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age

Blog, Inspiration, Life Lessons

Life in the Pink-Panther Zone or Not

I have to be in the right mood, but occasionally I sit beside my husband and we watch one of his favorite Peter Sellers’ films about the Pink Panther.  Typically, my husband laughs wildly at every turn while I sit tensely with a hesitant half-grin waiting for the next calamity. The Pink Panther makes me nervous. I anticipate his inevitable mishaps and catastrophes. He’s ridiculous on every level, but so easy to get sucked into the chaos and drama he creates. I cringe. I moan. I wait-for-it. And I’m not disappointed. The worst always happens, and then some!

These movies have nothing to do with real life! But there are times when real life can evoke some of those same feelings of anxious anticipation much like a Peter Sellers’ movie does of me!

For instance, there were similar periods of time in my life when my babies were little, then again when they were teenagers, and then again going off to college or the Peace Corps, or about to be married, or move away or have their first baby or buy their first home. There were similar times when my husband and I faced crisis in our relationship, or crisis in a family members life, when finances fell apart or health seemed precarious. There were many times I found myself tensely waiting for “the worst”, holding my breath and fretting… times when I felt like I was sitting on the edge of the couch trying to smile…

Now I’ve seen most of the movie of my story. I don’t know the ending yet and maybe it’s going to be a calamity, or not. But I’ve seen the ending to all those other calamities I witnessed over the many years. Sometimes “the worst” happened. Sometimes even worse than I expected. But sometimes the worst never did happen. But always, I dealt with it, whatever it was.

The beauty of being able to see most of the story now is that I’m still here for the ending. I made it through each circumstance. And from where I sit now, I can honestly say that my anxious anticipation, my holding my breath, my overall fretting did nothing to affect the outcome of any of those situations...nothing!

What I learned that did make a difference, instead, and continues to make a difference today, is when I bring my long-range perspective (wisdom) as well as my best self (character) to each scene.

  • I Accept the Situation. It has happened. I can’t change it. I welcome it as another life experience and an opportunity to learn more about myself and the human existence. I keep my mind and heart open, by not blaming someone, or judging, categorizing or tagging the experience negatively, in order to watch it unfold. This is when I usually need to remind myself to breathe and keep the daily rhythm of my life going with the rituals of self-care and ordinary living.
  • I Name my Part. What do I need to do in order to cope with what has happened?  In order to respond the way I want to, what do I need?  What will it take for me to maintain my own serenity and add to the well-being of those around me? How can I help move through this in the most positive way?  This is usually the time when I take extra time out to pray, meditate and feed my spirit…and journal.
  • I Ask for Help. Who do I need to reach out to for support, encouragement, or resources?  There is always someone who loves me and cares. I try to remember that these times of need are joyful opportunities to share and are not burdens. I remember I am never alone. I ask God.
  • I Release the Outcome. I can only control myself and my response. I can not control other people. I can not control the weather, the universe or time. God is God, I am not.

The Pink Panther movie is no doubt way more entertaining and exciting than my Vibrant Old Woman movie. But living in the midst of high-level drama is no longer appealing. What I want now is to breathe steadily, experience a certain level of serenity, pleasure, and peace of mind assured that whatever comes, I can handle.

“Do not be anxious for tomorrow, for tomorrow will care for itself…”                Matthew 6:34, Holy Bible

How about you? How do you handle anxiety and worry?

 

 

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Blog, Inspiration, Life Lessons

Connecting the Past to the Now Without Going Backwards

Buzz words! Just name a few that you have experienced in the last couple of years, never mind in your lifetime! Where do they come from and who starts them? I’m never sure, but I suspect a lot of them come from pop-culture, like lines or themes from movies or TV programs, phrases from songs or raps, or maybe catchy captions from newspapers, books or quotes from celebrities.

Being the rebellious middle-child that I am, I tend to shun the current buzz word, trend or fad, sometimes to my peril, sometimes to my credit! Occasionally, though,  a current buzz will ring true with me and I embrace it wholeheartedly… until it feels common. Then I usually dump it and replace it with my own version. The last thing I want to be or appear to be is cliche!

The current trend towards “living in the NOW”, “Being Present”, even “mindfulness” has grabbed my buy-in for quite a while.  I continue to be very much aware that it is beneficial on many levels to practice this trendy wisdom. (Actually it’s ancient wisdom that has become trendy.)

I try to meditate regularly in order to “be IN the moment”. I try to discipline my thoughts to stay focused on the time and place I’m in and not think about later now. I use a very helpful tool called 5-4-3-2-1 where I routinely name 5 things I can see at any one moment, then 4 things I can hear, then 3 things I can feel, then 2 things I can smell and finally 1 thing I can taste…all meant to ground me IN the moment. I certainly don’t want to miss anything that is going on in my life!

