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“What am I Supposed to Be Doing now that I’m Almost Old?”

June 10, 2011

Every once in a while I hear an idea that at first I’m inclined to dismiss, but something needles me until I reconsider. More often than not, if I do reconsider, I find a shift takes place in my perspective and I may even have an “ah ha!” moment.  If you’ve ever had one you know it’s like a light switch going on in a dark attic. A new idea fits into place like it’s always been there.  I had such a moment yesterday and today I am savoring it by sharing it with you.


59 Comments leave one →
  1. Susan Beste permalink
    June 10, 2011 5:39 pm

    Haven’t got time to respond as I am out watering the damn plant!

  2. June 10, 2011 6:56 pm

    Yes, yes & yes! I think this is exactly what we can be doing as we age. I heard of a man just today who is 83 years old and in his much-later years of life he became a painter, a writer, and a musician and has become very well-known. Not that the well-known part truly matters to be happy but the idea is that he got his start with all of this new stuff from “planting his feet in the ground” and then pivoting around from there – taking in the view from all angles and seeing what piqued his interest. Such a simple act and yet it brought so much joy and happiness to his life. I think he has the right idea and so do you, Dorothy! Since we never can get away from our past, it seems logical to me that the past, present & future can be seen at the same time we’re pivoting.

    My purpose today is to (1) relax from stressful and driven attitudes and to (2) plant my feet in the ground and then (3) pivot around until something catches my full attention. When that happens, I will know the universe is calling my name and I will focus more intently and anticipate a joyful moment.

    Happy pivoting day! ^_^

    • June 10, 2011 7:28 pm

      Diane, I like the “pivoting around” ~ that’s a wonderful description and applies perfectly to you and what you do! Thanks for your addition. It’s perfect! 🙂

  3. June 10, 2011 7:09 pm

    As usual another great blog! I enjoy reading the things that you write. Life can be a bit different as we age and throws many curve balls. Keep up the good work!

  4. June 10, 2011 7:41 pm

    Dorothy, I read this and felt a big WHEW. Your post names a stepping stone on the journey of aging-an important one. I can feel the feet of many women landing on their next step more firmly because they read these words…I know mine are! Thank you for writing for us, bless you-I’m gong to post this of The Art of Aging right now. xoxo, Sofi

    • June 11, 2011 12:35 am

      You’re an angel Sophie ~ a guardian angel for me and so many. You keep us focused and moving in the right direction ~ and I appreciate your heart and your spirit more than I can express.

  5. June 10, 2011 7:47 pm

    This was a great solution to a problem many of us are having. Maybe that bucket list is just getting to heavy or is irrelevant. Sharing the thought of looking back on what has made your life happy sure gives one a sense of direction and ideas. Great thoughts to move into the weekend with.

    • June 11, 2011 12:37 am

      Annie, I like what you say about the “bucket list is getting too heavy or irrelevant”. I love that so many of us are thinking the same things at the same time. Maybe we’re on to something!

  6. Anne Watts permalink
    June 10, 2011 10:12 pm

    Yes, definitely. I am still raising teens at 63 & I have noticed that I draw on past experiences, events (a little more wisdom-like lately) to connect with them.

  7. Barbara permalink
    June 10, 2011 10:47 pm

    Going for my water can! I love it!

  8. Ginger Jourdenais permalink
    June 10, 2011 10:52 pm

    I was totally engrossed in this writing! I have been, as Sophie Lumen would say, “flailing around” in search of what to do with the rest of my life. Trying so hard to find new meaning in life since I became unable to work. I am now on SSDI, and for the first time, I joined a couple of church groups and am making new friends. I love people. I have all my life and being with people, talking and sharing with them is pure delight to me. I anticipate that I will continue to meet new people, enrich ongoing friendships and cultivate some old acquaintances into lasting friendships. I will also be looking into doing some volunteer work. I’m thinking perhaps the ASPCA. I love dogs and cats, but cannot have them where I live. Problem solved. I’m not too awfully worried about aging as it is a part of life. For us Beauties of the Art of Aging, I think we focus on today and making the best of each and every day.
    God bless you Dorothy Sander for writing this illuminating blog, article or whatever you want to call it. It pretty much tells me I’m on the right track!

    • June 11, 2011 1:59 pm

      Sounds like you are really connecting with the things you love Ginger and it’s giving your life plenty of meaning and purpose. I’m glad you found my words reassuring. It’s always nice to feel like we’re “on the right track”! Keep me posted on the ASPCA thing ~ sounds like a perfect match!

    • Shellie permalink
      March 5, 2012 11:23 am

      How about doing volunteer work with children or elderly – something that can make a difference in the world. Too many people look to animals as it is a safe and stress free way to volunteer. The next generation needs our help – they too are helpless in a chaotic world.

