By Rob Shaul
We all know senior citizens – folks in their 70’s or older – who are bitter, impatient, angry, petty, unhappy … just plain miserable.
You don’t want to end up like that.
The difference between being miserable at 70, and content at 70, is wisdom. But wisdom isn’t experienced; it doesn’t just happen.
Everyone has “experience.” Not everyone has “wisdom.”
Wisdom takes work. Here is an initial “to do” list:
1) Learn from your mistakes. This takes uncomfortable reflection, clear-eyed self-examination, acknowledgment of responsibility, and perhaps, some penance. Even harder … an acted-on commitment to do it differently, next time.
2) Forgive. Others first – so much energy is wasted on meaningless slights … and yourself, second. Forgive not only of the wrongs you’ve done to others, the big mistakes you’ve made, but also those decisions which were followed by deep regret. Regret is wasted spirit. Forgive yourself, and move on.
3) Embrace death. Not only the final lights out, but also the diminished capacity that comes before. Fully accepting your aging and mortality will crystalize that time is precious, and cause you to spend what you have on the truly important commitments and relationships. It will help you do the most difficult of all things – truly live in the present and count your blessings.
4) Be tolerant. Artificial hang-ups about people, places, culture, change, whatever, crumble under the scrutiny of wisdom. The wisest amongst us are also the most tolerant, most resilient and most adaptable. They understand what is important – and minor differences amongst us, aren’t.
5) Detach from expectations. Living based on what others think or expect is an artificial burden. Shed it, and spend your limited time in the way you feel is most beneficial to yourself and others.
6) Be humble. You are not owed anything. You’re not special. Life is not fair. The universe is immense and time infinite and you are simply, insignificant. So let … it … go. Roll up your sleeves, brighten your smile, do your job, be responsible and live your life.
Humility and humor are brothers, and together offer a path to solace.
On humility …. I’m not sure which comes first … the hard life lessons which squeeze it out of you, or the wisdom which hopefully evolves and teaches you that you’re nothing special, thus making you humble.
Regardless, humor lubricates the process. For whatever reason, everything in life is hard, and at some point, you’ll find you can’t help but smile at difficulty’s arrival, rather than be surprised and upset.
Ultimately the spiritual weight of self-righteousness begins to lift, making room for solace to elbow in.
This doesn’t happen overnight. It’s not like one day you wake up humble and smiling all the time and experiencing a zen-like serenity. This certainly hasn’t been my experience.
I’m ashamed of the hissy fits I still throw over little shit. Too often humor is overpowered by petty anger and disappointment. I have much work to do.
But I’m able to laugh at myself and smile at life’s issues more and more all the time. Life isn’t any easier, but is more enriching, because of it.
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