Ambition is different after middle age

The hour glass of life has more sand in the bottom than in the top. Ambition now looks more like leaving a legacy. The type of legacy I’m describing isn’t one directly written by me, but is the description of me by others to be given as a eulogy some day.

I am finding that I want to reduce my many interests to the tried and true ones that have sustained me through six full decades. I am a minimalist by nature, but I like to think of it as being a “conduit”. Good things come into my life all the time. So do bad things. But nothing has to stay. This is especially true of possessions. Anyone who gives me a gift should not expect to see it constantly displayed. I tend to enjoy things for a while then hand them on. At any moment I could pack up my favorite things for a life on the road in a recreational vehicle. That’s an unlikely event considering who I am married to.

So, back to ambition and that eulogy…I would like to be thought of as a quiet, in-the-background support person. I am no longer willing to head up community endeavors, although I will contribute in some way if asked. That is quite a departure from the middle-aged version of myself. These days I make a decision based on whether the end result is worthy of the required energy expenditure.

Adapt and Compensate

Whoever said “growing old is not for sissies” was correct. Each year finds me with less flexibility, more arthritis, and a less reliable short-term memory. Therefore, I adapt  and compensate for the changes I experience. I bet you do, too. Do you have notes on Post-Its all over your house? Do you leave the mail and other paperwork you bring home out in plain sight so you won’t forget ? Do you find that these attempts at remembering soon become useless as you churn through piles trying to locate the one very important thing you need?

My best system for adapting and compensating is my Day-of-the-Week system. I have grown into this system over several years. I use it as a fall-back system…when I am overwhelmed by all that remains undone, I use the present day of the week to orient myself. For instance, today is Monday, so I have paid any bills that were due and filled in my calendar for the week with activities that must take place this week. I plan to serve a quiche for supper because it is an egg or cheese dish as my plan suggests. By using a weekly schedule loosely, I manage to stay current with most things. When life gets away from me I restore my sanity by selecting only the one thing that needs to be done on that particular day.

Day of the WeekActivityMeal Plan
Monday = Admin DayPay bills, file receipts, make phone calls, follow upSomething based on eggs and/or cheese
Tuesday = Errands DayMake shopping list, find coupons, return library books, etc.Hearty Soup
Wednesday = Communication DayWrite letters, make phone calls, send or return emailsA pasta meal
Thursday = Technology DayReview instructions, practice skills with smartphone and/or computer Leftovers - be creative!
Friday = Round-up DayGather loose papers, mail, etc. and place in inbox; clear out newspapers and magazinesSeafood
Saturday = Friends & Family DayStay in touch: call, write, visit; go through old photosBaked beans or other vegetarian meal
Sunday = Spiritual DayAttend church or meet with like-minded people; readBest meal: something wonderful and/or something to revise into other meal during the week

The Magic 8 Ball

My memory behaves a lot like a Magic 8 Ball these days. My thoughts stay on the surface of my mind briefly and then retreat into the background and are difficult to summon again. This is common with aging, but it is something to be fought. There is too much at stake. I look for ways to adapt and compensate for memory loss.  I have developed some systems for keeping track of paperwork, things, and time. They all involve the same items:
  • a calendar
  • a tickler file
  • file folders labeled with the months of the year
The calendar represents the present, orienting me in time. The tickler file represents the future, helping me keep track of upcoming events and needed actions. The labeled monthly file folders keep track of the recent past…here is where I find proof of a paid bill or correspondence.

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