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Staying Open

One of the problems with getting old is that I don’t yet know the rules for this stage. I didn’t really know them when I was young, either, beyond what my parents asked of me as a kid. One of the hardest parts of being a teenager and young adult was not understanding what I needed to do to feel confident or happy. It was that “it” factor I could never find. It wasn’t until I was in my 30s, when I had a career, bought a house and found a tribe of my own that I found my rhythm and felt like I knew how to live. It’s easy to argue that there really aren’t any rules and that we should just live as we feel like living, and there is a lot of truth to that. But, as I explore around in this new phase of my life, I am realizing that there are at least a few guidelines I want to keep in mind.

Even with a commitment to clean out the old “rules” and bring in the new, I have to remind myself a million times a day that I don’t have to do things the way I used to if I don’t want to.

The first is that, no matter how hard it is to drag myself out of bed in the morning, I want to keep moving and, in fact, pushing myself to move just a little bit more than feels totally comfortable. When I do that, I feel better. My joints work better, my legs are stronger, and my heart is lighter. Moving forward is becoming my mantra now, both emotionally and physically. The last thing I want to do at this point is to get bogged down in old stories or repetitive loops. I love the feeling of walking into the sunlight on these cold mornings, and the symbol of that is enough to buoy me for the entire day.

I also want to keep dreaming—thinking about where I want to travel, what I want to write or make, books I want to read, and conversations I want to have. Although we often think the opposite, this is the time to grow. We have the resources and the time and the experience. My parents joined the Peace Corps and moved to Samoa when they were in their late 60s. It was one of the most forward-thinking things they did in their lives and it always reminds me to let myself imagine beyond my routine.

I’m not sure why turning 70 this year has got me thinking so much about how I want to live, but I’m sure it’s directly related to my relatively short time left on this road. Part of this is knowing that how I’ve done things for the last 40 years is not necessarily how I want to do them now. That’s scary on the one hand, but exciting on the other. Who knows what new adventures lie ahead, and how different my life might look a year from now?

The idea of that brings images of a Marie Kondo-like exploration of my days. Some things always bring me joy, but many others have outgrown their usefulness. I don’t need to fit eating, exercising, reading and people into a schedule that looks like it did when I was working. I still want there to be a distinction between the weekdays and the weekends, but I’m happy to see Sundays as a fun and open day, unlike the dread I used to feel when I had to go back to work the next day. My perspective is different now, and I can feel myself making a shift.

Even with a commitment to clean out the old “rules” and bring in the new, I still have to remind myself a million times a day that I don’t have to do things the way I used to if I don’t want to. Just because something worked for me when I was 50, doesn’t mean it’s still viable. I know that I want to move my body, be creative, have down time, connect deeply with people who are doing interesting things, read, and be outside. I’m beginning to realize that how those activities will appear in my life is not totally clear to me at this moment. More than anything, I want to be open to new patterns and to new ways to engage with the world. If nothing else, that. Be open.


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