You may be familiar with these words from the beautiful poetry of the third chapter of the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible. Or perhaps you are more familiar with the musical setting by Pete Seegar known as Turn, Turn, Turn or popular renditions by Judy Collins or The Byrds.
This is a revision of an older blog post that is still just as relevant as when I wrote it and appropriate for Older Americans Month.
As a person in my sixties I believe the biggest obstacles we face as we grow older are the negative perceptions surrounding age and aging. I live in an area that is a popular place to retire. Popular topics of conversation include ailments, procedures and how bad it is to get old. The most popular area of WalMart is the pharmacy with what sometimes seems like a never-ending line. Depression, alcoholism and feelings of worthlessness over no longer being able or allowed to work are much more prevalent among the “elder” population than I had ever imagined.
The first time a doctor gave me the “as we get older” speech I just sat there in disbelief. I normally would have reacted with anger. However this time I felt a smile coming over my face because explaining away that nasty looking spot on my leg that seemed to appear from nowhere and I was concerned might be a spider bite with “As we get older” was just so ridiculous. While I was checking out I looked at Bob and said, “He didn’t have to say those four hateful words — as we grow older.” The receptionist laughed and said, “it happens to all of us.” But does it have to? Really?
I know, and I suspect you do too, that a steady decline to the grave is not all we have to look forward to as we grow older. I do not believe it is inevitable. In fact, the belief that there is nothing we can do but watch it happen is foreign to me. Members of my family have lived happy, healthy, active and independent lives well into their 80’s and 90’s.
Believing that it is not what happens to us, but our attitudes, beliefs and perceptions about what happens that matters, let’s try flipping the as we grow older speech into something positive. Instead of talking about what we lose as we grow older, let’s talk about what we gain.
- Wisdom — Hopefully we have learned the lessons of life experience and now know how to do things better, easier and with less drama.
- Time — The time to do what we want, rather than what society demands of us. Time to pursue our passion, begin a hobby, learn a new skill even reinvent ourselves if we want.
- Service — Instead of sitting around feeling sorry for ourselves we can use our time skills, abilities and wisdom to be of service to others.
- Endurance — Looking back on times we thought we couldn’t survive but did give us strength and hope that we can continue to not only survive, but endure and even thrive.
- Awareness of what is really important — This is the time when we can stop running after things that don’t last and seek that which endures over time. We can focus less on accumulating things and more on creating memories, both for ourselves and those we love.
We sometimes need help realizing that these are positive things. They are also not things we have to go searching after trying to acquire. We already have them. Let’s recognize this and change that “As we Grow Older” speech into a message of hope and strength.
“The time is always right to do what is right.”
– Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Pastor, Civil Rights Activist
“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.” – by Michael Altshuler
You can tell how important something is to you by the amount of time you devote to it. Take a minute to stop and reflect on your values. What do you consider most important? Now look at how you spend your time. Do the two match up?
I know that out of necessity work consumes a great deal of time for most people, but does it consume you as well? Do you still make quality time for family, friends, faith and rest? Do you take the time needed to live a healthy, balanced life? This is not a frantic, over the top workout at the gym squeezed into an already too busy day.
How much of the time you spend on various activities is really necessary to get them done and how much is based on unrealistic expectations and excessive pressure (internal or external) to “succeed” or be perfect? This is one I struggle with and I am sure I’m not alone in this.
Our time here on this earth is limited. It is precious. Spend it wisely.
One of the good things about being retired is having more control over our schedule. So if we want to go to the large 24 hour bag your own grocery store at 4AM, why not?
This is not my regular store, but they have a few things I can’t find anywhere else. During the day, the store is busy and often difficult to navigate. But at night… it is our own private store.
The drive to the store was quiet and peaceful. We live in a city, but not a 24 hour city. Overnight the streets are often deserted. Not having to face oncoming traffic meant I could drive in the dark. The weather was cool. After shopping we went to our favorite restaurant (open at 5 AM) for breakfast.
Overall I do not enjoy shopping, so turning an unpleasant task into an enjoyable outing is something to celebrate.
Don’t forget to visit the blog hop at Scribblings of an Aspiring Author to see what other people are celebrating.
To be honest, when Bob lost his job before he was planning to retire I was not happy. But now I am glad he decided to accept what happened and not fight a wrongful termination. I can see we were really given a gift. The gift of time. Time to sit and talk to each other. Time to work together. Time to go to the movies on a weekday. Time to go for long walks and wait for good photo opportunities — like todays photo taken in the aftermath of a planned burn in a nature park. So this week I am celebrating time.
There is a weekly Blog Hop at Scribblings of an Aspiring Writer called Celebrate the Small Things. I like the idea, so on Fridays I will write a blog post about one small thing worth celebrating during the week.
What small things are you celebrating?