How to add years of joy and meaning to life. (Secrets revealed, Part 3)
today at 8:00 am
It cannot be said too many times. If you want to be happy as you enter the home stretch, follow this two-step process.
1. Let go of ‘what was’ and make a realistic appraisal of ‘what is.’
2. Build your future around the good stuff that shows up in your assessment.
There is danger in reliving your life out of a faded photo album. Your memory of being prom king (“got more votes than the all-state quarterback!”) is a quaint story for two martinis into cocktail hour, slushy relived but not to be revived. A future relying on an idealized version of the past is vanity; not useful.
Being a ‘senior citizen’ is not tantamount to an orthopedic shoe with a worn out heel. Being retired does not have to morph into one long nap; harboring energy does not equate to becoming ineffective and irrelevant. It is a reminder to use it wisely, doing what it takes to stay in the mainstream, because the alternative is not an acceptable option.
Yes, you are getting older, but you do not have to die before your time is up. Facts are, only seven percent of men and women in their seventies and eighties need help with personal care. As for the incapacitation that we dread, typically it comes, if at all, in the last three months of our lives. And even then, mental clarity is likely to remain to the end.
Yes, the transition to senior citizen is difficult, particularly in an era when technology reigns supreme. But the discontent and unhappiness we suffer does not occur because grasping technology can be problematic, it’s a result of the false premise that the full experience of being alive is lost as we age.
This is the existential moment! Literally, the crossroads where one road leads to a life fully alive and the other leads to a slow decline in the quality of your life.
Thankfully, inside each of us is a personal GPS that lets us know where we are and how to get to where we want to go.
No matter your circumstance, do not lose touch with the world at large. Force yourself if necessary, to stay engaged; above all else, do not become isolated. It can be frightening to reach out for companionship but think of the effort as an opportunity for a new experience that can lead to an exciting adventure.
Share your feelings. Sharing is a way to identify ourselves, both the grief we endure and the joy we celebrate. When we share our stories, we find common ground, and a community is formed. The group dynamic is mysterious and miraculous, forming a bond among the participants no matter how dissimilar they are.
If embarrassment lurks as a residual of a long ago event, it’s time to jettison the shame. Shame is an impostor, it’s not ‘you,’ but rather a feeling we have about ourselves, a belief stored deep inside us that says we are inadequate or defective. Shame is an implant. You’re not born with it. It starts when you’re young, burned into your psyche by a sense that you didn’t live up to parental expectations. Shame wields its power when you tamp it down and ignore its existence. Expose it to the light, and it becomes a vampire at high noon.
Create and commit to a purpose that pops you out of bed in the morning. If unsure of what yours might be, here are some ideas. Be of selfless service to others less fortunate than you. Focus on people rather than things. You don’t have to duplicate Mother Teresa, but even a couple of hours each week reading at a hospice, teaching kids from under-served schools to sharpen their reading skills, coaching a Little League team will be incredibly rewarding.
Old age can be a blessing when you regard each added year as bonus time to fulfill your human potential and your life’s purpose and to make a difference in the world.