Scale down to one life and live it well

My friend, same age as I am, said, “I’ve been thinking about how five years will look from now. Do I still want to be doing what I’m doing? I will be 80.”

“Eighty? Are you kidding me? To me, 80 looks old, ugly, wrinkled and scary. Doctors’ appointments marked on the calendar, bottles of medicine lined on the kitchen table and a walker in the corner. No, no, no. I can’t let that happen.”

I’ve got to do something about this. I’ve got to drink water, get on the treadmill, shed extra weight and get a checkup with the doctor. I’m in fairly good health and I need to stay that way. I want to be able to choose where and how I want to spend my last days.

When we were young, we made short and long goals. Long goals are out of the question at 75. We’ve got to think shorter goals starting now.

In our 30s, we were ambitious, energetic and full of ideas. We lost weight because of vanity, not because of health reasons. We were moving ahead in high speed. We were collecting things, making acquisitions, buying land and building families. We wanted the world and the things the world gave us.

At 75, we are wrapping up, slowing down and embracing things of value. We are thinking of how we are going to let go of all those acquisitions and collections we made in our 30s. Not only letting go of things, but we want to keep the freedom in which we have lived our lives.

I spent the week with another friend who lives in Norwood. She asked me to help her get organized, stay on task and stay focused. I should be doing that for myself. The week with her showed me what I needed to do that I am not doing.

I carried my new thought to Norwood and dumped my reality on her. She is the same age as myself and my other friend. I asked her, “What does five years look like, when you are 80?”

She thought for a minute and said, “Heavens, has it comes to this?”

Yes, it is coming and you need to figure out what you will be doing in five years and where you want to be. You can’t keep moving. This last move should set you up for the rest of your life.

It’s not that any of my friends are scattered, but we have lived full lives and done too many wonderful things. But now, we need to get real in this new chapter we are facing.

My friend loves too many places. She sold her darling three-story Victorian house in Norwood because she can’t breath at 6,700 feet in altitude. She is a Colorado girl and loves the Colorado mountains. Without humidity, it’s hard for her to breathe in her house in Scottsdale. She doesn’t want to go there, but that is where she is headed.

She could see herself living by Balboa Park and walking on the beach in San Diego, but there are too many people and she doesn’t feel safe. She thought of St. Paul, Minn., where she was raised, but it’s too high and too cold. She finally sunk down and said, “I always loved Europe and maybe I should go back to Sweden and get a little place.”

As we talked, we continued to pack. I saw the variety of careers she has had. I said to her, “Stop. You are as bad as I am. I have all these things I think I must accomplish, but who says I have to do any of them? If you’re honest, do you really want to go back to remodeling houses unless it is for you to live in? You have traveled and lived too many lives. You need to scale down to one life.

She has many sets of dishes and stories to tell about all of them, but uses only one set. Filing cabinets breaming of papers, some important, but most of them need to be trashed, which we did. She is single, and how many more times will she be able to move by herself?

So, how do we make these decisions when we have enjoyed a full life and done so many gratifying things? We have to get honest with ourselves. We don’t want to hear it, but it is what it is.

I told her I gave up painting and gave my painting supplies to my grandchildren along with my art studio, gallery and the artist’s cabins. I can’t do it all. I have three more books commissioned to write and that’s got to be my focus. I will exit this life writing and hopefully I will be involved with other writers. That’s how I see my life at 80. If I should live until 90, I’ll add another chapter to my story.

Final brushstroke: I am determined to live healthier, cherish family and friends, be productive and scale down to one life and live it well. I need to make wise choices for the comfort of my Sweet Al and I.

When I read this article to Al, he said, “It’s depressing.”

I said, “Wait until we get to 80.”

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This story was posted on August 3, 2017.