September 23, 2023

Two Simple Quotes To Take To Heart


A good friend of mine sent me a quote that seems to perfectly summarize what our attitude should be. It was:


Doesn't that put it all into simple perspective? Those of us who have less of our life ahead of us than behind are constantly reminded about our age. Companies don't usually advertise with us in mind. 

Doctors and airline pilots seem to all be just past puberty. Too many political figures look for ways to make our life tougher by threatening our safety nets and income or health coverage. Our bodies start to fail us no matter how conscientious we may be. Clearly, we are not getting any younger.

Yet, that is the point of the quote. Why would I waste my time worrying about the past? Why would I get upset by what may happen in the future? The clock is ticking, and none of that worry will slow it down; it can only make me enjoy right now less.

Frankly, I had never thought of time in the way this quote positions it, but it is so logical and true. It is a simple statement of fact that reminds me all I really have is today, right now.

There was another part of the note  that contained a concept I really like:
"Move The Needle."
In essence, that says life is not meant to be lived stuck in one place, doing one thing in the same way. Being fully alive means moving the needle in your life on a constant basis. 

Crank it up, and make the needle get close to the red line occasionally by exerting yourself physically, or mentally, or emotionally. Expand your horizons, and push back against your supposed limits. Move the needle of your life.

Two simple quotes and two easy-to-understand concepts that take a lifetime to fully understand and appreciate.

Time to move the needle, Bob. What's next?

September 19, 2023

Has The Concept of Enough Fallen Out of Favor?

 A while ago, I read a book by Wayne Muller, "A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough." His premise was simple and powerful: our striving for a life of constant motion, commitment, and responsibility guarantees we miss what is most important: living fully now and understanding what we have is entirely sufficient for a full, joyful life.

If you envision your most perfect, beautiful day, does it include a meeting at work? How about becoming very involved as the never5-ending political drama ramps up again. How about becoming excited by commitments around your home along with family and spousal responsibilities? 

Does it include emotions like feeling drained, angry, or rushed? Does it include your falling into bed at the end of the day so frazzled that sleep is almost impossible? Is it the day you bought the new big-screen TV or stainless steel refrigerator? 

Probably not. 

For most of us a beautiful, perfect day might include time by the ocean or being deep in a mossy forest. It may look like a family picnic where everyone is laughing, playing games, and loving each other's company. It could be the day your child or grandchild is born. It might be a few hours spent on the back porch, with a cup of coffee, watching the clouds scud across the sky, leaving your mind blank and calm. How about helping a young child learn to read?

Mr. Muller makes a powerful case against the wasteful habits of worry and constantly striving for more and then even more. He believes we often feel defeated and discouraged no matter how much "progress" we might have made that day, week, or month. 

He believes that we have the innate ability to be happy when we slow down, take stock of what is right and good in our life, and accept that as enough. 

Chinese author Lao Tsu preached the same message thousands of years ago in the Tao Te Ching: "Those who know that enough is enough will always have enough."

Mr. Muller is not saying we should withdraw from the world, or be content without any movement forward. He is making the case for understanding what is worth striving for; it usually is already right in front of us. I love his assertion that our life is always a glass that is both half full and half empty. How we react to that reality is what matters. 

Over the course of a life, most of us experience a combination of joy and sadness, contentment and disappointment, love and grief. It is never all of one and none of the other forever. The glass always contains the possibilities of both. If we look for a constant flow of external successes, possessions, or accomplishments,  we will eventually realize we are chasing the wrong goal. 

Mr. Muller says, "There is a geological term , isostasy, which is the tendency of something to rise once whatever has been pushing it down is removed."   Are we our own worst enemy in this regard? Do we simply have to remove what it is that has been pushing us down to rise? Abraham Lincoln said, "Most folks are as happy as they make their minds up to be." Mr. Muller says, "Happiness is an inside job."

My life-long search for the proper balance between all those things pulling at me finds a welcome harbor in this author's take on what that symmetry could look like.

September 15, 2023

If Only It Were This Simple


I am a sucker for lists. To-do lists, productivity lists, how to be happy lists, the best movies in a foreign language list...doesn't matter. I like lists. 

If enjoyable aging could be reduced to a simple nine-point list, wouldn't life be easier! This may be a fool's errand, but here's my attempt: 

1. It’s time to use some of the money you saved up. Use and enjoy it. Don’t just keep it for those who may have no notion of the sacrifices you made to get it. Remember there is nothing more dangerous than a long-lost releative with big ideas for your hard earned capital. Warning: This is also a bad time for a major investment, even if it seems wonderful or foolproof. If you are wrong, there is too little time to rebuild your cracked nest egg. This is a time for you to enjoy some peace and quiet.

2. Keep a healthy life without hurting youself. You are probably not training for a marathon. Moderate exercise, like walking every day or some weight-lifting will suffice. Eat well and get your sleep. It’s easy to become sick, and it gets harder to remain healthy. That is why you need to keep yourself in good shape and be aware of your medical and physical needs. Keep in touch with your doctor, do tests even when you’re feeling well. Stay informed.

3. Always buy the best, most beautiful items for your significant other that you can afford. The key goal is to enjoy your money with your partner. One day one of you will miss the other, and the money will not provide any comfort then. Enjoy that special gift together.

4. Don't stress over the little things. You’ve already overcome so much in your life. You have good memories and bad ones, but the important thing is the present. Don’t let the past drag you down and don’t let the future frighten you. Feel good in the now. Small issues will soon be forgotten.

5. Stay up-to-date. Even though it may feel good for the moment, a head-in-the-sand approach to the state of the world really only works for an ostrich. No matter where something important happens, the odds are pretty good it may affect you at some point.  

Higher prices, shortages, pandemics, a major labor strike....our world is interconnected more than ever. It is best to not be caught completely unaware. 

6. Respect the younger generation and respect their opinions.
 They may not have the same ideals as you, but they are the future and will take the world in their direction. Offer advice, not criticism. Share your experiences but not necessarily your rules. 

7. Even if you don’t feel like it, try to accept invitations. Baptisms, graduations, birthdays, funerals, weddings, conferences. Try to go. Get out of the house, meet people you haven’t seen in a while, experience something new (or something old). Share with others who may be hurting or need a smile and a hug.

However, don’t get upset if you’re not invited. Some events are limited by resources, and not everyone can be hosted. The important thing is to leave the house from time to time. Go to museums, go walk through a field. Get out there.

8. Be a considerate conversationalist. Talk less and listen more. Some people go on and on about the past, not caring if their listeners are really interested. That’s a great way of reducing their desire to speak with you. Listen first and answer questions, but don’t go off into long stories unless asked to. 

Speak in courteous tones and try not to complain or criticize too much unless you really need to. Try to accept situations as they are. Everyone is going through the same things, and people have a low tolerance for hearing complaints. Always find some good things to say as well.

9. Take no notice of what others say about you and even less notice of what they might be thinking. They’ll do it anyway, and you should have pride in yourself and what you’ve achieved. Let them talk, and don’t worry. They have no idea about your history, your memories, and the life you’ve lived so far. 

There’s still much to be written, so get busy  "writing" your own story and don’t waste time thinking about what others might think. Now is the time to be at rest, at peace, and as happy as you can be!

Our trip to France was a fresh reminder that the clock is ticking. Attitude and phyical abilities were tested. 

Of course,  nine items can't cover everything that is key to aging well, but it is a start.

What would you add?