I have not yet reached those talked-about “golden years,” but already that term distresses me at age 53. Each time my birthday approaches, my husband will jokingly say how I’ll soon be sitting in my rocking chair (along with him, of course) telling stories to our grandchildren like our parents did, and I bite my bottom lip to keep from screaming.
I usually stomp up our stairs and head to the bathroom to look in the mirror. Yes, gray hairs; yes, laugh lines; but I am still young at heart and vibrant. I will not, absolutely not, embrace the words of advice for living in my “golden years,” even when they come. As for the advice given to my parents and my husband’s parents: “Enjoy the time you have left, spend as much time with your grandchildren as possible, this is the time to finally travel…” – yuck! Except for spending time with my precious grandchildren, this sounds more like a bucket list.
So I’ve decided that instead of waiting to enter my golden years, I will try to live a golden life each day. Why? Because that is how we all should live whether we are in our 20s or in our 60s. Also, because living a golden life can be a glorious state of mind. For me it means that I am already enfolded in God’s magnificence but am still plotting my journey as a woman, not just a wife, mother or grandmother, to become the person of “my” dreams.
My grandson may laugh when I tell him I am just as much a work in progress as he is, but it is true. I am! And as crazy as it seems, I’m proud to say that I am not carved in stone yet; I am still like the potter’s clay, so I can embrace new ideas, remove old prejudices and annoying habits, and be more open to what the world has in store for me.
So, if you would like to join me in turning your nose up to the golden years in order to embrace a golden life, here are some tips to get you started:
1. Keep dreaming. Don’t wipe your slate clean from dreams. Julia Child didn’t learn to cook until she was almost 40, and her popular cooking show didn’t get underway until she was 50. The English novelist Mary Wesley was 71 when her first novel was published. Make a vision board with your dreams, ask your spouse to get on board and add his or hers, and don’t forget to share those dreams with your grandchildren. Your lesson to them will be that, yes, it’s wonderful when you accomplish your dreams at an early age, but dreams (especially dreams that may have been deferred as you focused on your family or career) have no age limit.
2. Don’t let others distract you from your own unique journey in life. Others may enjoy the typical Golden Age rites of passages, but map out your life ahead according to your vision and not stereotypes or other people’s ideas of what you should do.
3. Have the talk. Have a talk with your family members and be honest with them about how important your vision is. Tell them that during a set amount of hours or on certain days you would appreciate their assistance (can’t carpool, or babysit) while you are writing, painting, networking with small business owners, etc.
4. Visualize how you want to live your life. Make that 20-, 30- or 40-year plan. Plan for living to be an octogenarian and beyond.
5. Drop all the weights that you have been carrying and opt to live for today. You can’t change the past, so there is no reason to worry about it. Accept it and move on. Focus on today and what steps you can take to make it golden spiritually, physically and financially.
6. Make a “to do list” for the day and then cross out all of the usual things you write that have nothing to do with living an emotionally abundant life. Cleaning out the gook in the oven can wait thanks to take-out; a lunch date with a good friend can’t. Prioritize that list using a new measuring stick, like self-growth, physical well-being, happiness or leisure.
7. Ask yourself, if you could begin writing your autobiography at this very minute, what would it be about? Hopefully, like mine, it would be a book that would show others, especially your grandchildren, that your life was aligned with what you wanted to do and have in it. That you lived with thankfulness in your heart, matched with dreams dancing around in your head, and you did your very best each time the golden sun rose in the morning until it set at night, to realize them.
Jeanine DeHoney is a freelance writer and grandmother of three (Kyron, 13; Allyssa, 2; and Kylie Olivia). Her work has appeared in such publications and sites as Essence and Good Enough Mother. She is a contributing writer for Esteem Yourself and an essayist in Chicken Soup for the African American Woman’s Soul.