Autumn years – the power of thought

Last month I had the pleasure of meeting a lovely and very lively 94-year-old lady. She was a burst of energy, a ray of light in the autumn of her years. We were attending the same birthday party on a Swedish island in the middle of nowhere. She had driven her own car to get to the ferry that was going to take us to the island. She was wearing mascara, a pair of black trousers, a blouse and a cardigan. Her accessories were a big ring and a walking stick.

It was a cold and cloudy day, but the scene was idyllic: a wonderful spot in the Swedish archipelago, with the vast expanse of water in front of us and the forest behind us, where we gathered around an open camp fire, eating mushroom soup and making our own pancakes over the flames!

I might have remembered this day just because of the pancakes, if it had not been for my conversation with this amazing lady. I had been observing her during lunch, watching her interaction with the guests and the joyful smile on her face. When I was properly introduced to her, I took the opportunity to chat to her and asked her:

“What’s your secret?”

Her answer came fast:

“I am a sociable woman. I love meeting people.”

There you go! Could it be so simple? In a digital society like ours, could interacting in real life be the key to longevity? One may argue that a long life is not necessary a good life. Life is not merely a question of numbers but of approach. Gandalf put it perfectly in “The Lord of the Rings”: “All we have to decide is what we do with the time that has been given to us”. Do we use our time well? Do we really appreciate every day?

“I still live in my own house and I love it, even if I cannot clean my windows or mow the lawn any longer,” she continued.

“Well, neither do I and I am half your age,” I answered in laughter. “Do you really live all by yourself?”

“Yes, I do. My children visit me often and also my friends. Unfortunately, I cannot have a dog anymore because I am not able to take care of it properly,” she said. I miss it but one has to acknowledge one’s limitations. It is just the way it is.”

Yes. That’s a very wise attitude. It is not always necessary to make a problem of everything. Life comes with limitations. Every situation has them. Certain things are the way they are and that’s fine too.

“Every week I go out for lunch with a friend. I really enjoy these moments. Everyday luxury,” she explained.

“Luxury, indeed. Appreciating the small things. I get you.”

“The tricky part is that it is time for me to make new friends,” she confessed suddenly. “Many of my old ones are disappearing. I think I will have to make younger friends now!”

“New younger friends? Absolutely! You go, girl!,” I replied, unable to stop myself from laughing out loud when I pictured her logging into a dating site searching for new friends. “Advanced search: Male or woman. 80-85 years old”. 

Instead of thinking “Everyone is disappearing now, I might as well drop dead too. What’s the point of me staying around?” she managed to transform every negative thought into a positive one. She acknowledged her limitations and changed tactics. How many times do we take pleasure in wallowing in our misery? Complaining? Blaming others? The truth is that no one is responsible for how we feel. Our well-being depends on us and our thoughts. From a calm state of mind, we recognize the difficulties and we take wiser decisions. In blaming we become smaller, weaker. There is so much power hidden in our minds! Life takes care of itself when we let it unfold freely. If you are in a situation you dislike, reach for a better thought, ponder your options and take action. Don’t blame others, don’t blame yourself. Do what’s best for you! Meeting a young spirit in a 94-year-old body was an inspiring example. Nothing about her was extraordinary or maybe everything was. Age is not a question of numbers, it is a question of attitude! Just like life itself.