“Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365-page book. Write a good one.” Brad Paisley
I love the start of a new year. Always have! There is something about turning the proverbial page on the calendar to a new year and having 365 days to fill that I find really invigorating! It’s like I have the power to determine how those pages are going to be filled, and that’s exciting. I’m finding this year extra-special because I turn 50. Five-zero. Half a century. Despite medical advances, I’m pretty confident that I can say that my life is half over at this point. Which is really exciting because it also means I have half of my life LEFT TO LIVE! As I reflect, here are a few things I have learned, and the top ten lessons I am going to take with me as I enter into year number fifty.
1. Not everyone is going to like you … and that’s OK! I recall an older friend telling me that getting older meant you no longer had to give a damn about what others thought. I have realized there is truth in her statement. You can’t be Switzerland. Bottom line: you are never going to have the approval of everyone, and you will never please everyone, so quit busting your butt trying. It’s a never-ending battle with no chance of success.
2. Wrinkles, bags, and lines are unavoidable … but the alternative is worse! I’m not saying I plan to age without putting up a good fight (goodness knows I spend enough money on serums and creams each month), but beyond that I am proud of the life experiences, both good and challenging, that those lines reflect. Bottom line: own your lines and their story.
3. Floss … because you realize what your dentist has been telling you to for decades is true. Yup, I’ve heard this for years, and it’s only after reaching my late 40’s and realizing that my gums were starting to recede that I realized why flossing is so important! Bottom line: I’ve discovered you can make up for lost ground and reverse gum disease … if you start to floss (for real this time!).
4. Create your own life … which means figuring out who YOU are. Many people find themselves sacrificing so much for their significant others, their children, their careers, and their volunteer service that by the time 50 hits, they haven’t done anything for themselves in years. Bottom line: retirement and empty-nesting will be here sooner than you think. Figure out who you are, and what you enjoy, so that you don’t wake up one day, look around, and wonder who that person is in the mirror.
5. Age is just a number … and you are never too old to learn new tricks. Just because I am turning 50 doesn’t mean I’m putting myself out to pasture. Hell no. I’ve just launched a new company with my husband and am learning all sorts of new things about designing and manufacturing products. I spoke with two different friends yesterday. During our conversations one said, “If only I was younger, I would do …” and the other, who just retired at age 74 said, “I’m going to start auditing university level classes for fun!” Which person are you? Bottom line: Learning new things helps to keep your mind sharp and keeps life interesting!
4. Menopause is right around the corner … which means muscle mass and bone density both start to decline. For me that was a far stronger motivation to get to the gym and to adopt a more healthy lifestyle than the motivation of showing up at the pool in a bikini had been for decades earlier. Bottom line: it’s about more than just vanity at this point; the health stakes are higher now than ever before. I want to enter the second half of my life being healthy and fit enough, both mentally and physically, to enjoy every moment.
7. Simplifying and decluttering brings great joy … and purging can be fun. It seems that I’ve spent the first half of my life accumulating stuff that now brings me great joy to donate, sell or otherwise dispose of. I’ve had fun figuring out what we really don’t need or want anymore, or to use that Japanese decluttering system that was so popular a few years ago, those things that “don’t bring us joy anymore.” I’m left with meaningful items that I know I will use. Bottom line: Downsizing is liberating and frees up not only my physical space, but also my mental space. And, you really don’t need all that crap anyway. See #8!
8. Experiences trump accumulation … and make the best memories. If I reflect back on the best memories in our lives, it’s those times where I experienced something, not when I received something. Our family travel adventures top my list of experiences that will last a lifetime. Instead of buying tchotchke souvenirs, I document our experiences with photo books. I love coming home and seeing the photo books in disarray on the family room table knowing that someone in my family has been looking through them and reliving the experiences that we shared together. Bottom line: Spending money on experiences trumps spending money on stuff and the “high” lasts much longer, Better yet, experiences don’t have to cost anything at all!
9. Practicing meditation is not a new concept … despite the focus by mass media today. My mom has meditated for decades. I grew up watching her role-model the importance of taking some time to clear your mind each day … to think… to listen … to be still. Today, more than ever, the “on” switch is “on” 24/7 thanks to technology. Consequently, today, more than ever, we need to make time to just be still and allow our minds to calm down. Three deep calming breaths are my “go-to” strategy when life gets crazy. Bottom line: Being still, being present, being focused, and not rushing from one thing to another, makes life much more enjoyable if we will just take/make the time to slow down.
10. Relationships are all that matter … really, nothing else does. Truly, at the end of the day, isn’t it the relationships that you have cultivated in your life that really matter? It’s not your degrees, your job title, the size of your home, the bottom line on your financial statement, or even where your kids are going to school. Isn’t it really about who is there to experience life with you, to be with you when you want to celebrate, and to support you when you need to cry? It’s the relationship you have with your significant other, your parents, your extended family, your friends who are like family. We all have people in our lives who have “wronged” us, and we can choose to hold grudges or find forgiveness. Forgiveness is harder, but has a much sweeter reward! Bottom line: It’s all for naught if at the end of our lives we end up alone with no one to share our love, our friendships, our experiences and our memories with. Relationships need to be constantly cultivated. They don’t just grow overnight.
There it is. That’s my list. I’m sure I can come up with more, but that’s my stream of consciousness around 10 things I know I’ve learned as I embark on the second part of my life.
Author Monique A. Honaman wrote “The High Road Has Less Traffic: honest advice on the path through love and divorce” (2010) in response to a need for a book that provided honest, real, and raw advice about how to survive and thrive through one of life’s toughest journeys, and “The High Road Has Less Traffic … and a better view” (2013) to provide perspectives on love, marriage, divorce and everything in between. The books are available on Amazon.com. Learn more at www.HighRoadLessTraffic.com.