  9. Ginny permalink
    June 10, 2011 11:15 pm

    I want to things I haven’t done AND water the damn plant. It will keep growing!!

    • June 11, 2011 2:01 pm

      Go for it Ginny! Go in the direction of your inner urging. Maybe you’re still collecting experiences and that’s okay.

  10. Kim permalink
    June 11, 2011 12:17 am

    I can’t tell you what a relief your blog was! I believe I’d been in this exact position for almost a year. I am always “helping” others or “taking care of people” and had forgotten how to take care of myself. Last weekend I was finally able to redo my craft room. When it was done I immediately realized that this is what brings me that joy! Working or crafting in my room. I have had such a relief off my shoulders for the last week. It is simply amazing how doing what you love makes you happy. Thanks for the great blog.

    • June 11, 2011 2:02 pm

      Ah, a craft room! I am still pondering how I can fit a “craft corner” in my writing room ~ you’ve inspired me to get busy doing it. Thanks Kim!

  11. Caroline permalink
    June 11, 2011 11:12 am

    Thank you so much for your gift of this essay! I feel a great, big sense of relief reading it. After constantly thinking about what I ‘should’ be doing now, I can relax and think about all the stuff I’ve loved doing and then decide whether I want to doing some more of them.

    Thanks again.

    • June 11, 2011 2:04 pm

      Thank you Caroline for taking the time to leave a comment. I’m glad my words were helpful and that my “ah ha” moment gave you a bit of your own!

  12. June 11, 2011 5:15 pm

    Excellent thoughts!

  13. Merry Rose McCarty Cathey permalink
    June 12, 2011 7:53 pm

    Wow! Thanks, Dorothy, for your words of wisdom that made me see exactly where I have been, why I am where I am, and where I am going. I have been pulling out “memories” and found so many wonderful times I had forgotten. I have been working so hard at staying busy so I just don’t sit around and feel sorry for myself because I am getting older, I have missed looking at a very important part of my life – my “memories” I have collected over the past 63 years. Life is good. Life is grand. Life is what you make it – past, present, and future. So, I have decided that I am going to make new memories as well as enjoy the old ones. I am in a very good place in my life – healthy and able to do whatever, whenever I want. Why have I been worrying over nothing? Live. Laugh. Love. Share. Thanks for waking me up! You have helped me get back on the right track of life.

    • June 12, 2011 8:28 pm

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience Merry Rose. Life is indeed what we make it and I applaud your decision to combine past, present and future into one glorious today! Look forward to hearing about your continued adventures. Dorothy

  14. nancy lendved permalink
    June 13, 2011 3:47 am

    So sensible, so sincere. Thank you, Dorothy.

  15. June 13, 2011 6:47 am

    Lovely article. it’s great that you can connect with doing the things that you love. I truly believe that that is the only way to go as we age. Unfortunately, I have not found that yet. I’ve been doing things that I love for a while but then get tired of them and don’t “love” them anymore. I’m still searching for that one thing that really keeps me going and will sustain me for the next 40 years!

    • June 13, 2011 12:42 pm

      Maybe what you love to do Sylvia is a little bit of everything! I am easily bored myself. The upside of that is that it keeps us moving and trying new things or doing old things differently. I’ve always hoped to find “one thing” that will just sweep me away and that’s that. I’m not sure such a thing exists, at least for me. Writing and gardening have stayed with me the longest and I can’t for see that changing, but I’m having to modify gardening as I can’t do what I used to do or afford help. But I don’t have to stop because I’ve decided to move my “garden” to my deck and let nature take care of the rest! Keep listening to your heart and following where it leads, if it’s a new thing every day, so be it! Enjoy the ride! 🙂

      • June 25, 2011 7:51 am

        Good advice Dorothy! I will just do that. I’ve tried all this time to focus but for the time being will now just do a little bit of everything. That may just suit me much better. I’ve actually written a post on my own blog which links to and is inspired by yours. Keep up the good work on your blog!

  16. June 14, 2011 3:56 pm

    Great post, Dorothy! I had noticed something seemed to be troubling you so I’m glad to hear you’ve found a way thru that knothole you were in.

    As you know, I help women discover what they want to do with their lives. I’ve found for some the best clues do come, as you said, from what they loved in the past or at the moment. For others it’s something they’ve never allowed themselves to do. And for others it’s something they never even knew they were interested in.

    Most (all?) of us are happiest doing a a mix of what we love, rather than just one thing. And the simple – tho not always easy – formula for a life we love is doing more of what we love!

