Celebrate Good Times
Fifty. Half a century. It’s a big milestone. One I pass this month.
The truth is, I feel excited, like I’ve earned my years. And, hopefully, gained some wisdom along the way.
Have you met people who are older but not wiser? I have — and I decided long ago not to follow that path.
So I am taking a break from the topic of parenting adult children to visit the topic of being one — an adult, I mean. Sure, I’ve made some boneheaded, immature decisions. Those closest to me know that I’ve behaved like a spoiled toddler on more than one occasion since reaching legal adulthood. Hopefully, one or two of these ideas can help you avoid the same mistakes.
Speak up. Try new things. Step out of your comfort zone. Using those muscles makes them grow.
Try new things. What have you always wanted to do? Photography, gourmet cuisine, playing an instrument? Just because we have passed the years when picking up new things comes easily doesn’t mean you stop reaching. Taking a photography class online and a writing class at a nearby community college has helped ease the transition into sending my chicks from the nest — and I’ve made new friends! Speaking of…
Make new friends, and keep the old.
That was one of my favorite songs in Girl Scouts. The truth is, making new friends is hard for me. The years of developing friendships were full of moves for me. When your dad is a church planter (or a parent transfers for business or is in the military), you go where sent. I’m naturally an introvert, anyway, so I have definitely had to step out of my natural inclinations on this one. That is one reason I was drawn to private schools for my boys — the same school for 13 years! And why I stayed at one job for over twenty years — built-in friends! Life has a way of altering our plans, though, and I had to adapt in some hard ways.
When you look around, there are lots of opportunities to meet new people. People who share your values and interests. Besides, photography class and writing class, I have gone to Bible studies where I didn’t know anyone. I have bitten the bullet and invited women to coffee. And I’m excited to be old enough to join the senior center in my town! I know, I’m weird.
Attempt to keep old friendships. It isn’t always easy, once seasons change in your life. There are some, though, that just feel like home, no matter how long it’s been. You know the ones…
Spontaneous dance parties in the living room, belting out show tunes in the car, trying out the crazy filters on the “kids'” Snapchat. Nothing ages you faster and yet makes you more childish than taking things waaaay too seriously.
My youngest is a great example of this for me. His science teacher recently told me that she was grabbing lunch in the cafeteria and saw him getting down to the music on the PA system. He’s in junior high, yet it takes a lot to embarrass him (his parents do, of course!). He is confident in who he is and doesn’t care who looks sideways at him. He has his people and that is all he needs.
I know, that sounds the opposite of being silly, but it doesn’t have to be. You can be fun and still show up when and where you say you will. Write notes so you remember to pick up the dry cleaning or milk, if you are forgetful. And, yes, I said a note. Maybe it’s showing my almost fifty years, but the act of writing things down is proven to help us to remember.
Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Don’t quit a job before you have a new one — unless it is compromising your integrity, a lesson my man had to learn. Recognize that some days are just hard and keep plugging until things change or opportunities come up to change them. Make plans, because these years fly by. Suddenly, kids are old enough for college and retirement is looming. Even if it’s only five dollars a week, put aside some savings for emergencies. Little things add up.
Cherish your loved ones.
This becomes even more important as we grow older, but, the truth is, we are never promised tomorrow.
Study your people to find out what makes them smile, then do that. Do they enjoy a long walk? A single flower on an ordinary day? A scheduled phone call each week? Each day? Holding hands while watching a favorite show? Maybe it isn’t your “love language”, but it is worth it to speak theirs to them and watch their eyes light up.
Take pictures, and get in them! Frame some of them; don’t just leave them on your phone, or in your computer.
Let go of the small stuff.
You know the rest of this one — it’s all small stuff. Politics, which way the toilet roll goes — at the end of the day, it just doesn’t matter much. The world keeps turning. Do rock, paper, scissors and then let it go. Make compromises and be at peace with them.
But keep the Main Thing the Main Thing.
Practice the spiritual disciplines, preferably together. Prayer, attending congregational worship, reading the sacred Scriptures, the sacraments that make life richer and Christ closer. Peace is found when we know in our bones that God is in control, even on our hardest days. The way to have strength for the battle is to be prepared ahead of time. And battles will come…
Accept aging gracefully.
The stress comes when we try to fight it. So enjoy it and the joy getting older brings. Deepening relationships, less emphasis on “stuff”, wisdom. Grandkids?
Soak it all in.
The sights, the sounds, the smells. Even if finances are tight and you can’t travel the world, just a walk around the block on a spring day can bring thirty minutes of sensory pleasure. Explore your hometown. Pay attention to it all. It’s magic.
Eat the hot fudge sundae.
Sure, as we age, our metabolism slows and the pounds creep on. So be mindful of what you eat and get some exercise you can continue for a long time. But, when you splurge, make it a good one. Don’t get frozen yogurt in a cup — go for the hot fudge sundae, or the banana split! Unless froyo is your favorite – then go for it!
Be a do-gooder.
Because doing good feels good. For you, and for someone else. That is one thing us old folks can learn from the youngsters — they embrace giving of their time, treasure, and talent to others.
If you don’t have financial resources to spare, give of yourself. It doesn’t have to be hard — make a double batch of spaghetti at dinner and take some to the new mom down the street. Go hold babies in the NICU whose families have abandoned them. Ring a bell at Christmas for the Salvation Army. Donate the legos your kids don’t use anymore (brickrecycler.com) to kids whose parents can’t afford to buy them.
So, on my birthday, I’m gonna eat chocolate cake, see a chick flick by myself (a rarity in a house of boys) with my own tub of popcorn, and spend time with my favorite people. Life keeps getting sweeter — don’t let the hard days convince you of anything different.