I turned 60 this year and I feel the tug of some self-sabotaging mindsets that I see clients and others fall into as we get older. It’s some things I’ve both observed in my therapy practice working with others on their relationships, and something I’ve experienced throughout my life. I don’t want to see you get stuck in any of these. So, let’s deal with them right here and now! Hang on. It may not be easy. But you know it’s because I care that I say the hard things. So, let’s go. We can do it together.
1. Don’t linger in the past. Don’t let what you’ve lost over your lifetime keep you paralyzed. Do the hard work of grieving losses. And I mean the really hard work. Compound grief – significant losses over a period of time – have to be dealt with and accepted or we get bitter, resentful, and isolated. We need to unpack them and process each one individually. We didn’t grow up going to therapy or talking about our problems but that doesn’t mean we don’t have to do it. They are our problems to work out. Others can only understand so much before they see you differently. Take it to a professional and leave it there.
2. Don’t wait on someone to include you. My girlfriend and I have a new mantra. “Stop chasing after people”. We can get in this pattern of waiting on people to do what they used to do or to invite us somewhere. People who have you in their heart make time for you. If they don’t it doesn’t mean they don’t love you, it just means you’re not their person right now. So be busy. Plan things. Take a class. Be interesting. There’s nothing worse than someone thinking if they call, they’ll hear how long it’s been since they saw you and how nobody ever calls. Stop it. It sounds pitiful and makes the other person feel bad. I know that’s what you want sometimes, but it really doesn’t make people want to be with you. And besides, what’s wrong with you calling them if you want to? The phone works both ways you know. People are busy remember. So, make them an offer that sounds delightful instead of draining. If they say no, move to the next person or go alone and meet someone new. Time is passing. Don’t get stuck in the Anger and Bargaining stages of grief resenting who is not there. Get moving. Repeat Step 1 if it gets hard to sort out. The Bargaining stage of grief keeps us stuck in what others should do or what we aren’t enough of. Don’t go it alone – got back to Step 1 if you need to - but it is your responsibility to move through it.
3. Don’t surround yourself with people just like you unless they want to grow. I know. Misery loves company and sometimes it just feels good to wallow in how sad life is, or how lonely, or blah blah blah. But it’s not healthy to stay there. Join with others who want to gain insight and move forward to enjoy life. You may have to repeat Step 1 from time-to-time to dump some things so you can travel lighter and more carefree. And you’ll have to learn to have firm but compassionate conversations with those in your circle not ready to change or who see your changes as threatening. Just remember that it’s their responsibility to work it out for themselves. Don’t wait on them. Real change can be inspiring. Maybe they’ll catch your motivation and give healing a try. Nevertheless, you don’t want to get stuck here and watch more time go by.
4. Don’t head to the recliner and live for Netflix. I know it’s hard. That’s why I’m asking you not to make this big mistake. It’s good to keep up with the entertainment. It makes you interesting to talk to and relevant. But when you know the characters on “This Is Us” or “Bull” better than you know real live people, there’s a problem. I get it. But DVR it and binge watch when it’s raining or everyone’s busy. Don’t live by the TV. Especially you guys. You’re just going to sleep in front of it anyway! Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to rest. And you deserve to chill a while. But make sure it doesn’t dominate your time and rest doesn’t turn you in to a couch potato. It’s not good for your health.
5. Don’t go quietly in to the night – age intentionally. Ageism is alive and well in society today. And we must be mindful not to play into the stereotype. Let’s face it. When we talk a lot about our ailments and doctor appointments, and limit our engagement because we are afraid, we might have this or that happen, we teach people to view us as needing accommodation. If you do, then ask. But if you are just afraid you might have difficulty physically or feel uncomfortable emotionally, then deal with it. Go to the gym and get stronger. Work out. Walk. Keep moving past where you think you can go. Face our physical problems head on just like we do our emotional ones. If you feel weaker, work to be stronger. It’s not always fun and the recliner is calling, but choose to live stronger, more disciplined and self-controlled. It takes real effort to keep moving. Let our actions and our words reflect who we really are and, on some days, who we want to be if we just aren’t there yet.
So, how are you doing? I know it was a lot coming at you at one time. I hope you’ll avoid these common mistakes and move through this season with joy and happiness. If you need help, reach out to a therapist who can walk with you. It’s not as hard as you think. You deserve to make the time to heal and grow stronger, and to travel lighter in the second half of life!
Dianne Presley, LCSW
Owner/Founder of Believe, Hope, Inspire Wellness Services LLC
Gottman Trained Relationship Therapist