Author: DSander

Being Older and Wiser is the Icing on the Cake of Life

Being Older and Wiser is the Icing on the Cake of Life

I know I am not the only one who has said repeatedly in recent years, “Gosh, I wish I knew that twenty years ago!”…or ten years ago, or five, or even yesterday! As we move into our later years it’s easy to bemoan not only our aging body, but that everything we learned getting to this point would have served us better in our youth…or so we believe.

Living all these years has also given us a wonderful opportunity. Our many years of  making mistakes, wrong choices, wrong actions, wrong thinking has allowed us to amass a whole lot of learning and experience.  In fact, we know so much now that we might even be considered “wise”.  One can only be truly be wise by having tried and failed, loved and lost  many, many times and consequently, be old! So, we should put aside our regrets and grab hold of the gift of wisdom and get busy living our todays.

Being older and wiser is the icing on the cake of life. It is our comfort food to savor and enjoy and it will be our companion for the remainder of our days. It is, in fact, a gift that will keep on giving and growing as long as we choose to live life to the fullest.

We get to know a thing or two about life…to have a few answers, to have a better idea of what it takes to be happy and fulfilled. I just think that awareness might just be worth a few wrinkles, sagging boobs and gray hair. Besides, creases around the eyes enhance our eyes, our soft bodies delight and comfort our grand babies, and our gray hair makes us look like queens. We’ve graduated from our jobs as princesses. Now, we not only have beauty, we have the power of wisdom.

A Simple Frame House

A Simple Frame House

As I have probably mentioned before, I have a furry grandchild. Every morning he whines and fusses and stalks me until I take him for a walk. He is the bane of my existence, but he has made sure I exercise every day and for that I am grateful.

This morning’s walk was a lovely one. It’s still a tad bit warm for my northern blood but the weekend promises to dispense with summer, at least temporarily, when the lows drop in the 40’s and the highs will be a clear and beautiful 60. My heart skips a beat in anticipation.

Today the sky is beautiful Carolina blue (unless you’re a Duke fan like me and then it’s just breathtakingly blue) and it felt good to be outside breathing the air and gazing upon the Loblolly pines, stretched tall against the sky, the dark green needles a vivid contrast, glistening in the sun. Gets me every time.

In spite of Rowdy’s (no, he couldn’t have a more appropriate name) less than diplomatic persuasions each morning, I do appreciate the structure he imposes on my life. It takes away one decision I would otherwise have to make. Putting in place certain rituals to frame our day, our months and our lives has a value that goes beyond sheer self-discipline.

In fact, the word “discipline” makes me shudder. It feels external. Controlling. Angry even. But, “structure” feels like something I’ve decided in advance to do, or accept into my life, that reins in my wild spirit just enough to keep me moving in some sane direction.

In my experience, women are too hard on themselves with regard to sticking to programs and diets and exercise routines. We are among the most creative, free-spirited beings on earth with gifts that are easily suffocated by too many controls. Structure brings order to the chaos but it doesn’t prevent more important issues from taking precedence.

I know, this is mostly semantics. Or is it? I like to think of my life as a framed out house without walls. As long as the wind doesn’t blow I can stay within the framing. Chances are good that the wind will blow sooner or later and I will find myself, at least partially, outside of the walls I’ve built. Should I get completely outside the framework, I know I will have to drag myself back in or look to a friend to help me find my way home.  I will most certainly have discovered something about myself and life in the process, including the value of structure that shelters me on sunny days.

Sixty IS the new Sixty!

Sixty IS the new Sixty!

I'm just plain sixty!

Now that I am sixty I can say with absolute sincerity:

“I’m not the new fifty. I’m also not the old fifty. I’m not next year’s seventy or last year’s thirty-five. I’m just plain sixty!”  

I don’t really  know whether or not I look or feel any older or younger than I should or than my mother did at sixty. She was pretty spry right up until the time she was 95. What I do know is I sure like our styles and attitudes better than hers! I like the emotional and practical freedom we’ve obtained that has allowed us the luxury of sitting around discussing whether or not we feel like our age.

A generation ago, sixty year old women were pretty gosh darn busy just living.  It makes me wonder if  we might benefit from adopting just one or two of their archaic beliefs and remember the value of living in the skin we have, at just the age we are.  Ours seems a fruitless exercise and frankly, I’m tired of the conversation.  Like all clichés, it misses the point.

It is really not about how old, or how young, we look. It’s not even about how old or young we feel. It’s not about whether or not we get the recognition we think we deserve or whether we feel invisible because we have gray hair. The real issues is: Are we happy?

The real reason we are hung up on this old and new age thing is that we are trying to reassure ourselves that there is still enough time to find happiness and because we are terrified that there is not.

What I know to be true is this: It’s time to get the show on the road. It’s time to quit hiding behind our fears. It’s time to quit peeking out from behind our protective masks and just throw them into the wind.  It’s time to be the wonderful, wise women we were intended to be, no matter what our age or hair color. Only then will we be able to answer the question “am I happy” and like the answer.

The Fear of Love

The Fear of Love

We have all been wounded.  Many of us bear the deep scars of a less than perfect childhood. Perhaps our parents didn’t, or couldn’t love us the way we needed to be loved, alas, the way all children deserve to be loved. Or, maybe another person or experience left a mark on our psyche or heart so painful that we put in place cleverly devised layers of protection to keep us safe from future harm.

Self-protection has its benefits, but it also has its dangers. The longer we live and the more we have loved and lost, the more likely we are to be weighed down by our own cleverness. We may even feel smug about our ability to “carry on” in spite of life’s eventualities, or to turn the other cheek with increasing ease. We may, in fact, simply be numb.

