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Now That I’m 69, Here Are 5 Things I Know for Sure

May these realizations give you more joy and peace, too.

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illustration of woman smelling a rose
Laura Liedo
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At 60, I vowed to not listen to unsolicited advice. At 65, I vowed to delete any relationship that made me feel less than, rather than fuller, better. I turned 69 in August of last summer, and with that passage came many more realizations, strong and clear and certain.

So, here are five things I know for sure, now that I am standing on the precipice age that divides the decades. I hope some of these later-in-life promises to myself resonate with you, too, as we forge onward together through this one life we get.

Heal broken relationships with deserted loved ones.

It is time to heal any stubborn standoff or fractured relationship with a close friend or relative. I am painfully aware anything can happen to any of us at any time. One of my besties since second grade died suddenly a year ago, on a family vacation in the Dominican Republic. We remained close over the years through visits and calls that often ended with “I love you."

Donna had just turned 69, and her passing snapped me into an urgent mode to reconnect (or make amends) with other beloved history holders. The time is now to resurrect, or fix, our most cherished relationships. You can’t say “I’m sorry, let’s move on” at a funeral.

Slow down.

Simon & Garfunkel had it right in their 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy) which opens with these lyrics: “Slow down you move too fast, got to make the morning last." Now I remind myself: Break from the screen. Break from the breaking news. Break from the stupor caused by moving too swiftly in a frenzy, zooming forward and missing the beauty that is right in front of us.

I have been that racewalker too often, most notably when I walk swiftly through woodsy trails in my home state of Maryland. I used to clock my time and my miles, and literally would not stop to smell the roses and honeysuckle along the way. Not anymore. I alternate the race walk with lumbering strolls, to breathe and to gawk at ponies in a field I never noticed before, to relax, to de-stress.

I promised myself at the age of 69 that I would finally heed the hundreds of studies that remind us that chronic stress is the leading cause of killer diseases. Slowing down during walks through nature brings us more life, and brings us to life!

Hang out with great girlfriends.

In the early years of marriage, a psychologist told me when I was talking about feeling lonely in a family of four sons and one husband: “Only another woman knows what it’s like to live in a woman’s skin. Count on your girlfriends for what you are missing.”

These words through the decades have proven to be prophetic. Who doesn’t feel better after a night out or a morning coffee with great girlfriends with whom you can laugh, cry and vent? Who doesn’t feel better after a long hug from a girlfriend, comforting you after a loss or a bad spat with a child? I love my men deeply and always, though my funny, reliable and empathetic girl circle is my ticket to sanity — and often survival.

The grass is not greener on the other side.

Since my last birthday, I realized more intensely than ever that I am enough, that my life is more than enough, and not to think others had it better. I realized that one of the greatest sources of human sadness was to compare ourselves to others.

This is easy to do when we see doctored social media images of friends on extraordinary beaches on the lip of turquoise seas in Corfu. Greece tops my list of places I want to go, and even if I get there, I know this for sure: I will leave Greece and then I will come home. Our extraordinary experiences do not last. The most grounded, safe and joyful I have ever felt is drinking a cup of good coffee in my kitchen at dawn, watching the dusty pastels of a sunrise over the river.

The extraordinary gifts of ordinary life are right in front of us, and it is a waste of this one life to imagine the grass is greener on the other side. Everyone has challenges with kids, money, family and health. Our own ordinary lives are steady and real, and who could want more than that?

Forgive yourself.

I have often thought of the mistakes I made, would-haves and should-haves that saddled me with remorse and regret. As I celebrated my 69th birthday on a Delaware beach far away from Greece, seated next to my husband of 36 years, I looked at our sons, now sinewy grown men, laughing and playing four-way Frisbee.
And this is what I knew for sure: I made a lot of mistakes in marriage and motherhood, and in choosing wrong relationships during my youth. But today, on that precipice age that divides the decades, I know that I did some things right. I have work that I love, people I love — and people who love me back. So, I forgive myself for everything that should not have happened because a whole lot of good things did happen.

What's one thing you've become sure of as you've grown older? Let us know in the comments below.

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