It's my 5Oth birthday today (DH's too, sort of). Age isn't really important to me, but I haven't been embracing this one; it just sounds…old. Don't give me that c*@p about it's not our Mother's 50 anymore…the only thing that's changed about 50 is the clothing sizes are much more generous so it's easier on us to go through our mid-life crisis'. I've made the conscious decision to embrace all the good things that come with being 50. For one, I'm now officially allowed to dispense advice as an 'elder with wisdom' and I plan to. Oh, com'on, suck it up, it's my birthday. I know it's a little hard to take after my day of gloating and being Lord of the Ring (that didn't last long), but I'm feeling a little 'deep' today so bear with me!
After eight years as a Teacher (art) and before my career in Business Process Improvement, we spent one year in Cincinnati where I was the Activities Director at a large daytime activities based Senior Center. I learned a lot from 'my seniors' that I can share.
Maybe it's the pain meds talking but here's what I've learned in my 50 years. I'm not anywhere near perfect at any of these, but they're the things I strive for. I should have started working on this before today, but you're stuck with my rambling mind…my true friends will suffer through this (or at least tell me that they did).:
· Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself- Several generations in one part of my family have been consumed by 'wrongs done to them', never learned to forgive, and it was detrimental to them. I learned that forgiveness isn't about the other person (or maybe yourself), or the 'wrong', it's a gift you give yourself in order to move past it and not let it determine your path in life.
· Life is about choices, and the results or consequences. My kids know this 'Momism' by heart…it works when they can't make a decision, or when they don't make the choice, but leave it up to someone else..also when they've done great or when they made a poor choice. Don't leave the choices up to someone else…learn to make good choices, but a consequence isn't necessarily a bad thing as long as you learn from it. I tell my kids that I make mistakes every day. The road of our life is just one choice after another, so hone this skill. It's the choices we make that show us who we truly are.
· Take risks. My seniors didn't regret the things they'd done as much as the things they hadn't. Some of my best memories are from risks I took; learn to recognize an opportunity when it comes and take it. Physical things like; rafting on a class 5 rapids river, spludunking through a treacherous cave system for 11 hours, completing a 40' up high ropes course. Experiences like; my first trip abroad being by myself in Paris for an entire week (DH in other cities), being the architect for our current house…the house is basically a rectangle, I got a small tattoo with some sorority sisters, or even going on a blind date (met DH).
· Laugh and cry every day. The crying may be harder for some of you than me. Not a day goes by where I haven't had a hearty laugh or felt tears running down my face (usually TV). I'm the mom that hugs every kid (and adult) who comes in our house. It's important to wear your emotions on your sleeve especially around those you love and trust. They need to see your love, not just hear it.
· Be the kind of friend/mom/spouse/daughter *or male version* you want to have. Show up. Be present in people's lives. Go the extra mile for them. Drive 3 states away to your friend's dad's funeral. Don't just send flowers when your friend is sick, take them yourself or make a meal for their family. Hold your friends hair when they've had too much to drink and they're puking.
· Don't take your health for granted. I was in my 20's and teaching aerobics classes at night. I thought some of the older ladies were 'falling apart'…one came up and asked for help because she had incontinence and couldn't jump…now I'm her. I remember going to the PCP for a CU and not having a thing to talk about; now I take a list. The healthiest seniors I worked with were very active. Most of the disabled seniors could trace their major health problems back to one single fall. Taking dance classes one day, and never driving and using a cane forever after…one moment changed the quality of their life. Appreciate your health and constantly work towards improving it (we're all doing it now).
· Never be too embarrassed that you forget how to play. My Mom will still sing and kick her legs to her high school fight song on request. I've be the audience volunteer for the Disney Show and danced with my sister on stage. Play video/board games with your kids. I crank the music when I'm cleaning and dance around singing (badly). You get old when you forget the joy of playing.
· Learn something new every day. I can't go to bed unless I've learned something new that day…I recently bought a set of French language CD's. I didn't know what a blog was 6 months ago. Keep setting new goals. When you stop learning your brain stops too.
· Keep learning who you are. It took DH and I many years of experiences to realize what we're best at (just in business). Most things we excel at can be traced to one basic skill. Mine is 'Creative Change' and DH's is 'Finding Things'. He's been an Oil and Gas Geologist finding where/how deep to drill, to Director of Product and Market Development for a new joint venture that he 'found' the different pieces of and brought the right people and products together. Find your passion and indulge it. It's an ongoing process to keep learning who we are in life as well.
· Find a way to give back. Use a skill or something you're interested in and give back to your community. You're the one who will reap the real benefits. Start with easy 'random acts of kindness'. The active seniors drove Meals on Wheels to the shut-in seniors daily. Learn how to ask for help too. Remember the person helping you is getting the pleasure of giving.
· Find the silver lining. I'm a cup is half-full person…DH calls me the eternal optimist. If you make an effort to find a silver lining there always is one and you'll go through life a happier person. You may have to look long and hard, and it's not always easy, but it's there. And stop sweating the small stuff…learn that there are things you can't change and let it go.
· Surround yourself with others who have similar values. No, you can't pick your family, but you do choose others whom you let into your life. Surround yourself with those that uplift you and are going the same direction. This might not be popular, but I've already told DD that there are a lot of men out there that she can fall in love with. You don't know who YOU are going to be (let alone your spouse) 5, 10 or 50 years on down the line. Spend your life with someone who's got the same values and wants the same things out of life, as those are the things that rarely change and bind you to the same path. I married my DH for his sense of humor (and other values); and he still makes me laugh. I enjoy helping people…I've learned that this isn't always the best criteria for picking a friend…I've gotten pickier.
· Be true to who you are. There's nothing more important to me than family, but I've learned that I need to be the person that I've become, not necessarily the role I had growing up. I had an epiphany (or maybe it's that mid-life crisis thing) heading into the last year or two. These past few years I've become more philosophical, more sentimental (my family would say that's not possible) and more thoughtful. I thought I was becoming self-centered, and selfish. What I'm learning is that I'm just more confident in who I am and what I want. I know my real motivations for things and I've learned I can be selfless and still contribute to the world in a way that ultimately gives me pleasure as well. I've learned to say 'no' (I was always a 'doormat'), not because I'm selfish, but because I've learned that I can't be all things to everyone, no matter how hard I try. I've learned that it's better to say 'yes' with conscious purpose. I've learned to 'put myself on the list'. How can others be happy with you if you're not putting any time into making yourself happy (and healthy). That's what brought me to the LAP-BAND®.
Happy Birthday Me!