Does regular patterned physical activity keep your brain younger and more resilient? Find something active you like to do, and indulge several times a week. Do it for quality of life, now and in your advancing years.
This month I have a milestone birthday. I’ve renewed my driver’s license, enrolled in Medicare (though I’m deferring my Social Security for as long as I can), and I’m beginning to collect my teacher’s pension.
I’ve been around the block a few times in my sixty-five years on earth. I’ve learned a lot of stuff–the hard way, through trial and error. Let me share my accumulated wisdom with you. Indulge me; I’m old. Maybe you’ll learn from me and avoid making the same mistakes I made.
- I don’t know as much as I used to. I’ve forgotten a lot.
- Your life will never be trouble-free.
- Be happy for other people’s good fortune. Don’t know how to do that? Smile. Say, “I’m so happy for you!”
- No matter how hard circumstances get, they become more bearable with time.
- When you screw up, apologize. Without making excuses.
- If you make $32,400 per year, you are among the top 1% of wage earners in the world. So stop whining.
- If you can’t sleep, get up and clean the house.
- After your shower, rub the skin around your fingernails with your towel, and push back your cuticles. If you do this every day while your skin is soft and soggy, you’ll never get hangnails, and those little slivers of loose skin next to your nails will just rub right off without bleeding or hurting.
- A couple of drops of argan oil in your hair after washing will make it shine and make your brush glide right through it.
- Water is the best thing you can drink. Squeeze some lemon juice into it.
- Tell your friends and family that you love them. Every day.
- Acknowledge excellence.
- Shop the clearance rack.
- Donate things you don’t use to charity.
- When you bring in the mail, stop at the recycling bin and toss away all the junk.
- Before you buy something, ask yourself, “Where am I going to keep this?”
- Don’t make a joke at someone else’s expense.
- Be polite to everyone, even (especially) when you’re angry.
- If you’re learning to play an instrument, practice every day.
- Read for enjoyment every day.
- Borrow books for free from the library.
- Read to your kids from the time they’re babies.
- Dance regularly. And step it up as you age. Dancing is great exercise for the brain.
- Don’t ever use a “recreational” drug. Just don’t.
- Never do something you know you shouldn’t.
- Wealth comes with complications. Freedom comes with having just enough to share.
- Find a cause you believe in and support it as generously as you can.
- Who cares if what you have is “dated”? If you like it, it’s perfect.
- Most of what’s on television is garbage. (Do I sound like a geezer yet?)
- Walking is excellent exercise. Bring your device so you can listen to music or take photos.
- Buy a couple of pieces of good-quality, classic clothing every year. Consider it an investment you can wear for a long time.
- Save money. Contribute to a 401K or invest in mutual funds or ETFs. Be smart about your future.
- Attending college in Europe is less expensive than attending college in the United States.
- Be a life-long learner. Pursue topics that interest you.
- Cultivate friends who are older than you and ones who are younger than you.
- Don’t buy a bigger house than you need.
- Don’t buy a lot of stuff. Possessions are overrated.
- Learn a second language. It will broaden you, and raise your IQ.
- Support public education. Free quality education for every child is the mark of a great nation.
- Obey police officers.
- When you see car washes put on by kids to raise money for organizations and charities, let them wash your car and donate generously.
- Pray every day. Start by thanking God for all His blessings to you. Pray for our president and our country. Pray for people who are suffering.
- Check your gas tank every time you get in the car. Fill it as soon as it gets down to the last quarter.
- Once a month see that your tires are properly inflated, your oil is clean and topped off, your coolant (or antifreeze) reserve is full, and your windshield washer is topped off.
- Call your parents.
- Surprise a friend with a card. The kind you mail with a stamp.
- Save your receipts until you use what you bought or the return/exchange date has passed (longer if it has a warranty).
- When your kid is tall enough to touch the bottom of the inside of the washing machine, he’s old enough to be responsible for his own laundry.
- You don’t do your children any favors when you do all the cooking and cleaning. Part of your job is to train your kids in the skills they need for everyday life. Give them chores.
- Take care of your health. Do it for yourself. Do it for the people who love you. Or at least do it so you won’t be a burden on society.
- If you give raisins to a baby, be sure to cut them first. (I have a not-so-happy story about my first baby and raisins…remind me to tell you about it someday…)
- On the back of photographs, be sure to write the names of the people who appear in the pictures. (If you save your photos online, tag the people, or caption the photo.) I don’t care how sure you are that you’ll always remember the significant people in your life; I guarantee when you’re as old as I am, you’ll forget some names. My mother told me to write down names on the back of baby pictures. I was positive I’d remember which one was which. (Mom was right.)
- You can’t do every good thing. Be selective about what you commit to.
- When you have a long-term project, break it down into manageable steps and schedule a completion date for each step.
- Children aren’t born knowing right from wrong. You have to be deliberate about teaching them. Encourage them to consider how their actions affect others. It’s sad when you meet adults who never learned to do this.
- New cars are expensive. Preowned cars can often be relative bargains. I’ve had good results buying fairly new cars with low mileage from reputable dealers. Often these are cars that were repossessed because someone couldn’t make payments. It’s ironic that I benefit from someone else living beyond their means.
