Imagine, my friends, that you’re 90 years old.
Look at your wrinkled hands, oh my, and wonder: what happened to those smooth hands, those elastic fingers, the supple wrists?
Look at your face in the mirror and wonder: what happened to that sly girl of eighteen flirting with that boy? What happened to the youth who squandered herself on praise from nameless others? To the fleeting image passing that store window, measuring herself up against him and her and him and her?
Look, my treasure, at the feet sitting in those slippers and wonder: did you really run a mile? Did you really climb a hill or mountain? Did you really descend countless valleys? Where have you gone, swift runner, beloved walker? Where have you disappeared, my beloved confident feet?
Imagine, my friends, that you’re 90 years old.
Think, and think again, and truly think again, of the wisdom you might impart to your younger self.
What advice might you give the 30 year old self fraught with babies and full time job? To the 40 year old struggling to save some money toward retirement? To the 50 year old who wanted so much more from life? To the 60 year old at retirement? To the 70 year old with health challenges?
I think of my 90 year old self whispering, “Drop into the day even more, dear Kathy. Appreciate the small things even more. Don’t fret at what you are not. Don’t fret at what you want to be different. Instead, cherish and revel in what appears. Even if it’s boredom or loneliness or sadness. Welcome confusion. Relax into it as deep as you can. And if you can’t relax into it–oh my dear, it’s OK, it’s more than OK. The world may always be falling apart. The world may always be going to hell in a hand basket. But you know what’s important?”
“What’s important?” says I at 60 years young, begging the 90 year old to impart some wisdom, to calm inner storms, to make everything OK.
“What’s OK,” she says, “is that you’re alive. Let aliveness become the most important thing. More important than your sorrow, more important than your confusion. YOU ARE ALIVE!
“That’s what I would tell you. Cherish your aliveness. Cherish the aliveness of all those you meet and greet and pass by on the street. It’s a gift beyond compare. Cherish it, sweet girl. Can you even imagine what it feels like to know you won’t be here tomorrow, dear one? You never know when it will be gone.”
Dear reader…what advice might your 90 year old self give you? What is she whispering backwards from so many years ahead?
I have the advantage of visiting regularly a woman 102 years old. She would tell you (and me) to spend money more freely, because in the end it will all go to the nursing home anyway. And to enjoy today because tomorrow you could be anywhere, and anything can happen.
To spend money more freely! Oh thank you, Aunt Vi, because, darn it, we do not want our earnings all going to the nursing home. And to remember the unpredictability of life! That is wisdom indeed, Auntie. (and Dawn.) I shall ponder your words from above the century mark…
I have also often asked: imagine you are 85-90 and have outlived all of your friends. Let’s say that for your age, you are in remarkably good health but, alone. Your friends have passed away. Question: What will you do for enjoyment? and Fun? in your day-to-day Life? It IS good just to be alive! And wether or not anyone else enjoys Gardening, or the Musical instrument you can play, or the books you read, or how good you can play chess or cards, its important that *you* enjoy it, or whatever makes you happy. It is enough.
When we are younger alot of people are all “Gung-Ho” about “service”. and “Giving back to the community”. Not really a bad thing, but—i feel in the vast majority of cases, it just “looks good” and people do it for the ribbon or pin that they get and for the recognition. I think these people should consider this: Imagine you are on a sunny island. You find an abandoned Hut where you can sleep. There is plenty of fresh fruit to eat growing everywhere but….this island has no other people on it. Just you. Alone. But with enough to eat, shelter and you are not sick. Now, a question: how will you be happy? You cant find fulfilment in “service”. You cant brag to anyone how you are “making a difference”. Now what? You have your health and all indications are that you can keep living for many years. Now what?
and think a bit more. Compare being alone on a sunny island vs. outliving all your friends and most relatives……how will we spend our time? What makes us happy? what is fun? What makes us smile?
#Happiness #Psychology #Spirituality #Life
You ask such good questions, dear Owl! If we’re all alone and 90…how will a person be happy? How will a person find fulfillment? What will be fun at that age? I certainly do not have the answers, being a young chick of 60. But I have seen my 85 year old mother face such questions. And watched her navigating a territory that some of us youngsters could never imagine. Do you have any answers? Or is it enough, simply to be alive? I do not know.
Ahh, Kathy. Thank you for the kind words. Age-wise, I’m not there yet but I imagine if the time comes, I would enjoy leisurely walks, quite a bit of music, reading and liking nature. Even putting some bread out for the Crows. or watching a sunset. Or chatting with the waitress a bit in a cafe when i have a bagel and coffee. Little things, and “ordinary” things can be quite enjoyable. I am reminded of a saying in a bookstore. Something very close to:
“Enjoy the little things. Because the time will come when you realize that they really are the Big things!” 🙂
Beautiful! Thank you for adding that. The little things ARE the big things!
Perhaps cultivating YOUNGER friends who will not die before you ?
