Life Detours

Today has turned out to be one that may possibly define where the next year of my life heads, so I am feeling thoughtful.  When you are very young, you live from moment to moment.  You don't even realize it when a change in directions happen.  In my 20's I found life changes exhilarating and embraced them with gusto.  About every 4 years I needed to change jobs and geographic locations to keep myself motivated.  Now as I grow older, some of these detours are not as welcome as they can define even my quality and length of life.  So today's column is about detours.

"The key to to let go of fear." - Rosanne Cash

Life detours can come in many forms - an unexpected pregnancy, being let go from a job, the sometimes difficult search for a new one, the need to move to a new location, an accident that limits mobility, a long-term or life-threatening illness, the loss of a child or one born with a disability, an opportunity that requires you to take a chance, an economic downturn that defines your financial status and the list goes on. Each of these creates stress and force us to re-evaluate our life and what is important.  They can also cause a change in relationship and/or economic status.  Unfortunately this may be a given for most people in the future.  The last article I read said the most successful people in the future will be able to re-train quickly and will experience at least 4 different careers in their lifetime.  There are also studies out there that the current generation - for the first time ever - will have shorter life-spans than their parents.  Stress, too much processed and fast food and exposure to preservatives and pollutants are thought to be at least partly to blame.

As I have been around a few years now, I find in my list of friends people who have experienced most of the circumstances above.  None of them chose to be there and all of them found it life-changing.  Suddenly the comfortable road they were travelling on disappeared and they were left drifting at sea.  Eventually most find personal growth and a life lesson to be shared, but none said it was easy.  As you age, there are specific things to be faced that no one prepared me for.

"Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending." - Maria Robinson

1.  The loss of friends and family is tougher than you think.   Glen's father passed away in his 90's and all his friends were gone.  He did not find it easy to make friends when he was younger and impossible to accomplish when he was older and less mobile.  It proved to be very lonely for him at times.  I learnt from my mum that with the shrinking family sizes, it is very important as you age to continue to add friends that are younger.   The age you begin to lose people was also shocking.  It began for me while I still had young kids at home.  Worse yet was the first time someone I know lost a child.  I think I was a little crazy for the next bit worrying about my own kids.

2.  The loss of a job within 10 years of retirement is a huge issue, especially for men.  I have known 3 now that were down-sized at this crucial time and all took years to find another position.  It also broke up 1 marriage. 

Loss is nothing else but change, and change is Nature's delight.” Marcus Aurel

3.  The limitations that come with aging can be insidious. A number of seniors I know have told me if their doctor says one more time, "Well, you ARE getting older!"  when then talk about a symptom, they'll lose it. Suddenly you can't walk as far and you get injured easily.  A genetic factor appears or an old injury comes back to haunt you.  You also have to face your mortality.  Diet, exercise, and lifestyle all start to really matter.  As you get older, the risk for many things goes up and you never know when your number will be up - it could be 40 or 100. 

4.  The mind starts to process slower.  I remember my mum at 87 was trying to participate in a family game and stated afterwards that everyone was just playing too fast.  She would think what her play should be, take her turn and then everyone else would play instantly and it would be her turn again.  Same with conversations - they would change subjects too quickly for her to follow.

I have no intention of ending on a negative note.  Every down side has an upside and that can come in many ways.  Most who go through challenges experience personal growth and a re-focus of what is important in their lives.  Learning to value the family and friends they have; enjoying the challenge of a new career or time off to focus on personal issues; valuing each moment as it is; and even experiencing an unexpected new direction in life can be rewarding if embraced.   Each and every challenge life throws at us can open the door on a wonderful and new adventure.  So no matter how scary one moment is by itself, it's important to remember it's just one part of a much larger journey.  While it might close one door, it can open an unexpected path to new experiences and possibilities.

Ghandi Qhotes -

"A man is the sum of his actions, of what he has done, of what he can do. Nothing else.

"If I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning."