Life − it’s all a ride − a roller coaster ride: ups and downs; fear and joy; happiness and tragedy; love and loss.
“Youth is wasted on the young”− a quote which has been attributed to both Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw. For me the aphorism combines wisdom and wistfulness together with a touch of jealousy.
Fifty years ago it seemed to me that people over sixty were “old”, retired and waiting to die. Modern healthcare and increased life expectancy means that things have changed; we have a third chapter in our lives that is worth living. If you’re over sixty and in good health take advantage of this fact. Take care of yourself. Rather than “looking on” and settling into the traditional role prepared for us by society and our offspring, we can grab the bull by the horns and make the most of our lives. What have you always fancied doing but not had the time − scuba diving, parachuting, painting, studying? Just do it!
Make the time to do those things that you always wanted to do. Don’t be shy about saying what you want: re-kindling friendships and even old lovers (if appropriate). You have very little to lose. In so many studies about reflections at end of life, the greatest regrets are always for the things left undone; the things left unsaid and the love left unrequited. Worrying too much about what other people might think, focussed on security rather than experience. We waste so much of our lives by putting comfort (this includes other people’s approval) over experience and happiness.
Our children are a source of great joy and suffering. It’s also important to let go, as best you can, of responsibility for your children. You can enjoy their company, share conversations, learn about their world, but you cannot share their world. They belong to a world that you can never be a part of. Not that you would want to, probably. It’s just a fact.
Grandchildren and small children in general, are a blessing; they bring curiosity, energy and bright light into our lives. Engage with them as much as possible. There is a special connection between those in the spring and those in the autumn of their lives. Grandchildren can also bring redemption as we relate to them in a way that we had neither the time nor the wisdom to do so with our own children.
In the eyes of our children we are now “old people” − a bit out of touch with the “real world” as they see it; still valuable as a source of financial support, shelter in hard times, advice when needed but essentially irrelevant to their future. For most children to see their parents as more than two dimensional creatures known as “mum” and “dad” is difficult if not impossible. That is as it is and it always has been. No point in worrying about it.
Don’t fall into the trap of seeing yourself as society or others paint you. We all make a difference. The world is different because you are in it. You might feel that you have made too many mistakes or behaved too badly. That is the past, a story that you cannot change. There is no time like the present; in fact, the only time we have is the present, so use it. Just do it!
Remember that you do make a difference.