As we get older, the future gets shorter and the past gets longer, but the present deepens. –Earon Davis.
When I looked around the Internet to find out what others have learned about getting older, I realized that a lot of things they learned are things that I’ve learned, as well. It’s hard being surrounded by a youth-oriented culture, but now that my generation, the Baby Boomers, are getting gray, there is a lot more open conversation about the benefits and drawbacks of being “old.”
I’ve definitely learned the difference between a mountain and a molehill. Most things are molehills, after all. I didn’t think so before, but I know so now. My dad used to give me this advice all the time, “Don’t let little things bother you.”
“But, Dad, this isn’t a little thing!” I would counter.
And he was right. It was not a big deal to have no date for the junior prom, or the senior prom, either. After my divorce while living in Japan, I managed to move by myself from Osaka to Tokyo. That was a big step, but not an unsurmountable one. I managed to find lots of friends and I had a wonderful time singing in helping to produce concerts for an amateur chorus in Tokyo. It wasn’t a cake-walk by any means, but I made it through the experience more or less intact.
I’ve learned to use money wisely and get along with less. Lots of people who are slightly younger than I are now asking me for advice about retirement. They are concerned about being able to afford their current lifestyle. I tell them that unless they’ve been saving lots of money and investing wisely, they will probably not be able to maintain their current lifestyle. They’re probably going to have to pare down in some way. They’re going to have to figure out how to spend less and enjoy what they have. They’re going to have to get rid of junk and stop buying useless things that they don’t need. I’m not that great with my money, actually, but I can say that I got out of debt before I retired, and I have managed to stay within a $2000 credit limit ever since. And I own my car outright. I’m not flush, but I’m doing OK.
I’ve learned to do what I think is right, regardless of what others think, because I’ve stopped believing that others know what’s best for me. I actually started to learn that lesson when I had cancer, and everyone told me what kind of treatment I should and shouldn’t get. I learned then that giving “advice” was the only way they could show their concern for me, so I thanked them for their concern and made my own decisions. I’ve realized that a lot of times, people’s efforts to control others are really just a way of making themselves feel better. It bothers some people that I stay up til 3 am and get up at 10 am, but what’s the difference? I still get the same amount of sleep they do. Others were bothered that I decided not to get a retirement job right away, but I knew I would have to spend a good, long time recovering not only from cancer and the treatment from cancer, but also from the pulmonary embolisms. Sure, I have to live frugally, but I can deal with that. Some people are bothered that I belong to a religion that doesn’t recognized Jesus as a “savior.” Well, folks, I’m sorry if that bothers you. My religion is meeting my needs and answering a lot of my questions about life. I’m not concerned about hell. I resonate with Eckankar’s uplifting message that I exist because God loves me. I don’t resonate with the fear message that says I will go to hell if I don’t “believe in” Jesus.
I’ve learned not to judge other people and their ideas and opinions so harshly. I still have my judgmental moments, but I’m beginning to let go of a lot of the opinions I once held so fiercely. One positive result is that I weathered the last presidential election year with fewer battle scars. I was able to have discussions with people in the opposite camp more often and arguments less often. I didn’t lose any friends during the election campaign. It was fortunate that my candidate won, but I’ve been around long enough to know that my candidate may not win next time. That’s the way the American public rolls.
I’ve learned that there are some dreams that are probably not going to come true, and I am beginning to let go of them. When I do this, I am also releasing the energy I expended trying to hang onto them. I will probably not find a husband. I’m open – you never know. But if I don’t, I will survive. I will probably never live in a house. I did when I was with my birth family, but never after that. I’ve lived in apartments all this time. It’s not as nice as having a house, but then it’s a lot less work and a lot fewer headaches. I probably won’t be able to do as much traveling as I’d like. Europe? It’s a distant possibility, but I’m not holding my breath. I may choose instead to just take more road trips around the good old U.S.A.
I’ve learned that you still have to have dreams and goals. Right now, one goal is to get my book published. Another is to find keep my two blogs going for at least a year. I’d like to find a way to make money from writing, too. Just haven’t figured that out, yet. I’d like to keep on losing weight and regain my health. A short-term goal this summer will be keeping a garden growing, my first attempt at this in my mom and dad’s backyard. As the illustration at the top reminds us, some of the best days of our lives are ahead of us.
I’ve learned that attitude is important. It’s something you can choose, not something that you think or feel as a reaction to events in our lives. I choose to have as positive an attitude as I can. Regrets are useless; they just make us feel miserable.
Everyone gets older – there’s no escape from that. The body doesn’t feel as good as it used to. The energy isn’t there all day, every day. But what’s the alternative? I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to leave yet. 🙂