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.
I keep hearing that “older” people are on Facebook, and that it’s not really used so fervently by the generation after me. Well, I guess I’m older, because I’m totally on Facebook – in fact, some of you are reading this blog post because I posted it to Facebook. It may not be the latest and greatest form of social media, but I still enjoy it, especially with a nice cup of tea.
Until I don’t.
I’ve heard so many of my friends say how much harder it is to NOT compare our lives with what we see on Facebook (and of course other social media like Instagram.) And I agree. Scrolling our Facebook feeds can result in its own unique strain of anxiety and depression.
As a result, I’ve unfollowed people who I love and want to keep in my life, but who post things that aren’t serving to encourage me. Simple as that. And I know a lot of you do the same. It’s nothing against the person and everything to do with what I want on the glowing screen in front of my face.
The SECOND best thing I’ve done is to also join Facebook groups who encourage me. Their posts build me up when I see them appearing in my feed. One of my favorites is “No Sidebar”, a group of people whose focus is on slowing down life and living more simply. Their description:
We want to help you figure out what’s getting in your way, at home and at work. We want to help you let go of distractions, online and off. We want to help you turn down the noise that disrupts the quiet of your heart and mind and soul.
Let me tell you, this group has been such a happy spot in my life! It may not be interesting to you, but I have a feeling there is your own version of “No Sidebar” in the Facebook world.
I have also joined a fitness group that exercises as I do, a group that celebrates all things hygge, and multiple blogger groups to help encourage my writing.
It’s taken me awhile, but I finally have a Facebook feed that I enjoy and that lifts me up. Scrolling Facebook is not anxiety filled. I actually take pleasure in it now. Do I still have my moments? Sure! But they’re fewer and far between. And I hope that by sharing some of the changes I’ve made, you will join me, and soon feel the same way.
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?
My friend had a neighbor who liked the fancy things in life. She would wear ball gowns and put elegant jewelry on her cats instead of the expected cat collars. And no, she wasn’t going to a special event, ball or elegant soiree. These beauties were everyday wear for her and her felines.
Some of you reading this are probably thinking, “Good for her! She might be labeled ‘eccentric’ but look at the fun she is having!” And I would have to agree. But honestly my mind went to a different place first. To me, she seemed a perfect character in a movie or TV show. Because of course, Hollywood shows us “characters” who embody ALL the various meanings of the word.
The longer I live, the more I realize that the writers and story tellers of the world aren’t just thinking people up: they are typically real, in some form or fashion, and I don’t have to watch them on a screen to encounter them. As Shakespeare noted, “All the world’s a stage.”
It’s people, rich with different quirks, personalities, and mannerisms that add such a dimension to life and make life what it is: fun, silly, interesting, entertaining, and even scary, uncertain, and stressful. Oh, and did I mention complicated? Really, the list of adjectives are never ending.
The older I get, and the more I do this thing called adulting, the more I realize I have my own “character” traits to contend with.
And then I ask myself deeper questions:
How about you?
I’m not a counselor, so this is far from professional advice: but there is something so encouraging about music that I find healing. Something about it can lift my spirits in a special way. Especially music from my past that reminds me of “the good old days.”
I wrote in a previous blog entry how encountering something like a song from our past can really remind us of the part of us that was made/created during those good times. The part of us that learned to smile a little broader, laugh a little harder, and notice beauty in life that we hadn’t seen before.
Listening to enjoyable music from years ago can be so deeply personal. It’s as if the music comes along beside me like a friend, shows me a timeline of my life, points out the good times and says, “Remember this? And this? This is your history. This is YOU.”
While adulting, I’ve found that turning up the volume on certain songs is just plain necessary. It energizes me. It moves me back in time while I stay firmly planted in the NOW, which is where I want to be, and where I should be. But, I’m feeling much more encouraged and ready to face the world.
I hope you will take a minute today to listen to a special song that you haven’t heard in a while. A song that reminds you of a fantastic time in your life.
Have you noticed that some things you only like because of the memory associated with them?
Last month during the Christmas season, I heard all types of holiday music. I’ll be honest: there are songs that I never cared for when I was little, and I still don’t now that I’m older. For instance, “Santa Baby” always freaked me out a bit. I’m just not one of those people who find Santa Claus sexy, nor do I want to sing seductively to him. The song lyrics seem incredibly greedy and manipulating. I realize this is my opinion, and everyone may not agree with me. I just don’t care for the song.
Through the years, the lyrics and the song melody for “Santa Baby” haven’t changed, but I have. Now I hear it and while the words sound just as selfish to me, I find myself humming along because the song is now accompanied by years of Christmas memories: parties it was played at, radio stations I heard it on, and even movies that used it as part of their soundtrack.
Obviously, a change of heart doesn’t just happen with Christmas songs. It might be an object from your childhood home, a movie/TV show that your family constantly watched, or that dish one of your relatives insisted on making at every gathering. No doubt, our opinion is probably the same on Auntie’s tasteless Christmas mushrooms, BUT now when we encounter them, we find ourselves getting a little sentimental and perhaps, for more than a moment, enjoying them.
Have you experienced something like this as well? I hope you will reflect on it for just a minute, taking some time to focus on another one of those interesting gifts of time: when we still dislike “something”, yet are strangely fond of it all at once.
Ironically, as I’ve aged, I’ve had to learn to breathe again. I’m not talking life giving breaths – or I wouldn’t be typing this. I’m talking about the deep breathing that helps calm the body and subdue anxiety.
I became incredibly interested in breathing when I started having panic attacks – again. And I was so tired of them and living in fear of them. They are debilitating. They make me miserable.
I scoured YouTube and listened to people talk about ways they overcame their anxiety attacks, and a common theme was breathing techniques. I narrowed my search, pairing words like “anxiety” and “breathing”. And I stumbled on a TED TALK that really was a game changer for me: “Breathe to Heal." The speaker was Max Strom.
Max Strom...to begin with, his voice is so soothing. He could have told me my toes were falling off, and I would have smiled and known everything was going to be okay. But about 14 minutes into the video (actually a little before), he shares a breathing technique that helped me endure and overcome anxiety attacks. I won’t go into the details of his technique, because you can watch the video and hear him explain it in a beautiful way that I could never type out. What really caught my attention was his assurance that the technique forced your body to calm down. There was no positive thinking involved, no special yoga pose, no fancy tools. Just me and my body doing something very natural. I grabbed hold of this like a life raft. And I clung.
And it worked.
It was not an instant solution. During my next anxiety attack, I was still very uncomfortable for a while. But I continued the deep breathing and counting my inhales and exhales, and slowly, amazingly, my body was forced to calm down (just as Max had said), and the panic attack subsided. For me, this experience was life changing.
I’ve continued doing deep breathing, and it’s absolutely not a cure all, but it’s a tool in my toolbox that I can pull out when needed. And it’s an effective tool. I can’t guarantee his breathing method will work for you, but I want to share my experience, because it might work for you, and because I want to give you hope, just like Max Strom did for me. I still sort of shake my head in disbelief that the answer was with me all along. I could be corny and cliché and even say, “right under my nose”, and it would be true.
Creator of Love, Auntie.