Mel Walsh: Fill your propitious pail
Pretend you carry around an invisible bucket. When it’s full, it represents your positive vibes. Empty, your morale has gone bust. Now the job is to fill that bucket with fresh water to keep the morale plumped up and your well-being deeply hydrated.
How to keep the bucket filled? Do what you love, be with people who accept you so broadly – opinion warts and all – that you don’t have to watch your mouth. Nice too if they love you and you love them. Also good for the morale to have a place that feels like a sanctuary. Some call this home. Others call it nature. Still others call it the neighborhood pub. Doesn’t matter. Whatever relaxes. Wherever you don’t have to watch your back. Whatever fills your invisible bucket.
Then consider what and who will drain that precious bucket. What will dry up the water, empty the juice, leave the pail full of dust and spider webs? A job you hate, people who make your spirit dry and itchy, the feeling you have no real home refuge. And here’s the self-generated desiccator: feeling sorry for yourself.
There probably isn’t a person on earth who hasn’t one time or other felt sorry for himself, often with good reason. Who hasn’t felt shoved off the good luck trail, thinking that everyone else was dancing on the path, you the only one without a map and limping along in the brush?
Older adults have even more reason to revert to the poor me trap. Reaching full maturity – aka the falling apart stage – we suffer cataracts, bad knees, low energy, hips that don’t work, joints that talk and feet that show their mileage. We are more vulnerable to heat, cold, smoke inhalation, poverty, insomnia, feelings of uselessness and certain dark thoughts like wondering when we’ll fall off the conveyor belt of life into eternity. (Some even worry once they’re plopped into eternity whether they’ll be taking the up or down elevator.) But none of these thoughts or conditions will fill our bucket. Indeed, they can punch holes in the pail.
Stopping the morale leaks
There are three secrets to happy aging and keeping the bucket full. One is to stop worrying about physical decline and do something either to prevent or fix whatever is driving you crazy. Modern surgery does wonders with eyes, hips and knees. Exercise and good nutrition – plus avoiding processed foods with weird ingredients and high fructose levels – should promote health and increase energy levels. In other words, a lot of what ails us is manageable.
The second secret is gratitude. When the levels are down emotionally, see the bucket as half full, not half empty. Be grateful that you actually have what you have. I know that is a platitude, an old saw, but clichés got to be clichés because they are true. Few things are as good for the morale as giving thanks for the good things you enjoy, whatever they may be.
Now here’s a true cornball story about gratitude: Every morning I walk down the driveway to pick up this paper and I think of it as my “lucky walk.” I hear the birds doing their morning chirps and think I am “bird lucky.” I look at what’s growing and think I am “plant lucky,” more specifically, “lavender lucky”. I pick up the paper and think I am “writing lucky.” (Look, people actually read what I write. How absolutely lucky is that?)
Next, I see the houses on either side of me and think about the people who live there and know I am “neighbor lucky.” And so it goes. On those mini-walks, I am also “goat lucky,” “horse lucky” and even “chicken lucky” because my neighbors not only love people, they love animals that I can enjoy without having to clean the barn. One might say I am even “horse pucky lucky.”
So those little walks can set the theme for the day: gratitude, especially global gratitude for the sheer miracle of being alive, breathing on a small dirt clod hurtling through space at muchmillion miles per hour, heading who knows where. The trick is not to care where, but just be happy for the ride.
Now, the third secret … well, I forget. But then I am allowed to forget as I am practically old enough to have dated Cro-Magnon men. But I do remember that your job and mine is to keep our buckets full and share the overflow.
Look around. Many folks are wandering around with dry pails. So throw a little water on someone today. It’s a sure way to fill your own bucket.
Mel Walsh is a gerontologist and certifiable geezer. Her book of advice for older women, Hot Granny, is available at The Book Seller in Grass Valley and online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
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