My mom brought my Uncle David over for a visit yesterday, and it was a great time. David lives in California, and I haven't seen him for 5 years or so. He was in New England for his 60th high school reunion, to put some affairs in order, and to visit mom and some friends.
He and mom came in and checked out the house we are building, and it was really fun for me to watch a guy who has been around a while just "get" what we are trying to accomplish with the design and layout. We talked about everything from the nautical look of the railings (and why) to the viability of solar powerin the Northeast, to the type of floor we chose to use. One of the lessons I learned is that those who have gained wisdom don't necessarily have all the answers, but they know how to ask really good questions.
After the tour of the house we sat down on the couch and I just got to listen to him. Sure, he talked about some of the ailments that come with age, but we decided that getting old could be a lot better than the alternative (NOT getting old, if you catch my drift). He shared stories from his youth, and I learned some things about my mom's side of the family I never knew. We talked about the land he owns in Canterbury. He told me what he's up to now back home; how he helps his neighbors with their electrical issues, and his friend with the big chicken farm that he works on. We talked about tractors (which I have been looking at), what he has, and what I should look for and why. Another lesson I learned; Experience matters, but using that experience in the service of others matters more. And another; having the humility to actually listen to those with experience is pretty big too.
And in spite of all the health issues, and the advancing age, I also witnessed the fruits of staying active in mind and body for his 78 years. As he was leaving with my mom, I watched him head around the north end of the gym, disappear for a brief second, and then almost instantly reappear at the south end of the gym. He was headed behind the new house to go take a look at the backhoe we had been talking about. But what struck me was how fast he was moving, over pretty rough terrain (that part of the yard is pretty torn up from the construction and tree roots I have dug up). This is a guy who is clearly reaping the benefits of not sitting on his behind during his retirement years. The lesson I was reminded of; use it or lose it.
Such a great visit, such good lessons.
So what does all this have to do with you? While we could the lessons I learned many different ways, here's one way we could apply it to taking care of ourselves and aging proactively.
Ask Good Questions. A really good question to consider; what positive thing can I do today, even right now, that will make my tomorrows brighter? Get more sleep, go to training, train hard once I get there, learn to cook something new?
Learn from Experience. Don't be a know-it-all. Be a lifelong learner. And when you learn something new that matters, apply it and keep applying it.
Use It or Lose It. Getting older? Celebrate, don't whine about the aches and pains. I went to a funeral of a 53 year old friend a couple weeks ago. I am guessing you don't want to trade places with him. And while you are here, make the most of it. Get off the couch. Get active. Live, love and laugh. You are an amazing human being with talents and gifts the world needs. Don't hide them, use them. Enjoy the journey, even though so often it is hard. There is a big difference between being alive and really living.
Thanks Uncle David. Let's not wait another 5 years to do it again.