  17. June 14, 2011 5:32 pm

    I’m forever running into knotholes! 🙂 I so agree that probably the most important step we can take as women over fifty is to give ourselves permission to do what we enjoy and walk away from the need to sacrifice for others. After a life time of living for others it can be difficult to “hear” our own voice and tune in to it. That’s what is wonderful about your “lights” approach. What “lights us up” is probably something we should do more of. Thanks for your insight Bonnie.

  18. June 14, 2011 7:43 pm

    I’m very familar with knotholes myself, Dorothy. 🙂 Giving ourselves permission is so key. In my “How To Light Up Your Life” class that is step 2 of 3. It’s that important! And yes, many of us — especially women — have lost touch with our own voice. The wonder is it’s possible to reconnect with that voice and follow it to lives of meaning and joy. At any age, I might add!

  19. De De permalink
    June 16, 2011 6:09 pm

    While caring for my aging parents for the last few years and working full time, I have come to realize how short life truly is! We must find joy every day and do those things that enrich our lives. It may only be a word with a friend, a hug from a loved one or a time alone in the garden, but we must enrich our lives with that joy! Your message resonated with me and caused me to recall the things I have loved to do in the past. My free time is limited because I still work full time ,but I am definitely going to make time for some of those things that I have loved and still love to do. Thank you for a great message!

    • June 16, 2011 7:07 pm

      Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. Caring for our parents is a great teacher of wisdom. I learned so much during the last years of my own parent’s lives both about myself and aging in general.

  20. June 22, 2011 4:55 am

    I love this suggestion and I’m going to begin to explore it. It is possible that I may be prematurely retired within the next two years. The thought has been freaking me out…and I have been trying to keep lists of what I will do to simply fill the time. When I look back, I find projects that I put on hold 20 years ago due to child-rearing and career building.

    • June 22, 2011 1:10 pm

      Terri, I was just reading a book this morning that I will be reviewing on the AA website called “RIPE” by Julia Moulden. It’s a 12-week course on how to discover work with more passion, purpose and possibility after retirement! People are discovering that retirement isn’t really what they want or need ~ forced or otherwise! They are choosing to reinvent themselves over and over again as they age. Change can be frightening and disconcerting but it can also give our enjoyment of life a boost. Perhaps the next too years are your opportunity to “ripen” ~ to take everything you’ve learned and experienced and apply them to something that will inspire passion, purpose and possibility! Keep us posted!

  21. June 25, 2011 12:17 am

    Wow! I’m a new fan! What you’re saying makes perfect sense to me! I sometimes feel near panic about what I’m suppose to be doing. I identify with so many of the other comments on here…time to relax and just do what brings me joy! Thank you!! Wonderful post.

    • June 25, 2011 12:59 am

      Cindy, I’m so happy you found AA and like what you’ve found. It’s really nice to have company in this journey! I look forward to getting to know you! DS

  22. Debbie Barbour permalink
    June 28, 2011 5:33 pm

    Just started reading your blog, and gotta say I’m elated that it started off so positive. I’m 65 and was “never going to retire” – ha! Had to retire last year due to my health. So, what you said about digging up good things from the past and repeating them really works for me. I love to write and do commercial art. After freaking out and getting over my own “pity party” of last year, I got determined and decided that I am never really going “to retire”. I’m just now going to do it “my style” and relax, write, draw and whatever else comes naturally. So, I’m starting a new career at 65 and feel like I’m beginning my life all over again day by day. It’s fantastic now to have the time to do whatever I want to do at my own pace and still have a career. To me now, getting “older” is just a mental limitation that we curse ourselves with. Personally, I’m back to being 13 again, only wiser and more knowledgeable. amd now that all my kids are grown, it’s my turn to be “all that I can be”.

    • June 28, 2011 6:22 pm

      Debbie, I love it! Gives me goosebumps hearing your story! Do you have a blog chronicling your adventures? I’d love to learn more about what you’re up to. Finding a way of life that works for us is what it’s all about. There are no rules anymore, except our own. Yippee! 🙂 D

  23. Gail P. Rogers permalink
    June 29, 2011 8:41 pm

    I really enjoyed reading your post today. I’ve been thinking about this exact question for awhile now and feeling like life is rushing by me. I feel like I just can’t catch up! I suffer from depression and anxiety and can get quite caught up in the negative side of things. It can be a real issue when you feel like you should be doing something but get very overwhelmed with trying to figure out just what should you be doing!!!
    I really enjoy reading your blog though. Thank you for all your thoughts.