Good stuff, right? Good practices. Good discipline.

All good…BUT! There seems to always be a flip side!

At this stage in my life, when each day can easily look and feel like the previous one as well as the next one, “being present” can feel a little boring. There’s just not a lot going on sometimes.

Taking a step out of the present and remembering the past or taking a step out of the present and dreaming about the future, either one, can be a welcome adventure!

The caution, from experts on aging, seems to be that we don’t get stuck in the past or the future and thus miss the learning and opportunity of the moment. But surely, a little excursion in either direction occasionally, is good!

Like today. Memorial Day in the USA. A time set aside to remember. A time to honor the past, the history, and those in particular who gave their lives and their talents to make today livable for me.

I remember my past today. I remember my dad, that he was in the Philippines when I was born, that I didn’t see him until I was almost 2 years old, that he missed a couple of years of my early teens serving in Korea during the conflict there, that he was gone for several months at a time throughout my life serving in various capacities with the US Army. I remember him. I remember how I called him “sarge” behind his back because he was so authoritative.  I remember how he required everything to have a place and be in order.  I remember and connect the experience of him being my father to who I am today.

An old psychologist friend of mine used to tell me that, in part, personality was the continuity of life experiences. The past is not done. The past is flowing into the present, giving texture and depth and meaning to the present.

Being fully “in the Now”, today at least, means remembering the past, allowing it to help define the present.

As Vibrant Old Women, we have the advantage of seeing almost the whole story of our lives, from where we’ve come, who we’ve been and who we are now…a panorama view. I love the flow of connection from one event, one happening, one era into the next.

I think from now on, as I practice living in the moment, I might add a bit of the past by “habit stacking”* onto 5-4-3-2-1 and add a memory that something in the present reminds me.

What do you remember? How do you see the impact of the past on your Now? What feelings does this awareness bring?

 

*See Habit Stacking,http://vibrantoldwoman.com/?p=999

 

 

 

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Blog, Inspiration, Life Lessons

4 Ways to Choose a Pair of Shoes (or make other important decisions)

Remember Imelda Marcos from the Philippines and the international commotion she stirred up because of the thousands of pairs of shoes she owned? At the time,I was much younger (!), it was more than a little interesting to me as I contemplated the choice of that many shoes and a closet big enough to hold them. But at this stage of my life, I find I react to the abundance aspect of this incidence with aversion rather than envy or even curiosity. Don’t get me wrong, I love and appreciate a cute pair of shoes, in fact I always notice the shoes people are wearing. And I certainly don’t begrudge anyone having a choice.

For instance, recently enjoying a wonderful Mozart concert at Symphony Hall in row 10, I found myself scanning all the feet of the orchestra members. All black shoes, of course, but there was a multitude of different styles from comfy walking-shoes to 6-inch stiletto, pointed-toed patent leather with red undersoles! My mind wandered to why the specific styles might have been chosen and musing over the possibility of connection between shoe choice and personality style…all to the rhythm of Mozart!

My recent purchase of a summer sandal has been the surprise contact point of several conversations lately. I knew I was in need of replacing my favorite sandals this season so began noticing other women’s sandals and planning for my new pair. I ended up choosing a Wolky® shoe …VERY comfy and good for walking, but cute and red! Everyone needs a red pair of shoes, right!?

Well, more than a few times lately these shoes have solicited comments, “Oh, I like your shoes? Where did you get them?” “Nice shoes! What brand are they?” And then a short conversation follows about how important comfortable shoes are, especially for Vibrant Old Women.

One of these conversations ended by my inquiring friend saying, “I used to choose my shoes by style and color, but now they have to be comfortable. My values have changed I guess…it’s all about comfort and all I need is one really good pair!”

One pair? Hmmm…maybe two, or three…I”ve been thinking about this: I have so many choices today, in almost every aspect of my life. What are the values that drive my decisions at this stage of life?

  1. Comfort and Health (Will this enhance my well being or hinder it?)
  2. Cost and Fitting my Budget (Will this cause financial stress?)
  3. Necessity rather than pure desire (Do I need it? Do I have room for it? Am I just filling up space?)
  4. Delight or Pleasure (to me or someone else)

Less seems to be my new abundance…”less is more” sort of thing. My beloved deceased mother-in-law saw it differently though. In her final stage of life, she saw her choices as her last chance to have and went “all out” in a rather delightful way. On her 80th birthday, she asked for a diamond and sapphire bracelet even though she had many beautiful pieces of fine jewelry. She knew what she liked and wanted more of it! (Shoes were about comfort for her, btw.)