- When someone is grieving, say, “I’m so sorry.” Don’t try to cheer them up–sometimes well-intentioned words just make the hurt deeper. Be present. Listen. Hug. Cry. Send a card. Send flowers or a donation to a charity. Don’t say, “Call me if you need anything”–people don’t like to impose on their friends. Instead, follow up in a few days with a specific offer of help–run an errand, cook a meal, babysit–or ask what you can do.
- Don’t use electronic devices after dinner. Either you’ll spend too many hours online and go to bed later than you should, or the light emitted from the screen will interfere with your body’s sleep cues. Either way, you’ll be tired the next day.
- Tell your (or your children’s) teachers, pastor, and boss what they’ve done that you especially admire or appreciate.
- You can do nearly anything you set your mind on, but it’s going to take a lot of hard work and sacrifice.
- Set high standards for yourself, but make them reasonable. Determine a code of ethics. Become a person of integrity.
- What will people remember about you when you’re gone? Work toward what you’d like your legacy to be.
- Learn the names of the employees at the retail stores you frequent. Greet workers by name, and commend them for good customer service. You’ll make their day, and you’ll be rewarded with continued good service.
- Whenever you think of a perfect gift for someone (or for yourself–sometimes people ask what you would like), write it down. It’s good to have a little notebook for this purpose. Flip through it from time to time so you remember–maybe the item will go on sale.
- It doesn’t matter how long you live, just how well you live. Work hard, but eliminate unnecessary stress. Find ways to add fun to your life. Smile. Laugh. Use the good china sometimes, even when you’re not having company. Stop and admire beautiful things. Love someone. Learn something new.
A few years ago, Julie Kemp Pick, inspired by a poem by Susan Flett Swiderski, came up with the idea to create an anthology of poetry written by women of a certain age. Together, they compiled Old Broads Waxing Poetic from their own verses and the work of six other poets.
I don’t remember how I heard about it, but I bought a copy, compelled by the wonderful cover image. It sat in my study for a couple of years, forgotten, until I recently came across it again.
The poems range in quality from okay to delightful. I’ve already shared one poem from this book. Here are a couple of my other favorites:
Lilacs and Love
by Connie Biltz
“Nothing says spring like a lilac breeze,”
Mom closed her eyes, smiled, and sighed.
The scent would come drifting in,
with curtains billowing and windows wide.
My mother gathered them by the armful,
bunches of lilac blooms with a fragrance that was heaven sent.
She took them to my grandma every Mother’s Day,
sharing her love, showing her gratitude, knowing how much it meant.
She loved lilacs too, my mother did,
and she was glad we had plenty to spare.
It doubled her joy for them, I think,
knowing she was able to share.
Grandma would bury her nose in the lilacs,
and breathe in the heady scent too.
She arranged them carefully in a milk glass vase,
and there was one thing I always knew.
Grandma loved me, and my mom did too,
so fierce and wide and deep.
Remembering those lilacs they shared
is a memory I’ll always keep.
Forever the sight of a lilac bush,
or the hint of its fragrance in the air,
will remind me of those two ladies before me,
who had lilacs and love to spare.
That poem hits me right in the memories. A huge lilac bush grew just outside the kitchen window of the house I grew up in. On May evenings, as my mother washed dishes and I dried them, the breeze coming through the open screen carried the fragrance of lilacs, which we both loved. Though my parents didn’t particularly care for cut flowers (they felt flowers belonged in the garden), on Mother’s Day there was usually a large vase of lilac branches on the kitchen table.
GOODBYE, LEFT BREAST
(ODE TO A MASTECTOMY)
by Fran Fischer
I just thought I’d like to say goodbye
As you go to that medical waste disposal in the sky.
Say hi to my tonsils and have no fears.
We’ll all get back together in a few years.
You’ve know me the seventy-nine years of my life.
You saw me as a teen, and then a wife.
Your first job was attracting men
And next you were a breastaurant for my children.
When the doors of the milkbar finally closed
You went back to a purely decorative mode.
Which was fine, until last week
When you (and other parts) became antique.
I no longer attract young men of twenty,
But that’s all right, because I’ve had plenty.
And as for that other use, well, we all know
The odds of me nursing again are low.
But it’s in my nature to be a little sappy,
And with or without you I’ll keep on being happy.
Most would count this a loss when it comes to my score.
Will I miss you? A little. Do I need you? No more!
I will be losing some symmetry,
On this I think we can both agree.
I may tilt to one side as I walk through town
But I’ll try to adjust and not fall down.
Yet I’m not through having fun
And lifting my face to the warmth of the sun.
And being friends and laughing (I’ll show you)
So ta ta, left ta-ta, it was nice to know you!
I’d never thought it was possible to make cancer surgery humorous.
Is this book worth buying? Yes. Not every poem will resonate with you, but these sweet ladies are not trying to get rich or famous. They are donating all the proceeds from this book to CARE International. Go ahead and buy it already. It’s only $9.99 at for the paperback on Amazon, only $2.99 for the Kindle edition.