This is us! My husband and I are your hosts at Bear Spring Eco Retreat and creators of Reworks Upcycle Shop. We're both over the age of 50 and, together, we do it all. We are your housekeepers, cleaners, gardeners, landscapers, carpenters, sales staff and recyclers. We wash toilets, do laundry, weed gardens, mow lawns, plan events, stack firewood, repair furniture, vacuum tents, greet guests, remove wasp nests, build fences, preserve food and plant flowers. We also find time to listen to music, volunteer, make art, walk in the forest and throw parties. Our goal is to build a self-sufficient retreat for our guests to enjoy while living a meaningful life that we don't need a vacation from.
This year, I turned 51. Crazy, I know. Because, to be honest, I don’t feel that old at all. And, I also know I'm not alone in this thinking. So, in this blog post, I’ve decided to try and impart some light-hearted wisdom to all those who are younger than me.
First of all, never stop moving. Our bodies are made for movement and if you stop moving then they start to seize up. Of course, this is easier said than done. If you have an office job like I used to, it’s even harder to keep moving. Going to the gym is boring and costs too much money. For that reason, I recommend a change in career or even starting your own business that incorporates a lot more movement and preferable outside. It’s never too late to try something new. Perhaps a new path as a yoga instructor, farmer or starting a glamping retreat, like I did, is an option for you. If you can’t do that, find an activity or hobby that gets you moving. Make it part of your lifestyle and not another chore.
Second, make sure you get enough sleep. I can’t emphasize how important this is. Luckily with lots of movement, you’re likely to sleep well anyway. But if you don’t. Get that sorted. Without adequate sleep, leading to all sorts of health problems making life unbearable.
Third, maintain a childlike curiosity. Studies have shown that curious people are happier, are greater achievers, are more empathetic, have more meaningful relationships and receive better healthcare outcomes. Curious people are survivors too. Being open to change and learning new things makes our brains release dopamine which is the feel-good chemical our bodies make naturally when stimulated with new knowledge. Try playing a musical instrument, read books, learn a new skill or make friends with people from different cultures.
Four, enjoy food. There are no hard and fast rules here as this link indicates. But, from my experience, one should eat what makes you feel healthy, happy and is culturally appropriate. Food is baked into our culture and diets vary vastly around the world. I think it’s important to enjoy preparing food and to share meals with others too. Most animals spend a better part of their day foraging for food so it would make sense that humans spend some time preparing meals. Food is also a necessity for life. It only makes sense that we should give it as much care and attention as getting enough sleep.
Five, have fun! This point is very important. We need to find joy in life or we risk becoming lonely, disconnected and lose meaning. Many of us toil at work for hours a day during the week only to enjoy a few hours on the weekend or worse yet, work overtime to take a two week vacation once a year. It’s important to find work that is enjoyable but to also find a balance. Be sure to make time every day for a fun activity or better yet strive to create a career that gives you this balance every day. Even household chores are an opportunity for fun. As we age, we need those memories to look back on and feel gratitude.
Six, don’t fall for gimmicks. Anti-aging creams, weight-loss schemes, body slimming clothes and makeup be damned. None of the above will give you a permanent fix to our constantly changing bodies. It’s unfortunate that our society puts so much emphasis on eternal youth and being the perfect size in order to have value. We are so much more than our appearance. Besides, if we’re not aging, we’re dead. I believe we need to appreciate just how amazing our bodies are no matter how many wrinkles, grey hairs or spare tires we have. The most important thing is to be healthy and happy. It’s not necessary to try and conform to the current unattainable standards or limit ourselves to 'age appropriate' activities. I eat and wear what I like. I am grateful that I can ride my bicycle wearing a dress, smell the forest, see the seasons change, taste delicious food, feel the heat of the sun on my skin and hear the sound of birds chirping. It really doesn't matter what others think we should look like or what you should or shouldn't do. It only matters that you are comfortable and enjoying yourself. If you are happy and healthy, people will be drawn to you anyway.
Seven, never compare yourself to others. “Comparison is the thief of joy”. No truer words have ever been spoken. When we compare ourselves to others we most often feel inadequate. That leads to unhappiness, jealousy, resentment, anxiety and eventually illness. Everyone is on their own path. I don’t own new furniture, only an assortment of used stuff, but I enjoy the boho aesthetic in my home. I don’t have the most athletic body but I’m active and feel healthy. I haven’t achieved the notoriety in my workslife that some of my friends or family have but, I’m proud of the things I have accomplished. And this is not to say that I never have feelings of insecurity. I’m human just like the rest of you. Some days I feel ugly. Other days I feel like a failure. But if I compare myself to others, I just exasperate my insecurities. It’s important to remember that everyone has ups and downs, successes and failures and they’re all different. Things are constantly changing too. Just focus on your own experiences and learn from them. It's the only way to grow.
Eight, enjoy the outdoors and live within the seasons. It’s true that spring and summer are my favourite seasons. I love the warm, carefree days of not needing to bundle up. I can randomly pick chives from the garden and spend lazy days at the beach swimming in the river. It can be a busy time too. I sleep less because the days are longer and I work hard in the garden. I have come to realize that living within the seasons year round is particularly important in climates like ours. Embrace the crisp morning of fall and enjoy the outdoors in the snow. Try skiing, snowshoeing or simply build a snowman. Slow down and sleep late until the sun rises. Eat what’s in season too. Roasted root vegetables are comforting during the cold winter months. Crunchy salads are refreshing in the summer. It’s healthier and more sustainable to engage in activities and eat what’s appropriate and available for the season. I don’t feel the need to travel to Mexico in the middle of February because I took enough time in the summer to enjoy the paradise that exists in summer right here in Kootenays.
Finally, live a life you don’t need a vacation from. Choose to live a life with purpose and meaning everyday. It should not a be a distant goal. I believe a more holistic view of living creates a happier, healthier life. Rather than making exercise a task, do fun activities that incorporate physical activity into your daily routine. Try riding your bicycle on your commute to work instead of driving. Make sure you don’t take on more tasks than you can fit into a day. It's OK to say 'no'. Schedule enough sleep. Pursue work and play that is interesting and stimulating. Even better choose a career that feels like play. Make time for meals, sharing and fun, eat together, socialize, build connections with others, make art and learn new skills. Don’t worry about getting older or compare yourself to others. Enjoy the diversity. Embrace change. Live in the present. Everything we need is right here, right now. Of course we must allow ourselves to reflect on the past and plan for the future but we can only live now.