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January 12, 2017

8 Hints for a Successful, Confident, Happy Old Age (from a 75-Year-Old Woman).

There’s a scene in Moonstruck where an older, married woman, Rose Castorini, is walked home by a man who makes a blatant pass at her.

The scene has always stuck with me, not because of the pass—but because of Rose’s response.

As I remember it, after telling him she was flattered but no, thank you, he asked her, “Why not?”

“Why not?” she said. “Because I know who I am.”

I was literally thunderstruck by Rose’s words. Here was a woman saying no to something the entire audience wanted her to say yes to and she was sure of why she was saying it.

“I know who I am.”

All I could think was: I want to be her. I want to be sure. I want to know who I am.

I didn’t want to grow old being blind to myself.

I was 46 when I saw Moonstruck, and while I played a good game, down deep inside I wasn’t sure of anything—least of all who I was.

I was easily buffeted by winds of desire. My head was turned by what other people wanted and how I could fit into their agenda and I was confused about how I might respond to any obstacle life threw my way—would I face it or would I turn around and run?

Today, at the age of 75, I look back and see that there were many different mottos I adopted along the way to help me become the Rose Cantorini of my own life.

Know Your Influencers.

My earliest influencers were, of course, my parents. In order to fully know myself as a person, separate and apart from them, I had to examine what they had taught me. Were their values really mine? How about their goals, did I share them? Much of my life I was still under their influence without ever thinking about whether what they imparted to me was helpful guidance that I could embrace as my own or mere platitudes they passed down from their own parents.

Form Your Own Spiritual Theology.

During meditation I met a “god” that didn’t exist in the same sense that I had been taught in my Catholic School education and in the Catholic Church. I learned that when it came to religion I didn’t have to swallow whole what I had been taught. I could examine and explore until I found a home for my spiritual self that matched my own soul.

Vote In Every Election.

It can sound almost silly to use voting as a measure of self-awareness, but I learned that it is exactly that. My vote was an opportunity for me to reflect what I myself valued and wanted for the world-at-large separate from what I had been taught from the pulpit, from my teachers or even from my parents.

Claim Both Your Strengths and Your Weaknesses.

What were my strengths? I always knew my weaknesses, or thought I did, but what about my strengths? How could I really know who I was without knowing what I had to offer? In my case I was so unclear on the subject of my personal strengths that I actually made lists to help me become aware.

Don’t Lie to Yourself.

I wanted to speak my absolute truth but to do that, I had to stop lying—not to others—but to myself. That meant no exaggerating, no blaming and no guilt. So long as I told myself I was better (or worse) than I really was, I was lying to myself. So long as I told myself that what happened in my world was somebody else’s fault without taking radical responsibility for my life, I was lying to myself. As for guilt, it took me most of my life to realize that “guilt has a thousand voices. All of them lies.”

Don’t Lie to Others.

When I started paying attention to the lies I told myself, I realized just how many lies I told others…things like:

“I can’t wait to get together with you.”

“I’m fine, thank you.”

Or even, “I love you.”

Tell the Truth With Kindness.  

It was when I decided to take the time to tell the truth with kindness that I actually learned that patience and compassion were some of my strengths. It became more important for me to say, “I want to get together with you, but I want to do it when I can pay full attention.” Or, “I’m struggling right now, but I think I’ll be okay.” Or, I love you, but it may not be in the way you want me to.” When I adopted this habit, I changed my perspective on the world and saw myself and others through a softer lens.

Listen to Your Critics.

I figured out that when people offered criticism or even told me what they didn’t like about me they were probably telling me something I was unconscious about. I could change the tone and character of an argument, as well as use it to learn more about my role in how the whole thing got started in the first place, by saying the simple words, “You’re right.”

I have reaped many benefits in my journey to myself.

I became less defensive. I became the center of my own universe and didn’t need others to treat me like I was the center of theirs. I found I had much more room in my heart for the weakness of others. It became easier for me to allow others their points of view and opinions. Because I didn’t feel I had anything to hide from myself I didn’t feel I had anything to hide from others and I became confident, less fearful and happy with who I was—warts and all.

And yes. There are warts—plenty of them. But because of my positive experience of self-discovery, I look forward to exploring their origins and to becoming deeply acquainted with them.

“People who know who they are…evaluate others more accurately and…make more allowances for others’ foibles…are better at acknowledging their own limitations, too. They make better guesses about how people are likely to behave and they have a generally good idea about how their acquaintances, colleagues, and friends perceive them—they know their own reputation. At still deeper levels, these individuals recognize that their perceptions of the people around them might require revision at times.” ~ John D. Mayer

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Author: Carmelene Siani

Image: YouTube still

Editor: Travis May

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