Be the you now, you imagine yourself to be then
Because of my age, I’m standing on the bridge between the youthful exuberance of teens and young adults bursting into life’s full view, and the loved ones in my family and in the families around me at the other end of life’s journey, aging and dying.
One thing has become clear to me this year: if you want to be a sweet person in your old age, start now. Make it a habit.
The challenges of living into old age give any of us ample reasons to be disappointed, cynical, cranky, and sour. It takes a deliberate effort to find the good in the midst of the painful; to affirm the beautiful as age adds black spots, wrinkles, bent backs, and scaly skin; to yield to limitation after having been able; and to hold one’s fragile well being (mental, emotional, physical) in grateful hands.
Our children, under foot, demanding middle of the night attention, undoing our best efforts to control the living space, startling us with their individual ideas of what “happy” looks like that doesn’t match ours…these children can “drive” us into ship’s captain mode of hunkering down and barking orders.
We lose touch with the tone of our voices. It becomes easy to show annoyance and anger, rather than dealing with the intrusion in a constructive way. A habit of complaining is difficult to break.
It isn’t helpful to pretend away real problems, either, in an attempt to not complain. That doesn’t work. You can’t cheat the dark gods. Your pain will find you out.
But what we all can do is be mindful of how we express our truths and pains, our limits and frustrations…as best we can.
It’s good to appreciate genuine offers of help, even when they fail (the attempt to clean up the mess matters, even if a mess of some kind remains).
It’s important to put people over things. Every day.
A smile creates the right kind of wrinkles. Cultivate a habit of smiling.
There’s nothing like a joke or one-liner to defuse tension. Practice.
It’s better to receive than to give, sometimes. Receive what is offered to you with gratitude, with humility. What better preparation could there be for old age? To allow others to take care of you, and to be glad for their care.
When you are alone and someone crosses your wires (tailgates, interrupts, cuts in line, grabs the last one), how will you respond? How do you want to be known? How do you want to be known to yourself?
I’m struck by the hidden frailty of life. We can’t count on it even though we simply do every day anyway.
The journey is long, but it goes by quickly.
Take care to be who you imagine you will be someday, today…so that you will be.
Cross-posted on facebook.