I’ve seen a lot of How-To articles, and a lot of stories that were long discourses on how someone would do it, if they had a chance to live their life over again. But I also read somewhere that you are supposed to “express and opinion, but send advice by freight.” I would attribute the quote appropriately, but being one of those people who are old enough to suffer from senior moments, though not yet silver-haired, I can’t remember where I saw it. So I write this, mainly to remind myself, but also to intimate that there may be some wisdom in my suggestions as well.
Having been on this earth long enough to have my own memory lapses, I decided to write down a few things that I have learned while I’ve been here. Before I forget.
The first thing I’ve learned is to respect older folks. Learn from them. They have, as they say, been there, done that. They carry around with them a wealth of intellectual lore, right there in their heads, and even if they can’t always remember what they had for lunch, they possess such valuable wisdom, earned simply by living life. If nothing else, I’ve learned that there are really no big deals.
My grandmother gave me two choice pieces to live by. One was that it doesn’t pay to get upset about something that money can replace. That was after I spilled tomato juice on her brand new lemon yellow carpet. “It’s just a thing,” she’d say. “If something bad happened to you, then I would be upset.” The other thing I gained from her was that worrying is like wasting energy and emotion on something that hasn’t happened yet. She told me to pick out one hour a week during which to worry. Hers was Tuesdays, between three and four AM.
The second thing I’ve learned is to respect younger folks. Learn from them. You can gain so much by growing along with them, and looking at the world through their innocent and questioning eyes. They help you to forget being jaded and pessimistic, and remind you that anything is possible. While raising my kids, I tried very hard to respect their points of view when making decisions that affected them. Often, they had valuable and practical input that was worth considering, and would change the outcome.
If they didn’t, I stuck to my original plan, but I showed them the same respect that I wanted them to show me. In the end, both of my children grew up knowing that they have a voice. And I grew up right along with them, understanding that I don’t know everything, and never will. A one hundred year old friend of mine once told me that when we stop learning, we stop growing. She continued to take classes at the community college until she couldn’t travel anymore, at age 102.
I’ve never been a religious person, however I am spiritually connected. I believe there are forces greater than my own will at work in the universe. Over my lifetime, it’s been made abundantly clear to me that I talk a lot, first by two of my three brothers, who each gave me nicknames that depicted that quality: one called my Yak, and the other, Herkimer J Mouth. My grandfather would often ask me if I ever stopped talking. So in the spirit (pun intended) of a higher power, I’ve developed a prayer that I say probably too often, and that is, “God, keep one arm around my shoulder, and one hand over my mouth.” As I always told my children, you can think whatever you want, but as soon as you say it out loud, you can’t take it back. Ever.
Through my own life experiences, I’ve learned that we only get one shot at life. I’ve taken some twists and turns, some of which I regret, but most of which I do not. What came out of all of it is that I found that you should never do anything to sacrifice the integrity of your own potential. Treat yourself well, body, mind and soul.
That’s my advice.