I started this blog about three weeks ago.
It kept morphing and at some point became just “too precious”, so I decided to scrap it all together.
Then over the weekend I went to a memorial service and, once again, LOOKING OUTSIDE, was a signature theme in the life of someone I deeply admire and aspire to be. So, I decided that this blog was worth finishing and posting…I hope you agree.
Most mornings after I wake up, the first thing I do is look outside. From our bathroom window I can peer into the backyard. This winter it was covered in darkness (which I loved), but recently it is bit brighter and I can see glimpses of early morning squirrel adventures and the neighbor’s fat cat lounging luxuriously on our back patio. I see the branches and acorns our phenomenal oak trees have shed overnight, and find great comfort in seeing my grandparents’ old porch swing swaying in the very back of our yard.
Once I get to work, my small office window overlooks Park Central Square . At breaks I perch beside the giant windows, watch the activity, and whisper the occasional “I love you” to passing dogs. (it is the best part of most days).
I always seem to be looking outside.
(stick with me, I am getting to my point, I promise)
In the past couple of months I have attended several speaking engagements and events. From intimate panel discussions to a large memorial service, each one had an eclectic mix of ages and perspectives, yet one theme kept rising to the top: Looking Outside. Looking outside of yourself and focusing on others. They talked about looking for someone to help and lift up. It is all about asking yourself daily “Who needs me?” instead of “What do I need?”
(Funny how life kind of throws things out at you like that; hits you over the head with a brick is more like it.)
Foibles and mistakes were discussed with clarity and laughter. People I had deemed “experts” admitted they too question themselves daily and just don’t feel like they ever know enough. Wild days were recounted and relationships highlighted. Everyone was candid and honest and unapologetic…traits I find most appealing.
Everyone who spoke mentioned family…bloodlines and the kind you make, and how important it is to surround yourself with people who love you when you aren’t so lovable. Those relationships help take you places you didn’t think you could, or wanted to, go.
As I was listening to a panel of folks in their nineties discuss “waiting for wisdom to kick in”, they made me cackle and tear up…they made me think.
I jotted down some notes I’d like to share.
- Friends: make them and treasure them.
- Connect with people who don’t always think and act like you. It makes all the difference.
- Be flexible. Life doesn’t always happen the way we think it will.
- Contribute and give back- look outside yourself.
- Understand what you CANNOT control
- Remember that not making a decision is one itself
- Humor is a valuable asset.
- Be aware of the flipside of your own ideas.
- And it is ok to be the butt of a joke once in awhile…lighten up, folks!
- Obituaries are called the “solemn column”
- Please stop saying “golden age”. Just stop.
One of the gentlemen said everyone loves to say “live a full and meaningful” life, but what does that even mean, he pondered.
I guess for me, “ a meaningful life” means a lot of different things and sort of changes the older I get.
As a mother, raising a little human that is compassionate, intelligent, empathetic and funny is a priority. I don’t want to send a little jerk out into the world, after all.
As a wife, it means being a source of support and strength for my partner. It means being there for the horrible messiness and the times of ecstatic joy.
As a woman it means showing other girls and women that they don’t have to follow a linear path in life to get where they think they want to go.
As a Gerontologist, it means advocating for older adults and being fearless about the scariness and unknowns of growing old in a world that is slow to accept old age.
As an Executive Director, it means working for and helping to guide a foundation that nurtures seniors and makes the Ozarks a great place to age.
Creating meaning in my life means never being too comfortable and always growing, learning, and realizing that I don’t know what I don’t know.
It means showing up for people and causes and community.
And most of all, a full and meaningful life always means looking outside.