Happy birthday!

Birthdays.  Lots of fun (?) as we get older.  Even our friends aren’t too thrilled when our day comes around.

Everyone’s busy.  Everyone’s broke.  Everyone’s scared to consider they also are aging.

But we celebrate them.  Or at least, we stop and consider them. Even though as we age, the age we are “sounds” different than it did when we were much younger.  Remember how old you thought your 45-year-old art teacher was?  How over-the-hill the bus driver was?  How you’d never look as “bad” as that gray-haired woman who lived down the street with all the cats?

50?  Yeech, that’s when you stop staying up late at night.  60?  You probably won’t leave the house then.  70?  Teeth in a jar.

And then we turn these ages…and realize how untrue all that is, how we had no clue when we were young that we were infants compared to what life is all about.  The experiences we have, the wisdom we gain, the pain we live through…it all makes us who we are right now. 

And that includes those wrinkles.  And extra inches around our waistline.  Nature is going to do what nature is going to do.  We don’t have to completely give up, we can get off the couch and go to the gym, walk 10,000+ steps a day or do some chair aerobics, and have an apple instead of a snack cake.

And we can celebrate right now, in this moment, being alive and not being a kid anymore. How great it is to no longer worry what everyone thinks about us all the time.  Not letting fear rule every decision we make.  Not putting important things off because we think we’ll live forever. Not thinking every disappointment or failure has doomed us for eternity.

In fact, it’s those disappointments and failures that give the cake of life its flavor.  You might not taste it at first, you might have to wait quite a while, but you’ll eventually detect the spices that make up your unique recipe:  the heartbreaks, getting fired, making a bad choice or two or three, poor judgment, bad haircuts and more.

And as baby boomers, we get to celebrate what all we’ve seen and it’s all part of us as well…landing on the moon, the battle for civil rights, protecting the environment…it’s not too late to stand up and make our voices heard when we see things going in the wrong direction.  We’re still here.  We’re smarter and more patient now (in most cases) and we have a lot to contribute.

So light those candles.  And make that wish come true.  Every day could be the birth of something wonderful—if we help make it so.

“Our wrinkles are our medals of the passage of life. They are what we have been through and who we want to be.” 

  Lauren Hutton 

Enjoying the stillness of Christmas.

 

Being quiet.  Hearing the sounds of Christmas morning.

Coffee brewing.  Eggs sizzling.  Maybe snow falling. Laughter.  Shrieks of happiness, or tears of bittersweet moments.

Going inside and letting our spirit have the day off…no worries, no daytimers, no sense of urgency.

Not always possible, but a goal to try to reach.

Cardinal in the Snow

 

Can we do it?  Really turn the noise of our lives off for one day, even just one morning?

I’m sure going to try.  Because I really believe if I don’t do this, I’m not refiling the tank I need to run on most of the time.

I like to repeat some traditions that make me think of those who are no longer on this planet.  And I like to do a few new things, just to keep the day fresh.  It’s a time when being over 50 is a good thing, because I think every year that goes by I can truly enjoy the day more without getting too caught up in gifts, price tags, and so on.

I know there are many who dread this day.  They’ve lost someone. They’ve lost their incomes and homes.  They have lost hope.  Their pain is real, and if they really believe everyone else is joyful, it’s even harder.

I’ve had a few Christmases filled with heartbreak.  Yet I remain stubbornly convinced if I look for it, I can find a miracle in Christmas that can lift me out of any dark hole.

Wherever you are in your life, I hope your day is one filled with peace and hope.  Merry Christmas!

“This is the message of Christmas:  we are never alone.”

           Taylor Caldwell

 

I know it’s here somewhere…

Where are my glasses?

I know I put them somewhere…I thought it was in this room…wasn’t I in here last?  No, wait, I might have set them down in the bedroom. Let’s see….no, don’t see them…I’ll try the office. What a mess this office is, I really need to clean it.  But I can’t, until I find my glasses.

I’ll retrace my steps…got up, went in the kitchen…look at the stack of dishes, geesh, I need to wash them…but I can’t see them well enough at the moment, so need to find those glasses…okay, after I went in the kitchen this morning, I then went in the utility room to try and find the leash so I could take the dog for a walk…that’s it!  My glasses are on top of the dryer next to the dog food.

Speaking of dog food, did I feed her already today?  Dang it.  She looks hungry.  But then she always looks hungry.  Maybe I need to start marking it on the calendar, if I can ever remember to keep a pencil by the calendar.

Speaking of pencils, I need to buy more.  I’ll add that to the list on the counter.

Okay now that I have my glasses, where is my phone?  Shoot.  I have no idea where I had that last.  It’s not on the charger.  It’s not in the bedroom.  And I can’t call it because my kids convinced me I didn’t need a land line anymore, so either I find it, or I have to go by a new one.  But where is it?

Did I use it late last night?  I’ll check the pockets of my jackets…nope, is it on the end table?  Or was I playing Angry Birds while watching the movie….aha!  Right between the sofa cushions.  Perfect.

Now if I can remember where my keys are, we can go…. wait, wasn’t I making a list?  Why isn’t it on the counter?  

Have you been there?  Getting older isn’t dull.  Sometimes it can feel like a conspiracy…invisible gremlins gleefully hiding things, moving furniture, causing chaos.  There was a book I read when I was a child called The Borrowers, wee folk who took small things for their use like thimbles (remember those), utensils, etc. so the residents of the home always seemed to be losing things, or at least could not remember where they were.  We can joke about it, but sometimes it’s worrisome…when is it just being absentminded, and when it is a sign of dementia…and what can we do about it?

