Wisecracks and Wisdom from a Would-Be Elder

Getting older is often seen largely as an exercise in letting go, gracefully and easily (you hope), from those aspects of life that have slipped out of your capabilities or interests. There is so much more to it than that!

Think of standing in a circle and being invited to join hands with the person beside you. What do you do? Do you automatically put both hands out palm down? One interpretation of that is an inclination to give too much; or a desire for too much control.

If you automatically put both hands out palm up, that suggests an inclination to want to receive too much, or to be overly influenceable by other people. The people-pleaser in a gesture.

Now think of holding your hands out with right palm down and left palm up. The symbolism is of giving with the right hand and receiving in the left: a balance of giving and receiving that also allows us to connect effortlessly with the people on either side.

So as you face the fact that you are growing older (which happens, as you may already know, without regard for the number of your years), you can move through life with one palm down and the other up.

Or try this: start with both palms facing down as you contemplate letting go of the things that no longer serve, that are no longer possible with the same ease you used to enjoy, or that fall into the category of “Done with that.”

Then turn your hands over. Let the new gifts that are waiting for you, fall into your hands and into your life. Gifts like these:

Do you want to take up a new sport? Do it!

Do you stay in touch with young people? It’ll keep you young — or wear you out! I forget which.

How do you find peers?

How do you grieve your losses and move on gracefully?

Spend your money. With purpose.

Ask your parents to tell you about their life.

Walk. Talk to people. Keep your opinions to yourself. Ask.

It’s never too late. My neighbour George shot his first hole in one at 87. I went surfing for the first time at age 70, and did a four-day walking trek to Machu Picchu that same year.

How would you like to be remembered? Start working on that.

Don’t give unsolicited advice. Be careful giving solicited advice. Ask questions to draw out the wisdom of younger people. They’ll surprise you and themselves.

Be curious.

What are you most afraid of? Go into it.

What are you most looking forward to? Be honest about it.

What are your unknowns? Are you afraid of them? Why?

Life keeps getting better — the questions don’t disappear, they just get deeper.

Don’t buy into the ads!

If you need a nap, have one.

Let younger people take over the things you do well so you can do the things you’ve been getting ready for.

What can you add to this list? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

August 2023

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