A piece called “What You Learn in Your 40’s” appeared in the “Op-Ed” section of the Sunday Times this weekend. I decided that it was only fitting that I make my own list of “What You Learn in Your 60’s”
1. Forgetting the name of your dentist isn’t as disturbing as remembering in vivid detail what you were wearing when your best friend refused to sit with you at lunch 50 years ago.
2. It really isn’t possible to totally re-vision or re-invent yourself at 60+. Maybe you can slap a fresh coat of paint on… but wherever you go (or however old you become) there you are. Embrace it.
3. Listen to Bach as much as possible. Apparently, the order of the music from the baroque and classical periods causes the brain to respond in special ways.
4. Write at least one letter to the editor of some newspaper each year. Take a stand on an issue and craft a message in verbiage that is readable and printable. (It also helps develop thicker skin if you get some nasty blowback).
5. Our parents didn’t know what they were doing; we didn’t know what we were doing; and our adult children are just as clueless. But somehow we all muddle through, usually with some grace.
6. As the narrator of your life, tell yourself the most positive, empowering story you can muster. You have the power to inspire and cheer yourself or your can send yourself crawling back under the covers.
7. Read memoirs. Learning about how diverse people have coped with their own personal demons and obstacles can be a source of comfort and encouragement. Recognize that we are “all in this together.”
8. Attend your next class reunion. No one looks the same. Most look startlingly like their parents. But after the initial shock wears off, you will see their high school faces pop back into view, recognize the cadence of their voices, and be hurled back in time to shared memories of record players, rotary phones, manual typewriters, and luggage with no wheels. You all made it through. Let’s celebrate.
9. Don’t stew about death. Remember what the Greek Philosopher, Epicurus, said “Where death is I am not. Where I am, death is not.”
10. Volunteering is both useful for the community and good for your soul but don’t be surprised if the work, itself, is tedious and thankless, at least some of the time.
11. If you don’t have your own style by your sixties, you probably never will. Don’t worry about it. Just base everything on the color black and you can’t go wrong. And it makes packing a breeze.
12. Trips to other countries are always enlightening; even if you can’t brag that you slept with a camel in the Negev or were the first person on your block to visit Zimbabwe.
This is a list in progress that I will add to as time goes by.