If you look into the face of an innocent child who was loved into awakening, you will see the wide-eyed innocence of easy trust, acceptance and love…a love that flows freely without boundaries or limitations or expectations.  That once was us.

We may never be able to go back to the point of perfect innocence, but if we dare, we can choose to stare down our fears, choose to open our hearts and choose to love again.  We can decide to no longer let the past control our willingness to open our hearts today. We have surely reached the point in our lives where we can trust our ability to survive hurt and loss. We have done it many times before. We may know the pain that open, trusting, unsuspecting love can bring, but we also know its deep abiding  joy and life-giving power as well.

We owe it to ourselves and to those who come into our lives today to keep taking the risk to love and be loved. It is the only real way to know the fullness of life. After all, as the song says, “it is the heart afraid of breaking, that never learns to dance”.

 “The Rose”

Some say love, it is a river
that drowns the tender reed.
Some say love, it is a razor
that leaves your soul to bleed.
Some say love, it is a hunger,
an endless aching need.
I say love, it is a flower,
and you its only seed.

It’s the heart afraid of breaking
that never learns to dance.
It’s the dream afraid of waking
that never takes the chance.
It’s the one who won’t be taken,
who cannot seem to give,
and the soul afraid of dyin’
that never learns to live.

When the night has been too lonely
and the road has been to long,
and you think that love is only
for the lucky and the strong,
just remember in the winter
far beneath the bitter snows
lies the seed that with the sun’s love
in the spring becomes the rose.

The Best Part about Turning Sixty

The Best Part about Turning Sixty

The best part about turning sixty is that I’m no longer fifty-nine and dreading the day. I feel liberated!  Now I’m young again! After all I’m just sixty!  I’m good to go for another nine years, well, maybe seven or eight at which time I will probably start the “oh, my God, I’m almost how old?????”

The moment the calendar turned last year and I saw where I was headed, I was overcome with a serious case of dread. Every morning, when I woke up and remembered that I was one day closer to the end of the world, panic set in. I had to wrestle my psyche to the ground before I could put one foot in front of the other and get myself to the bathroom to brush my teeth. Then I’d spend the next twenty minutes talking to myself, stomping out my fears with positive affirmations and wrangling my thoughts with an iron fist onto the day at hand ~ far out of reach from anything remotely related to, shshshhhh….my age.

Now that I’ve walked the green mile and have crossed over to the other side, I can live again. So what? Sixty is just a number. I knew that all along. I just couldn’t make my fears believe it. I have my health (mostly), I’m doing what I love to do (mostly), I have my family (mostly) and I have today…now. If I didn’t know how old I was, if there weren’t any calendars, or ads for anti-aging products, or prescription drug ads, or news about the latest catastrophe, or mirrors I would simply feel old enough to know better and young enough to keep at it.

Life is good. Who cares what my birth certificate says or what the latest fashion magazine thinks I should be wearing or more importantly should not be wearing?

I’m  following my bliss and that’s that. When I’m not, that’s when I need to worry, not simply because of a number on a piece of paper that’s starting to show the wear and tear of time.  That’s my truth and I’m sticking to it! (At least for a while!)

Perfectionism and Aging

Perfectionism and Aging

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you insane your whole life.”   ~ Anne Lamott

Figuring out who we are and what we are supposed to be doing is a lifelong process…an ever-changing progression of near hits and misses.  I have lived much of my life under the illusion that one day I would “arrive” and find myself comfortable and at peace with the person I have become. I believed that if I worked diligently to uncover the truth about life, about my gifts, about who I really am and who I was born to be, then I would know what to do in order to live in peace and die without regret.

Suffice it to say I am a bit of an idealist, and like all things, this propensity has it’s good points and it’s bad. The up side is that my idealism propels me to keep searching and working to reach the goal of authenticity. I can’t seem to give up trying no matter how many times life knocks me down or another ugly truth rears its head. The down side is also that I keep trying, keeping reaching, keep striving for something more, something better, something “more me”…like the ideal in my head. Not going to happen.

Sadly, I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one on this endless and often exhausting journey.  Everywhere I look, women who are facing the aging process are either trying to do the impossible…live forever…or putting their head in the sand. They pick up the pace with their exercise, diet, weight loss, supplements, medications and face lifts in a frantic effort to stop the clock.  Others run away from their mortality by throwing caution to the wind. They throw out their clothes, their husbands, their jobs, their homes and head for the mountains, the seas, and the Far East. If they go far enough away from what they were maybe they’ll be someone else entirely, someone who can live forever. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with either approach and sometimes it’s exactly what needs to happen, but often it’s just a postponement of the inevitability of facing oneself and staring down the demons that keep us from inner peace.

We each have to choose our own way of dealing with the aging process. There is no right or wrong answer. There are a couple of things, however, that might be worth considering.  First, it is helpful to remember that our ideals are only a guide, our beacon in the night sky, not our must-achieve-destination. If we allow ourselves to become caught up in obtaining our ideal we may begin to believe that we actually can and we will be  destined to fail. In the process, we will miss all the good-enough along the way.

Secondly, if are only looking outside of ourselves for direction, we will again miss the mark. All  of the answers to life’s mysteries can be found inside ourselves, our body, mind and souls. They will never be found in the world, in another person, in our job, our home, our family, our career, our religious beliefs, our education, our achievements and accolades. The externals do have value in that they are fodder for our soul, mirrors that reflect our inner truth if and when we care to look.  If we use them as such, they will serve us well.

Aging authentically is not easier or more difficult than striving for authenticity at any other time of life. What is different is that we are gradually growing into an acute awareness that time is running out. We also, however, have a whole lot more information about ourselves and the world than we had at any other time in our lives. We also always have truth and beauty within our reach. Though life will sometimes cast doubt on our ideals, we must continue to hold them up as what they are…a beacon of light in the dark.