Tag Archives: 40

Listen Here, Whippersnappers!

29 Nov

In the spirit of being Old Enough To Know Better (the long version name of this blog), I have reached the point in my life (officially 44 on Dec. 20) where I freely offer advice, to just about anyone.

Being old comes with privileges like that. Doesn’t matter whether or not people listen. That’s not the point. How handy to have this blog to help in my endeavor!

Along those lines, this post is a random collection of items that make me happy in life. Of course you want to know about them because they are sure you make you happy as well. Consider my tips an improvement over what you might find in high-brow periodicals, such as Martha Stewart Living, Oprah’s O Magazine or Real Simple—only better. The great thing is that I am sharing these happiness-makers with you for FREE, via my low-brow blog!

Here are five FREE! happiness-makers:

1. Make the bed every morning. No matter what.

This is something that I can easily control, even when the rest of my day is insane. Bonus: When I collapse in bed at the end of a long day, the covers are not in a messy heap. This gives me the illusion that I’ve conquered all chaos in my life.

Extra credit for remembering to sprinkle some baby powder between the sheets while making it…keeps things extra fresh.

2. Sit on a ball, not a chair, while at work.

I am not kidding. Unless you work in a profession that gives you frequent freedom to move about, your body is getting weaker every second you spend in that chair. Scientists agree with me, as empirically proven by this one study, as well as plain common sense.

At least sitting on a physio-ball ($20 from your local Target) keeps you working core muscles while you are sitting, because if you don’t work your core you will fall off the ball. The entire process will make you feel better. Especially the part about not falling off the ball.

Anyone who thinks you’re a weirdo has too much free time on their hands to be worrying about you and your ball…suggest that they get back to work and let you continue being on the ball.  Who can argue with good posture?

Extra credit for one or two backbends during the day, supported by your trusty ball. If you are both self-conscious and stealthy this can be accomplished while co-workers are in the kitchen or on bathroom breaks.

3. Even if you don’t like habits, pick a few that give you comfort and practice them every day.

I like change and don’t enjoy a lot of repetition in my days, so this is not an easy discipline for me. What hooked me on habits is that they are both nurturing as well as efficient use of time.

Getting ready for work or school and arriving at the same time every day is a simple habit that most of us have to do anyway, so that’s easy. Fitting in some time for meditation and journal-writing prior to work is something that I have grown to enjoy. Practicing an instrument is another.

If you have too many habits, make it a habit to drop some of them. This would include frequent trips to the office stash of Reese’s Cups (one of my too frequent habits).

4. Walk more than you do now.

This is something that just about anyone can easily do. I have for many years owned dogs that will drive me crazy if I don’t get them out for a walk or hard playtime in a field. This is terrific motivation.

There are so many little things that I notice about the world around me by moving more slowly than I can by car, and my body is thankful for the chance to blow off some steam and soak up the outdoors. Even in bad weather, being both outside and simply walking gives me a mood boost.

5. Pick one day each week when you will not use social media or electronic devices.

This is very difficult for me. I really hate it at first because I am quite obsessive-compulsive with being “in touch,” but it’s very beneficial for my peace of mind to go off the grid and not be always connected to everyone and everything.

All of it is still be there when I plug back in the next day. Most things can wait and don’t need immediate response. The Arcade Fire’s “We Used to Wait” is a good reminder that not so long ago we communicated with more delay between the send and response.  Immediacy isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and being off the grid is a good reminder of how the world keeps spinning without my interventions.

There’s a 30-day money-back guarantee on these tips. I will give you a full refund if you are not happier after putting all of these into practice for a month. Promise!

No More “What’s Next?

3 Oct

For most of my life I’ve been aspiring to get to whatever was next. High school. College. Career. Marriage. Children. Always looking to that next point on the horizon. Not ever perfectly content with where I’ve been, always pushing forward with the thought in mind that whatever was next would be better than what came before.

Now, what’s next? The major milestones have been met. I’ve been restless the past few months and am just now realizing why.

I am at a midterm point. A crossroads. Middle age. I can now look backward and forward with some perspective on life. This is a point of dissatisfaction and “midlife crisis” for some. I’ll admit I went through that a few years ago and after an honest self-assessment determined that I am quite fortunate to be loved by a husband and family that are sometimes too patient with me. I am not perfect, and they love me anyway. This is a blessing that not everyone fully appreciates.

Now, the life decisions are more nuanced. Not about what I have, but about how I want to live in this world. More about form than function, such as:

  • Will I continue to do things the same way I’ve always done them, or will I change?
  • Will I truly know myself — my limitations and strengths — and accept both?
  • Will I make conscious choices to have the experiences that are most fulfilling, with the people in my life who can best share in that joy?

