Thoughts on Aging: Red Hat or Grumpy Old Bitch?
Something happened to me when I turned 40 – I started thinking about death, as well as getting old – which isn’t too hard when your bones ache and your vision gets worse overnight! It’s been a bit of a spin-out thinking about this stuff, but it is what it is – I’m only going to get older and die at some point after all.
However, one of the things I’ve been thinking about specifically, is how do I ensure I get old with a smile on my face – if I do indeed get old – rather than turn into a cantankerous old bitch who no one wants to spend any time with? We’ve all met these people, because life can be shit, and the result can often be a cranky pants. How do I make sure I never become like that?
A good starting point is I’m a pretty optimistic person – so I think that’s good. However, the last few years have been pretty tough and simple things - like smiling - haven’t been coming as easy as it used to. I’m also a heady-kinda-person, who spends too much time inside my own head thinking about everything (and I mean everything), and that can make it harder to be joyful. Just being, loving and living to the full is all that’s necessary after all, right? I love being around people who understand what life is all about and ARE living it. Bravo to you, you lucky buggers.
But I decided to come up with some ideas on how to ensure I don’t go down a negative path, and my shower time in recent weeks has been spent coming up with this list…
- Disappointment – It’s one of those things everyone experiences at some point, and sometimes the disappointment is very deep. It’s never nice when it happens and it can be a case of people disappointing you, your body disappointing you, or the greater world disappointing you. I believe the only thing that matters is how you deal with it, because that alone makes all the difference. You can’t let it destroy or lessen you, and for me, it’s about always taking on the lesson I was given and growing in a positive way. Additionally, if another person is involved or is the cause – I know I need to silently thank them for teaching me a valuable lesson and never ever feel hatred towards them, because they really did give me a gift. Hate = cranky old bitch for sure. Sometimes you’ve got to walk away from people, but sometimes you just need to forgive and forget - it all depends on the circumstances. I do believe that embracing all experiences as a gift – the good and the bad – and taking the lessons on board (without any resentment towards anyone or thing) is a BIG part of a future containing lots of red hats.
- Victim or Champion? – I have definitely gone through the “why-me?” victim periods – it’s part of being human, right? I usually wake up at some point and think: well that’s been a waste of bloody time because I am responsible for my life, I am responsible for what has happened to me and what I’ve allowed in, and I am responsible for my happiness. Everything else in ancillary to that – because I am responsible - so how can I blame anyone or anything else? Now I’m talking about me here. A kid being sexually abused, or a person starving to death in a famine, or Muslims being hacked to death in Burma, or the Palestinian and Israeli families being bombed in their own homes as I write… - they are certainly victims, but I am not. I have endless opportunities; I’ve just got to make sure I embrace them every day no matter what and never, EVER, blame anyone or anything else for any of my shortcomings or failings. That’s my fault entirely.
- Non-judgement – This is an easy one for me as I hate judgement and am often the boring person at a dinner party picking people up for being judgemental and hoping to get them to see something in a different way. I firmly believe that we just don’t know what anyone is really going through - even those closest to us - so when people’s behaviour offends me or mystifies me, I always try to understand why if I can (the underlying reason), and if their actions are hurting me or those I love, then I step away. Obviously if I CAN help – great. If I can’t help, I recognise it and move on, because who says I’m the person they need right now? I sincerely believe that we can never ever know anyone else’s story, and therefore, we should never judge. Compassion is a quality that seems to be losing strength in our world, and I hope it comes back as something valued and important. Also self-judgement is of equal importance here, which leads me nicely on to…
- Be gentle with myself – I’ve always been VERY self-critical about myself – not others, just me. I don’t know why, but I know I never give myself a break and I need to change that. Essentially I’ve got to get better at accepting me for who I am, with all of my faults, and even though it sounds a bit corny, a bit of self-love wouldn’t go astray. I know I’m a good person, so that should be enough right?
- Be silly - I’ve always been a pretty silly person, but I haven’t been these last few years – things just got too serious and stressful. But silliness is awesome and when I took the boys for a fish spa (a first for all of us) I giggled like a five year old girl and the boys thought it was brilliant seeing Mum laugh like that. I need to be silly more often, find more moments like the fish spa, and make a fool of myself too. I’m a clumsy oaf, so I’ve got to remember to laugh at myself often and do silly things, because it makes me smile.
- Don’t take life too seriously – Many of us have gone through really intense times financially since the Global Financial Crisis hit and we’re only really coming out of it now. Others have just gone through really tough and confusing times as life has a tendency to get complicated. I’ve been taking life too seriously, and I’ve been taking the punches too deeply. I need to be more light hearted and just laugh myself through the shit storms, because it always feels better when I do.
- Laugh everyday – I don’t want to be one of those people with lines down the side of my mouth because I didn’t laugh or smile enough. Maybe I can start a laugh group in my condo?
- Take care of me – I don’t find it easy taking care of me in the family mix – everyone else’s needs always seem more important than my own, but I need to take care of me, and be a little selfish maybe? I’m talking health, sanity, pampering, alone time, me holidays, etc… I often escape inside my head when I need to be with “me,” but I need to create more of that time in a positive environment, on beautiful beaches or ancient places around the world. I need to do that, because it just makes me happy.
