Birthdays often make you think about the future. I am turning 33 soon and the inevitable thoughts about aging are starting to pop up. But nothing makes you think about getting old quite like being around old people.
My grandmother is a joy-filled 99-year-old firecracker who probably has more friends than I do. She is a social butterfly who is always looking forward to an occasion when she is able to wear one of those skirt suits, even if the occasion these days is, more often than not, a funeral. She is feisty and still pretty sharp. Just last week she beat my mother and me in a game of Phase Ten and we were definitely not trying to let her win. She is quite amazing for being almost a century old.
Like any elderly person, she can be stuck in ways. Without throwing my wonderful 99-year-old grandmother under the bus, I’ll just say that there are qualities I love about her and qualities that I do not wish to possess when I am her age.
So how do I become the 99-year-old lady that I want to be? I start now. The person that I want to be in 66 years starts today. Heck, the person I want to be tomorrow starts today! And not just who I want to be for me, but who I want to be for my family and friends, who I want to be as a wife, and even who I want to be as a mother.
I have been blessed with a great family and awesome friends. However, the husband and kids are still in the “praying for” stages. But that shouldn’t stop me from wanting to be the best wife and mother I can be and working towards those characteristics now.
Ask yourself, what kind of an old person do you want to be? The type that everyone loves visiting? The one that listens well? The kind that shares wisdom or the type that people avoid? The one that is known for being crotchety and grumpy? The miserable sort that complains about everything? The type that is plagued with bitterness and cynicism?
Decide who you want to be now and begin that journey.
I have decided that I want to be the kind of old person that shares stories out of wisdom. That means that I need to get better at sharing my story NOW. I need to be more vulnerable with the hardships in life and not shake off the difficult moments by turning up the music and dancing in the kitchen (although that can be a great remedy at times, I don’t recommend it for all occasions). I want to open up to others when I’m still in process and not only once I’ve figured things out on my own.
I want my kids to know that their creative dreams matter. That means that I need to show them by example and start living out my creative dreams NOW. I want to pursue art. I want to be an artist. And I cannot wait until the day when I say that and it feels real and not like a silly statement.
I want my children to know that they are loved. But I have to model that by first knowing that I am loved NOW and diving into what it truly means to be created by a loving God who wants nothing more than to love me.
I want to be a caring wife who is slow to anger and quick to forgive. I can practice all of that NOW. I may not be married yet, but there are plenty of people in my life that I can be caring towards and plenty of moments when I can stretch my muscles of being slow to anger and quick to forgive.
I want to live until my body gives out peacefully in my sleep (don’t we all wish that!). To do that I need to be healthy NOW. Which means fewer cookies and more vegetables, less sleeping in and more early morning walks, and since I live in Spain, probably a bit less Spanish wine.
At my funeral, I want people to talk about how they have never met anyone as peaceful and joyful as Shanda _________ (come on husband with a new last name!) I am a naturally peaceful and joyful person, but even in the areas that we are naturally gifted, there is still room for growth.
I want people to see me as a woman of faith and thankfulness — a woman who trusts God’s voice and jumps headfirst into the unknowns, a woman that thanks God for the little things and rejoices easily at His provision. Those start NOW!
If you want to be known as the sweet patient old lady, start being sweet and patient now. If you want to be the understanding and supportive wife, find friends to understand and support now. If you want to be the mom that throws the best birthday parties, start throwing some awesome dinner parties right now. The practice for who you want to be starts NOW.
To put it simply, if I want to lift 100 pounds, that doesn’t happen in one try. It takes time and repetition. It starts with little weights and works its way up as my muscles get stronger. What muscles do you want to be known for later on in life?
If you’re around in 66 years when I am 99, please come visit me. I hope to be alive and well, telling stories on a front porch somewhere surrounded by a cloud of peace and joy as my husband, children and grandchildren gather around to listen to my stories of living a life of creativity, faith, and love. And if all goes well with my workout plan, I might still be able to play a game of badminton in the front yard.