There is such potential for joy in our 60s and beyond. And, of course, there is also a possibility for growing bitter and sad. Without thinking about it, we will probably end up being more of what we’ve always tended towards. In reality, though, by thinking about it, we can choose.

I have decided to choose joy.

As my husband of 46 years and I sit on the front porch of our new home in the woods, we have so much to be thankful for.

At least once a week, as we watch the sun go down, I remind him: we are both healthy, our kids are all in good relationships and have jobs they enjoy and are good at, and our grandkids are too young to cause much angst.

We need to intentionally take in this moment, this time. Choose to be aware of the good that is right now. We are making sure we don’t miss this time of goodness in our lives, no matter how long it lasts.

We agree to enjoy NOW, with the full understanding that hard times will come just as they have in the past. Health will decline, accidents will happen, grandkids will become drivers (yikes!). Those things are not here, not now. Now is good. So, I am choosing to enjoy now.

I am choosing joy.

Here are a few tips for choosing joy. Because, truth be known, there are a few things in my life I could complain about, if I wanted to. But I won’t. I choose joy. So, tips are sometimes necessary.

Let Go of Expectations

I would say that letting go of expectations is good advice for any stage of life. But, to find and focus on joy in our later years, expectations must go.

  • I don’t expect a phone call from each of my kids daily.
  • I don’t expect written thank you notes from our grandkids.
  • I don’t expect my husband to anticipate what I really want for Christmas.
  • I don’t expect perfect weather on the rare days all of our family finds a way to be together.

Without expectations, each phone call is precious, and I remember that these are busy adults who took time out to talk with me. I appreciate the improving writing skills of the grandkids who do send a thank you note, but will take a hug or a phone call as sufficient thanks.

If I really want something for Christmas, I tell my husband what I would like to receive and have joy at having a man who still wants to make me happy.

Weather? Well, we certainly have no control there. Just go with it. A favorite, joy-producing photo from our last family outing has our two youngest having a grand time in the mud.

Live in the Moment

There is a lot of talk about living in the moment. Google it and you will find lists of how to live in the moment, song lyrics about living in the moment, and exercises to do to learn to live in the moment.

My reminder is our front porch. Standing there, I know today is a good day. I got up, had plenty to do and to eat, was able to walk the dog, and even accomplished a few things. Thank you for a good day.

For me, to focus on my achy hip or the self-imposed deadline I have missed, or how I maybe should have walked the dog further, gives no joy and is not fully enjoying today, now, and all the wonder right where I am.

I can choose to say, “This is today. I will enjoy it as much as possible.”

Don’t Invent the Future

My book, Which Old Woman Will You Be? tells the story of my mother on her 72nd birthday. No one in her family, as far back as anyone knows, had ever lived to be older than 72. So, on my mother’s 72nd birthday, she got up, got dressed, blew out her candles, ate her cake, and sat down… to wait to die.

She had no serious illnesses and no real reason to feel like she was near death, but she invented a future that held no future for her. No one else had lived to be 73. She wouldn’t either.

For the next few years, every phone call with her was sad. She was sad. Always expecting some bad news about her health.

Until she was about 74 ½. One day, she called me. “Debbie, I’m not dead yet! I’m going on a cruise with my sister and some friends.” And so she did. Go on a cruise.

And, then a bus tour. And later, a European vacation. And to Alaska, and Hawaii, and to visit my family 1000 miles away, driving the distance until she was in her 80s.

My mother found joy after she stopped inventing her future. She took care of herself, traveled, and found ways to give to others with rewarding volunteer opportunities. She lived in her own home into her 90s.

To choose joy, I see from my mother’s experience that it is best to accept that the future is unknown.

Don’t Live in the Past

So much past. So many good and happy memories. Births, weddings, victories, successes, promotions, vacations, trips, moves, opportunities. Wonderful memories to return to with photos and old letters and journals.

But, anyone who has arrived in their 60s and who is honest will say that there has been difficulty in their past as well. Deaths, divorces, losses, failures, firings, lack of funds, missed opportunities.

All of that is good to remember, I believe. The good, the bad. That is how we have arrived here. Those stories and experiences have gotten us to today.

In my own life, I lost my dad too early, I had cancer, I had a neuromuscular disease that had me in a wheelchair, part-time. I have a son with Down Syndrome, another son who is a recovering heroin addict (clean 17 years!) and, of course, other off-spring related challenges that I don’t have permission to share. And this 46-year marriage? It has taken serious work.

Yet, I choose joy, today.

The fact that for a few years, I could not have walked to the end of the lane makes walking to get the mail a joy. To see my son, who has Down Syndrome, celebrate his 40th birthday with his fiancée by his side, gives me joy. A visit to my recovering addict son’s home and to see him thoroughly enjoy his children and wife, makes me so, so grateful.

It makes choosing joy pretty easy, put in perspective.

I will say that much of not living in the past that brings me joy is having learned the great freedom that comes from forgiveness.

Letting go of the results of hurts and traumas, and saying, “Yes, that happened. But I will not continue to carry the anger/hurt/disappointment that it caused,” allows room for joy. I have an idea that true joy requires a lot of forgiveness along the way.

I heard a talk recently that suggested that unless we have fully experienced the difficult, we cannot really enjoy the wonderful times. That makes sense to me. Unless we have had a health scare, maybe we take good health for granted.

If we have never had a period of lean times, financially speaking, we might not fully grasp what a privilege it is to have enough money to shop for groceries without totaling prices as we put things in our cart. Not to mention the luxury of choosing which restaurant to patronize tonight.

Let Go of Regrets

Oh, my. Regrets have such great power. And we have no power to change what might have been.

The best use of regrets is as motivation to live with purpose now. If there are lingering regrets, there is probably a way to satisfy that longing.

A good, skillful therapist or counsellor can be so helpful in leaving regrets behind. Or, maybe a life coach. Or, a wise friend. A bit of sharing and discussion on the topic of regrets can open the road to being able to choose joy.

Our lovely days on the porch that are all rosy now, will change. But, even when sadness or difficulty comes, I believe that joy will be an option.

By consciously choosing joy, we gain perspective and experience that can allow us to remember that “this too shall pass” in the darker days. And, even as life changes, we can be satisfied and that will allow joy.

I am choosing joy now, when things are good, so that in a time to come, when things will be hard, I will know how to choose joy… even then.

What is your usual mode of living? Do you live with joy or sadness? What would it take for you to choose joy? What reminders do you think would be useful for you? Please share your thoughts and stories with our community.

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