If you’re ‘old,’ embrace it, take advantage of it

September 22, 2012 

Decide when “old” is for you. Seventy? Seventy-five?

For me, it was 80. I began saying, to myself and others: “I’m old,” without apology or sorrow. Or maybe just a little sorrow.

Think of the advantages. You have a built-in reason not to do things you hate. “I’m too old for that.” Or “I can’t. I’m too old and tired.”

Let yourself be tired. Though pushing yourself might be good too. You get to decide.

Be beautiful in at least one new way. How you smile, even at strangers.

Giving your extra kindness. Letting go of competitiveness. Noticing the goodness in others. Thanking them.

Discover something new that you now love. A tree you never noticed before.

Jazz, cool or hot. Baseball games on TV. A person: friend or stranger.

Divest of the extra junk in your life. Such as beliefs that only make you sad. Beliefs that make you angry.

The same for old photo albums. Look through them one last time and then throw away 90 percent.

Give a few pictures to people who will treasure them. Younger people, perhaps, who are not ready to divest. Keep a few for yourself.

Maybe you can sell or give away books and magazines you know you will never read again. You can always go to the library, if you simply must re-read “Great Expectations” or “Pride and Prejudice.” (If you haven’t already read these, do so!)

The same “throw it out” philosophy applies to knick-knacks, jewelry and clothes. Someone else might like them. Think Goodwill.

Old diaries and journals are a different matter. Read them until you get sick of your former self – all that worrying and sadness and insecurity – then trash them.

Change something about yourself that will make you happier. Drop the old grudges. They are past history.

Add something positive: journal writing? Walking? Meditating?

Decide what you really believe in. God? Nature? Love? Music?

Take seriously your feelings of fear and grief about the suffering in our world. Find a group of friends, or one friend to whom you can tell the truth, the whole truth.

Find someone you can cry with. Or cry by yourself. Let it all out, all the past pain and the current pain and the future pain that you dread.

Talk to other old people about dying. You will die, so you might as well learn about it.

Whatever people claim to know, which could be all wrong.

Of course no one knows what happens after death, though many think they do. Explore these differences if they interest you.

Give thanks that you live in the same world, at the same time, as the Dalai Lama. Read one of his books. Don’t think it’s too late to be free, just because you’re old. The Dalai Lama is old, too.

Most of all, don’t forget – and don’t let others forget: You are still a human being, no matter how decrepit and forgetful and sick and goofy you are.

Or how your body has changed.

Love yourself no matter how tired and wrinkled and stooped over you are, and let others love you. There is at least one person or creature in this world who really loves you. You must know that.

I don’t know most of you who are reading this, but I love you anyway.

Just on general principles.

And because we both need it.

Barbara Gibson belongs to the Community for Interfaith Celebration. Her current guru is Richard Rohr. Perspective is coordinated by Interfaith Works in cooperation with The Olympian. The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by Interfaith Works or The Olympian.

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