My middle daughter’s miraculous survival and complete recovery from her year-long medical crisis and hospitalization was a huge turning point in my life. It also happened to coincide with my turning 50, a naturally big life-marker.
These events made my self-reflecting quality take on a whole new emphasis. My gut-feeling angst churned at a non-stop and deeper level.
I had just witnessed a miracle. How do I honor that? People do wonderfully meaningful things out of loss and tragedy. They start organizations, become part of worthy causes; create something bigger that transcends the loss. My situation had a good outcome – what was I to do with that?
Having sat with every beep and bleep of the life-saving machines Nava was on and realizing firsthand the thinnest of threads upon which our lives all hang, moved me to want to go beyond my ‘old’ life and do something new.
And so, my searching began. I saw an article on puppy-raising and training for the disabled. I signed on. For 19 months we fostered an adorable mix of a golden retriever and yellow lab who came with a thick instruction book that we followed to a tee.
The goal: to get him trained well enough to pass his tests and go on to live out his life in service to a person with a disability. And so he did! Mission accomplished.
I had seen the movie Patch Adams and was enthralled with his way of doctoring and healing. My interest was keenly piqued when I stumbled across something promoting Patch Adams’ clowning trips.
It showed me that you didn’t have to be a professional clown; the only requirement was to dress up and bring your silliness. And so I, together with my good-sport hubby, embarked on an adventure of uninhibited gallivanting around Sicily, contributing joy in the universal language of smiles and laughter.
Hospitals, senior homes, juvenile centers, rehab centers, and such were the recipients of cheer from a fun-loving group of all-aged folks.
As awesome as these experiences were, and they have both been colorfully woven into the tapestry of my life, they were time limited. I was looking for something more lasting that would possibly change the course of my life.
I did not come to any major breakthroughs, at least not the external or concrete kind. What did come through, however, has been more internal. I live with a greater sense of urgency and intention, with the fragility of life and the reality of death accompanying me, motivating me to live a rich life.
What has become lasting has been the idea of taking on all kinds of new things, opening myself up to new possibilities and opportunities, seeing the world as an endless palette of curious colors waiting to be tried.
Some ‘small’ things, like increasing my intake of vegetables beyond my childhood likes of peas, carrots, and corn, has become exciting as I’ve taken on a much healthier lifestyle. I don’t exactly love those cruciferous veggies, and I do have to force myself to eat at least a little (especially for my bones since I have osteoporosis).
I’ve developed a love for avocados, the consistency of which I had found icky. After hearing that my grandson eats them whole like fruit, I decided to give them another try (knowing they’re a great brain food). And lo and behold, they have become a part of my daily diet.
It is said that kids need to be exposed to a new food at least 10 – 15 times before possibly being accepted. Well, I would say we also need to give ourselves re-exposure to things we hadn’t liked and try them again. We might surprise ourselves.
So now let’s climb aboard the train towards some new tracks ahead. Here are 3 ways to develop a mindset for embracing fresh and unexplored possibilities:
Curiosity is a key to staying youthful and engaged. There’s so much to learn. Exploring and expanding on our interests and questions and seeing where they take us is fun and stimulating.
Did you like a certain film or book? Go online and learn more about it. One thing can lead to another and before you know it, you’re engaged in something more.
Curiosity is a strength that’s invigorating and the antithesis of boring. There’s no such thing as boredom when curiosity is present. It’s a large ingredient in the recipe for rich living. The world is truly our oyster for discovery.
There are whole new opportunities to be had. Push through the stagnation of the status quo and give it a whirl. There are always plenty of reasons/excuses not to, but go after the ones to do anyway.
Familiarity keeps us in our comfort zone and leaves nothing to grow towards. That’s when feeling stuck or bored can come into play. Potential and excitement open up when we decide to leave the customary and usual. As the quote by Neale Walsh states, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
As long as we’re on this side of the earth, we’re growing. So why not be intentional about it. The old myth that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is exactly that – a myth. We may be more set in our ways but again, that’s more of a mindset.
We can become more open to learning and evolving if we make that decision. Much of how we age and live is about our choice and our beliefs. We can always choose to do things differently, to try out other options.
I used to think that by the time I was ‘older’ (whatever age that means to you), I’d know a lot and have less questions. Well, that’s a myth too, at least for me. I’m always amazed that I just keep having more and more questions.
The mystery of life gets more mysterious. The road to self-discovery is a forever path, and our potential is never-ending.
What major life event has changed your thinking about life and growth? Have you made a conscious decision to continue growing until your last day on earth? What pushed you in that direction? How have you grown since making that decision? Please share with the community!