You Still Get to Choose

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Yes, this post is all a little dark, but there’s a silver lining at the end, so stay with me.

All through life, regardless of age, you wonder how to live your life. Should you be more understanding, patient, and loving, or less? What is your duty to others, as opposed to yourself? Should you take that job overseas and break your mother’s heart, or stay in your hometown close to the relatives? [Read more…]

What Drives You, Angelina?

imgresWe often discuss the idea of purpose, particularly after midlife, because that’s a time for new directions. The theory is, you’ve done the required stuff in the first half of your life. Now, hopefully, you have more choices. What direction now? Will you start a new business, volunteer, or enjoy some well-earned rest? The answer depends on what drives you.

I’m driven by a love of writing, and a desire to share my perspective on positive aging. A friend is driven by a passion to help others, and she spends so much time running a community pantry (as a volunteer) that she traded in her sedan for an SUV that would haul neighborhood donations. Another friend volunteers on so many boards she’s about to have a nervous breakdown. One friend golfs four days a week! She is living fully, according to her own definitions, and is happy. We are all driven by different experiences over our lifetimes, and different needs.

Even though Angelina Jolie is a bit young to be featured in AnyShinyThing, she fascinates me as to purpose.

This woman could do anything or nothing. She’s famous, rich, married to Brad Pitt, and has lots of kids to keep her busy. So what’s she up to, in her “spare” time?

Jolie is a special envoy of the United Nations high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR). My old job, as Bill Maher would say. She is tasked to expand the advocacy campaign of the UNHCR and engage in high-level mediation in complex emergency situations. She travels constantly to war-torn places in the world, to help and observe displaced populations. She has gone on more than 50 missions to refugee camps, and “traverses the same perilous dirt roads that relief workers and doctors and foreign correspondents do. In these settings, there are no red carpets, no Donatella Versace gowns.” (I’m quoting Janine Di Giovanni, the war correspondent who profiled Jolie for the December issue of Vanity Fair magazine.)

According to the article, “…she has no real diva side.

She often arrives at meetings early and sits quietly, waiting with a book or notes. There’s no entourage.

She packs lightly and often travels with one bag — a valuable lesson from working for humanitarian organizations and having to jump in and out of helicopters in remote locales. She is unfailingly polite and is loath to complain about being tired or feeling sick.” Jolie traveled to The Democratic Republic of Congo in 2013, shortly after her double mastectomy. “If she was in pain, you never knew it,” says a colleague who was there.

Why is she so driven? I wish I could ask her. 

For whatever reason, this is what Angelina Jolie feels compelled to do, and if she, or I, or you, can’t explain our motives, it’s okay. The point is to live to your limits, regardless of age, gender, or life circumstance. Whether you’re stretching your mind or body, go at it with everything you have, with the greatest appreciation, gratitude, and utilization.

You only get one life. At the end, you can die happily, knowing you didn’t squander the gift.

Are You Downsizing Your Holidays?

Mom's House by mattbeccemjay

“Mom’s House” by mattbeccemjay

You’ve dragged in the boxes of Christmas decorations from the garage, attic, basement, or storage unit how many times now? You’ve hiked around tree lots or unfurled the fake tree for how many years? Maybe it’s time for a change.

You may love the holiday hustle, but I’m getting lazier in that respect. I like decorating for the holidays, but I don’t want to go to as much trouble anymore.

Which brings up a side issue: have you noticed how useful it is to be able to say, “I’m too old to…” or “I’ve been doing that for so many years…” or “At my age, I don’t have to…” If you haven’t yet played the OPC (Old Person Card), I recommend it. Don’t be afraid to let your freak flag fly. It’s handy at times, if you’re not too proud to use it.

But I digress.

We graduated to a fake Christmas tree about ten years ago. Last year, I pulled it out of storage and it was so raggedy I tossed it. Bill and I decided not to replace it. We were giddy with our new freedom! Could we really have a house with no Christmas tree? Then we saw a logical reason: it would be smart to make that change before the grandbabies get old enough to expect one or feel sad about its absence.

So we strung lights on the patio, arranged holiday centerpieces on tables, and hung a wreath over the fireplace. It looked beautiful and was a lot easier to set up and put away. We even had Christmas dinner for eight, not counting the babies. Everybody had fun and nobody complained about the lack of a tree.

This year, I’m going to see if the Christmas tree lot has boughs they’ll sell or give me, and I plan to array them on my dining and coffee tables, decorated by ornaments. If they don’t have a big enough pine fragrance, I can always count on my candles. The most fragrant pine scent I’ve found is Frasier Fir by Thymes. Instead of smelling like Pine Sol, the candles have a nice undertone of cedar and sandalwood. It’s really rich. I love it. (Note to marketers: please don’t ask. I don’t do ads.)

So I’m turning into a holiday minimalist. I’m not a Scrooge. I’m just too old to go to a lot of trouble.

How about you? Have you changed the way you deal with the holiday season, now that, as an adult, you’ve enjoyed fifty or sixty of them?