Wisdom, I have come to believe, lies in accepting one’s limitations while not using them as an excuse for laziness, whining, or general laxity.
This is a tough sell for my generation, who grew up thinking that we were immortal and invincible and that old was an obscene word. As I recall, we were never going to trust anyone over 30.
That was then. Now that we are stampeding—okay, straggling—into our golden years in record numbers, the idea of just saying no to a whole panoply of things we once took for granted or felt obliged to embrace seems not only reasonable but downright appealing.
It does to me, anyway. Each day offers a new opportunity to add to my Not Happening list, which sounds depressing and negative, but is really quite liberating. Here are a few sample entries:
I’m not getting a Smart Phone. I don’t want a Dumb Phone, but I do want a Not-Very-Demanding Phone. A Let-Me-Make-This-Easy-For-You Phone. And I want to press buttons, not touch screens. Touch screens are flighty and unpredictable. As for apps, don’t get me started. A Paris-bound friend was touting her latest app the other day. You plug in your location, and it tells you where all the patisseries are within a 10-block radius. Huh? Whatever happened to strolling down cobbled side streets in search of the perfect éclair? What about wandering through medieval alleys and stumbling upon a hidden gem of a shop? That’s what I call smart.
I’m not getting a Kindle. I am not investing in any device that threatens to put libraries or bookstores out of business. I understand convenience. I understand instant gratification. But I also understand the enduring power of pages bound between covers, the satisfying weight of a real book, its reassuring presence beside my bed, beside my chair, in my bag. I understand the shelf life of books, which is pretty much forever, versus the shelf life of technology, which is not. The Book of Kells has been around for 1,200 years. I wonder where the Kindle will be in 3211?
I’m not signing up for Zumba. It looks jazzy and aerobic and fabulous, but I think I’ll pass in favor of my slow but steady three-mile-a-day walk. It’s not nearly as much fun to watch, but rarely involves administering oxygen or calling the paramedics.
I’m not teetering dangerously on rickety ladders to retrieve items from closet shelves anymore. I can, but I won’t. For my own sake. For the sake of the overburdened health-care system. For the sake of those who will have to wait on me when I break a leg.
I’m not drinking espresso at 9 p.m. anymore. Or at 5 p.m. Or really, at any p.m. at all.
Wisdom also means taking stock of life lessons, and I have a list for that, too. It’s the If There’s One Thing I’ve Learned Collection, and considering what it cost me, I think it’s worth sharing:
Things really do look different in the morning. Maybe not better, but definitely different.
While I have often regretted saying too much, I have almost never regretted saying too little.
Other people talk about you a lot less than you think they do.
Doctor’s scales are five pounds heavy. Period.
Resentments are like kittens. They only come back if you feed them.
For women, there are two inviolable rules of workplace conduct: Never cry. Never lie.
W.H. Auden hit the nail on the head when he said that “like everything which is not the involuntary result of fleeting emotion but the creation of time and will, any marriage, happy or unhappy, is infinitely more interesting than any romance, however passionate.”
And finally, my grandmother was right. The word for the day—every day—is gratitude.