Family gatherings are fascinating experiences. They can be wonderful moments of shared love and joy. They can also tip to the other extreme and result in conflict. But usually everyone makes up again and all ends well.
These gatherings also prompt me to reflect on life’s lessons and can be deeply inspiring to me as an artist.
Earlier this year, my family came together for the Easter holidays. We have a wide spectrum of types in my family, as I am sure you have in yours. It reminds me of Billy Crystal’s fabulous show 700 Sundays.
Once the folks have settled down and start catching up, I cannot help but notice the different characters.
One grandpa always laments how prices are going up: “The price of gas is going up again. It never comes down.” Then another grandpa reminds us “kids” about how much he could buy for sixpence. “We never had inflation in the good old days,” he says. “How will we survive the next few years?”
Grandma says she cannot understand why kids are so stressed these days. She blames the Internet. Ironically, she checks Facebook while saying this. As if on cue, all the old folks’ cell phones beep as messages come through. “Be careful of hackers,” says an uncle. Everyone nods. I cannot help but smile.
One thing always gets me though. My parents’ generation, or as they remind me, the Greatest Generation, had a fixed idea about retirement. It was that you got a job or career. Worked until 60 and retired on cue. Took your pension and claimed your place under the sun.
This plan was iron clad at one time. My mom explained to me that my dad had this worked out in fine detail. Based on his previous generations, he even had his life expectancy more or less worked out.
Finances would be just right to meet these time periods, too. Much to Dad’s annoyance, he has exceeded his anticipated lifespan and is still going strong. We like to tease him about this.
The part that saddens me is that so many retirees have retired from life too. It is one thing to retire from formal employment, but quite another to throw in the towel on life’s rich potential. Freedom of choice is well and good, but after a while, life can become boring without a challenge.
This contrast in life choices is evident in my painting workshops. These events are enriching for me because I get to teach all types of people. Many of my students are retirees over 60. Their enthusiasm inspires me. Their spirit is still young and open to learning new things.
This is the key.
One of my older family members always had a knack for drawing – at least in his younger working years. I ask him about this and suggest that he takes up the sketchbook again. After all, he has ample time when he is not mowing the lawn or raking leaves in his yard.
He shakes his head, smiling, and says those days are behind him. “No time. Too busy working on the house. It never stops needing attention.”
I know the opposite to be true. The house is fine and he is bored. He is not alone in choosing this approach. Creative pursuits may seem pointless, money-wasting even. But these thoughts are damaging to mind and spirit.
At family gatherings we can all notice those people who seize each day with purpose. We also can tell who gave it up on retirement. Age is not the issue, as we know. Attitude is everything. As someone once said, “We aren’t getting out of this gig alive so we better make the most of it now.” Amen to that.
We were born to be creative beings. That is what nature does and we cannot ignore it. When disaster strikes we get back to fixing things and creating again. When we get too comfortable we better watch out, because we are not meant to sit and watch time pass us by.
Here are my five tips for a healthy creative spirit:
Television is a time thief and stifles creativity. Avoid it as much as you can.
Make it a point to create things, whether it be through art, baking, sewing or restoring a classic motorbike. Whatever makes you eager to get out of bed works.
From trying the daily crossword to new hobbies, these activities keep the mind busy with positive thinking. Then ideas happen. Life gets interesting.
Healthy body makes a healthy mind. So make sure you take care of yourself, including appropriate exercise.
Whether you gift your work, sell it at a market or simply talk about it, you are spreading positive energy. That’s much better than watching those gas and food prices rising.
If you need to get more creative, then meet the challenge. Start today. Do one thing that will help you take a step closer to creating something. If you are already on the creative path, find ways you can help others release their creative spirit. Now is always the best time to start.
How do you keep your creative spirit healthy and well? Have you taken up any new creative pursuits in your 60s?
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