Things I Am Telling My 80 Year Old Self

Dear 80 year old self,

Nice work makin’ it to 80! I would not have predicted that based on your GMO food intake.

At any rate, as a woman in her 40’s, having watched people your age live their lives – some with great vigor and success and others…I guess…less so. I want to offer some suggestions for your life now at age 80. I’m selfish, really. I’d love to have lots of quality of life since I’ve racked up so much quantity of life…apparently.

Here’s my do’s and don’ts list for you – I think you’re smart enough to listen to my advice, you old coot:

1.       BUCKET LISTS ARE STUPID (don’t have one.)

For one thing, who is keeping track of the items on your bucket list? And for heaven’s sake, what happens when you finish checking all of those items off? And why would you opt for YET ANOTHER checklist when there are so many in life, anyway?

Instead, live each day and don’t turn down opportunities for adventure, for real, for true life. I hope you never stop pursuing true life.

2.       SPEND YOUR TIME WISELY (by making sure to do fun and goofy things.)

Did you ever just roll around on the floor with a grandkid and giggle? Did you ever pretend you didn’t notice your gigantic milk mustache just so someone else would laugh? Did you ever squeeze mashed potatoes through your teeth? Did you ever have a great sacrilegious laugh in the middle of a quiet church service?  Did you do any of these things after the age of 65? I hope so.

3.       CARE LESS ABOUT WHAT OTHERS THINK. (Be willing to be misunderstood.)

Why’d you care so much about what other people thought? Why’d you spend so much time shaving your legs, sister? And why did your email inbox stress you out all those years? When you’re 80, you are going to have more wisdom in your little pinky finger than most people. Don’t waste that wisdom but don’t force it on people either.

In my 40’s (you may remember) I started craving time with the wise women in my midst. They were lovely, confident, and soft – and you can be too. It will be a gift to another woman. Craft that. Living one day at a time steeped in the realization that you’re not the author of your own story will help.

So you can still be caring and not care what other people think of you - unless you're Donald Trump....he should care more what other people think of him.

4.       JUDGE LESS

Don’t judge the younger people around you. Navigating life is so difficult. The challenges folks younger than you will face are going to be unique and you won’t be altogether familiar with them. For heaven’s sake – don’t latch onto the notion that you have every answer and can show someone the way. This is not your job. Your job is to love, live and serve as Jesus guides you every day. You’re not the morality police or the values cop. You just aren’t. And if at 80 you think you are, you’ll find yourself more and more – um – how do I put this?....angry and alone.

Oh – and this kind of goes along with not judging the young people. I hope Fox News and anything resembling its fear mongering “news” dies a slow and painful, embarrassing death. I hope you find better things to do with your time.

5.       ASK FOR HELP

When you fall or when you can’t read the newspaper or when you can’t drive – ask someone to help you. And don’t hint about it. Don’t passively aggressively say you sure would love to go to the concert but no one will take you… just ask. People you’re in relationship with will really love helping you with things like this if it’s not a guessing game full of tension and bad vibes.

And even though you’ll think it’s all too expensive, have an updated eyeglasses prescription, get hearing aids. Just spring for those things – they’ll help keep you present with others.

Don’t do the “when I am old I will wear purple and put on a red hat” thing. Those items and those colors are best left out of your wardrobe regimen. K?

6.        GET YOUR AFFAIRS IN ORDER

I hope by now you have told someone that you don’t want any major heroic life-saving measures carried out for you in a health crisis. If not, write that down somewhere right now…on the back of a receipt if you have to. And maybe write down a few of your favorite hymns and passages of scripture for your funeral. I bet you still love “It Is Well” and “Give Me Jesus.”

BOTTOM LINE? Lose the world, invite heaven in. As much as possible.

I’m convinced my favorite moments in life have been and will be when I have lost the world’s sense of myself and gotten carried away in a moment of true-ness whether sad, happy, work or worship.

Just the other day, I was taking a walk with my father-in-law (a precious gift in my life who comes to visit with my mother-in-law a few weeks a year) and we were just talking…about his dog growing up, about the indentation a leaf made in the sidewalk so many years ago when the concrete was being poured, about the patch of blue sky off in the distance that was peeking out of a storm cloud. Before I knew it, I had forgotten about my day at work, about whatever kid issue I had decided to worry about. I was just….walking….and talking, decompressing and really living.

Figure out how to do that more often. Do that often with the people you love and the people who love you.

Holly's Take:

It's funny that you wrote this today, because just 30 minutes ago, as I was taking a walk around my neighborhood, I was thinking about how I'm pretty sure I don't want to make it to 80.  If I'm only 40 now, and I have some lingering chronic pain from my disc surgery and I have already lost a husband, what will be in store for me in the next 40 years.  More dying people and more back surgeries?  I have a hard time not having this fatalistic view, sometimes. I generally really love life, but I don't feel resilient enough at this point to endure any more biggies any time soon.  But if I do make it that far, I will refer to this list.  I like it.  Especially the one about, if you want to go to a concert, then just ask someone to take you.  Hopefully, Amy Grant will bring back her "Ageless Medley" in a Twilight Years Tour.  Just kidding . . . kinda.  

Megan's Take: 

Well, if either of you old coots lives to age 80, I will definitely drive you to whatever darn concert you want! I'm sure I'll be the one with the most whits about me. Smirk. Holly, if you're headed to an Amy Grant twilight tour, I'm guessing it may be to see her in a nursing home! Maybe you'll be roomies.

I love the thoughts on this list -- live more, worry less. That's one I'm trying to wrap my head around every day! It's a game changer. And the bucket list? For the love. I only add experiences to my "bucket list" AFTER I've done them. That way I'll never be disappointed. Not to mention, I don't even know something is a bucket list item until I do it and look back and said, "Wow! I seriously just did that." Like say..."write a book," "sail through the Panama Canal," "adopt two children from Ethiopia," or "survive the Terror-Dactyl with my niece at the Cave of the Winds." Had no idea I wanted to do any of those things until the opportunity presented itself!  And, I'm sorry to say, I will continue to shave my legs. I just can't agree on that one. The feeling of fuzzy hairs rubbing the inside of my pant legs just bugs. Listen, I'll make you girls a deal -- I'll drive you to the concert and you shave my legs. Oh, and will you please pluck my chin hairs while you're at it? Ain't nobody got time for those!