The Voice of Experience: It all comes down to one word

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“Attitude” is one of the most important words in the English language. It decides how we can think and act like a 50-year-old when we’re 80, or like and 80-year-old when we’re 50. Any age is defined by our attitude.

When my mother was in her late 70s, one day she came home from church (she’d walked over a mile there and back) and told us how she had helped poor old Mrs. K. up the steps. My father laughed and reminded her that Mrs. K. was not quite 65! But then, my mother’s attitude was such that she never really did grow old; she was still thinking young when she died at 98.

Many of you have heard me say that I am not getting old; this physical body of mine is aging, but I am not. I live in this body and try to keep it healthy, but I have no intention of quitting this life in a sedentary fashion. Too much to learn, too much to do, too many people to see.

When Art Linkletter interviewed Bob Hope for his book Old Age is Not for Sissies several decades ago, he asked what was the best time he could remember in which to be alive. Bob answered, “I don’t think there’s any better time than right now. … If I could speak at one time to all senior Americans, I’d tell them to forget their age and do exactly what they feel like doing. It all comes down to attitude. Excitement is what really keeps you going.”

The people who are the happiest face the future with anticipation and a willingness to make choices. Real wisdom is the product of experience that comes with years of trying and failing, trying and succeeding, getting involved and discovering we really were the best person for the job, raising kids, suffering pain, knowing what really causes happiness, knowing when to keep our hands off something that’s none of our business, and considering ourselves lucky to have had all those rough times in life that taught us so much.

A positive attitude gives us the right to choose how we live for today. Even for those who are confined to a bed or wheelchair, they still have the right to choose how to think, how to act, how to be. Living in the moment is probably the easiest way to maintain a positive attitude, and makes it much easier to show the world (and ourselves) that life is good — just or today, since no one can be sure what will happen tomorrow.

After raising four children on my own for some 15 years, and seeing them grow up to be pretty darned nice people, I firmly believe that striving for a positive attitude in the many times of financial hardship and concern about tomorrow has helped me be the positive person that I am. I thank the Creator for the rough times, for today I can deal with just about anything!

The following appeared on my desk some time ago, and is rather appropriate. Hope you enjoy it:

“If you had a bank that credited your account each morning with $86,400 that carried over no balance from day to day and allowed you to keep no cash in your account, and every evening cancelled the amount you had failed to use during that day, what would you do? Draw out every cent, of course!

“Well, you have a bank, and its name is Time. Every morning it credits you with 86,400 seconds. Every night it rules off as lost whatever of this you have failed to invest for a good purpose. It carries over no balances. It allows no overdrafts. Each day it opens a new account with you. Each night it burns the records of the day. If you fail to use the day’s deposits, the loss is yours.

“There is no drawing against the tomorrow. You must live in the present, on today’s deposits. Invest so as to get from it the utmost in health, happiness and success!”

Mary Underhill is a Creston stress therapist and grief counsellor.