The other day I was talking with a friend about how startled I was when I saw my parents recently. It seemed like they had aged twenty years since I last saw them a year ago. How could this be, I asked myself? And then my mom said it, she said, “We’re just in a rut.” I got to thinking about this and that’s when I knew she was on to something.
I had thought about my own rut phase and how much it had changed me. I had been teaching and every day was just like the next. There were very few changes in my routine and I felt like every day I was wasting away. When I finally retired things changed…I changed. I would run into old friends and they would say how relaxed and young I looked. Imagine gaining back years on your life by just changing one’s routine? I loved the compliments of course, but what I really like was how I felt about myself. My routine had drastically changed and I had something new to look forward to every day. Now don’t get me wrong, I did make myself a schedule just to make sure I didn’t wallow in my bed every day…but I just didn’t know what my free time would look like. I found myself doing all the things I didn’t have time to do when I was working full time. I found that I had so much energy that when bedtime rolled around, I was still up working on a project or doing something I would have never done if I was working.
So when I was with my parents I got to thinking about the person that has to work, who isn’t at that stage in their lives when they can throw care away and do whatever they want. How do they stay young and active? How do they get out of the rut they are in? That’s when I saw the segment on Kathie Lee and Hoda with Lu Ann Cahn. Lu Ann had written a book called “I Dare Me.” She explains to the hosts that she had fallen into a rut and her daughter had dared her to do something new each week. She then explains that she began doing something new each day.
What a novel and wonderful idea! Think about it. If you (the reader) were to do something new each week or every day…wouldn’t you be happier? Doesn’t happiness equate to feeling younger and living longer? Oh, I know I’m not a scientist proving a theory here…but let’s be real. We ALL believe that when we are happy we feel younger and more alive! I know I do. Imagine yourself having something to look forward to at least once a week? Seriously…think about it right now!….Can you see how this would break down the old routine?
I remember when my mother-in-law was battling cancer. She was given four months to live…she lived a year instead. How did she do this against all odds? Well, first…she was a fighter and never gave up the good fight. But the truth? She gave herself small goals each week. She gave herself something to look forward to. Sometimes the goals were huge, like being at her son’s military ceremony, or being around for one last Christmas with all of her family. But most of the time they were simple, like having her nails done, or spending a half hour alone in Mervyns without anyone hovering over her. These small every day feats kept her alive and yes, young.
So I was thinking about my parents who are now both seventy-five and completely caught in their daily routine…like most seniors. What would happen if they set up a jar full of new things to try every day…or once a week? Just the excitement of pulling a mysterious “something new” out of the jar would be amazing. They could each sit down and write down things they have always wanted to do. For example, my dad might write that he always wanted to build a bird house and my mom might say she always wanted to take photos of sunsets. (I can’t imagine either of my parents doing these things…but what the hey…maybe they should try them!) Imagine what fun they would have doing each of these things together…something new to talk about, to argue about, to look forward to? Could it give them back ten years like it did for me? Would it be so bad to give it a try? I don’t think so. Who wants to fade into the sun doing the same old things every day, every hour, every minute. Is this living? I think not. So why don’t we all join Lu Ann Cahn and dare ourselves to do something new each week or every day…we just might get out of the rut that makes us old.