When I was in grad school – in my 50’s – we did an exercise that posed this question: If you could go back to being 18 years old – knowing what you know now – what advice would you give yourself? I didn’t have to think twice!!
The advice I would give myself? Love yourself first. Definitely. Love yourself first.
Let me start by saying that when I was young I did not value myself. I had absolutely noidea of what a good person I really was! I’m not talking about thinking I was better than anyone else. I’m not talking about thinking I was more intelligent. I’m certainly not talking about being selfish and egocentric. Quite simply, I did not know my true value as a human being.
As a young woman I was kind. I was smart. I was caring. I had so many positive qualities…as I do today. Sadly, back then I didn’t love myself enough to demand respect from other people and demand to be treated kindly. Honestly, I felt “less than.” I allowed some very significant people in my life to treat me hurtfully – emotionally and physically. Had I loved myself more, I hopefully wouldn’t have allowed that to happen.
…When I talk about loving ourselves, I mean having a deep appreciation for who we are. We accept all the different parts of ourselves—our little peculiarities, the embarrassments, the things we may not do so well, and all the wonderful qualities, too. We accept the whole package with love. Unconditionally.
I agree with Louise. With that love comes somuchstrength.
Some of you might think that “Love yourself first” is too simplistic to be of any value. Or perhaps no more than a self-help platitude. Think what you will, my friends! I, for one, believe that we cannot create “our best life” without loving and appreciating ourselves first. That is the foundation for building healthy relationships, striving to achieve our goals, and so much more. As I shared in a previous blog post, “What matters most is how you see yourself.”
I’ll get right to the point today, everyone. Our body parts don’t look like they used to! Pick a body part, any body part. All together now….Waaaahhhh!!! Boo hoo!!! Sniff sniff!! (Onomatopoeia anyone?) It is what it is, and we’re not particularly happy about it.
I’m not here to sell you a magic potion, lotion, cream or device that will bring back the easy outward beauty of youth. We all know that can’t happen. I’m here today to help us all not simply accept ourselves as we are but, more importantly, actually love ourselves as we are…all body parts included!
Here’s an example. As we age women often have “a problem” with their hands and arms (think age spots and bat wings!). Not long ago as I pondered my old hands and old arms I suddenly realized how very, very thankful I am for them.
These hands once touched so many people I love who have gone on to heaven before me…my Mom, my Dad, Munner (my grandma), Pap (my grandpa), my big brother Tim. These hands once touched the silky newborn faces of my now-grown daughters and nearly-grown grandsons…and my arms encircled them and lifted them up when they cried. With my old hands I have made pies and cookies and cakes and other goodies for my family and friends to enjoy. These hands have felt the smoothness of a handsome horse’s back, the prickly stem of a beautiful rose, and the sweet softness of a beloved dog’s floppy ears. And so much more…
Yes, I am so lucky to have these arms and hands…and all the other parts of my no-longer-young body. I’m grateful that my old heart still beats, allowing me to be a part of this good life for however long that will be. That truly is a gift.
We’ve all heard the saying, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Well, this beholder is feeling new appreciation and seeing beauty where I didn’t see it before.
Thank you, arms! Thank you, hands! I love you, my old friends. Oh, the memories. I simply couldn’t have done it without you!
When one door closes another door opens, but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.
That is soverytrue!
While we may think of Alexander Graham Bell only as the inventor of the telephone (we learned that as kids!), there was much more to Mr. Bell. He endured many hardships in life – as we all do – but he persevered to “see the good” and have an appreciation for the new doors that could and did open in his life. Hopefully we can do the same.
Have doors closed for us? Yes. We can all think of a few…or maybe even several. Loss may close some doors. Age alone may close some doors. Unexpected life changes can close some doors.
Have new doors opened for us? Yes! To see those doors we must approach life with an open mind, an open heart, and with our eyes wide open. How else can we take advantage of wonderful serendipity when it comes our way? Of course, hope and optimism are also required!
There are many doors to open and close in our lives. Some we leave ajar, where we hope and plan to return. Some doors are slammed shut decisively – ‘No more of that!’ Some are closed regretfully, softly – ‘It was good but it is over.’ Departures entail arrivals somewhere else. Closing a door means opening onto new vistas, ventures, new possibilities…
Yes, I’ve slammed some doors. I’ve closed others regretfully. And some doors have been closed on me. Did that hurt sometimes? Sure. Did life go on? Yes, it did!
As kindred spirits in aging, we can view this life journey as a time for new opportunities with new doors to open. Not doing so would be boring…and frankly depressing!
