I just celebrated a BIG birthday. In my past, none of my milestone birthdays have phased me much. This one made me cringe. I’ve had two weeks of texts, cards, gifts, meals and more to distract me, but in between all of that, I wondered how in the world I arrived at this age. Don’t get me wrong, I’m super grateful to be here, especially with all I’ve been through. I just don’t know what to make of it.
In other times in my life, when I’ve hit milestones, people have coached me and whispered to me about how to make it through. I was coached on how to do college, a master’s degree, ordination and a doctorate. People counseled my husband and me in engagement and marriage. People helped me learn to be a mom and then a grandma. Women who’d been there, walked with me through breast cancer and people who’d had hip surgery guided me about how to do that. Thank goodness. As much as I act like I know everything, I truly need all the help I can get.
This week I realized I needed the same help with becoming older. I asked some slightly -older-than-me treasured people in my life for the one piece of advice they would give their 60-year-old selves. Funny, some never answered me. But those who did, delivered gold.
Aunt Susan said, consciously enjoy each day and the people in your life. I feel the key word here is consciously. I want to be aware enough to do this in real time, every time.
She also said, don’t sweat the small stuff. This is the name of a book and certainly a truth of life. I read just this week that we are genetically wired to look for things to worry about–it is a holdover from when our ancestors lived in survival mode. Now days, in the modern comforts of life, we tend to keep watching for the bear, lion or famine. Our minds FIND problems to fix. The way to solve this? Work on real problems, like hungry children or an injustice in your corner of the world. (from The Mountain is You: Transforming Self-Sabotage Into Self Mastery by Brianna West) This reminds me of why I am happiest doing big impossible community projects, like Connect GCISD, instead of worrying over what I wear or what someone thinks of me or other small stuff.
My dad said, don’t buy into that old adage that old age is going to be awful, stay active and engaged. I’ve seen this wisdom before, don’t call yourself old. Don’t moan and groan when you get up from a chair. Don’t walk like you are old, pick up your feet. We are what we tell ourselves we are.
My in-laws said, don’t let the number 60 label you-either by others or yourself. 60 is just a number. This birthday does not usher in senility or the inability to be as active as you want, nor does it cut off dreaming about your future. Let it be another leap into the unknown with joy and eagerness. Read that last line again everyone, wow!
My friend Donna said, relax and enjoy God’s gifts. This is the best time of life, because it is a settling “in” time. Continue to learn. Continue to grow closer to God. Be God’s light. Say yes to family. Say yes to sharing God’s gifts to all that God places in your life. She added this, Same for the 70’s!
My friend Pat just sent 25 pieces of advice as I was writing this. That is a whole entire birthday book of wisdom on its own! I appreciated these nuggets from her: talk to close friends/family before making life changing decisions; don’t try to “advise” adult children (unless they ask); start each day with some kind of words of praise; forgive, forgive, forgive.
There’s an old saying, when the student is ready, the teacher will come. Maybe I am still learning, I’m glad I turned cringe into curiosity and received so many treasures.
What phase of life are you in? What is making you cringe right now? What feels hard? Maybe you just need to ask for advice from some people who have been there.
God gave us one another for a reason. We are supposed to do life together. We are not alone. Amen.
Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, breast cancer survivor and Mosa to Keller, Pace and River. Go to http://www.drcindyryanblog.com to see her upcoming speaking events, to read more blogs and to sign up for her monthly email. Sign up by April 30 to receive May’s Top Ten List: What Cindy Has Learned in All These Decades.