- Pay attention to those around us – I just feel that as a world community we’re not paying enough attention to those in pain around us. We’re all on social media sites, running around, being busy, but those closest might be silently screaming: “oi! I need some help here!” Sometimes it’s just a non-judgemental ear to listen. I don’t think we’re listening or seeing as much as we can. I definitely want to make that more of a focus in my life and stop being busy doing nothing. Being a good friend is more important to me after all – and always has been.
- The bravest face often hides the deepest pain – I’ve seen it time and time again, people who carry themselves with so much integrity and such a smile, only to find out later that they were suffering or did something dramatic that hurt themselves or others. I suppose this is the paying attention to those around us extended -that’s what community is.
- Live in the moment – I find this HARD, but it is so true and a gift our children teach us every day. Being a ‘heady’ person, I am often there but not really present in what I’m doing or experiencing. I had a full-on experience with this the other week. I took the boys out for an ice-cream, and as they were quietly devouring their goodies, I completely left the room – not just thoughts, but vision as well. After a few moments I came back, with the room coming back into focus around me, which left me thinking: wohay - what the hell was that? That is the power of my mind, sucking me literally out of a little but important moment with my boys. I need to get more present, because I also know it is the key to happiness, but I do find it VERY hard. The present moment is all we have after all.
- The value of my word – I am one of those people who still believes that their word is their bond. I don’t think this is valued as much anymore, and quite recently I was kicked in the arse again when someone gave me, and then broke, their word. It hurts every time, but I will continue to place importance in my word, accept that not everyone else can do this, and try and in-still in my boys that giving one’s word is a really important quality to have, even if other’s don’t value it. The important lesson is not to carry negative feelings within me when others don’t place similar importance on it.
- Trust – Steve thinks I’m too trusting, in life and in business. It’s one of those qualities I’ve got that perhaps makes me ill-suited to the life of an entrepreneur? If someone says they’re going to do something, I believe them. I’m often “let down” and I don’t like it when I am, but I am going to hold onto my trusting-ness because it makes me a nicer person at the end of the day, and that’s much better than becoming an untrustworting cynic in my mind.
- People are essentially good – People are essentially good and while you meet turds along the way, the majority of interactions are positive. I also think the turds are here to teach you something too, so even the turds are welcome in my life - because I obviously need to learn something to keep growing or I wouldn’t have encountered them. Let’s face it, nice people can’t always teach me the hard lessons. So no matter what, everyone is good.
- Hang out with happy people – I love nothing more than being with people who just love every minute of life. It makes me happy. In fact, I was in a McDonald’s recently – I know, a very rare occurence for me – and I wasn’t feeling too happy that day. Anyways, the lady behind the counter beams for joy and welcomes me into the store. I get the boys some chips, and the whole time they’re munching away, I’m watching this incredible woman greet all of the customers, making everyone smile. This is not a typical experience in Asia, as people are more subdued, but this woman was phenomenal. As we were about to leave, I asked to speak to the manager. I said: do you appreciate how wonderful this woman is? She says, yes, she’s excellent at customer service. I said no, it’s much more than that. I came in here feeling unhappy and she has turned my whole mood around – she’s amazing.
I want to be like her and I want to be around people like her. To do that, I’ve got to pay attention to all of the above every day of my life, and then I too will be one of those quirky old bags wearing a red hat, which clashes with my blue hair, all the while getting a tattoo for my 90th birthday, laughing, cracking filthy gags, chatting up young blokes and making them blush, wearing bright and colourful clothes ‘cos I just couldn’t give a shit, and being a great person in people’s lives. That’s what I want to be.
Of course there is much more: never wish anyone bad or think bad thoughts towards another person no matter what, never be jealous or envious of another because nothing is ever as it appears, or perhaps it is, so why not be happy for them?
Forgive easily, forget readily, travel travel, travel, read funny stuff, read serious stuff, read opposing opinions on everything, read, read, read, don’t care about material“stuff” because it’s not important, save money for a rainy day so you don’t become a drag on people, cherish the people in your life, send love when you’re feeling angry towards someone, swim, run (yes even with my gi-normous chest puppies), play, have dinner parties ‘til dawn, stop thinking about being tired, if it hurts get it fixed, get a massage once a week, buy nice clothes, don’t buy crap, don’t apologize for how many pairs of shoes I have because I don’t do lots of handbags (so there), love Steve with all my heart, love Lex and Jax with all my heart, tell all three of them I love them every day, call my Mum and Dad more than once every six months even if I don’t feel like it, visit the great people I’ve met around the world whenever I can, send birthday cards, attend the great life celebrations, dance in the rain because I love it, don’t complain, be kind in all ways and on all forums (including social media) and boy, I could go on and on and on!
How I live my life and how I think about my life every day will ensure I make it to the red hatted stage – the responsibility is fairly and squarely mine.
What else do you think guarantees a red hat/purple dress fiesta? I’d love to know.
Yours, without the bollocks,