Let’s not move backwards (we’ve already been there!). Let’s not stay the same. Let’s open new doors, keep contributing, keep learning and make the very most of “the days of our lives.”
Quite simply – according to Kate McKenzie anyway! – perspective transformation is putting on a new pair of glasses and “seeing” something in a different way. And how we “see” aging makes all the difference!
Getting a bit more “technical” now…in grad school – not so very long ago! – I became aware of the late Jack Mezirow’s theory of perspective transformation. And I loved it! Paraphrasing Mezirow, a sociologist and Emeritus Professor at Columbia University, perspective transformation is a conscious recognition of the difference between an old viewpoint and a new one…and “seeing” the newer perspective as being of more value. Voila! Rather than seeing aging as a sad state of affairs we can see aging as a God-given opportunity to learn, grow, and do more with our lives.
Our perspective – like a pair of glasses – affects the way we see everything in life….not just aging. If you think about it, every day – consciously and unconsciously – we all engage in “meaning-making.” We assign meaning to everything that happens in our lives. To a large extent that assigned meaning determines the quality of our lives. We “see” things as good or bad, positive or negative, worthwhile or worthless, happy or sad, fun or boring, important or unimportant. Need I go on?
In 1978 when Jack Mezirow wrote about perspectivetransformation, I am quite sure he didn’t have perspectives on aging in mind. Well, I do!
How about we all try on a brand new pair of glasses and see getting older as an amazing adventure that we will experience together on this life journey?
And…the article The Rise of the Pajama Trend and How to Style It in avenuemagazine.com tells us that “creating a fashion statement out of your nighttime routine is an up-and-coming trend.” Wow. It goes on to say that “the athleisure trend has been able to thrive in an ever-transforming fashion market.” Now I do “get” athleisure. Let’s just say few days go by that I don’t wear a pair of leggings!
I’ve taught more than a few college students who wore pajama bottoms to an early morning class. I think I’ve even seen some fluffy slippers as well. Somehow I don’t think these students were on the forefront of the pajama dressing trend. Maybe I’m wrong.
How things have changed! When I was in high school back in the dark ages we couldn’t wear pants of any kind to class – let alone pajamas. And, when I started working for a major corporation decades ago, women wearing pants – and I mean “real” pants – was frowned upon. Skirts and dresses prevailed. (All together now…can we say “panty hose”?)
Okay, let’s say all of us here at Celebrating70 buy into the pajama dressing fashion trend. Do you think the world is ready for our pajamas? Or should I say nightgowns? Does flannel “fly”? Can I throw on my robe when I go out if the weather is nippy? I mean fair is fair. If younger women are wearing their silky pajama separates out and about, should we have the same fashion freedom? Here! Here!
Well…now that I’ve thought about it, the answer is no. To be completely honest I haven’t really followed fashion trends in quite some time…and I don’t think this is the time to start.
In Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare penned that, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” We could debate the context of that proclamation, or we can just use it as the starting point for a conversation about how we are perceived as we age.
I’m seventy years old. Am I officially elderly? Did I cross that threshold years ago and just didn’t know it yet? Or…am I a distinguished person whose life and experiences are valued? That depends in large part on your perspective.
In the American culture youth is valued. Actually that’s really quite an understatement! As we baby boomers age, the market for face creams, cosmetic surgery and other harbingers of the illusive fountain of youth continues to grow. Someone near and dear to me has laughingly professed that each night she washes a hundred dollars’ worth of makeup off her face!
A message that implicitly runs loud and clear in the American culture is that we lose our value as we age. We might be thought of as a fossil, an old goat, over the hill, or even decrepit. (Yikes!) The list goes on and on.
• Koreans are socialized to respect and show deference to older individuals.
• In ancient Rome, elders were a precious resource.
• In India, elders are the head of the family.
• In the Native American culture…elders are respected for their wisdom and life experiences.
• In Greek…culture, old age is honored and celebrated, and respect for elders is central to the family.
I feel a little better now! Words to describe “the elderly” in some cultures might include revered, respected, honored, distinguished, esteemed or…my personal favorite…celebrated! Regardless of how “the world” views us or chooses to describe us, we must always be “crystal-clear” about our own true value.
As Eartha Kitt once said, “Aging has a wonderful beauty and we should have respect for that.”
And…who are the other characters in YOUR Hundred Acre Wood?
