Sunday, 14 June 2009
Guest Blogger Nancy Belle: On Turning 65 – Lessons Learned
While I am away in New York City for a couple of weeks, a fantastic group of elderbloggers and elderblog readers agreed to fill in for me. Today it is Nancy Belle, a former nurse and health care communications/marketing professional. Recently laid off, Nancy is starting a new adventure. Her new blog is The Tempered Optimist.
I reach a turning point at the end of May. I will turn 65. I believe I am not defined by a number. But I have learned now I am. I also believe I am the total of life experiences have made me who I am today: someone who loves to have fun; someone who can be brutally honest; someone who has no tolerance for game players or hypocrites; someone who sometimes is impatient, silent, reflective yet personable and very intuitive. These characteristics were always within me but some became more prominent as I aged. So my first lesson is that you are who you are - formed at early age.
But as I got older, I found I did not like looking older - and, I wanted to look younger. Funny isn’t it? We are never happy. When we’re young, we want to be older; when we are older, we want to be younger. Why?
I believe it’s societal. We want to belong, be in the mainstream. Or maybe it’s our insecurities. For me, as I aged, I became more accepting of who I am. I guess I finally grew up. So lesson learned: be comfortable with who you are and don’t make excuses for yourself, your looks, the way you feel. It’s a right and privilege earned.
At a young age, I was forced to face hard reality. Because of the culmination of innumerable sudden deaths of fairly young family members, I learned death can come at anytime. While this hard lesson initially evoked fear of death in me, it was an invaluable lesson because it taught me to live my best and full life every day. So as I grew older, the fear of death subsided.
I learned that just because you grow older, and the aches and pains and fatigue set in, you can make changes to continue to add life to your years. I learned this most from the medical people with whom I was working on a book project, everything seemed to come together. Here’s what I found out.
The body is very forgiving. So even though you may have abused it most of your life with overeating, drinking, smoking, whatever, if you turn a new page and stop the excesses, your body will forgive you and believe it or not, regenerate. Maybe not to the level of youth, but enough to make you feel better, even good.
For me, those meant losing weight, working out ( I actually enjoy exercising). The benefit: I feel pretty damn good. Who knew? I also meet some really nice people and it gets my day started. Look I don’t do any heavy weights or things like that, but I do the bike which helps my knee (two broken cartilage and arthritis) so it’s not stiff anymore. I guess it forgave me.
Good attitude, good life. There are many conflicting researchers out there who sometimes give mixed messages but believe this one. If you believe, it will be so. If you are positive, you feel better. Don’t spend too much energy on people or things that upset you. My friend Jan used to say to me, “those people are trees.”
So, when someone or something gets me really angry, that thing or person becomes a tree. They are part of the environment, you know they’re there but it’s up to a mightier power to take care of them, not me. Sometimes I give them tree names - and sometimes, just before I let go, I envision a dog coming by and urinating on that tree.
So the lesson: make yourself feel good about who you are and what you are doing. The heck with the others - you can’t change the world. (Though I should tell you my list of trees is growing by leaps and bounds since I got laid off!)
Continue to socialize; don’t stay away from people. This leads to depression. Interact with people, even if it’s only on the computer. If you don’t socialize, you withdraw. If you withdraw, you lose your motivation. If you lose your motivation, you lose the spark that ignites you each day. Groups like the Silver Sneakers can help with this (as well as exercise). They are a national group of elders who walk the malls. You will meet new people as you walk! See Silver Sneakers.
Finally, none of this means you give up on causes and stop getting angry over inequities like the way we are all treated. My being laid off of work has taught me even more - mostly about the stupidity of health plan administrators, the inequities of health coverage for the 65-plus population and ageism in the workplace and subsequent hardships in seeking employment.
Some anger is normal as long as you put it to good use and don’t let it fester inside of you. So happy milestone to me and to all of you - To life!
EDITORIAL NOTE: While I am away, The Elder Storytelling Place is on hiatus. You can read past stories here. And if you are inclined, you could send in stories for publication when I return. All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.