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June 13, 2015

The Gifts of Growing Older: 4 Lessons From My 50’s.

Good Harbor Beach 50s Middle and Little Sisters, Glenn (Flickr Commons)

Until now I have always felt like a person on the cusp.

I was born on the tail end of a generation.

Being a child of 1963 means that I am technically a baby boomer even though I was too young to understand Vietnam, Woodstock and even Nixon’s resignation (look them up).

My December birthday meant that I was among the youngest in my grade (in those days the cutoff was the end of January). I was always trying to catch up to my sister who was 18 months older than me.

In college I couldn’t drink when my friends could—this was made stranger by the fact that NY State kept changing the drinking age so I was chasing a moving target.

Now, somehow, it doesn’t matter anymore.

I have friends who are celebrating new grand-babies as other friends are celebrating their first pregnancies. We’ve gone to first weddings and second weddings this year. As we celebrated our sixth anniversary, we danced at a friend’s 20th anniversary and will celebrate my parents 56th in a couple of weeks.

With all of the talk about millennials, it no longer seems to matter whether or not I am a baby boomer.

Best of all, I can refer to myself as a former hippie and there is rarely anyone around who will point out that I was the one looking with awe at the older kids with the big hair and the tie dye shirts and not actually one of them.

Okay, true confession: I had really big hair.

Besides this, I’ve also learnt a few things. Here are the lessons of my 50s:

About Empathy:

Thanks to Brene Brown and loads of life experiences, I can have empathy. I know what it is like to have cancer, be divorced and lose a friend too young. I have experienced all these things and enough of life’s other challenges that, while I know yours is unique, I can be a true friend and listen with compassion and empathy.

About People:

I make time for friends and family. Where work and house-cleaning once seemed to be priorities with brief pauses for friends, now time with loved ones is and the house-cleaning is not (I was never very good at it anyway). Turns out having dust in the house or laundry to put away is not really a big problem.

About Myself:

I take care of myself. Friends and I traveled around Europe with big backpacks and smalls wallets in the 1980s and I don’t remember worrying about anything. Now I know life is fragile and I know how I treat my body matters. I exercise and eat well partially because I think it is the right thing to do, but largely because I feel better when I do.

About Happiness:

I actually am that person who, when asked in job interviews, “Where do you want to be in five years?”, replied “Happy.” I even said that at a college interview (I didn’t get in). Then, it was not okay. Now, I work for myself and I am happy and I am fortunate enough to be able to make choices that help me to stay that way.

I still sweat the small stuff a little bit too much.

I check my smartphone when I would rather be fully present in the moment. I get impatient when I am tired, hungry or cranky. But I also recognize that there will continue to be losses and struggles as well as joys and celebrations.

I’m 51. I’m a work in progress and I intend to keep getting better based on my definition, not anyone else’s—that’s the gift of being so lucky to be in this world for this long.

Where are you? What are your life’s lessons? What one small thing you can do today that will make you happier? Healthier? More authentic?

The things I promise myself and that I ask you to consider are:

  1. To be more in my heart and less in my head.
  2. To love more and worry less.
  3. To recognize that it is the pauses that matter (the lunch with friends amidst a busy day, the phone call you take even though you don’t have time, the moment of cuddling before getting out of bed in the morning).
  4. To listen to those that have been there before. While I need to blaze my own trail, it’s likely they have some wisdom to offer.

 

~

Relephant Reads:

The Key to Aging Gracefully.

The Anti-Bucket List for Women.

 

Author: Wendy Kuhn

Editor: Khara-Jade Warren/Renee Jahnke

Photo: Glenn/ Flickr
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Wendy Kuhn

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