How Well Do You Smell?
Elders and the Need to be Touched

Things I Wish I Had Known

Old people sometimes mention lessons they wish they had learned long before they did. Many of us have similar lists so I suspect these things are universal - stuff individuals of every generation must learn for themselves and then moan that it took so long.

Just for fun, let's play around with this silly old trope today. I don't mean it to be nostalgic or about regret – two unfortunate states of mind.

Instead, think of it as a little parlor game for elders that could wind up with a bunch of platitudes or, perhaps, reveal a small truth or two.

I'll go first with what likely are only the most obvious and one or two that pertain only to me, although you might have some that are akin:

That worrying about what other people think is a waste of time. They’re all too busy worrying about their own impression on others to pay attention to me.

That nothing stays the same. Change is a definition of life.

That getting old would be so interesting. I would have asked old people more questions.

How much I like to write and that I'm pretty good at it. I might have made it a career.

How to integrate physical activity into my daily life so it wouldn’t feel like such a chore.

That age discrimination would cut short my gainful employment years; I would have saved more money.

That marriage never suited me. I wouldn’t have bothered with a lot of the dating I did.

As a corollary to that one: that I would never again love as wholly and deeply as I did (and still do) a certain man I met when I was 36 - half a lifetime ago.

Most of all - that time is the only thing of value we own.

This isn't near a complete list but given that it took my entire life to learn most of them, it's all I'm willing to admit to today. Here's what I suspect about life lessons: by the time I get a really good handle on how live, it will be time to go.

Now it's your turn.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joyce Orlando Fenner: A Compromising Position

Comments

That it is okay to let go of the toxic people in your life. Whether they be relatives or just friends. I have started weeding these people out and surprisingly I don't feel bad about it at all. When I think of the time I have wasted on people who didn't care whether I lived or died I could just scream! At 65 years of age time is a precious commodity that I cannot afford to waste any longer. Lest you think I am an old recluse, I love people and have a whole host of family and friends that are wonderful to share life with.

That the world is full of paradox. For example, true independence comes from a willingness to seek interdependence and occasionally dependence Few things are black or white, good or bad, light or dark.

That there is much tragedy in life and you can survive it. And thrive afterwards. My adult life has been filled with the greatest sorrows (death of my young adult daughter, divorce, and loss of everything due to a natural disaster) but also the greatest joys (my son and granddaughter and a deep appreciation for living a healthy simple life).

Do it now!

If it's something you don't want to do, procrastination will NOT make it easier.

If it's something you want to do, make sure you do it before the opportunity goes away.

Be All You Are, Be Yourself,
Everyone Else Is Taken.

Do All You Enjoy, Enjoy All You Do.

Reality Is A Figment Of Your
Imagination.

That the "stuff" you own is mostly a burden. Keeping it simple and compact is good for the planet, the community and me. Working at weeding out what I don't need - it is just "stuff" I seldom use. Hopefully, should I ever die, my kids will not have a house full to give away. So says the woman with 2,000 books and 400 LPs!

"80% of life is just showing up." -- Woody Allen

I wish I had learned to live in the 'here and now' and to stop waiting for future events to make me happy.

I wish I had learned to appreciate little things more - a bird's song, the fragrance of a rose, the smile of my child and so on.

I wish I had tried harder to further my education and had not accepted the dictum of my step-father.

I wish I had learned to express myself better and to have the courage of my convictions.

Most of all, I wish I could have a do-over in raising my children knowing what I know now. I would have been a wiser mom.

Myself and the moment are all that I have
They're all I will ever possess
The richest of men will never have more
The poorest will never have less.

All that I know for certain is that, considering all of my sometimes boneheaded antics and decisions, I ended up relatively successful--in regard to love, money and health. Therefore, the secret sauce for me, might be: luck, hard work, perseverance, and being at the right place at the right time. Understanding the components of the secret sauce would be my lesson learned.

That being present and in the moment with your children is more important than having a big fancy job and a day book full of meetings.

That I had known the health risks from a meat and dairy-laden diet, especially those raised on factory farms and using non-organic practices.

