This week my life’s clock will tick into a new decade.
I’ll be 60. No longer can I try to claim that I’m “middle aged.” I’m obviously much closer to the end than the middle.
So what have I learned in these 60 years?
What would I tell my younger self to help make her life a bit easier?
Here’s my list:
1. Stretch – literally. Help your body by stretching your muscles. Daily – or almost. When I was in the sixth grade, I had to do stretches as physical therapy for scoliosis. I wish that physical therapist had told me, “You need to do these the rest of your life.” And I wish I’d listened to the folks later who’d tell me that yoga would help me a lot. It has! I got a late start, but it’s never too late to get some benefit.
2. Stretch – figuratively. If it interests you – even if you’re not good at it – give it a try. Don’t think you have to be good at everything you do. Stretch yourself even when it’s uncomfortable. You’ll miss out on a lot if you only do what comes naturally and easily. Because I was a good student and decent athlete as a kid, I started thinking I had to be good at everything I attempted. For too many years that limited what I would try. Now I’m much more comfortable with trying things that are beyond what is easy and second nature. And that has helped make me a better, more-versatile, happier person.
3. Don’t worry about being judged. If you put yourself out there at all, you’ll be judged. That’s okay. Most people who judge you are showing that they are uncomfortable with themselves. Don’t let that affect who YOU are. This one is connected with the previous one, too. For too long, I didn’t want people to think badly of me, and that’s partially why I didn’t try things I couldn’t do well. But as I’ve aged, I realize that judgers typically are people who aren’t happy with themselves, so they try to bring others down – thinking it makes them better. It doesn’t. And that doesn’t have to affect me. At all.
4. Don’t put off fun activities. You’re not promised tomorrow. You’re not promised good health your whole life or a decent income your whole life. Take advantage of what you have NOW. There might not be another chance. Too many times I put off travel or some activity until the “right time.” I realize now that the “right time” may never come – that health may not last, that having “enough” money may never come. If you can pull it off, do it NOW. I’m very grateful I did some traveling when it was easy for me to walk and hike. After double knee replacement, walking is a challenge now. And after cancer treatments, I don’t have much stamina. But I did quite a bit when I did have stamina and could walk all day. I’m certainly glad now!
5. This too shall pass. If some aspect of life seems horrible, unbearable – then wait. It will change. Nothing lasts forever. So many times when I was younger I suffered extra because I thought a situation would never change. I thought the pain would never subside. But it always did. Maybe not in the timeline I expected, but it always did change. That also applies to the “good” things, too.
And that leads me to the last one.
6. Be present to the present. Don’t always be looking at the past or planning the future. Be here now. NOW is when life happens. How many times have I not enjoyed an activity or experience because I was worried about something that happened minutes or hours or days or months or even years before? Too many! How many times have I not enjoyed an activity or experience because I was trying to plan for some future event – in case it happened? Too many! I realize I’m much happier when I can be present in the now, not worrying or planning. Yes, there is a time to remember lessons or to plan for the future, but don’t do either in the midst of something that is happening now.
I’m grateful to have lived to see 60 and to have had the life experiences that came to me. I have learned SO much in these 60 years! I probably learned the most during a cancer journey seven years ago. But each of my 60 years has brought opportunity and lessons. I’ve tried to pay attention and glean what wisdom is in each one.
But I know there is still more to experience and learn.
Starting with this new decade!