I think that adolescence is about determining the who am I and the why, young adulthood is determining the what and middle age is about the how and the with whom. I am feeling like the next decade or so will help me to learn more about people, care about the human interactions that energize life,  change the habits that are no longer helpful for me and accept the things about myself and others that are never going to change.

Checklists As Memory Aids

6 Jan

I heard this bit on NPR yesterday about Dr. Atul Gawande’s new book, The Checklist Manifesto: How To Get Things Right. It made me think a lot about the value of documented repeatable processes, and how often I fall into the trap of thinking I’m too smart to have to use a checklist.

Dr. Gawande spends his “leisure” time writing for The New Yorker when not performing operations at Dana Farber. Clearly, he is a man with time management on his side. The bottom line, he says, is that no one is too good for a checklist. In fact, we should use them more often. When he asked surgeons whether they would use the checklists, 80 percent said yes. For the holdout 20 percent, he was curious. Would they want THEIR surgeon using a checklist prior to operating on them? Ninety-four percent said yes. No surprise.

The doctor analyzed pilot reliance upon checklists and applied that practice to the O.R. — with very positive results. He catches himself at least weekly forgetting something from his checklists, and his colleagues report similar results. My sister-in-law is a surgeon, and I know smart when I see it. If a surgeon can admit to needing a checklist, it must be worth doing.

And I read this piece last night on The New York Times site, about a new study confirming what the “middle-aged” crowd (defined as 40-60, therefore including me) already knows:

We forget more, but we can claim mastery of locating patterns in the midst of chaos. And we can become quickly distracted.

Shiny ball syndrome is our weakness. An apt quote that pretty much sums up my daily existence:

Brains in middle age, which, with increased life spans, now stretches from the 40s to late 60s, also get more easily distracted. Start boiling water for pasta, go answer the doorbell and — whoosh — all thoughts of boiling water disappear. Indeed, aging brains, even in the middle years, fall into what’s called the default mode, during which the mind wanders off and begin daydreaming.

I look forward to using this “default mode” excuse the next time my gray matter wanders astray. It gives meaning to something I’ve always blamed on character weakness.

Where was I? Oh, yes.

One point from the memory study is that we middle-ageists can resuscitate our memory abilities by learning new information, in particular information that runs contrary to our own set of beliefs or expands our current knowledge base.  Simply put, we need to take the road less traveled, in order to keep our thinking young.

It strikes me that memory-building involves both Dr. Gawande’s recommendation for relying on tried and true to-do’s and the exercise of stretching our brains to connect up neural pathways through new learnings. In other words, we can make ourselves smarter with memory aids like checklists and becoming (or continuing to be) lifelong students.

…to know better

13 Oct

Since I turned 40 last year, presumably I am old enough to know better about certain things. I have come to a point in my life where people typically look backward and forward, thinking, “Holy crap, is this it?” and, “Please God, let me use my time wisely from here on out.” In that spirit, I am starting this blog. From my position in midlife, I am certainly experienced enough to share some of my thoughts, in a way that can hopefully make a difference for my own process and perhaps others’.

Looking backward, I have a sense of clarity about the mistakes that I’ve made along the way, which is a success of sorts. Here’s a classic: On my first day in 10th grade, I rode a new bus to school. At the end of the day, I did not remember the number of the bus and got on the wrong one. I rode the bus all the way to the last stop on the route and got off, as if I lived at that bus-stop. Well, I did not live there, or anywhere close to there, but I got off anyway. And I walked all the way home, on an 80-degree day in late August, wearing a brand-new Express wool sweater that had to be trotted out on the first day of school. I still have that sweater. And I remember how hot I was walking those five miles home. I was too embarrassed to say anything to the bus driver, who would have dropped me at my house without complaint, since my house was on the way back to the high school.

When I was younger, I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of people. To an extent, I have not changed. But that flaw has been tempered a bit, thank goodness. I would not walk those five miles again today. Part of the change involves a more keen awareness of time on this planet, and not wanting to waste time in trying to look like I didn’t make a mistake about something.

Seeing my children grow up, time is flying by so quickly that I can hear it whizzing past. Sometimes I look back on my day and think of how much time I spent on the computer, not doing anything tangibly interactive or creative. As I pivot from my backward view of the past 40 years to a forward view of the next 40, I am making a more concerted effort to spend time with the people I love, doing the things that I love, in settings that make me happy.

Proust began writing A la Recherche du Temps Perdu when he was 38. The timing was no mistake, a significant turning point for many people. The seven volumes of this work discuss themes of memory, flashback and creation of “art” that makes a difference. I am making an effort to read it through in French, as a fitting sendoff for my next 40 years–during which I hope to use my time more wisely, even if it means not saving face.