What a thought, Sybil! 🙂
Dear Kathy, I just read The Longevity Plan by Dr John Day. The Centurians in a remote region of China share their (active) daily lives and the wisdom of their years. I think my older self would tell me to keep moving – stay out of the rocking chair as long as possible. Get outside and breathe fresh air. Try to keep learning new ways of acceptance and of practicing optimism. Smile more. Listen to what other’s have to say. Don’t wait for tomorrow because it might not come!
Barb, do you know what I love? That our elder selves don’t always say the same things. That each of our elder selves says something different to each of our younger selves. Because they know US. They know what disturbs us, threatens us, challenges us. I love that your older self wants you to keep moving. And you, my dear, keep moving! You keep listening to your elder. And you are trying to practice optimism, and smiling, and listening. I bow deeply to the wisdom of your elder, and the way it’s appearing in you today.
I think I would remind myself that each day is meant to be spent in a way that pleases you, that life is for living, that being careful financially is good but not at the cost of filling some dreams. Sometimes you just gotta take that trip!
Carol, OK, sounds good. Now what trip are YOU thinking of taking? Sounds like you have a few more dreams to fulfill before your 90 year old will be satisfied…
Well, Kat and I were thinking Paris, but she’s decided to move back to the states this summer, so that’s on the back burner. Instead, I might fly to Bangkok for her spring break and go to a beach resort with her and her friend.
That sounds more than fabulous, Carol. I am excited for you! (and so is your 90 year old self, I am sure.)
Kathy, could it be that for once we are in sync … I felt compelled to post a blog today not about nature or walks or dogs or the Bay of Fundy but of the meaning of life …
Sybil, I will scurry over right away to see what profundity you chose to share. It’s always good to be in sync every once in a while.
A welcome reality check. I’m one of those (60 something) people that has always reached so high for the stars that I forget to enjoy life on the ground!
Alanna, thank you for stopping by to comment. Those starts can be so shiny and shimmering and beautiful, but the ground is a gift, too. Blessings!
This is so wonderful and deep and inspiring. I always love to talk to elderly people, listening to their point of view and often I learn something. You reminded me of that, thank you!
It sounds like you appreciate the wisdom of our elders, Cecilia. They do often teach us so much through the stories of their lives. Thank you for stopping by the blog and sharing.
“Don’t fret at what you are not. What’s OK is that you’re alive. It’s a gift beyond compare.”
That’s what my 63 yr old self understands TODAY.
Oh how wonderful that you’ve got this cinched, Deb! My 60 year old self understands it conceptually, but does not always 100% live it. Still working on that…
PS – YES !! echoing – “spend money more freely because in the end it will all go away anyway.”
My FIL taught me that nothing matters except the family you love around you as he was dying. He simply ceased to care about anything he had accumulated in his life.
You can’t take ANYTHING, not even your body, with you when you go !!!
After you wrote this, I was thinking about your special relationship with your MIL and FIL . (I remember having no idea what the heck you were talking about back on Gaia with those acronyms. Took a while to figure it out, lol!) It sounds like they nurtured you–and you nurtured them–in so many beautiful ways.
Well, since I wasn’t fraught with babies in my 30’s, but desperately wanted to be, the first thing I’d do would be to hold myself in a big hug. I’d rock myself and tell me that everything was going to work out just fine, and that I’d be filled with joy again. All the puzzle pieces with the question “why” would fit together into a picture and become clear one day soon. I’d tell myself to have faith in myself and in the Universe/God.
Lori, I can’t tell you how dear this comment feels to me. Yes, to give that young one who wanted babies such a big hug. And to think that you’ve found the faith and wisdom these years later. How beautiful.
Enjoyed this, Kathy! SO true!! I’m now nearly 82, busy and happy most of the time. What I’m trying to do now is to finish most of those unfinished tasks (I’m an ADHD multitasker) and to get my life in enough order that my children won’t be angry with me after I die. Mostly, I’m publishing a lot of the stuff I’ve been writing all these years and offering it to friends and family.
Joanne, I so enjoyed looking at your Amazon page. How very interesting! Do you self-publish these books on Amazon, or do you have a publisher? Wondering how you go about it. It sounds like you have a lot to do in your days, so I especially appreciate that you took the time to read this blog post!
Great question here, Kathy (yes, I’m a little late to the conversation, but part of what I’ll tell my older self is to shrug off the little stuff, like being late). Move, breathe, laugh, observe, write every day for pure enjoyment. Continue yoga every day. Try to live somewhere WARM, but most importantly, be near family. Let go of what didn’t happen, and rejoice in all that did. xo
My goodness, a comment on a long-lost-forgotten blog post! Thanks for dropping by this elderly post (ha ha ha) and giving more of your movement, breath, laughter, observation and writing. Wishing you warmth–more every day–and family–more hugs and kisses every time you see them–and some daily downward dog. Rejoicing with you embracing what IS. Hugs!
To all ages I would tell myself, let it go already for God sake.
Yes, and maybe we have to keep whispering it to ourselves, until the magic of knowing takes hold. 🙂