PUMPING IRONY: Age-Old Advice

I like to tell my young tennis buddy, M.E., that growing old is a time-bending experience: You wake up Monday morning, head off to work, come home, have dinner, go to bed, wake up and it’s Thursday. Time flies. Whether you’re having fun or not.

I have evidence. I distinctly remember turning 50 about three months ago (we had a lovely party) and yet, come August, I’ll be 60. It’s all happened so suddenly that I now find myself on the cusp of a new milestone without having learned how to navigate the old one.

So, I was happy to recently discover a timely (in a weird way) anthology called 50 Things to Do When You Turn 50. I cracked it open, hoping that maybe I could learn how to behave properly in the brief window opened to me before I tumbled into my next decade.

The collection of sage wisdom, edited by Ronnie Sellers, includes contributions from such literary stalwarts as Garrison Keillor, Marianne Williamson, Harold Kushner, Erica Jong, and Robert Thurman. All of these folks are older than me, so I figured they’d have something relevant to say. But, to be perfectly frank, I wasn’t so much driven to collect their wisdom as to compare their list with the one that’s governed my own journey over the past nine-plus years. (I’m a Baby Boomer, after all; it’s all about me.)

We agree on the following:

“Stop complaining.” (Keillor)Doesn’t do any good. Nobody cares that you’re getting old.

“Stop obsessing about your flaws.” (Bobbi Brown) You look as good as you’re going to look. Plenty of
people look worse. Get over it.

“Wear comfortable clothes.” (Diane von Furstenberg)Nobody’s looking at you anyway.

“Take a hike.” (Kristina Hurrell) There’s nothing like a long walk to get your mind off of stuff that doesn’t matter.

“Power up your tennis game.” (Angela Buxton) Golf is an illness. Tennis is the cure.

“Sit still: meditation is medicinal.” (Robert Schneider) Best habit I ever took up.

When I do the math, though, it appears that I’ve ignored 44 other pearls of wisdom, including such gems as paying off my mortgage (Suze Orman), reading the Torah (Richard Siegel), playing golf in Scotland (Bill Daniels), getting a colonoscopy (Patricia Raymond), learning to belly dance (TaRessa Stovall), and finding my “inner elegy” (Billy Collins).  But, then again, I could add a few to their batch — stuff that’s kept me going over the past nine-plus years.

Here’s a sample:

  1. Stop pretending that you’re smarter than your spouse. It’s the best stress management program around.
  2. Eat a good breakfast. You’ve got the whole rest of the day to eat poorly.
  3. Make sleep a priority. Toss your alarm clock and give yourself enough sack time to ensure that you’re waking up fully rested.
  4. Take control of your health care. You know more about your body than any doctor ever will.
  5. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Nobody else does.
  6. Acknowledge your own good fortune. Plenty of people would love to be in your shoes.
  7. Stop worrying. You have way less control over what happens tomorrow than you think you do, and way more control over what you decide to do right now.
  8. Oh, yeah. There’s one more: Respect your elders, even if you ignore their advice.

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