Is the rest, best?
By Lorna Foreman | Jan/Feb 2019
Twenty years. It can seem utterly endless or it can fly by so very quickly. Time is like that…depending on what is happening or what you want to happen.
I’ve been writing this column for 20 years and let me assure you, those 20 years flew by. For new readers I put the first 11 years’ columns published under the banner of “The Rest is Best” into a book titled, When Life Became Real. Why that title? Because, it ultimately does. I just finished re-reading that book of mine and — especially my Introduction — I laughed because I had such incredible plans for when I finally retired.
I was so darn ‘perky and optimistic’ and at the same time, so serious. I still do have wonderful plans, but they have been tempered by time and hopefully, wisdom. When I turned the ripe old age of 25, I figured
that if I had not done everything that I wanted to do by the time I turned 30, I would never do it. While not quite as dramatic, reaching retirement age does seem to bring out some interesting and different views. Some people dream of taking it easy, puttering around, doing what they want — no obligations — some have all sorts of ambitions left to fulfill.
Me? Well I am somewhere in the middle. That’s why I decided to revisit the title of my column to see if, in fact, it is true — that the ‘rest is best’.
I am a firm believer that it is — it is just different. We all age — some are luckier than others. I view life as a large game of musical chairs — once the music stops, if you can grab a seat — you’re all set for more action.
Mostly though, while I believe my column’s title, it is my changing attitudes over the years that make the re-visit interesting. Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes not.
As I get older, I feel more reflective on life and my life in particular. Little things don’t irritate me as much — a little more laissez-faire attitude. Yet, I am also less tolerant of hypocrisy, injustice, lack of compassion; I am less willing to let issues — the important ones — go unattended. No, I have not become a crotchety old lady (yet) and no, I don’t go out in mismatched socks. I don’t wear purple (well, sometimes) or spit. (Check out the poem, When I am Old, I Shall Wear Purple, by Jenny Jacob).
I am more socially and environmentally aware. Is that because I am not caught up in the frantic, sometimes stressful work world of full-time jobs and raising families? I don’t know. I still work — my own version of work, which is so varied I cannot fathom how I used to have a full-time job in one field. Now, I share in a garden maintenance business, produce and sell my creative output, and write and edit peoples’ manuscripts. I don’t do any of those full-time, but I love each one and even if I am not working full-time in any of those areas, I do each one well.
Seniors are increasing in number and I am finding conversations with other seniors interesting. There are many who feel that aging is just another stage of life and yes, they can be the best.
Societal pressures can make it difficult to accept changes. We are still supposed to look like we did when younger — dyed hair, outrageous diets, cosmetic surgery. We face ageism, which I am saddened by, because so many cultures revere the elder, but ours generally does not.
The rest is best because unless stricken by chronic ailments, we can design our lives. We no longer need huge, fancy wardrobes or flashy cars, and even smaller living quarters can be a tremendous relief. It is about a change in attitude — it’s about being able to let go and that is the hardest milestone to achieve but so very freeing. Not quite Bob Dylan’s words,“…freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose…” but it’s a start.
I am loving these senior years, even if I’m not quite as perky as before. Even the times I wake up a little achy or feeling down, I can still get on my bike and go for a ride, I can still go out for walks, and I can still laugh and love.
Little did I think when I came up with the title, that I would be re-addressing it some twenty years later. The difference? Very little actually. Probably the most profound is the acceptance of myself, appreciating all that I have including friends, yet accepting that everything changes. Bluntly, you just have to make the rest best, because readers, that’s all there is — the rest.
Lorna Foreman is a self-described 50-plus writer, author and artist who lives in Cornwall.