When I was 12, I watched 16-year-olds intently to try to figure out who I would become.
When I was nearly 21, I noted how hilarious a drunk behaves when they think no one is watching. Before having children, other parents modelled the upcoming, exhausting glory.
This fast forward lens helped me navigate the storms and currents of the life seas, until at 49 I gawked at my elders, growing increasingly alarmed at what lay ahead.
I realized I’d need to chart my own course instead of following the wake left by many of those preceding me.
Grabbing hold of my experience, I mentored myself into a crone. I’m sharing what I did so that when I go to the grocery store maybe I won’t have to dodge so many cranky, cart-wielding members of my Grey-Haired Tribe.
1. Practice saying “I’m sorry.”
The better we get at owning our history, the less we have to worry no one will be weeping over our ash urn.
By the time someone’s been alive five decades, they’ve pissed at least a few people off. Accept this. No one’s perfect. Telling a child they didn’t clean their room properly is one thing, stating that they live like a pig is “I’m sorry”, worthy.
A great “I’m sorry” has no wiggle room. Take complete responsibility without using words like “if,” “could have,” “maybe” and “apologize”.
An “I’m sorry” that feels like broken glass sliding past vocal cords is well-done.
2. Eat ice cream after “I’m sorry.”
Ask a toddler—it soothes throats and egos.
3. Never list ailments.
Every person has pain; both real and hyper-real. Speaking a litany of broken body parts allows the brain to root atrocities into place, register continuously on the Richter scale, and will encourage others to ante up with their list. Comparisons of discomfort never end well—that’s how I heard a horror story about hemorrhoids.
4. Crossword puzzles are not a miracle cure for Alzheimer’s.
Try out for the local theater company, learn how to make sushi, join a foreign language group, take up yoga, walk in the opposite direction or in a different neighborhood and play poker with a college kid.
Our brains don’t like repetition unless we’re learning something new. Putting English words into connecting boxes is not new if it’s the primary language used for speaking. Studies show a brain is similar to a muscle. Exercising our grey matter by continually being introduced to the strange and uncomfortable, enables us to remember the name of the yoga teacher.
5. Repeat this Daily: I Don’t Know Everything.
You don’t. We can’t. No one does.
So let it go.
Running the world isn’t a job anyone wants anyway.
This goes along with interrupting when other people are talking and telling the parents of our grandchildren that they don’t know how to make a good PB and J. Let it go. We’re no longer in charge of making sure our kid doesn’t sneak out at night. That’s the reward.
6. Change is good.
This goes hand in hand with number four. Brains enjoy a challenge. Brains want to evolve and if they stop evolving they get bored.
Using a rotary phone only shows someone is stubborn, obtuse, and annoying. Holding onto the “good ol’ days” isn’t charming, it’s deadly to the evolution of the human race. What if cave men thought fire would make the world “go to hell in a hand-basket”?
7. Learn to Text.
This will connect the entirety of our population. Being isolated because of a resistance to change or learning isn’t a solution to anything. When my kids were teens I reluctantly began texting believing we’d never talk face to face. I was wrong, i.e., I don’t know everything. We talk or text or Skype or share videos or laugh through emojis.
Instead of less communication as they’ve moved into their own homes, my children and I connect more.
8. Hate it/Do it Anyway.
Social media is here to stay. Resistance is futile. Reading about the neighbors eating pizza 72 times is annoying, viewing photos of someone else’s grandchildren is charming, and knowing instantly that my adult child had a great critique or got an awesome job, is worth gagging at the sight of a dog puking on the rug of a stranger.
9. Laugh and Dance.
Many things that happen every day are wonderfully stupid and tragic. They could be annoying and deadening. Decide instead that a bumble-head running for president is ridiculous, the size of a nose ring intriguing, a kid splashing a milkshake onto our golf shirt accidental, wetting our pants laughing at a story worth it, the sight of breasts sagging to our ankles hilarious, and let the pain and sadness in our lives and the world be a reason to dance under the stars in the moonlight, weeping with emotion.
Lastly and most importantly, one of the main reasons the human race continues to exist is because many of our elders offered guidance. There is a difference between guidance and a jackhammer or a beaver dam.
A mentor offers hope and possibility, suggestions and illumination, wisdom and conscience; a jackhammer pulverizes concrete; a beaver dam stops the motion of water.
Choose to reflect the wisdom, conscience and the motion of water. There is endless possibility and illumination in this—it’s our very own wrinkle in time.
Author: Deb Lecos
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: Bernhard Frank /Flickr