Values are personal. They define who we are and how we live. What are your values at this stage of life?

How do you choose a pair of shoes?

 

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Blog, Inspiration, Life Lessons

One Sure Way to Ruin Retirement

I remember when I would set goals and sub-goals and sub-sub-goals. I had a 5-year plan and a 10-year plan and a 25-year plan. I often thought about  what kind of person I wanted to be, where I wanted to be and what I wanted to have done by the time I was 50 (that seemed like old-age to me then!). I liked to set these long-range goals then work backwards to the present with action steps and timelines. I strived to be the best I could be and tried hard to make each day count. The more I did the better I felt about myself.

I used to read many self-help books, like The Total Woman by Marabel Morgan, 1973, that gave me an exhaustive plan for being the perfect superwoman I wanted to be. Right now, today, I hyperventilate just thinking about it!

This past week I opened more than a few emails telling me there were 10 things (or more) I needed to do in order to be successful.  I took one of them seriously because I thought maybe I could add a little zip to my laid-back-self if I followed a “simple” early morning check list for purposeful living. It started easy enough with just three things you must do to begin your day successfully, but then it went on to add how-to steps under each one and then bullet points under each of those. It didn’t take long before I felt tense and wanted to close my i-pad and run for more coffee!…not at all what I consider “simple”. In fact, I felt like re-naming the article, “An Intense and Complicated Way to Ruin the Beginning of Any Day”.

Instead I smiled to myself. Goal setting is good. Taking advantage of the days that are given to us to live life to the fullest and in the best way we can is good. But this Gran Finale time of life is when we get to say what makes each day successful. We can work our lists at our own pace, or not work them at all. There’s not a manual or a Retirement Police that say a successful retirement must look a certain way.

BUT one sure way to ruin a perfectly glorious retirement day is to should myself with a list of things to do that ‘someone’ says will measure my success or purposeful living index. I should do this, I should do that, I should be this way, or be that way, or go there, or say that, or buy that, or not eat that… I should… I should.

I thought of Winnie-the-Pooh and something I remembered him saying:

“What day is it?”, asked Winnie the Pooh

“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet

“My favorite day,” said Pooh”

I think he might respond the same way I did to the grandiose 10-ways-to-be-successful lists.

 “What I like doing best is Nothing.” (said Christopher Robin)

“How do you do Nothing,” asked Pooh after he had wondered for a long time.

“Well, it’s when people call out at you just as you’re going off to do it, ‘What are you going to do, Christopher Robin?’ and you say, ‘Oh, Nothing,’ and then you go and do it.

It means just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.”

“Oh!” said Pooh.”   -A.A.Milne

No Shoulds!

From what ‘shoulds’ has retirement freed you? How do you feel about giving them up, or not?

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Vibrantly Old

I didn’t just wake up one morning and surprise myself by being 70 years old.

What really happened is that I got to this old age by living, consciously or not, one day one night, at a time, day after day, night after night, 365 of them ever year for 70 years.  What really happened is that I got to this old age by living, consciously or not, one day and one night at a time, day after day, night after night, 365 of them every year for 70 years.

And I suspect the same thing might have happened to you too.

We all know that “old age is a gift” …”better than the alternative”…”not for sissy’s”… “is compulsory”…But for those of us experiencing 70+ years, there’s a lot more to it than a catchy cliche or platitude.

First off, we need to know what to call ourselves. Yesterday I was middle-aged or in the second-chapter of life. It didn’t seem so bad. In fact it was great. I finally felt like I had a few answers to life, I felt accomplished and my body was looking mature yet agile and fit. It was the middle, not too young,  not old, but just right! Nothing was broken yet. Nothing hurt.

And now I’m not sure if I’m a  “senior citizen”, just a “senior”, an “elder”, one of “the older generation”, “the elderly”, a “retiree”, a “silver sneaker”, just plain “aged”…? And who gets to decide anyway?

I seem to catch myself more often these days describing someone with white hair as “an older gentleman” or “an older woman”, when in fact they are probably my age or younger!

So! I came to grips, as best I can at this moment, with my age and where, because of it, I now fit in the world around me. I have decided, because I am 70+, I am an old woman. Thats OK. In fact, its good. Im learning to say it out loud, to tell it like it is. But I also decided that if I am going to really embrace this station in life, I am going to do it wholeheartedly and with vigor. I am NOT going to be merely old. Instead, I am going to be VIBRANTLY OLD.

And I’m going to try to get you to come along with me. Lets be vibrantly old together. We have a lot in common and a lot to share. You tell me how you live vibrantly, with hearing aids, knee replacements and ‘fixed income’, perhaps, and I’ll tell you how I do it!

Lets have some fun…being old, being vibrantly old! image

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