Helen Keller once wrote: “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”
The trial and suffering of growing older has changed my perspective, especially about myself. It was an old habit to try to put a happy face on most everything. When I was down the feelings were hidden from others. Emotional anguish was rarely shown except when those feelings got lose to be a tidal wave aimed at someone. My opinions expressed were most often those which generally went along with the group I was with. Rarely did I express dissenting thoughts and worst yet, often I was unsure what my opinion really was.
I always used to try to be as perfect as I could because I felt so deeply imperfect. It was like a part of me was missing that I never seemed to be able to find. A sense of incompleteness dogged me into all I did.
That was then and this is now. Here are a few lessons my best tutor called “life” has taught me in the “school of hard knocks”.
1. Others don’t cause me to feel inferior. Almost all the time making me feel less than is an habitual inside job.
2. All of us falls apart once in a while. It’s part of gaining a fresh perspective on things.
3. Everyone wonders if they look good enough to others. Lesson learned is most others are barely paying attention to me
4. No one has all the answers all the time. Some answers never come and that is normal.
5. Life is not a puzzle where all the pieces fit. Living is an irregular experience. Otherwise each life lived could not be unique.
6. Crying once in a while is normal. If it’s been months since I last shed a tear, something is wrong.
7. No one has life fully under control and knows all the answers. Allowing me to think others do is a lie told to myself.
8. Trying to look quite young when you’re older makes a mature person look immature. Looking good for my age is more important than appearing twenty years younger.
9. Life passes quickly, more so with age. It’s important not to put off my life’s “can’t not do’s” for too long.
10. Taking a “personal day” for mental health is not screwing off. One in a while getting “emotional flu” is normal as is self-care to get through it.
Aging is not a steady neurological dive… We assume that because memory speed and efficiency decline, all of cognition declines, but, for example, studies have shown that seniors actually have better retention of what they read and are less emotionally reactive when viewing negative images. Older individuals tend to have greater wisdom, the capacity for deep, intimate relationships, and an incredible potential for artistic creativity. (Case in point: Dancer Martha Graham choreographed 10 new ballets from age 75 until her death at 96.) Also, they simply have a more positive outlook on life… There’s a sense of Happiness and contentment when you’re older that you just don’t have when you’re younger. http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201110/lifes-new-timeline
Slowly I have arrived at a hypothesis that the last third of life can be the absolute best. The first step is to accept the age I am and stop wishing to be otherwise. Occasionally I think about being in my 20’s again and quickly think “no thanks, too much change and chaos”. How about the 30’s and my response is “nope, that’s the decade of being too self focused through work and other interests. How about being 40 something again which is “a little tempting, but was a decade of denial that brought life crashing down on me later”. Being in my 50’s I am certain I don’t want to do this decade again because “it has been filled with painful growth and a revolution of my core thinking”.
So where does that leave me at fifty-nine years old? Looking forward to my 60’s 70’s, 80’s and beyond with hopes good health stays with me. I am deeply grateful for the great adventure my life has been so far. From the dark emotional jungles to the scorching heat in the deserts of the unknown, I am grateful for it all.
Life is about trusting your feelings
and taking chances,
losing and finding happiness,
appreciating the memories,
learning from the past,
and realizing people change.