I’m an empty nester. A recent part of the sandwich generation. My kids are grown. My parents are gone. I’m starting (just starting) to have senior moments.
In many cultures women of my stage in life are highly regarded for their hard-earned wisdom. In our culture, that’s not the case, but I offer you here, what wisdom I’ve won.
- Life is shorter than you think.— When we’re young, on the first day of summer vacation, it seems the summer will never end. When you have young kids you may find yourself scrambling to fill your child’s un-structured summer hours. Now I know, summer is less a season than a concept. It comes and goes before I’ve had time to get tired of my sleeveless blouses and there’s never enough time with my kids.
- Forgive easily.— We all make mistakes. We all have regrets. All of us. Forgive yourself. Maybe you should have done better, but life happens. Forgive others. You don’t know what they’re going through and life happens to them as well.
- Assume the best in others.— Karma is real. If you assume the best in others, you’ll find that is often returned. Others will assume the best in you. You’ll need that one day, if you don’t already need it today.
- We agree more than we disagree.— Breastfeeding or bottle feeding. Vaccinate or don’t. Organic or conventional. Straight or gay. Black or white. Republican or Democrat. Christian or Muslim. We’re all human. We love our kids. We want the world to be here for the next generation and the one after that, and after that. We may not agree on how to get there, but it’s better to focus on what we have in common than what we don’t.
- Love isn’t the answer. Love in action is.— Do something for those you love. Put them first. Think of their needs. That’s easy as a new mom. You naturally put your baby’s needs first. It’s harder as the adult child of aging parents.
- Don’t neglect you.— If you don’t take care of yourself, you’ll burn out and won’t have anything to give to others. Besides, life’s too short to miss it all.
- The best thing you can do for your health is to move.— Inertia is not your friend. You can sit in front of your computer for hours on end. I know this first hand. You must get up. You must get moving. Your final years depend on moving now.
- Enjoy this moment.— Whatever you’re doing today, now, stop and just enjoy. The sound of children in the next room, the taste of your favorite cup of coffee, being able to stand upright and walk across the room unassisted — don’t wait until those things are gone to miss what you once had.
- Appreciate what you see in the mirror.— Don’t think about how you used to look or how you want to look. In ten years you’ll likely look back at an image of you as you are today and think how great you looked. You’ll likely wish you looked that good. Well, you do today. Enjoy that you.
- Money does matter.— Life with money is much easier than life without it. It’s politically incorrect to acknowledge it, but it’s true. Work hard. Save early. Don’t go into debt. If you don’t, later, you’ll regret it and you may not have time to turn things around.
- Special makes a difference.— Every day needs to be every day. Routines are good. But make special times really special. Birthdays are a big deal. We celebrate being alive for one full year since the last time we celebrated. What ever your family traditions are, keep them. When your kids grow up, they’ll come home for those times. If you don’t have traditions, it’s easy for things to get in the way.
- Pay attention to the end.— No matter what’s gone before, how we end things is important. Whether it’s a conversation with our significant other, our child’s final season at home before going away to college, leaving a job, ending a project, moving away or passing away. Say goodbye. People will remember you for what’s happened before, but how you end things will color the memory of the whole thing.
On that note, I’m going to finish my lovely cup of coffee, pay some bills, call the doctor to get a report from a recent visit with an aging relative, and go move. It’s a good day to be alive.