Five plus eight equals 13, obviously. And 45 years ago I was such an age. Forty-five years ago! That, in itself, is a long time.
I was born in ’58 and now I’m 58. I just celebrated a birthday. For that reason – the 58-58 thing – I decided to have another “Champagne Birthday”. For those unfamiliar with the term, my last Champagne Birthday was when I turned 24, because I was born on the 24th of July. Too bad for you if you were born early in a month, as you missed out. No champagne for you!
But then again, feel free to use any excuse to drink champagne.
So, yes, not a milestone birthday, like 55, or 60, but I’ve been more focused on it than some because of the sheer number of years. This is the first time I’ve been stopped in my tracks, uncertain about the truth of my age. Earlier this year when a friend was doing the same thing, turning 58, I shook my head and said, “No! That can’t be right. Fifty-eight? We can’t be that old.” I sat there, poised to write an inscription in her birthday card, and used my fingers to count whole decades – whole decades! – up from 1958. I sighed. Yes. It’s true. In 2008 we turned 50 and it’s 2016 now so we must be in our late 50s. Gee.
I thought I’d be wise by now. No. I thought I’d stop screwing up. No. I thought I’d have “it” all figured out, whatever “it” is.
But here’s the thing: I don’t feel old. I don’t feel the way I thought 58 would feel. Sure, I have some arthritis in my joints, wattles forming under my chin and way more facial hair than any woman needs or desires – I thank God and my parents for making me blonde – but on the whole I feel great. I must have learned something along the way. Consequently, like Matt Haig in The Humans – who I quoted extensively from in Dearly Departed Hugh – I’d like to offer up some “Advice for a human”. Haig offered up 97 – my favourite is 17. “Wear clothes, by all means, but remember they are clothes.” I’m going to keep it short, concise, and just give you five plus eight.
Five With Which to Thrive:
- LOVE. The Beatles were right: It is all you need. In your darkest hour, cling to love, believe in love, seek out love, feel love. Love people, animals, nature, your work, your workout, your living space, yourself. Be generous with love.
- FORGIVE. My late husband Hugh died in seconds. One moment he was drinking beer, laughing with colleagues and the next moment he was dying in his business partner’s arms. The line between life/death, love/loss, trust/betrayal is a fine line indeed. Holding grudges or concerning yourself with proving who’s right on any given topic is a waste of time and energy. It doesn’t matter.
- LET GO. This is a message that comes up in my life time and again, I think because I’m so bad at it. All tangibles – like people, vehicles, houses, and so on – and even intangibles – like sunsets, belief systems, ideas – come and go. Enjoy them to the fullest and let them go when they expire.
- WORK OUT. Find something physical that you like to do, or that you don’t absolutely detest, that will fit into your lifestyle. Okay, Jazzercise isn’t for everyone, but it works for me. I just know that honouring the temple I live in by moving it sufficiently a few times a week keeps me feeling good and feeling young. My daughter Randy and her girlfriends were yakking away the other day about Botox and fillers and facial surgeries and one of them said, “Rita, what do you believe in?” I said, “I believe in working out. Oh, and growing old as gracefully as possible.”
- MANAGE MONEY. If you don’t manage money, it will manage you, which leads to stress, which takes years from your life. Read money books. Understand the lingo. Learn the value of compound interest, the earlier the better. Manage debt. Discover your “latte factor”, ie. unnecessary spending. Use credit cards only when you can pay the balance, ie. don’t pay credit card rates of interest.
Eight to Contemplate:
- HUMANS ARE COMPLEX. Okay, so there’s a desire among many of us to do this. He is: and then fill in the BLANK. She is: BLANK. He is: Bossy, Egotistical, Narcissistic, or, God forbid, a Scorpio! We all know that means he’s obsessive, manipulative and fiercely independent. She is: Cut-throat, Judgmental, Selfish, or, God forbid, a Leo! Watch out, here come those feline fangs and claws. But we are so much more than one thing, so much more than our flaws, or even our claws. Ha. He could also be: Successful, Kind, Hard-working and even Loyal. She could be: Thoughtful, Caring, Giving and even Socially Adept. Reveal and focus on your own varied strengths, and extend the same kindness to others.
- LESS IS MORE, in terms of material possessions. Have what you need and need what you have. Also, for me, as a writer, less is more when it comes to word choices.
- THE SKY IS ALWAYS BLUE. Sure, clouds come and go, but above them? The sky is always blue. Sure, thoughts come and go, but beyond them, in your mind? The sky is always blue. A pleasant reminder for dark times.
- DO IT. What is your passion? Writer Elizabeth Gilbert feels “passion” may be too strong of a word. Okay. What are you interested in? Curious about? Writing? Painting? Sky-diving? Making photo albums? Mountain climbing? Bike riding? Music? Whatever it is, uncover it, NOW, and do it. The best advice I’ve been given was from a painter. “If you want to write, it’s simple. Write,” he said. I bought a cheap spiral bound notebook and wrote. Are the words always great and profound? No. But you know that 10,000 hours that is talked about? The 10,000 hours spent at a task so you can become really good at it? Well, I’m pretty sure I’ve gotten mine in.
- TOGETHERNESS HAS VALUE. Hillary Clinton’s main campaign slogan is “Stronger Together”. Jack Johnson sings “Better Together”. Globalization is here to stay folks. If we’re to succeed, as humans, we must do it together. Humanity. No divisions of gender, faith, race. As in a previous blog, We Are One.
- HINDSIGHT IS 20-20. Yep. That old saying is true. The reality of a current moment passes, with all of its certainty, and voila. What seemed real is no longer real and maybe you were wr-wr-wrong and it’s time to eat humble pie, yet again! Gee.
- KEEP FAMILY AND FRIENDS WHENEVER POSSIBLE. Over the long haul, people you’re really close to can piss you off so much, you just want to chuck them. And vice versa, right? But you never know when a person might come in handy again. You know, for job references and stuff. Naw. We love close family and friends, they just make us crazy from time to time. If you truly love a person, do everything in your power to figure out how to keep that person in your life.
- NEVER STOP LEARNING. Or NAÏVE AND SMART vs EXPERIENCED AND STUPID. My husband B and I were talking about this the other day. How smart we thought we were when we were young. It allowed us to accomplish a lot, because we weren’t afraid. But now that we’re older, we accept that we don’t know everything. There is so much to learn. So we embrace that now: lifelong learning.