How to Gracefully Cope With Aging

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Getty ImagesA positive attitude can help you to better deal with the challenges of aging.
By Dave Bernard

I am beginning to understand the value of having a good attitude as I continue my retirement journey. There are many things beyond my control, but how I choose to engage and deal with each day is pretty much up to me. My days go better when I make an effort to assume an optimistic outlook from the start. I find it easier to sustain a general feeling of happiness when I start on a positive note. It is much more difficult to reach a happy place when I start with a negative attitude.

I went in for an eye checkup last week, and my vision isn't getting any better. I commented to my optometrist how everything about me is getting older, and his response was just what I needed to hear. "Your eyes are getting more mature," he claimed. That's certainly a positive way to look at it. Rather than getting older, I am getting more mature. I will never see as well as I did at 20. But my attitude and perspective on life's challenges can allow me to better enjoy what is to come.

As the years add on, I worry about losing my physical abilities. It's not as easy to do the little things I so recently took for granted. Sometimes it's a struggle to bend to pick up a nickel, climb a ladder to hang Christmas lights, run until I am tired of running, not exhausted by running, or lift a box without concern over what it weighs. Now each decision needs to be carefully evaluated. I can still pick up a lost coin, but I now realize anything less than a quarter isn't worth the effort. As a parent, I have access to numerous adult children to assist me with projects including hanging and box moving. And I no longer necessarily have to run for exercise. A brisk walk provides enough exercise. My activities may require a bit of modification, but I am discovering ways to adapt.

My life experiences have made me more tolerant. The little things that used to aggravate me are losing their impact. If I find myself stuck in traffic, I am learning to accept the fact I can only go as fast as the car in front of me. Why get wound up over something I have absolutely no control over? I am learning to give people the benefit of the doubt and trying to be less judgmental. It isn't easy, but I am starting to pace myself. I no longer automatically jump into turbo mode when taking on a new project. Slow and steady allows me to enjoy the journey and appreciate the effort spent without throwing anything out of whack in the process.

When I was young I often found small children rather annoying, especially at a nice restaurant when they proceeded to fill the otherwise peaceful atmosphere with unhappy cries. Why couldn't the parents control their kids? Once I survived raising my own children I became a bit more tolerant. And now that I am edging closer to grandparent status, I am a different person. I appreciate the heroic effort it takes to raise kids, a truly 24/7 job. And I am learning to vicariously enjoy the world viewed for the first time through the eyes of a child. Soon enough they will begin their own maturation process heading down a path from which they cannot return. Why not share their joy in the moment?

Best of all, I am learning that life doesn't have to continue at an ever accelerating pace. Despite what four whirlwind decades of living in the San Francisco Bay Area might suggest, not everything has to happen in maximum overdrive. I can slow down to a reasonable pace and catch my breath. It is amazing what you see and experience when you take time to be aware of all that is around you.

Dave Bernard blogs at Retirement-Only The Beginning.
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