The difference between “over the hill” and “flying high” is a matter of attitude. It can be, as my old friend once said, “the golden years my …” or it can be “age is just a number”. It really is all in your head.
Like so many of us, you may have spent your working years imagining that once you retired you would do all those things you’ve always wanted to do but never found the time, or perhaps, the money – playing golf, painting, mastering some new computer skills or traveling. Then suddenly you are blind-sided by a major crisis. For me it came in the form of a serious illness. For others, it is the unexpected loss of a job and pension. The company is down-sizing and you’re offered a package, aka “the door”. For some it is the disintegration of a marriage – your spouse suddenly dyes his hair and starts working out and a skinny young replacement isn’t far behind.
What now I wondered? Could I travel when I could hardly get out of bed? Could I learn new computer skills when I couldn’t even remember my own name some days? All those things I wanted to do seem impossible. This is not an uncommon experience and when it happens it demands all of our inner strength to move beyond it. Maybe you can’t do those things you thought you wanted but what can you do? This was just the challenge I needed to set out on a journey to find a new dream.
Finding a Purpose
One morning, overwhelmed with physical pain and the loneliness after my husband’s sudden death, I questioned, “Is this it?” I decided that if I couldn’t make myself feel better, perhaps I could bring a smile to someone else’s life. How could I do this when my life had been reduced to going to the library and grocery shopping? So I set out to make someone else’s life a little bright that day. I was not going out to save the world, just a small gesture I could manage in the midst of my own pain.
I found that seemingly small acts of kindness and connection could have a very real effect on others. Commenting on the supermarket cashier’s new hairdo, telling a new mom her baby is adorable, these gestures brought a smile to the faces of strangers I met. A smile as we know brings with it the release of endorphins and feelings of happiness. Over time these small moments became automatic as I became increasingly aware of things going on around me. In a few cases the gesture lead to a lasting friendship.
Everyone has times when they need someone to care enough to notice them. The benefit is not only to the person you acknowledge, but to your own well-being as well. These kinds of connections have become a central ingredient in my own healing.
The opportunities to brighten someone’s life are limitless. You simply need to change your focus from your own pain and your problems to noticing the needs of others.
Some of the things that I have found bring a smile to those I meet in my everyday life:
- a wave of thank you to a driver who let me merge into the line of traffic when I’ve misjudged what lane to be in;
- engaging an elderly immigrant in a conversation about how to cook an unfamiliar vegetable;
- listening as the librarian unburdens herself with the frustrating story of trying to find help for her disabled child;
- sharing a meal with someone who is alone and perhaps unable to get out (I’m making a meal for myself, why not make a little extra);
- letting a friend vent her frustration about a relationship, knowing that she can trust her pain with you.
As you work your way out of the depression and pain you are currently experiencing, you will find opportunities to help others. This may call for more of your new-found time and energy. Setting up a cooking program at a local drop-in center and organizing a weekly sing-along for people in a retirement facility are two of the ways I have helped myself by helping others.
What kinds of things could you share with others? What opportunities in your community are there for sharing your time and talent?
Something to Think About
Don’t worry about old age. It won’t last!
The difference between “over the hill” and “flying high” is a matter of attitude. It can be, as my old friend once said, “the golden years my …” or it can be “age is just a number”. It really is all in your head. Like so many of us, you may have spent your working…