The National Institute on Aging offers these insights:

“Some changes in thinking are common as people get older. For example, older adults may have:

  • Increased difficulty finding words and recalling names
  • More problems with multi-tasking
  • Mild decreases in the ability to pay attention

“Some older adults find that they don’t do as well as younger people on complex memory or learning tests. Given enough time, though, they can do as well. There is growing evidence that the brain remains “plastic”—able to adapt to new challenges and tasks—as people age.  Aging may also bring positive cognitive changes. People often have more knowledge and insight from a lifetime of experiences. Research shows that older adults can still:

  • Learn new things
  • Create new memories
  • Improve vocabulary and language skills

“It is not clear why some people think well as they get older while others do not. One possible reason is “cognitive reserve,” the brain’s ability to work well even when some part of it is disrupted. People with more education seem to have more cognitive reserve than others.”

Some brain changes, such as those associated with Alzheimer’s disease, are NOT a normal part of aging.  Check with your physician if you are concerned about you or someone else.   

The good news:   there are ways to keep your brain healthy:

  • Regular exercise, we’re talking at least 30 minutes of true cardio exercise several times a week, pumps blood to your brain and helps reduce cell loss in the brain.  So park further away from the store.  Take the stairs.  Get up and walk around when you can, or do chair aerobics.
  • Listen to music:  studies show that while hearing music, the areas in the brain involving making decision, accessing memories and making predictions “light up.”  Get out those old Doobie Brothers albums or CDs.  Or that wonderful Mozart.
  • Eat lots of colorful vegetables: they are high in disease-fighting antioxidants and they work to rid the body of bad free radicals.  Make your plate look like a rainbow.
  • Stop smoking and drink moderately.   Smoking is just plain bad.  Alcohol, depending on the study you read, can actually be beneficial, but only in moderate amounts.  Be smart.
  • Be social.  Regularly communicate with friends and family,  put yourself in social situations, engage in the world around you.  It really makes a difference.

It’s important not to panic if you often find yourself forgetting where your key are.  We all do it. But it’s equally vital to understand that bigger changes—such as frequent mood swings, loss of interest, confusion, poor grooming habits, etc.—in yourself or someone you love requires the attention of a physician.

This is a busy time of year and we all have way too many lists to keep up with…so cut yourself some slack if you accidentally put the Christmas stocking in the refrigerator and the turkey on the mantle.  Give yourself the gift of patience.  And a little good music.

 

“Happiness is good health and a bad memory.”

    Ingrid Bergman

 

 

Grateful is good.

Gratitude is a complicated topic.  You hear a lot about it.  You know it’s a good idea.  And on those sunny, halycon days, it’s easy to practice.

But then life happens.

A friend becomes terminally ill.  The boss walks in and says the company is downsizing.  The warning light on the car keeps coming on and no amount of black tape will make it go away.  Or, maybe you just start wondering what happened to the last 30 years?

It’s part of getting older.  Looking back, and giving up on the idea you had the perfect childhood.  Looking around, and not seeing that cute, supportive spouse bringing you your slippers and 2.5 smiling children calling every weekend to see how you are.  Looking forward, and wondering if there are any more real adventures ahead besides daring to walk to the refrigerator without your custom-made orthotics.

When I was a kid, singer Peggy Lee had a hit song I absolutely detested called “Is that all there is?”….I hated it.  I still don’t enjoy hearing it, but I understand better what she was trying to say.  When we keep waiting for our lives to “start”, we miss out on the fact they already have.  Every day really is an opportunity to help another person, to learn something new, to try and find a moment of solace in the madness.  And gratitude really does make that easier.

Now here comes the holiday that’s as loaded as an overstuffed suitcase.  Thanksgiving.  Raise your hand if yours has ever resembled the Norman Rockwell painting.  Congratulations, you may go.  For the rest of us, it’s probably been something else.  Watch the Hallmark movies.  Then remember when Uncle Fred announced he was leaving Aunt Jean over the stuffing.  Watch the football games.  Then try to forget when the dog pulled the turkey off the table and little Brad fell on the driveway and at least three arguments broke out at the same time.  Watch the tear-jerking commercials of reunions and marriage proposals and then remember you’ll probably be seated at dinner next to the one family member who secretly resents you and is just one glass of wine away from telling you.

Like Chris Rock said in a standup routine, “It ain’t Christmas unless somebody’s crying.”   But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, let’s stay in Thanksgiving for a bit.

So what is Thanksgiving?  Or, what can be to each of us?   Amazon wants us to spend it shopping online.  Facebook wants us to watch cat videos.  And all those Norman Rockwell types want us to help re-create that photograph that never actually happened.

As a baby boomer, you’ve seen it all.  You might be thinking a turkey sandwich and Cary Grant movie might be all you need.  If that’s your choice, go for it.  But maybe there’s another way to look at it.  Go inside.  Really inside.  What are you truly thankful for?

Your best friend after all these years?

Your sense of humor?

Your patience with your grandchildren?

Your health after that bad scare last year?

The way the sun lights up the leaves in a brilliant show of color?

Take those thoughts and let gratitude wash over you.

And if you find yourself in a clamorous, angry,  exhausting setting, let yourself go inside again.  Be grateful you can do that.  If you are pressed at the table to list what you are grateful for, here’s  list to get you started:

Boomers’ Gratitude List:

Elastic

Naps

Wisdom

Discounts

Old movies

Giggling grandchildren

Faithful dogs

Cuddly cats

Sweet spouses

Newfound freedom

Elastic (worth mentioning twice)

Pie

Cool evenings

Health, in whatever form it is

Life

We’ve made it this far…and we are grateful!  Happy Thanksgiving and keep rockin’ it!

 

“I am grateful for what I am and what I have.  My thanksgiving is perpetual.”

Henry David Thoreau

 

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