small enough that you can develop your own little world, and it’s a positive world.”