Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Growing Older: It's Not For Sissies

When I was eight years old, I couldn't wait to be thirteen.  I remember walking to school behind a group of teenagers, marveling at how grown-up they were.  They were taller, smarter, and so much cooler than us third-graders.  I wanted to be older, like them.
Now, I'm halfway through the fifth decade of my life.
And guess what?
I'm not ashamed of it.  I've earned it.
My friend June Eberle is a retired teacher and blogger (check out her blog Identity Streak).  Here she crafts true stories filled with wisdom for those with the ears to hear and prompts us to take the path of self-reflection with her queries at the end of each post.  Her latest post, "Don't Let Them Lock You In," talks about retiring, growing older, and embracing a phase (a way) of life reserved for those who dare to enter it.  Old age, as some would call it, is not about being less productive or simply rolling over and dying.  People who think this way are missing the boat of enlightenment altogether.
As I read June's post, I thought about my own journey into "old age."  It never bothered me to turn 30 or 40 or 50.  Each milestone year is not to be feared but to be worn as a badge of honor because behind each badge lies a treasure trove of experiences and the lessons learned from those experiences.  With each "badge" that I add to my sash, new levels of awareness open up, revealing things that young minds fail to grasp simply because they can't.  Their young minds are not ready.
There are times, though, when I think of those who were not fortunate enough to live to my age. This is a humbling thought. And this alone creates a sense of urgency to try new things and to live more authentically.  Why waste my time in circumstances or relationships that no longer serve me? That will only keep me from growing, from learning, and from living.
    "Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many."
There's no need to "sweat the small stuff" because the bigger stuff is waiting to be explored and embraced.  And I now have the time to do those things.  If I want to paint, I paint.  If I want to write, I write.  If I want to travel, I travel.  I don't have to answer to anyone but myself!
"I have reached an age when, if someone tells me to wear socks, I don't have to."
~ Albert Einstein
Some see growing older as a curse rather than a blessing. They fear it rather than embrace it, fending it off for as long as they can in anyway that they can.  They ridicule it.  They dismiss it. They ignore it.  Or they Botox it.  Whatever the case, they'd rather not deal with it as in June's story of the daughter who swindles her father to lock him away in a nursing home.  "Old age" is an inconvenience to them.  How sad.
Satchel Paige asks,
"How old would you be if you didn't know how old you were?" 
I am just starting "the splendid youth of old age," a phrase coined by June in her blog.  I am not "retired" from life; I have been summoned by it to be a member of an exclusive club of exceptional human beings who will "not go gentle into that good night."  We will continue to burn with life.  It's a privilege we have earned.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Problem? Or Opportunity?

Seek and ye shall find. . .
There is a way to get past your "troubles."  Albert Einstein said, "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them."
To find a solution, we must change our perspective of the "problem."
When we view a "problem" as a "problem," we find ourselves focusing on the "bad" that has happened.  Something inside of us senses a threat and we begin to panic.  We react or overreact.  We place blame on things or people outside of ourselves. We see ourselves as the victim.  And we get stuck in a pattern of thinking that only serves to exacerbate the "problem."
Look at Uncle Al's quote again.  He makes a very important point that we must keep in mind. We must understand that we created the problem with our thinking in the first place.  Since we created the problem, then we must own it before we can move forward. We must take responsibility for its creation.
So, how does one view a problem as something other than a problem?  Uncle Al tells us to view it from a different perspective.  In other words, see the problem as an opportunity in disguise. He encourages us to move beyond old assumptions in order to create new, improved results. If we look where we've always looked, we'll find only what we've already found. When we switch our thinking from "problem" to "opportunity," something interesting happens.  The brain shifts into a creative mode, and then options begin presenting themselves; creative energy is generated and released.  Seeing the problem as an opportunity opens the door to learning what needs to be learned and to discovering an effective way forward.  We become empowered.  We are no longer the victim.  We have taken responsibility.
Uncle Al's words are not idle words. They force us to self-reflect on our part in what we are creating in our lives; they challenge us to examine our thinking and our approach to "problems," and they direct us to take responsible action.