Recently a friend told me of being at a family gathering and feeling for the first time that she was insignificant and mostly invisible. There were younger people, many family members, who were discussing events with their children, events at their work place, as well as the latest 14’er they had climbed. (For those of you non-Coloradans, a 14er is one of the many Rocky Mountain peaks over 14,000 feet tall.) For the first time she felt almost insignificant and realized that the important events in her life were now quite different than many of her younger family members.
In her telling this story, I realized that what is important to us in the second half of life can be very different than it was twenty years ago. But it is not at all insignificant. I found a wonderful article on the website Sixty and Me by Stephanie Raffelock which lists some important things we can do to shake off the idea that we are insignificant . We may have changed our focus but are still important.
1. Wear Color
This may sound insignificant however I am loving more and more the fun of mixing and matching colors that I wear. It makes me happy. I could never imagine why my father began wearing yellow pants when he retired. It still seems kinda far out for a distinguished business man to wear yellow but now I now know why he did it.
2. Mentor Someone
Last week I was speaking with my cousin who retired as a very successful optometrist. It was hard for him to find a focus in his life. We spoke of how valuable it would be for a young student to be able to hear of his experience and words of wisdom. It may seem a bit complex to find someone to mentor but a visit to Google and a phone call or two probably would work.
3. Make Art
Creativity is the “one proven scientific way to alter the effects of aging and boost the quality of life as you get older.” wrote Dr. Gene Cohen in The Creative Age. Quilt, sew, knit, paint, write, play music, etc. For a long time I thought that I wasn’t creative as I didn’t paint or quilt. However I began to be more conscious about the decisions I was making every moment and realized that I could express creativity in everything I did.
I was so relieved several years ago when Oprah admitted that she didn’t like to exercise. A woman after my own heart. However I know that we need to move as much as we are able. Moving gets good brain chemicals going. I always feel better after a zumba or yoga class. Breathing deeply gives me such a feeling of aliveness.
Appreciating nature can do the same thing.
6. Create a Gratitude or Prayer Journal
I love this one because it provides so much bang for our buck. When I write in my gratitude journal I find it becomes a prayer of thanks for the blue sky, a safe neighborhood, lovely friends and relatives, my interest in writing and speaking and much more. In addition, giving thanks brings more good stuff into my life.
7. Make Friends
Sometimes it is too easy for me to cozy up in my easy chair with my lap top and a latte. Planning fun events with friends and reaching out to organizations where I can make a difference always feels good too once I make the effort.
8. Get Into Technology
In 1990 I began to use a computer at my job. I was sure that if I pressed the wrong button the world would blow up. Fast forward to the present. I have written a book, initiated a website, write blogs, enjoy (mostly) Facebook and am writing this Constant Contact newsletter to you. It all can work especially if you find a support system such as willing children, your local Apple store or your local Best Buy. Constant Contact provides a help line too.
9. Live Fully and Love Well
As we get older it is easy to think that any limitation we experience is because we are getting older. Sometimes when I forget something I think it is because I am 74 and those things “just happen”. Not necessarily so. This is an opportunity to question the validity of all my negative assumptions about aging. If you would like more info about some of the myths of aging let me know. I highlight those both in my book as well as my talks.
10. Create New Traditions
The holiday season is a great time of year to create new traditions which feel more in line with who we are now. It may be going to a retreat center near Aspen Christmas Eve, having Thanksgiving dinner at Ted’s Montana Grill or spending some time Christmas Day with the grandchildren at the nursing home down the street.
In our Wisdom Circle today a woman talked about her family changing their holiday emphasis to a solstice event which appreciates giving and the sacredness of all faiths. There are so many beautiful possibilities.
Although this time of life is not all hopscotch and roses, it is actually the most sacred and interesting chapter of my life so far. I am glad that I kept my fork as dessert was and is continuing to be on the way. I am savoring this second half of life.
Hope you are too!