When I was recently visiting London (before the quarantine) I got a chance to lay eyes on a really neat sculpture in Hyde Park. You can see it in the picture above.
The giant horse head was so unique to me – not because I’ve not seen a horse. I’ve seen many. It was that my perspective had changed. The horse head was huge, and I was small. I was like a tiny mouse in comparison.
It was eye-catching, and I was definitely THAT person, snapping away trying to capture in JUST one nice image the statue itself, and the feeling it gave. Because to me, encountering the statue reminded me of being a child.
While young, so much of life is intimidating. It would stand before me, like that horse head, almost too large to take in. Just as I saw the details of the gaping nostrils on the statue, I saw adults and how they acted and behaved, and I couldn’t grasp it very well. It was…well… to my young naïve eye, uncomfortable at times. Strange.
BUT, looking at a horse head as a human, not as a mouse, is absolutely less intimidating, and I can take in its features much easier. I can see the details for what they are. A nose just isn’t as threatening. It blends well with the entire structure, and as we all know, the result is beautiful.
And just like that, in the middle of bustling London, I got one of those encouraging “I should remember this moment” moment. Adulting, and really aging in general, is all about a shift in perspective. And like the statue, it too is beautiful.
In a world that seems to want to glorify “young”, why are we so eager to talk about someone’s next step or phase in life? Ironic, right?
I think it’s a rare person who enjoys and celebrates the here and now. I believe as a whole, society is getting better, but we aren’t where we should be.
When people are dating, we often ask them, “Do you think he/she is "The One"? "Will this possibly lead to marriage?” When couples are engaged, we press for the wedding date. Once married, we want to know about the possibility of children. Do you see what I mean?
I have a feeling it varies culture to culture, but I think it’s probably a similar cycle of questions worldwide. And of course, the questions vary depending on age. When I was in my late teens, the typical questions were about college and careers and the direction I wanted to head. I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone ask a teen, “What’s your favorite thing about high school?” I hope people are asking, and I’m just not in ear shot.
“Present questions” is what I’m calling them. I’m resolving this year to ask more of them: to inquire about my friends and family’s current lives. Questions that help them enjoy and consider the world around them as it presently is beyond their mobile phone screens.
Are questions about the future good? Well of course. We need to be thinking about what is to come. But I think it’s equally important our questions help someone live in the present. To intentionally focus on what’s positive in their life right now, even when "now" is difficult. To intentionally look for and then to stop and smell those figurative roses that we are always talking about. And lastly, I strongly think it’s important to realize how something small, like the daily questions we ask, can make that difference we so earnestly desire to make.
Don’t you love remembering funny stories that have happened around you?
Back before cell phones, my family was traveling with my grandparents, and we had a sort of caravan trail going with walkie-talkies in the cars. I remember passing an RV park, and my sister and grandpa were trying to converse about it on the radios. It was comical. My grandpa started the conversation by saying, “That’s the RV park we stayed at.”
My sister: Was it nice?
Grandpa: Yes, that’s the RV park we stayed at.
My sister: No, Grandpa. Was it NICE?
Grandpa: Yes, it was at NIGHT.
My sister: NICE, Grandpa, NICE?
Grandma (loudly at Grandpa): Was it NICE, grandpa, NICE??? Turn your hearing aid up!
I think we were all laughing at that moment, even my grandpa.
I don’t think they realized that they were teaching me a valuable lesson. My family often showed me how important it is to laugh at many of the frustrations that come with adulting and getting older. It has helped me to not be so hard on myself when I mess up, and not become so pessimistic and angry. My body is far from perfect (even my own hearing at age 38 certainly isn’t) but really, whose is? And no matter the age, our bodies are still not going to be perfect.
“Laughter is the best medicine” is not just an empty phrase! We really need to let ourselves live it more.
That’s not to say we should laugh our life and our problems away. (Some days, we just can't laugh). And of course, we should consult the appropriate professionals when we need help. But I think we should also give ourselves permission to see the humor and set that example for others that we can still crack a smile, even when are bodies aren’t perfect. I think we will find that it lightens the atmosphere around us AND within us.
When I lived in Turkey, I lived in an apartment complex with very high security. We had to register our vehicle plates with management so we could then pass through the electronic screening at building entrances without any problems.
As you know, technology did not work perfectly (gasp), so there were times when an annoyed guard would come and initially try to wave us away. He’d walk up to our car with the typical “you don’t live here, you need to go to the guest entrance” expression across his face.
Did I bawl my eyes out, mourn the loss of my home, or question the very being of my existence? Of course not. Because I knew the guard would discover our plate was registered, and we would eventually pass on through. If anything, I was a little indignant (especially if it was dinner time.) I knew who I was and where I lived. I knew that the guard's assessment of me was wrong.
I once heard a speaker say that the reason we struggle with critical words from others is because deep down, we worry the person is right. And this was an “ah-ha!” moment for me.
