Five very simple rules for getting older

By Stephan Drew

Last Tuesday, April 13, was my 57th birthday. When I was a teen, and even during my 20s, people 50 and older seemed almost ancient to me. To tell the truth, I never thought I would live past 30 or 35. I guess I had a fatalistic view of the future but I was a bit of a rebel and I really thought I would die young. Well, I didn’t and, over the decades, I have become very thankful that my childhood prophecy didn’t come true. As a youth, I spent a lot of time around people older than myself. Since I was the “baby” (youngest child) in our family, they liked to pamper me and I loved to listen to their conversations. I learned so many interesting things about adults. Even some that I probably shouldn’t have overheard. But that’s life. It broadened my knowledge base. I would usually laugh when I heard my elders say things like, “My bones are so stiff,” “My head is pounding” or “I love to eat that but it doesn’t love me!” I remember wondering how anyone’s bones could feel stiff, how their head could pound or what they meant by not being able to eat anything they wanted. I certainly could; why couldn’t they? In your teens and 20s, you feel practically invincible. You can stay awake all day (and most of the night) with no traumatic consequences. You can usually eat whatever you want – hot, spicy or fatty foods, numerous decadent sweets, etc. – without serious repercussions. You can exercise, dance or play sports for hours without waking up the next morning feeling like you’ve been beaten with a baseball bat. Young people can usually sleep soundly on a hard floor or sprawled across an armchair without needing a chiropractor the next day. And why did these older people complain about having to go to the bathroom several times a night? I usually slept eight or 10 hours at night, with no interruption. And, of course, as a youngster, I thought that would never change. Well, it did and, now, I’m beginning to understand all of the things my elders said when I was a child. I won’t go into all the graphic details and my body is not exactly falling apart but I do have aches and pains that I never thought possible. Having dislocated both my kneecaps in a roller-skating accident at 17, it’s necessary to have steroid injections once or twice a year in each knee … but it takes the pain away. I’ve had broken ribs, a dislocated hip, two hernia surgeries, an appendectomy and extensive surgery for a complex leg/ankle fracture. No, I don’t exactly look like a quilt but the scars are there. They are reminders of the life experiences I’ve had which taught me great lessons. Although I never thought I would live this long, I sure am glad I have. And, I would encourage all the youngsters out there not to wait until you’re my age to start taking care of yourself. I know how you feel. Believe it or not, I was young once, too! So, I have a few pieces of advice to share with all of you under 30:

1. Make good friends while you’re young. I don’t mean just ANY friends. I mean, find good people and keep them close. When we’re young, we really just like meeting people and adding to our “friends list.” But if you know anyone who isn’t a positive influence in your life, you’re much better off without them. You may have 150 or 500 people that you call “friends” but there’s no way you can have a deep and profound relationship with 500 people. If you have just five really good friends, you’re truly blessed. These five people will be the ones you can call on (day or night) when you’re 50, 60, 70 or older. You will value their friendship so much more because of what you’ve been through together. You and your friends will realize just what true devotion and loyalty really are. Keep just a few really good friends.

2. Be kind to your family. You may feel too busy now or you might think your elders are “out-of-touch” or “not cool” but, I promise you, they will be the first ones at your side when you need them. They will be your strongest allies and your staunchest defenders. Keep your family close.

3. Set aside some “quiet time” each week, just for yourself. You need a period of “down time” to rest up from the chaos of work, family and life in general. Grow a garden or spend time in your flower beds. Go fishing, hunting or just boating on a quiet river. Absolute silence is essential for this. Watching movies or playing music completely defeats the purpose of “quiet time” so don’t even look at your phone. This period of time is all about YOU and rejuvenating yourself, not about your connection with the world.

4. Limit your media content to about half an hour (or less) per day. What is going on in your town, around our nation and the world may affect you but, if you absorb yourself in it, you will become angry, depressed and feel hopeless to fix anything. And, it is rather foolish investing your emotions, getting all worked up over things you can’t do anything to change. Keep all that negativity at a distance.

5. Be aware of who and what you are. You are a child of the universe. No better and no worse than anyone else on this planet. Don’t ever allow anyone to make you feel less than you are. I don’t care how rich, good-looking or popular someone is, they have to eat, bathe, sleep and dress just like I do. If they spend more than I do, and wish to “think” they have a better life, so be it. That is not my problem and it’s something I hope I never fall prey to worrying about. You shouldn’t worry about such petty things, either.

There are many more things I learned as a child, while hanging around older people. But those are probably the five most important. Be yourself and enjoy who you are. Keep your family and just a few good friends around you. Don’t fall prey to what others want of you. Take time for yourself and love life. Try to enjoy each day. If you can do these things, you’ll be way ahead of people your own age. And, you’ll have it down pat by the time you’re as old as I am.

Now, get out and enjoy this weather!

Author: Stephan Drew

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