    • June 29, 2011 8:50 pm

      Gail, I too have suffered from depression and anxiety most of my life. It’s not an easy battle and the issues of aging certainly can compound things. I have found that when I get caught up in my mind that reading something that offers positive action of some sort takes me away from my ruminations and helps me get back on track. I found Martha Beck’s book Finding Your Own North Star really helpful. I bought the audio version and listened to it at night when I couldn’t sleep. It helped me begin to take the steps I needed to take to doing what I love to do. At times when we’re floundering it’s helpful to remind ourselves that we may just be in a period of waiting or a time of transition. It may not feel comfortable but it may mean we are just looking for another piece of the puzzle and need to be patient until we find it. I enjoyed reading your thoughts. D

      • Gail P. Rogers permalink
        June 30, 2011 1:46 am

        Thank you so much for your reply. As I said, my ailments have made it very easy to isolate myself. I’ve become quite good at it, even though I don’t always like being alone. I am going to look for the book you suggested. Since you yourself have suffered from depression and anxiety I’m sure you know my troubles. Thank you again for your blog and your personal reply.

  24. July 1, 2011 1:48 pm

    I’ve been warned about bringing middle-aged value systems into old age; can be a dis-service to both.

    Enjoyed your post…


  25. July 2, 2011 1:29 pm

    And then, when you can no longer repeat the things you liked to do in the past, repeat the Jewish Seder refrain: “If this is all there is, God has already been unfairly generous toward me.”
    Thanks for this post/blog. I know a couple people I’ll be passing this on to.

  26. July 29, 2011 8:09 pm

    When we get older we (hopefully) have learned a little wisdom and experience along the way. Blogging gives us a unique opportunity to be heard. For more than decade now that is what I do with my blog, imparting my technical knowledge and experience to the next generation. Blog on!


  27. August 4, 2011 9:03 am

    Dorothy, What great food for thought in your post and the comments. I find that looking back on what I enjoyed the most and was good at in the past has helped me focus on what to do now that I’m old. One of those things is writing, even writing about technical things in a way that makes them interesting to other people. Some time back, I joined Toastmasters and–after the usual initial trepidation–I came to enjoy public speaking tremendously. It’s all communicating with others, I’m still doing it, and I want to do more of it.

  28. August 4, 2011 9:59 am

    I hear ya Madeleine! And you’re great at it too! Love your blog!

  29. September 16, 2011 2:19 pm

    Thank you. I so needed to hear this message. I have been flooded with alternatives. I could be this, I could do that. I thought it sounded negative to say I don’t want to do anything new. You have said it perfect. Water the damn plant! Thank you.

    • September 16, 2011 2:35 pm

      Hi Karin! I guess today, this message was for you! Thanks for taking the time to say so! 🙂 DS

  30. October 22, 2011 12:12 pm

    Dorothy, thank you for your insightful words of wisdom. Boy, I thought I was the only one feeling this way, but now I realize I am not alone in this feeling of running around in circles with no clear direction of where I am going or what I am supposed to be doing. I realize that I have spent so much time comparing myself to others and trying to “measure up”, that I have lost sight of who I am and what it is that I love to do. Thank you.

    • October 22, 2011 1:36 pm

      You are so not alone Julie! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I hope you’ll come back again! 🙂 DS

  31. October 22, 2011 9:51 pm

    Excellent article… the timing was perfect for me. I needed to read this.

  32. January 7, 2012 1:51 pm

    Thanks for your post! You’ve given me more food for thought though what I’ve come up with re: happy/joy in the past does not really deal with externals. The external details of happy or joyful moments don’t seem to hold my attention. What does is the joy of connections with others whether in just a moment of passing interaction or daily interactions with co-workers, friends and acquaintances. My mother’s sunny outlook despite a progression of medical issues serves as a mirror for me. I do not know what is just around the corner for me in terms of endeavors, physical issues or life-happens issues. My goal is to breathe through any stresses or uncontrollable occurrences in order to experience some fresh air. Perhaps a fresh air space is what invites in the sense of joy and contentment that I am where I am supposed to be, doing what fits best for me at any given time. Looking at my past is certainly helping me to be sustained in my present, from the inside out versus the outside in.

  33. February 23, 2012 10:15 am

    well the older i get (54 currenlty) the less i buy into “shoulds” – but I think you’re on to something here. After all, we “should” know ourselves pretty well by now. yes? Reminds me of the quote (can’t remember who ….another aspect of being 54) “I’ve had a wonderful life, if only I’d realized it sooner.” We have – most of us. Why not revel in it and keep the good stuff going.

    • Caroline permalink
      February 23, 2012 12:44 pm

      Many years ago, I learned to say, as soon as I wake up, “I will not should on myself today”. Works!


  1. What am I Supposed to Be Doing Now that I’m Almost Old? | Aging Abundantly

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