When someone unfairly labels me, like the security guard labeling me as a trespasser, I’ve noticed it doesn’t bother me. Because I know they are just plain wrong. And frankly, I find their judgments not worth my time or energy because I know the truth will emerge.
I find that anxiety, and even anger, comes when people accuse me of something like not being present, being too moody, or not holding up my end of the friendship. Why? I’m discombobulated because, well, deep down, I worry they might be correct.
So now, when someone calls me out about something, and I find myself really flustered, I find peace in doing some self-examination (without the critical person present) to see if indeed there is some truth to what was said. I’m happy to report that taking a more humble approach (could they be right?) actually soothes my anxiety. BUT, at the same time, I don’t let their words automatically have power.
Instead, I work hard to stay calm. Then I determine the power of their words by seeing if they even apply to me. Only then I decide what changes should be made (if any) and how they should be made.
I’m making a point to enjoy things I did when I was younger. Obviously, I’m talking age appropriate things. The purpose is to intentionally do an activity just for the sake of continuing the enjoyment of it: letting some memories continue on, so to speak.
For example, when I was in college, I adored taking short nature walks by myself. I’d try to get lost on trails and just soak in the green around me. I’d run my hands along the plants and let them kiss my fingertips. I’d attempt to be mindful before I even knew really what being mindful was. It was relaxing yet energizing and helped me face people again.
So why did I stop? I think life just got in the way. I’ve realized that often the good things in my past are no longer there because they aren’t as convenient anymore. But it’s my own fault. I have the power to remember them and then to make them happen.
So, I do.
The other day I got myself outside, and I took a walk: it was just me and nature’s beauties. And I felt richer. Not because I found money along the pathway, but because I felt I had cracked open a treasure in life that has never been that far out of reach. I wish I hadn’t waited so long.
Is there something you’ve enjoyed in the past that you can start doing again? Even if it’s something small, like a treat of your favorite childhood food (health permitting). Maybe even just close your eyes on a windy day and listen as everything whips around you, just as you heard it and enjoyed it when you were on the playground in elementary school. Or perhaps indulge in a TV show you used to enjoy as a teen.
The older I get, the more I realize life can be made better by intentional living (or intentional adulting?). And I’m going to post more blog entries about the steps I take toward it. I hope you will join me and do some intentional living as well.
I recently looked over at the mug sitting next to me on the table: it read “wifey.” And while it’s not a super big deal, as I’ve been a “wifey” for 13 years, I became suddenly aware of how easily my roles in life change as I get older. (Okay, so maybe it was both the mug AND the caffeine kicking in that brought this revelation.) No matter. The point is, like a type of royalty, we get new titles added to our names.
I was born with the titles and roles of daughter, sister, cousin, niece, and granddaughter. Soon I become a friend, and when I was a teenager, I was a girlfriend. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve continued to add to my repertoire: sister-in-law, fiancé, wife, daughter-in-law, and one of my favorites: aunt.
Today, take a moment to realize all the titles you’ve accrued as you’ve aged and the new roles you’ve stepped into. What are your titles? It’s truly an honor to have them. I remember when the phrase "Always wear your invisible crown!" first became popular, and I think there is something to be said for its encouragement and direction. While we may not be sovereigns with giant, sparkly tiaras, we take on roles of leadership in our life, and they carry plenty of honor, pride, and pure joy.
Let’s wear them well.
Having a sister that is older than me has made my life so much easier. No, we didn’t always get along, but then one day the three years apart wasn’t that big of a deal. We connected, and she’s been my best friend ever since. I still credit my Mom, who would tell us when we were just tiny little things that we needed to love each other because “friends would come and go, but our sister would be there.” And she was right.
And having a best friend who is even just a little bit older than me has made my life so much easier.
My sister has gone before me and tackled the hard stuff. And then when it was my turn, she would help me, just like a capable mentor would.
I still remember her teaching me to drive a manual car. At the time, I lived in a mountainous area of Pennsylvania, and she patiently (and literally) went up and down the streets with me as I panicked behind the wheel. The car stalled, the car died, and I think I heard it coughing profusely once. But I learned. Her care and gentleness helped me drive using a stick shift.
This is just one example of so many things she has done ahead of me, then turned back, taken my hand, and helped me down the same (sometimes rugged) path. Especially as we’ve been aging. She’s walked with me through dating, my first job, marriage, health problems, and even smaller things like make-up and hair care.
I know my life would be a lot different if she wasn’t there. And her influence has made me want to turn around and do the same for others that are younger than me. She has shown me a vital part and a special role of adulting, and that is that as we age, we always have something to offer someone younger: we’ve taken the path before them, we’ve survived, and now we can help them along as well.
Do you have someone like this in your life? Or, can you grab a hand and help someone younger than you?
Creator of Love, Auntie.