Senior Musings January 2011

Posted 01.25.11


BobbiDo you make New Year's resolutions? I always do, because the end of the year also coincides with my birthday, so it lends itself to thinking about what I accomplished in the past year, all the things I neglected to do, and things in my life that I ought to change.

Those "oughts" and "shoulds" tend to linger long beyond the time they're of any use to those who are retired (or approaching retirement). If you haven't done any of those things in the past five or ten years, what makes you think you're going to turn things around just because a new year has dawned?

Many years ago my niece gave me a wonderful book, Simple Abundance, by Sara Ban Breathnach. This book promotes six key ideas: GRATITUDE, ORDER, BEAUTY, SIMPLICITY, HARMONY and JOY. What a great basis for New Year's Resolutions.

The problem with resolutions is that we aim too high. Losing ten pounds, quitting smoking, de-cluttering your home, making new friends, are all long-term goals that are difficult to achieve quickly. That means there's no immediate reward to keep you on track.

I recently read a diet plan that suggested that we take just one small step at a time. So how about cutting just 100 calories a day, or cut one favorite indulgence in half, or eliminate desserts (or potato chips) just three days a week?

Consider one tiny step at a time for other things as well. If you want to change a bad habit or establish a new one, limit it to a specific time.

One random act of kindness, one smile to a stranger, one compliment to a sulky teenager or a neighbor you don't know well whenever you're out.

How about just one drawer or cupboard or shelf cleared out each weekend?

Bringing joy into your life can be a simple as a warm bath with soft music in the background, time playing with a pet, borrowing a friend or neighbor's child for a story or a game.

Beauty isn't as difficult to achieve if you keep your expectations realistic. Paint your toenails, rearrange a few decorative items in your home, take time to set the table, adding a single flower or pretty candle, even arranging the food on your plate more carefully, adding a garnish or two. One sprig of parsley, a drizzle of sauce, or a few olives can make your mundane meal more appetizing.

Harmony means accepting people as they are. Try not responding to criticism instead of arguing with someone you know isn't going to change.

I would like to add a few other words to Sara's six.

One is Acceptance. Everybody has flaws, and so often we tend to focus on those we know we can't change. The next time someone you live with is impatient, just ignore the complaint, take your time, and realize that snapping back is only going to escalate into an argument.

We need to be more tolerant of those around us, including strangers. Maybe those "strange" people who moved in down the street will turn into wonderful neighbors if you give them a chance. The group home next door to me is one of the best-maintained on the street, with a beautiful lawn and flowers. The residents keep to themselves, and around-the-clock social workers who exchange cars in the driveway has turned into a great safety feature for all of us.

I smile every time I see the microwave stand in my kitchen. I bought it at WalMart, not thinking about how I was going to get it into the car. I was about to return to the store to ask for help when a burly guy in motorcycle gear, complete with a beard and ponytail, approached to ask if he could help me.

We need to learn how to accept what's unfamiliar, at least until we can make an intelligent decision. I listened to a lot of hard rock music before I decided it wasn't for me, and steeled myself to watch The Jersey Shore and a few other "reality" shows before I dismissed them as a waste of my time.

We're urged to exercise our bodies in order to remain flexible. But our minds need to be flexible as well. Change is inevitable; accept it and adjust as well as you can. Don't be afraid to try something new, take a new route instead of your usual one (the construction of the past few months has led me to discover parts of Gatineau I had never seen before), go to a new shopping centre or a new museum.

IÕm fortunate to live in an area with restaurants that reflect a wide variety of nations and culture. Experience new cuisine; you may find it delicious!

One more resolution worth making is to widen your circle of friends. We lose friends as we age, and that's not only sad, it can be alarming. Go places where you can meet new people of all ages. Whether you volunteer, join a new organization, take a class, or meet someone new through another friend, you'll find at least one or two individuals with common interests to share.

Don't be too hard on yourself if you aren't successful with all of these. One resolution at a timeÉ

LCC columnist Barbara Florio Graham is an award-winning author, teacher, and communications consultant. Check her website, www.SimonTeakettle.com, and email her at: BFG@SimonTeakettle.com.

She won the 2010 Mentoring Award from the international Cat Writers' Association. She is also profiled in the current issue of WOT Magazine. The full article is at: www.SimonTeakettle.com//wotmagineinterview, and a description of the mentoring award is at: www.SimonTeakettle.com/bfgmentoraward.htm.

Copyright © 2011 Barbara Florio Graham/Log Cabin Chronicles/01.11