OLDER…AND WISER?

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

GratitudeThis month I celebrated a milestone birthday. I am not unhappy about celebrating another birthday. In fact, this past year has given me reason to be especially grateful that I’m adding a candle to my birthday cake. And not just because it was the Costco All-American chocolate cake or because I got to spend it with my brothers and their wives.  In the past ten months my best friend passed away suddenly, an old friend succumbed to cancer, three acquaintances died, a close friend’s grandson was killed in an auto accident and another’s husband was diagnosed with ALS. Two more friends’ husbands were told they have Alzheimer’s. I don’t even want to discuss the people who have had the ubiquitous Senior Citizen joint replacements.

At one point I thought “Enough!” I don’t need any more signals that I should appreciate each day and every person in my life. I get it. But all of these events got me to thinking about what else – if anything – I’ve learned along life’s highway. I reflected on those philosophies or words of wisdom that have stuck with me. Some I learned as a young woman, some with gray in my hair. There are lessons I learned that are serious and some…well, not so much. Here’s what I came up with – “Life Lessons” if you will – in no particular order:

Do-Gooders

Do-Gooders

People who repeatedly tell you how wonderful they are – aren’t. My first job out of college I worked as the head of marketing and advertising for an upscale condominium developer. One of my first clients told me incessantly about her Christian faith and how devout she was. She then proceeded to deal with everyone in an underhanded manner six ways to Sunday (when, presumably, she was on her way to church). It was a good lesson to learn early in life – beware of self-promoters.

Duct Tape and WD-40 are the answers to all home repairs. I read this at least 30 years ago and thought it was a joke. Turns out it was pretty good advice. If it sticks, grinds or squeaks, spray it with WD-40. If it’s cracked, split or fractured, slap some duct tape on it and you’re good to go.

You choose your destiny. Many years ago I read Wayne Dyer’s Book, “The Sky’s The Limit” wherein he states that we have a choice in how we approach our lives, and that choosing to be happy is, in the long run, far easier than wallowing in misery. He’s right.

Perspective is key. I love Robert Fulghum’s philosophy on this:  “Life is lumpy. And a lump in the oatmeal, a lump in the throat, and a lump in a breast are not the same lump. One should learn the difference.” Wise words.

I need more light and magnification each year

I need more light and magnification each year

A woman’s best friends after age 50 are tweezers and a high-powered magnification mirror. ‘Nuff said.

Enjoy the process. Twenty years ago I was putting together a big conference at work, hosting more than 1,000 people.  It was months in the making and I was stressed out to say the least.  The event planner finally looked me in the eye and said, “You’d better enjoy the process because the actual event is only 8 hours.”  It was good advice that has ended up having broad application for life in general.  Since then I’ve tried to enjoy the journey.  Except during a root canal.

When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose to be kind. This was another great lesson from Wayne Dyer that I heard just last year.  I wish I’d heard it 30 years ago.

Let it Go. Long before Disney turned this phrase into an annoying song, it was a great philosophy for dealing with anger or frustration. It has taken me too long to learn this lesson, but I now think twice before getting mad and saying something I might regret. And I’ve learned that after writing a snarky email if I wait a day to hit “send” it results in 99% of them getting trashed. My Irish ancestors would be proud of my temper control!

That’s it. I’m sure I’ve learned more than this, but my memory isn’t what it used to be. I’d love to hear what your “Life Lessons” are unless it’s “Buy low, sell high”.  I’m apparently incapable of learning that.

5 comments on “OLDER…AND WISER?

  1. My favorite anonymous quote which hangs in Fresh Start is, “Life is like a grindstone. It either polishes you up or wears you down according to what you are made of.” This one is particularly good during challenging times.

  2. I love this essay. I love all of your essays. Well, so far, at least. I don’t want you getting a swelled head. As a real “let it go” type of guy, it felt good to see it in writing. Still, I love a good snarky email though, so if you feel as if those emails are wasted when you don’t send them, forward them to me. You know, as a little light bedtime reading. Someone should appreciate them.
    The life lesson I keep trying to emphasize lately is “Something is better than nothing.” I think we get into a mindset of not doing anything because we can’t do the entire task at once. I’m a proponent of every little thing gets you one step closer to where you are trying to get. Each stitch is a step closer to completion. It’s probably what keeps our highways relatively clean. We can’t get all of the trash, but we can get some of it. Maybe that should be my motto: Just clean up some of the trash (there are better words than trash, but I’ll keep it polite).

  3. I always liked, “Life is short, eat dessert first”. Now I have changed that to “Life is short but good wine makes it more fun!” Great Blog and Happy Birthday!!!

  4. What a thoughtful and profound blog, Suzanne! Mark and I have experienced similar losses, particularly over the past few months. A couple of weeks ago, he lost his best friend from elementary school and a member of his HS football team is currently on life support. Losing my twin almost two years ago was an eye-opener, too.
    When training counselors at the Betty Ford Center, we always taught – If you don’t like it, change it…if you can’t change it, don’t worry about it. (Variation on Let it Go!) And I try to live by – Always be a little kinder than you need to be!
    Thank you!

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