As I get older, I tend to write myself little Rules of the Road for this stage of my life. I find that, instead of a rapidly dwindling amount of choices, there are many I never thought about. Generally I’d say that you couldn’t write me a check big enough to be 20 again, but of course if I knew then what I know now….but we all know how that one goes. As the wise Penn-Dutch say, “We grow too soon old, and too late smart.” Ain’t THAT the truth?
In my 20s, anything went–I could wear anything and look fabulous, I could wear makeup or not and look wonderful, I could try my hand at riding a unicycle, fall off it and look adorable, I could make great statements about the world at large and be more-or-less listened to (probably just patiently indulged), I could dye my hair purple and be cute, and so on. I could get away with damn near anything. Youth gives you some pretty major leeway that you don’t get later on in life.
WARNING: Way before you even get to spitting distance of 40, don’t make beauty your only ticket to the show called Life.
But things do change when we get older, say 60-ish. There’s a lot to be said for acting your age, but as “60 is the new 40,” there is no need to be an old poop, either. There are a whole lot of options for us now that weren’t before, such as:
- Travel–even taking a day trip up in the mountains will give you a refreshing change of pace.
- Devote yourself to a really fun hobby–you pick.
- Mentor someone.
- Read at least one great classic.
- Listen to some really good music each day.
- Change your attitude and bloom where you’re planted.
- Never tried surfing or paddle boarding? Try it now. If you fall, you’re only falling into water.
- Join a book club.
- At least once a day, put yourself first.
- Volunteer at an animal shelter or wherever you like. The rewards are tremendous.
- Start walking, either alone or in a group. Not only is it good and gentle exercise, but you start noticing so much around you. I call them Appreciation Walks.
- Speaking of the above, invest in some really good walking shoes. They are well worth the cost.
- Speaking of that above, buy better-made (read that more expensive) shoes. They will feel better, last longer and be comfortable far longer. Better to have one great pair of shoes for $100 than ten pairs of cheap shoes for $10 each.
- Make a date at least once a month with a few of your best friends. Go out to lunch, go shopping, pack a lunch and sit on the rocks facing the ocean. Before you go your separate ways, make the next date.
- Get a pet.
- Keep a journal.
- This is the age around which we begin to lose our parents. We may end up caring for them ourselves. This is a tough and often heartbreaking job, but it can be a time to make peace, let old issues go, enjoy simple conversations, and so on. When the parent(s) pass on, take the time to grieve and breathe. This is a time when not only your family, but your old friends as well can be your safe harbor.
- Go through your home and weed out the clutter (Note to self: this one’s for ME). Make a Donate pile, a Yard Sale pile, a Throw-away pile and a Give to Relatives pile. This, along with making your will and getting your important papers in order, is a gift to your children.
- Move on! Don’t waste your time on a bad relationship, a bad job, a bad book or movie, or a bad situation. You don’t get points for hanging on.
- Always wanted to dump your late grandmother’s old fur coat? Donate it. Where Grandma is now, she’ll not only understand, but approve.
- If you’re comfortable with it, become a hugger.
- Treat yourself to a good massage at least once a month.
- If you are able, dance and sing as much as possible.
- Take some classes; Chinese cooking, painting, Tai Chi, gardening, pottery, jewelry-making, etc.
There are, however, things that really should be avoided at this age, such as:
- Do not under any circumstances try the latest dance craze in public. You will embarrass yourself, your children and grandchildren. People watching will feel uncomfortable pity for you. If you persist and do this anyway, you’d better have a one-way ticket for Costa Rica for the next day. You won’t want to be around for the backlash.
- Do not wear ridiculously high heels. You’ll fall and break a hip.
- Do not wear bright red, orange or purple lipstick–you’ll look like a creepy clown.
- Do not put a mirror on your lap and look down. (Trust me on this one–do it by yourself and you will be horrified by how cruel gravity can be.)
- Do not natter on and on endlessly about how much better things were when you were growing up, or at least choose your audience well. This is a great topic for old friend get-togethers.
- Do not put your butt over your head unless you are 1) extremely limber, 2) practice yoga on a daily basis, and 3) do not have low blood pressure.
- Do not be surprised when you fart each time you bend over. That’s the true sound of the 6os.
- Do not believe those ads that promise you that their gel/cream/serum/lotion, etc. will make you look instantly younger. They won’t. The only thing they will do is to lighten your wallet.
- Do NOT use teenage lingo, and quit saying “Awesome!”
- Stop whining about how pretty you used to be. You’re fabulous the way you are RIGHT NOW.
- Do not bring up hot flashes, night sweats or prolapsed bladder issues with anyone other than your true friends. Believe me, no one else wants to hear about them.
Most of all, let’s embrace our age, and let go of the my-oh-my-how-my-looks-have-changed attitude. Ever hear this apt little verse by Edward Lear?
“As a beauty I’m not a great star,
There are others more handsome by far,
But my face, I don’t mind it,
Because I’m behind it.
It’s those out in front that I jar.”
So let’s make friends with the mirror and enjoy who we are right now.