Linda Lewis Griffith

With age comes perspective, wisdom

As the birthday candles accumulate, so, too, does life experience that helps us put things in perspective.
As the birthday candles accumulate, so, too, does life experience that helps us put things in perspective. TNS

I’m celebrating my 63rd birthday this week.

I’m squarely in the young-old age group, the span defined by some gerontologists as between 55 and 75 years old. People in this demographic are considered seniors, but most are not yet plagued by physical ailments and still feel healthy and vigorous.

I’m amazed at the incredible perspective this vantage point in life offers. I’m as close to the average life expectancy for women as I am to raising teens. I know what it’s like to discipline a toddler and to call the mortuary to pick up a recently deceased loved one’s body. I’ve been married to the same man for nearly four decades, so I’ve been in the daily marital trenches, as well.

I’ve weathered my share of upheavals. If something didn’t happen to me, I often know someone to whom it did. Plus, my career as a family therapist meant I assisted hundreds of clients as they confronted their own transitions, illnesses and emergencies.

No one asks to be buffeted by life. Trials stretch us to our emotional and physical max. I’d have done anything I could to protect myself from having to go through them. Yet each crisis imparted its own lessons. By the time we reach our later years, we’ve inevitably earned a Ph.D. in experience.

Noted anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson calls this “wisdom on the hoof.” It’s the smarts we acquire by surviving hard knocks combined with the ability to enjoy and share it.

That’s exactly where I find myself on this particular birthday. I celebrate this vast body of knowledge that’s available to anyone who has enough candles on their cake. I’m willing — though not compelled — to discuss my findings if someone wants to hear them. I’m also perfectly content to watch others chart their own course. I know that someday, if they’re lucky, they’ll have the same wisdom, too.

Linda Lewis Griffith’s column is special to The Tribune.

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How to foster perspective

  • Stay in the present. It’s easy to focus on the past, and it’s natural to want to recall times and events that had special meaning. Find activities and people you can connect with today.
  • Embrace technology. You can’t possibly keep up with every new gadget. But shunning technology makes you seem old. Stay abreast of computers and other digital electronics. Join Facebook or develop your own blog. Take a class.
  • Let go of judgments. Being overly critical means you’re mired in unpleasant thoughts. Plus, it alienates you from other people. Find common ground in conversations. There’s lots we can all agree on.
  • Develop friendships in different age groups. A wide range of friends broadens your perspective and helps keep you current.
  • Consider new ideas. Talk with people who harbor different political views. Attend a different house of worship. Don’t try to change anyone’s mind. Simply listen to what’s being said.
  • Honor your experiences. You’ve collected countless memories. Some are sweet. Others you’d prefer to forget. They’re woven together to create the tapestry that is uniquely you. View it with pride. It represents a life well lived.