The old woulda, coulda, shoulda I love it:) Revel in your own time. The only thing I accomplished is that I used my personal days every year. That way I won't lay in my death bed and wish I had used my personal days:) John: you sound like a man of reason in giving luck credit. I do too or the grace of God. Which bewilders me at times cause I've reveled in my own time:)

Not everyone will like you, but that's okay. Don't waste time worrying about it. Even more, don't waste time trying to make everyone like you.

That my mother had her own issues and my father had his, but they each did the best they could in raising my brother and me.

That humor eases all sorts of difficult situations--on the job, in relationships, and in dealing with teenagers.

That I could just politely decline to do something--such as typing a paper for a boy friend before word processors came along--rather than refusing to become a competent typist.

I was nodding my head in violent agreement at all of these.

I wish I had gotten divorced.

I wish I had started saving for retirement at age 20, not 50.

Brings to mind one of my favorite Pennsylvania Dutch sayings: "Too soon we get old; too late, smart!"

The most awful things can be lived through if you take it a day at a time. Even if sometimes it is only an hour at a time. They will leave scars but you will laugh and enjoy life again. Better yet, it will leave you stronger for the next bad bump in the road.

That just because I'm related to someone does not mean I have to love them, or even like them, for that matter.

That getting angry is natural and it's how I express it that is important. Behaving like a screaming banshee never got me anywhere!

That a lot of my physical tension was due to the fact that I took a long time to learn how to express anger in a constructive way.

Live your own life, not someone else’s.

The more you learn, the less you fear, the more things you try, the greater the opportunities and choices present themselves.

It’s critical to live life forward, to learn from the past but focus on the future.

Hope is not a plan.

Don’t mistake wants for needs.

That pregnancy is the worst reason to get married. And, once married, that I should have realized the mistake right away and gotten a divorce instead of trying to make a go of it for ten years. It was horrible for me, but even worse for my son.

No one will ever know how I wish I was born 40 years later and could have remained single through all of those four marriages/divorces. I could still have had my three delightful children and we would have thrived just as well as we did since I was single for most of the time it took to raise them anyway.

And I know it was all my fault ... bad taste in men for the most part, and the fact that I had been an only child who discovered in her earliest years how much she loved her aloneness!

One day I will write a book titled "Never Marry an Only Child: We Never Really Learned How to Share!"

I love reading your blog (and the comments) though I rarely post my own. Any comment about today's topic would be too deeply colored with regret, due to the recent passing of the "certain man" from my past; guess I never realized a part of me would go away, too. Anyway, I really enjoy your writing.

I wish I had sat with the old people in my family (when I was young) and asked them questions about their lives.

I wish I had realized that marriage is worth a lot of work, including talking out big issues and finding a way to pursue divergent paths without breaking up.

I wish I had known a career path. I wish I had known someone who would have advised me to stay in mathematics rather than pursue the liberal arts. I wish I had known a little bit more direction. And I believe that all of what I just said comes under the umbrella of I wish I had listened to what older people were saying.

Yes, yes and yes...another great piece to save and savor over and over again. I see myself in so many of these comments.

Sharing what I've learned in life with young people has brought me enormous happiness. Sharing with your own children if they are open to it, or connecting with another young person is all you need. We get a chance to open a door and perhaps help them focus on positive goals. Sharing life's lessons with a child gives me a joy that money cannot buy.

That Im a pretty terrific old broad at 69 having been through many tragedies.

That I wish I hadn't given so much money to my kids over the years, which diminishes my retirement.

That I could have been so much more professionally, if I hadn't taken a back seat to my professional husband.

As someone said upthread, I wish I had been born 40 years later. I did not fit in, in the 50's and 60's, but would be just fine today, being who I am.
I am happy that my children and grandchildren have things better.

That I'd looked more squarely in the face of what I wanted, more clearly assessed my chances of getting it, and had just gone for it all.

I've worked most of my life until the downturn in 2008. I regret not returning to college to get a B.A. degree. Having a degree may have helped my career during the 2008 downturn.

For me, regrets are futile. Too many years, I was sorry I didn't go for what I wanted to be when I was young, an architect. Now, I love being a teacher and don't want to stop, even though I'm 70.

Over the years, my students have become my friends, and that is deeply rewarding. When I was young and foolish, I thought I was smart. Now I know that I don't know much, but I can share what I've learned.

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