REBUILDING YOUR LIFE ONE STEP AT A TIME:
GROWING OLD GRACEFULLY
I hope to age gracefully so I’m trying to learn as much as I can about this thing called “old age”. It all started a few years ago (almost six to be exact) when I turned 50. “The BIG FIVE O!” I suddenly realised that YES I was going to get old (unless I died young of course) and that old age was not just something that “other people did like my mother, the family dog or the old neighbour across the road!” No – it was going to happen to me too. I went through all the usual emotions, the first being one of “shock” thinking that it’s just not right – this happening to me – how could it happen to me? I was going to be YOUNG FOREVER – a combination of hippy flowerchild and surfer girl!
A helpful friend said “oh, it’s only a number”. Huh, it’s easy for her to say were my initial thoughts, but then she told me she had already turned 50 a year ago and had gone through the whole emotional turmoil and she now looked quite peaceful and smug about it all. This I had to admit. Well, not wanting an old school friend to get the better of me, I vowed that I too would get through this.
And so to cope better, I moved onto the feelings of “denial”. I wouldn’t think about it and I wasn’t really 50 anyway, my birth certificate was incorrect, my mom had gotten confused (giving birth was hard those days after all). However I think my last plan was the best – I decided that I had always been pretty much of a free spirit and I was going to count backwards from now on. I decided that when you reach 50, you should be allowed to do certain things. So now I was only 49. This was a good feeling for a while and gave me a certain sense of power and control. One needs this when one gets older, or in my case younger – well you know what I mean.
After a while, this outlook seemed a bit immature and silly – I was after all going through huge crises in my life with health problems and all sorts of weird things going on. I seemed to be on a personal mission to become a happy, healthier, more spiritually-connected sort of person and so this ‘denial thing’ did not fit in with my new approach to life. I could not pretend any more and strong feelings of sadness and despair welled up from a very deep place. I was also going through the dreaded “M’ word! No, not Marriage or Men, but Menopause. Need I say more? The “sadness” at least felt more real and bit by bit with the help of my new hobby of scrapbooking, I scrapbooked my melancholy feelings away, working through my past and making beautiful memories to share with my family and friends.
Eventually I went into another phase – the phase of “acceptance”. You may ask why? Because I learnt that it was so much easier to be friends with myself, so much easier to forgive and love myself than it is holding on to regrets or trying to forever keep on having the perfect body or face. That does not mean I never shriek in horror now and then when I look in the mirror on passing by (especially first thing in the morning without makeup), but most of the time it does not worry me at all.
Being in this blissful stage now also allows me to focus more on what is important in my life: family, friends, my writing, life coaching and enjoying nature. I look at life these days as a challenge – I don’t expect things to stay calm or perfect in any way – it would be nice I suppose, but we would not learn anything from it. So I just open my arms and embrace everything that comes my way (well usually – I have my off days!), and funny thing is that since doing this I have discovered that nothing is as bad or traumatic as it would be if I had been acting fearfully about it. Sometimes things do take me by surprise and throw me off slightly (I am human after all) but within minutes, or, if it’s something really BIG, within hours, I’ve given myself a darnn good talking to and have got myself back on track – as cool as a cucumber.
And so my intentions for aging gracefully are:
b) I fully intend to enjoy myself in a retirement home (if I’m fortunate enough to go in there) even if I’m in a wheelchair or need help eating.
c) Everyday I will try and comfort someone else and brighten up their day. Everybody’s got problems and focusing on others takes the focus off my own problems for a while.
d) When I feel any fear or anxiety, I will listen to music, watch the sea, talk to a friend, journal, meditate and repeat positive affirmations. Yes, the latter does actually help. Try this – repeat a negative sentence in your head 10 times slowly with eyes closed and really concentrate on what you are saying……how do you feel now? Now do the same for a positive statement. Take note how you feel – you actually change the energy around you and in you.
These are mine – now what are your intentions?
I suppose the bottom line is once again I have reached a blissful place of enjoying the simple things in life no matter what – the smell of coffee on a winter’s morning, the sound of the wind blowing through the trees, seeing the sun sparkle onto the sea in the mornings, watching the flowers opening each Spring, cuddling up with a thick blanket and hot chocolate on a cold winter’s night, and enjoying a swim in the ocean in summer. These are merely a few of my favourite things – make a list of yours – think back to when you were happier or younger.
And so I implore you now – get out and walk in the rain, climb the mountain, be blown with the wind and swim with the whales and while you are doing these things, switch your mind off, just be still and give yourself up to life’s wonderful sensations.
START THIS DAY AFRESH: live it and love it (whatever the circumstances) as if for the very first time and feel reborn.
Barbara Shepherd is a holistic life coach and author in Fish Hoek “ONE STEP at a TIME LIFE COACHING” website: www.onesteplifecoaching.co.za
Phone 072 437 2810 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org