On afternoon, I was in the living room with a family member reading. The atmosphere just seemed a little lethargic and a little gloomy (maybe a storm was approaching). Tired of the feeling, I decided to toss a catnip mouse around for my cat. I got out of my chair, flung the little toy into the air, and watched my enamored cat jump into action. I started laughing as he did what felines typically do: pounce, cross his eyes, and swat like he was slightly inebriated.
The little sounds of the bell on my cat’s collar, my giggle, and the antics of my cat suddenly brought a lightheartedness to the room. It took just a minute or two, but the atmosphere changed. And it was because of my one simple choice.
Since that day, I’ve started experimenting further. Sure, I’ve heard that a smile can “light up a room”, but have I lived like it’s true? Have I daily utilized little actions that are so influential, they can shatter the atmosphere around me?
In a previous blog post, I mentioned how just lighting a candle can change the whole tone of a room. But I believe that as I age, I should never forget that I, too, am like that candle.
In a world that often overlooks our daily strengths and instead glorifies rare and/or fictional “super hero powers”. I like to remind myself how powerful I am. It’s important. It’s necessary. It’s an amazing advantage with aging.
I’ve been excitedly exclaiming since probably my early 20s: “If only I had known!!” And the longer I live, the more I love to say it, feel the moment, and taste the words as they come out of my mouth.
Okay, so someone might think, “Um, I say that all the time…if only I had known I would run out of gasoline, if only I had known the eggs were expired etc.…” But the phrase has a slightly different meaning to me. Essentially, I like to marvel over how “past” me would have reacted to some trivia about my future. For example, if little me had only known that my best girlfriend and sister, the buddy I fought over dolls with, would be a principal of an elementary school? If younger me had only known that my first trip to England would lead to a life of travel and overseas living? Or that when I sat, crying with my friend because she wanted a baby, that in just a few short years, she would have two? If I had only known some of the languages I would study, some of the people I would have the honor of meeting, heck – even that I would one day stand and gaze in awe on King Tutankhamun’s golden funeral mask?
And on a more serious note: If I had only known that with each troubling crisis I would face, I would come out wounded, but a healthier and more peaceful person?
“If I had only known” is maybe just a silly little mental exercise, but it leads me to dive deeper into my years and wonder at the unexpected, the surprises that wait around the corner on the great path of life. And of course, a tiny part of me builds up with anticipation for what is to come. And isn’t that what I want? To look forward to the coming years?
I know I keep mentioning ironies that seem to come with age, but I just keep coming across them. The other day I found one staring me in the face as I sat across the table from my nephew and watched him devour a cookie with great concentration and delight.
When young, the simple things in life are treasures: such as cookies (which I have to admit seem much bigger in the hands of a child!), discovering it’s possible to write on the foggy bathroom mirror, or even (for wee ones) holding a colorful sticker or pretty leaf in the hand for the first time.
But through the years, it took more and more to get me excited and giddy. Exciting TV shows became the norm, yummy desserts became common place, shopping for a beautiful dress became just another bullet point on my to-do list, and even traveling lost a bit of its spark.
But lately I’ve noticed how I’ve reverted back to enjoying the simple things, like watching my nephew eat his cookie.
The simple has become relaxing– and with a little dash of something extra. Appreciation? Contentment? A combo of both?
I still long for great things. I still dream complicated dreams. I still revel in conquering something difficult.
But age has brought back to me the treasures in the more mundane. And I hold those treasures tightly.
I know I’ve hinted (if not downright typed) this before: the older I get, the more irony I experience. And I'd like to share some of my latest thoughts.
When young, I strove to be socially correct because I saw this as the magical way to friends. I’d painstakingly wear the “right” clothes, say the “right” words, and basically try to keep myself together in a big shiny package that would attract friends and therefore closeness, love, faithfulness, and all the mushy stuff found in good relationships.
However, I continually find that the way to friends, closeness, shared moments etc… is actually not saying, or wearing or being right. Some of the best friendships can spring from feeling awkward – say at a party – and meeting that other gal who feels just as awkward as I do.
The older I get, the more “the perfect person” is less attractive.
The bonding and pure pleasure that springs from meeting someone who struggles, just like me, can be as comforting and attractive as a big cozy blanket. Good looks? The right outfit? The perfect family? Who cares.
All this is a far cry from the perfect girl I thought I needed to be to get the friendships I longed for.
Bit by bit, I’ve ripped down my impossible standard, as I see that my best friendships have been formed when I let my guard down, tossed aside social norms, and become more than real, even vulnerable. It’s a sigh of relief.
Aging is awesome.
Creator of Love, Auntie.