~ Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,” plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
What would it be like to look at growing old as an amazing gift, one that sparked excitement and not disdain? Ask any twenty year-old if they’d rather be eighty and you’ll likely see a skewed, distorted look on their face as if that question is ludicrous. Isn’t that a shame? What if we could change that perception? Sister Madonna Buder, a Roman Catholic nun started running when she was forty-eight. Dubbed the “Iron Nun” for competing in Ironman triathlons and breaking records at eighty-six, Sister Madonna’s tenacity, courage, and strength proves that aging with health, vitality and grace is possible.
Still, you say, what about the wrinkles, brown spots, saggy skin, rotting teeth and, um, bladder leakage? Well yes, those are certainly issues that don’t often plague young adults who just became eligible to vote and drink (legally). On the other hand, that eighteen year-old might still need to rely on his parents for guidance, financial support and basic adulting.
What if we reimagine the concept of aging to be the greatest, most exhilarating and sought-after experience of our lives? The dark trials and tribulations we’ve experienced provided us with insight and wisdom which are unavailable to millennials. What if wrinkles were appreciated, honored and respected? Can we redefine misconceptions about the elderly population and the possibility that the longer we live, the greater we live? If you reframe your mindset and shift your perspective, you will begin to see a bright future with unlimited potential as you age gracefully.
Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is obtained by following a righteous path.
~ Proverbs 16:31
If the twentieth year of the twenty-first century showed us anything, it’s that everything can change in the blink of an eye. In a few short months, we went from planning Spring Break, to prepping for quarantine. Weddings, funerals, graduations and even simple barbecues were postponed. Finding toilet paper on grocery store shelves was equivalent to winning the lottery.
A new fashion trend emerged for millennials in lock-down: dying their hair gray. Suddenly, going gray was en vogue. Perhaps it’s not seniors who are in need of removing the wrinkles etched beautifully by tribulations in their faces, but the media that needs a facelift. If every news outlet showcased mountain climbers in the eighties, or super model seventy year-olds rather than whisper-thin twenty-somethings who received an extra dose of good bone structure and youthful beauty, our views would be more realistic. Aging gracefully is a matter of mindset: If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter. The even brighter side is those of us who have made it to our fifties, sixties, seventies and beyond are more appreciative of the simple things in life: Having good health, watching a beautiful sunset, and sleeping through the night without having to get up to pee become cherished priorities.
First, we need to rewire our mindset. We’ve spent decades adapting to work, family, chores and living our lives based on the needs of others, for the most part. Your job demanded you arrive, take breaks and end the day at certain times. You may have worked overtime when it was necessary. When you include household chores, like cooking and cleaning, the parenting time clock ticks twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week for eighteen or more years.
The average American works approximately thirty-four hours per week, but working moms (or dads) clock in more than ninety-eight hours, fifty-two weeks a year. When you have school aged kids, you’re always on-call. While parenting is the most important job we can ever have and one that’s an undeniable blessing, it’s also exhausting. Then one day when our kids are adults, we forget about the sleepless nights, the endless diaper changes, the doctor visits, scraped knees and nonstop worrying. Suddenly, the phone rings less. Our kids have their own lives. We might be working less, retired, or lonely.
During the second half of our lives, a shift occurs, and I’m not just talking about menopause. As our children leave home and need less of our attention, we can reset our internal clocks and add a few precious moments of “me time”. Think of Day Light Savings Time when we fall back an hour. Those extra sixty minutes feel almost like a vacation. You don’t have to rush. You can sleep a little extra, get more work done, or take a longer bath.
Let’s reframe our mindset and make self-care a priority. Sometimes that’s harder than it sounds. When you’ve spent a lifetime caring for others, your childhood dreams and goals slipped away. Since you were so busy all those years, perhaps you let your health slide too. Maybe you gained weight, picked up a few bad habits and allowed yourself to get off track. You were hustling to get the kids to school on time, make dinner, feed the pets. The laundry stacked up too many times and it seemed as though you couldn’t get ahead. You were overwhelmed! It makes sense to have that soft and gooey Krispy Kreme donut (especially when it’s warm!). You deserve it, right? Trust me, I get it. I have a slight addiction to Fritos and chocolate chip ice cream.
The truth — if you can handle it —is that with every breath you take, you have an opportunity to rise above the ominous clouds that have suppressed your light for far too long. You’re tired, God knows, but if you give up now, hang up your dancing shoes, you’ll never realize the incredible joy God has in store for you! Grab the popcorn! The best part of the movie is about to begin: the rest of your life on your terms!
But before we get started here, I’d like to caution you. If you’re the type of person who looks at the glass half empty, rather than half full, may I suggest some tough love? No? Well, girlfriend….here it is anyway: Every time you say something negative about someone, including yourself, you decrease you suppress your immune system. You may not see yourself as the beautiful, amazing, and talented person God see you as, but you are! You’ve experienced bleak times and soul-stirring wounds, but you’re about to get an extraordinary, spine-tingling, electrical jolt! A wake-up call! God’s grace is infused in your body, mind and soul….sister. Maybe you forgot about the activities you did as a child that brought you joy. Maybe you lost sight of who you really are at your core. God wants us to remember. We have more work to do. You can reawaken that inner spark of joy despite the betrayals and tribulations.
“Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3
But we’re older, our bones ache and we cannot physically do what we used to do. I hear you! So how do we reclaim that uninhibited, childlike joy for life without a trip to the emergency room for broken bones? What is it that we want to do with the rest of our lives? How exactly do we reimagine, redefine and reframe our thoughts, physical bodies and our spirits?
We can work with what we have, what we love to do, and what’s available to us right now. What are your passions, talents and skills? Think about those things you loved to do as a kid. If you struggle with answering that question, ask a few friends or family members. Oftentimes, we fail to see ourselves the way others see us. Maybe you’re good at organizing, or you have a knack for numbers. Do you enjoy writing, cooking, baking or painting? People who are close to you might be able to help you see yourself in a different light. Together, you can visualize how the second half of your lives could turn out if you had the good health and energy to accomplish your goals. It’s important to be realistic. The window may be closed to winning a gold medal at the Olympics, but why not the Senior Olympics?
My grandmother became Ms. Senior Michigan when she was eighty-nine! Gram was a popular entertainer, playing the keyboard and belting out tunes like Ella Fitzgerald at nightclubs until she was in her early nineties! She was fearless and always ready to sing and perform. Some may be more hesitant and less confident to jump into the arena and try a new activity or check off something on their bucket list. Sure, there are risks; humiliation, embarrassment, or even injury – especially if one of those things is to jump out of a plane like President Bush did when he was ninety. Is it more of a tragedy to live your life wondering how you’d feel if you did something, or didn’t?
Can you reimagine what the remainder of your life could be like if you had the courage of Sister Madonna Buder, my grandmother, or many other women who don’t allow the words “I can’t” to enter their vocabulary? Having good health is critical so that you can have the energy to do the things you love. Becoming a Wildly Well Woman means that yes, you’re scared to try something new, but you plan and prep and give it a try anyway. Reimagine the possibilities. Reframe your current situation. Redefine what becoming Wildly Well means for you