Dec 31, 2010

The next half

New Year's Eve.

The day when people are either scrambling to get food and champagne for the evening's festivities or are contemplating what resolutions to make for the coming year - or both.

For me, 2011 is the start of the next half century of my life. I was 50 in December. It was actually a wonderful way to end the year.

2010 was turbulent at work and in my stomach. At work, the knowledge that our department and in-house printing was going to cease to exist by summer was something we all had in the back of our minds. We were, however, all so old (I was the youngest at 49) to get worked up about it. Instead, the strategy was to do our jobs and behave in such a way as to make management realize they had some great people working for them; we did not complain and we did not sic our union on anybody (though they were apprised of the situation). Our representative from HR was impressed by our good cheer. She said it motivated HR to do everything in their power to help us stay with the company.

Our beloved boss retired by August. My co-graphics designer and I were transferred to another department. Our former printers had already been learning to man the photocopiers and combine work in our new printshop with other duties. We are all under new management, we all still stay in touch, and maintain the friendships we formed after so many years together. These people were also the "committee" that organized a wonderful birthday celebration for me.

My IBS was worsening, to the point that I thought I'd finally have to be checked out in a hospital. One more search on Google was enlightening, however, and I cut out grains and my fiber supplement, and immediately got relief. I now know to avoid grains if I want to avoid a flare-up of IBS. My dawning metabolic syndrome was due to grains, not sugar. I got my body (and waistline) back this fall with that change of diet.

New situations with new people require an open mind, positive attitude and patience. I used affirmations to get myself successfully settled into my new department. I see that 2011 will present challenges I haven't had to deal with before, since the structure, work and challenges of the division where I now work is so different from what I'm used to. I have come to realize that my last boss (and department) simply spoiled us co-workers.

I had my 50th birthday waiting for me at the end of the year. I kept trying to figure out what to do with it. In Norway, they make a big deal about such anniversaries. Our newspapers carry lists of everyone who has a "round" birthday from 50 on up. So, my name got in the paper, too. The annual company Christmas ball was originally scheduled for December 10. The gang from work (old department) meets annually for Christmas dinner on the Thursday closest to the start of December; this year that was December 2. My plan was to just not go home early and hopefully have company at midnight to mark my birthday. Then the Christmas ball got moved to December 3. I realized that I could have one humdinger of a party on my birthday. :-) And that's when my co-workers got to work and organized special seating at the ball (not allowed, really) so our table was only us co-workers, they treated me to a room at the hotel holding the ball, and they hung up posters and balloons. And someone notified the toast master so almost 400 people sang the Norwegian birthday song to me.

Wow! No, I mean, WOW!!!

This morning I finished reading Joseph Murphy's "The Power of Your Subconscious Mind"*. His last chapter is on aging. He was basically saying that you only age if you buy into the idea that you must age.

People have been asking me how I manage to look so young. Most don't believe I'm 50. Hardly any wrinkles, hair still its original dark brown, and even the middle-aged spread I've had in my 40's is gone. I notice the changes of age, of course; my face shows time has passed in its way. If I start to miss the firmer jawline of youth, I remind myself to enjoy every age, no matter what. And I usually do. I always have. I have never lied about my age, and I have never been upset at getting older. I have enjoyed all my birthdays. I have enjoyed being in my 20's, my 30's, my 40's. I wasn't the sort of kid who didn't want to grow up, nor did I want to be older than I was when I was a kid. I loved 8, I loved 10, I loved 12, I loved 18. 16 was boring, oddly enough, but turning 16 was memorable: My mother took me to a French restaurant, and I had escargot for the first time.

I was raised by old folks - my grandparents. Old in age and looks, but not in mind. They delighted in taking new trips, reading new books, meeting new people. When they no longer had access to that, they got old. They passed 90 before it happened, though. I had a friend whose philosophy was to travel to faraway places while she was young, because she figured age would keep her from taking long trips. She figured right; as she got older, she traveled closer to home in an ever dwindling radius, until her only trips were the bus into town. Eventually, even those ended. Her dwindling radius of travel was due to her developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

I have always believed that her belief that old age would limit her played a part.

I try not to have such beliefs. I don't even have the belief that I must go gray. Gray hairs have appeared on my head, but they are so few and so spread out that the rest of the brown pretty much hides them. (I do have friends who want to know if I have a portrait hidden somewhere. ;-) )

Aging is part genetic, part lifestyle (I don't smoke, for example), part cultural. The current debate in Europe (and in the US) is the need to raise the retirement age, after decades of lowering it. When I participate in the discussion, it is to say that the ideal shouldn't be to get off work early (as it were), but to so enjoy your work that you are happy to stay on the job until your late 60's or even 70. Humans thrive when they know they can contribute, when they have a reason for getting up in the morning. For some, work can be that blessing; others have hobbies they'd rather spend all day on. Not everyone is happy with their employment circumstances. Some people are physically worn out, while others just don't like the "slavery". I have no idea where I'm headed, employment-wise, so my affirmations for work are in part to make sure I don't end up feeling enslaved. A job is a blessing. A job with wonderful co-workers is a huge blessing. I have never appreciated them more than I do now (that is the best gift I got for my birthday).

As I look back on 2010, I am a bit surprised at my calm in the face of the departmental upset, but I have seniority now, so I'm finally immune to the reorganizational madness that can strike any company. No matter what, they have to keep me. I am trying to figure out how to make myself more useful, just in case. It gives more options, at the next crossroad. What's more surprising, is my calm in the face of the future ahead. I think it's because I feel like options are opening up, rather than disappearing. Actually, I feel like I have the option to have options.

As I look at 2011 - the start of the next half century of my life - I see that some of the things I want is to keep on building on the happiness I now feel - and the peace of mind. Some discoveries have been made that give me a concrete definition of what to work on in the year ahead: Forgiveness (finally letting go) and a likely case of ADHD; self-nurturing is the umbrella term. Making sure I live my life and organize my days and monitor my habitual thoughts so that I don't bug myself. One of my new habits in 2011 will be to always get washed and dressed, first thing in the morning. Lounging around in pajamas leaves me inflexible in responding to my own impulsiveness (ADHD means doing things when the feeling moves you). If I first have to stop to get myself ready, I'm already sabotaged. By the time I'm washed and dressed, I may have lost my inspiration.

One of the reasons for just lounging in pajamas, is the computer addiction. There is a worn path from my bed to the computer desk. I may have to set a timer for myself in 2011, to get myself away from the drug known as the internet. Or rather: If I am at the computer, to be a more active participant. Rather than only reading, I want there to be more writing. That is a subtle change I've felt as I've turned 50: I am now entering the age where it is my turn to teach and to share. I am now the older person, I am the one with the experience. I am the one who can advise and guide and give back all that was given to me as I grew up. That too is a new habit I have to learn in the coming year.

Thanks for being with me in 2010! I hope to see you in 2011.

I wish you a joyful and peaceful new year.

*) From which I got the Great Affirmation you can see in the sidebar.