When I set out to write this post I simply thought it might be fun to think about Tigger and Eeyore, beloved characters from Disney’s Winnie the Pooh. Little did I know when I “Googled” this seemingly playful topic that so much has been written about the Winnie the Pooh characters! Some of what’s written is positive…some not so much. And…I had absolutely no idea that the movie Christopher Robinrecently opened in theaters, offering us a chance to get reacquainted with Tigger, Eeyore, Pooh and the rest of the gang!
In any event, I will take a light-hearted approach to the oh-so-compelling Tigger or Eeyore question.
Tigger is generally a glass half full type of person – optimistic, happy, energetic, outgoing, and fun-loving. Eeyore, on the other hand, is more glass half empty – pessimistic, gloomy, tired, shy, fearful…and also a very kind soul. We may see a bit of ourselves in one or even both of them. Or maybe we’re more like one of the other Winnie the Pooh characters?
I found a quick quiz online that helps us discover which Winnie the Pooh character our own personality favors! There are only eleven questions (and you can easily “skip” one ad). Click here if you’d like to give it a try. While you may or may not agree with the outcome of the quiz –- Let’s just say I never thought I was like Piglet! –- it is a fun little quiz. Do keep in mind that each character has positive attributes!
Now that we’ve thought about which Poohcharacter we might be like, here’s another interesting question to ponder. Who are the other “characters” in your very own Hundred Acre Wood? I’ll bet your “world” includes some very interesting personality types. I know mine does! (Hmmm. Is a Negative Nelly the same as an Eeyore…?)
I’ve heard it said that as we grow older we become “more of” who we really are. Whether we’re like Tigger, Eeyore or another Pooh character, we always have the opportunity — the choice really — to interact with the world around us in a positive way. From my perspective, my friends, that is ultimately — always — the best approach!
Betty White is 97 years old. She said that just few years ago. Amazing!
Henry David Thoreau once said, “It’s not what you look at. It’s what you see.” Betty White makes the case for that being true. In another post entitled What Matters Most is How You See Yourself, I talked about the importance of seeing ourselves in a positive light, and how important that is to our sense of well-being and happiness. Perception truly is reality in so many ways.
Several years ago, when having breakfast with a few friends at a small family-owned restaurant here in “my neck of the woods,” I excused myself to go to powder room. Written in bright red lipstick across the mirror in that little room were the words “Isn’t she beautiful?” How wonderful! Whoever wrote those words must have wanted to remind all who looked in that mirror that we are, indeed, beautiful. And that’s regardless of our age, our weight, our color, our height, our style, our social or economic status, or any other ridiculous arbitrary criteria.
A short time after that enlightening breakfast I threw a big 60th birthday party for myself. (That was ten years ago now…and a fun party it was!) Guess what was written on the mirror in the powder room of the little Polish club where we celebrated my special birthday. You got it! Written in beautiful pink lipstick – were the words “Isn’t she beautiful?!” Truth be told, those words were even on a mirror in my own little “cottage” at one point in time…
As we age we sometimes forget how valuable we are as human beings. And the world around us often fails to remind us of that important truth. Whether we agree with Betty White or not, it is important to always see ourselves as absolutely valuable human beings. Our happiness – and maybe even to a certain extent our longevity – might just depend on it.
This song never fails to bring a smile to my face!
I’m sure you’ve heard the little song This Little Light of Mine. Take a listen now! (It’s a “toe tapper”!) This song never fails to bring a smile to my face!
While we might think of this as a kid’s song – and I do love to hear children sing it – it really has a message for all of us, even those of us in the Celebrating70 community! When we “shine our light” we share our knowledge, our experience, our talents, our time, our energy, our caring, and much more.
Just think about it. We could make it our goal that:
Everywhere I go, I’m gonna let it shine.
All up in my house, I’m gonna let it shine.
Out there in the dark, I’m gonna let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!
So…just how are we “gonna” let our light shine? Will we call a friend we haven’t talked to in way too long? Will we volunteer a bit of time for an organization we admire? (I volunteer for the Make-A-Wish foundation!) Will we reach out to someone going through a difficult time and ask, “How can I help?” Or maybe we’ll simply put a big smile on our face and say hello to a couple of folks who look like they could use a kind word. Even the smallest gestures make a difference and we’re setting a great example for others to follow. In today’s very difficult world, letting our light shine could have a much more far-reaching impact than we can imagine.
From another perspective, letting our lights shine doesn’t just help others. It can provide meaning in our lives and “satisfy the soul.” It feels good inside to make a difference, no matter how small. Yes, this little light of mine…I’m gonna let it shine!
How ’bout you? Any ideas on how you can let your light shine???