I have often heard elderly people say, “done this, been there or seen that.”
I don’t know if they mean it or are just expressing hopeless acceptance of their lack of desire to do something different, something exciting, something they always wanted to do but never did, due to age and other self-imposed obstacles, or self-limiting thoughts about what they can and cannot do.
Not this Chinese octogenarian woman.
She lived in one of those rural villages in inner China and she wanted to watch a concert soon to be held in the village square.
Knowing the difficulty of going there alone, she asked her grandchildren to bring her along.
Of course her grandchildren were aghast. They couldn’t make out what to do with their Granny’s next-to-impossible request. “What?” they chorused.
“I want to go with you to that concert two months from now,” she said with a grin showing her bare gums (her teeth have long been ravaged by betel nuts, commonly chewed among Asians, particularly the elderly).
They put up so many reasons why she shouldn’t go, e.g., that it is a long walk to the village, that there would be a huge crowd which can get rowdy or that she wouldn’t enjoy it, and many more.
But old Granny wouldn’t want to take any of that. She wanted to go and nothing can change that.
In rural China, as in elsewhere even today, the words of the elderly are never taken lightly. To do so would be taken as open defiance, a rebellion. And anyone who does, runs the risk of getting the ire of the entire clan.
In desperation they said, “Ok, we will take you provided you can grow a tooth by then.”
Again, with a gracious and toothless smile, she said, “Thank you,” and slowly went back to her cottage a few meters away.
Come the big day.
Certain that their Granny couldn’t make it, they visited her very early in the morning expecting to see her toothless gum in greetings.
There on the doorway of her cottage stood old Granny with the biggest smile she can give – and on her upper gum protruded a snowy-white tooth.
This came from one of those tabloids that print strange stories from China (they never run out of it), its veracity never verified. But true or not, it underscores two things:
1. Doing something new, significant or spectacular does not stop with age;
2. If you want it bad enough, all of Nature conspires to give it to you.
How about you? What do you want to do? Not grow a tooth, please. That is asking for a miracle and miracles are hard to come by these days.
More than 25 years ago, nobody ever thought that the Berlin Wall, that ugly symbol of man’s cruelty to other men, will come down.
But one man, Mikhael Gorbachev, imagined that it can. And it did.
Are the walls you built around yourself as thick, and long and high as the Berlin Wall, to make escape impossible? Is it regularly patrolled by guards with machine guns and killer dogs that can tear you to pieces should you try to get out? Are there powerful lights that puncture the darkness should you creep out during the night?
No, they don’t. But it is as inescapable as the Wall because you willing put yourself into it. Even if it is a flimsy wire, escape is still impossible because you are afraid to step over it. Your fear has made you’re your own prisoner.
If that is how you want to live your life, so be it. But that is so uncool.
It is said that the life of an elderly is a life of new beginning.
It is a time to explore life at its best; to get out of your cocoon and start doing things you never had a chance to do before; a time to be bold, brave and fear not. You have reached this far in one piece, so what is there to fear?
Now is the time to give it all your best so that, at the end of the line, you can look back with a smile on your face, and say, “I have done it.”
So start doing it by following these five simple steps:
1. Put Them All Down On Paper
You remember when you were young, and your parents asked you to write everything you want from Santa come Christmas day?
Imagine you are a child once again and writing a wish list for Santa. List down anything and everything you want to do. Don’t worry if they look zany, idiotic, impossible or unnecessary. Now is not the time to rationalize, but of letting all of them out; your great escape.
2. Determine What You Want The Most
Even as a child you knew that Santa could not possibly give you everything on your list. You knew that there are other children that Santa has to satisfy, too. So what did you do?
You chose those very important to you on top, followed by other things, just as important but you can live without.
Be the child you were once and arrange all the items in your wish list the same way.
These are the things which, if accomplished, will give your life a fuller and richer meaning; things that will give you the most satisfaction.
They will make you exert real hard, test your mettle, endurance and persistence. Accomplishing them will make you smile a lot bigger than Old Grannie’s toothless smile.
3. Get Real
There were Christmases in your youth that you did not get what you wanted but was just as happy with what you got.
The same can happen now.
On another sheet of paper, make three columns.
On the first column list down the best five, then write Doable on top of the second column and Not Doable on top of the third.
Review each item on the left column, then tick off whether Doable or Undoable.
Create your criteria for rating each, but you can use these as a guide, e.g., budget, preparation and travel time, distance, degree of difficulty, your own physical condition, etc.
Circle the most Doable item based on your criteria. Be honest in doing this exercise. There is no point in being biased towards one which could just lead to failure.
Don’t feel downhearted if the most Doable in your list is not what you want to do the most. You cannot always have everything you want, and there is always a reason for everything. Besides, it may just give you the same fulfilling satisfaction.
4. Draw Up a Plan of Action
“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”Dwight D. Eisenhower
Make a rough plan of what you want to do. I know it’s difficult, planning always is. To make it easy, use the What, Where, When, Why questions to start you off.
Then add in How Much, With Whom and, just in case, What If?
Don’t over plan. It will just tie you down, dampen your spirit. Besides, no matter how thorough and accurate your plans are, they could never cover all variables out there.
There will always be circumstances that can derail you, no matter how hard you try, e.g., forgotten medicines, not enough underwear, inappropriate clothing, missed flights, a flat tire and many more.
Do not take these things ominously. They are what adventures are made of. Even a walk in the park can have some very unpleasant surprises.
You are not walking in the park (only toothless Grannies do that), but setting out on an adventure of a lifetime; you are setting out to prove that you can still do something spectacular even if others say you can’t.
And that is very cool.
5. Just Do It
The number one reason for failure is not for lack of intelligence, good looks, opportunities, connections or any of those. It is for not doing what needs to be done.
There are two things I want most in life:
– To be a better writer;
– To sit on a beach early in the morning and take pictures of sunrises.
I am working on the first and for the second, I plan to go off to some island (my country has more than 7,000 of them) each month, stay in a beach resort and do just that.
Last time I did that was in August (I planned to go to another island last October but bad weather stopped me), where, despite my knees which hurt even in going up and down staircases, I trekked along the side of an active volcano to follow the 14 Stations of the Cross. After so many stops and constant self talk, I made it to the last – 400 meters above sea level.
Isn’t that cool? No one is stopping you from doing something as crazy as that but you