How to stop feeling old

By | October 2, 2017

In the days leading up to my 35th birthday, I spent more time than I’m proud to admit feeling mopey and old, bitter and overly emotional. Life isn’t a race. Logically, I know it’s not a race. I reminded myself repeatedly that it’s not a race.

I still felt like I was behind and losing badly.

To combat my ridiculousness, I would practice a specific negative visualization and, since it kind of helped, I thought I’d share it with you.

Earrings my sister gave me. I don’t need them, but oh how I love them.

Each time I felt old, I would immediately conjure up 97-year-old-me and become her for a bit. My eyesight is glossy and unfocused thanks to cataracts. I still notice my painfully thin, white hair and the deep-set wrinkles lining every part of my face. I’m stooped over and shrunken in height. Blemishes and age spots cover my hands and legs. I spend most of my time sitting because walking for any meaningful period of time is painful. My world is tiny.

I study 97-year-old me in great detail and listen to every body part that requests attention. Nearly all of them ask for something. I nod and murmur in sympathy.

And then I open my eyes and feel relieved and grateful. 97-year-old me would really enjoy living this day as a 35-year-old and thinks I look fabulous. She marvels at my skin and rolls her eyes at the tiny wrinkles I point out from certain angles and in certain lights. Breathing in deeply, she notes with satisfaction that my lungs are clear. She thanks my back and my legs for their generous support and suggests I go and enjoy a long walk. My world is huge.

Relieved and grateful.

Instead of feeling old and wishing for my twenties, can I feel excited that I’m retired and no longer have to work a real job? Rather than feel old and long for my childhood, can I appreciate the fact that I can go pee without raising my hand?

Relieved and grateful.

That seems to be the secret to happiness. Appreciate what you have while you have it. Take care of what the universe has loaned you by showering everything with praise. Instead of fretting over the hairs in the drain after each shower, can I laud the hair that’s still on my head and still trying to please me? Gratitude is the seed of happiness. These negative visualizations help me remember that.

It doesn’t always work, but sometimes it works. Sometimes is better than never.

51 thoughts on “How to stop feeling old

  1. David adams

    I luv this blog, your blog. You always seem to say the right thing when I need it.
    Thanks
    David

    Reply
  2. Salec

    Each grey hair, each wrinkle, every imperfection symbolizes a moment in your life when someone told you they love you.

    Reply
    1. Thriftygal Post author

      My mom likes to say that she earned all of her wrinkles. But she has pretty flawless skin, so I just scoff.

      Reply
  3. Patrick Dwyer

    Anita, you’re on “easy street”. Your worries are a fraction of those who have multiple responsibilities. I learned something that was transformative, after having two surgeries back to back in less then one month. I have a high pressure job in a dangerous environment (I’m responsible for 8 percent of the “plant forces”). In one month, I was cut in half and sewed back together. Until you’ve visited with the grim reaper, you have no idea how precious life is, and where value lives. As the minutes of your life vanish, ask yourself, “what will I be remembered for?” The deity gave me a gift, and “this is what I did with that gift”!
    There are other aspects to your musings, which, since you’re female, you will experience before you are 40 to 45. They are rooted in genetics, and 400 million years of evolution.
    None of this is meant to be a criticism. Your sharing of experiences is worthy, and has merit. Be careful of being shallow. In your avoidance of “hardship”, you’re missing out on many life lessons, and growth. As you continue on your present course, you may find increasing disconnection with those around you. Before long, you may find yourself “irrelevant”, as people around you have nothing in common with you. I don’t know you from Adam, but these are musings from someone with a bit of “grit”. Life is found in the “hard places”, I suspect that you’re devoid of much of this experience. This is a warning coming from the future back to you. (I can’t allow myself to walk past you without giving you my insight, I don’t wish for you to regret in the future for something you should have done in the past). All of this is said out of sincerity and love. Don’t avoid the difficult situations, they are where you grow. Your friend always,
    P

    Reply
    1. Taylor

      To label something superficial because it’s different than your experience is trivializing people’s feelings. Feelings are always subjective, and simultaneously “deeper” and “more superficial” than other feelings by definition when you line them up and rank them. As long as people express their feelings genuinely and without disrespecing others, I believe we should respect and support them.

      Anita, you’re doing a great job, and I’m grateful for your honesty and eloquently expressed introspection!

      Reply
      1. Thriftygal Post author

        Thank you so much for this comment. It’s not a race! It’s not a race! I keep telling myself that. It’s not a race for points in which hardships make you more qualified to talk about happiness either. I didn’t want to snap at the other comment as it seems he’s trying to be helpful, but struggling after his surgeries, perhaps.

        Reply
      2. Allison

        P, I wish you well on your continued recovery.
        I think there are (at least) two kinds of pain in this world – the pain of very difficult experiences, and the pain of lack of enough connection and challenge. This post, for me, hints at the later. You speak of the former, but when you call ThriftyGal shallow it makes me think you aren’t well acquainted with the later. I’ve experienced both, both the pain of clear hardship of the type that makes strangers talk about how resilient you are, and the completely invisible pain of “lack”, and I honestly can say that they are both equally painful to me, and both have caused tremendous growth. In my own life, I’m about 2 years older than ThriftyGal, and also really feeling old. And it’s HARD. Why? Not because my knees ache (they don’t – they take me dancing several nights a week:-)).

        Reply
      3. Allison

        Continued: Because my life now feels TOO EASY…and empty. My easy life of being single, with a good job, plenty of money, lots of time to spent on friends and hobbies, and lots of volunteering, sounds wonderful, but actually feels empty and unmoored.. I ache for responsibilities and obligations – needing to dig deep to plow through exhaustion to comfort a child in the night, compromising with a spouse, knowing that someone else depends on me. But I can’t make a spouse appear, nor children… Any day that might change….but, for the last 6*365 it hasn’t…which is a lot of days to wake up hopeful. Perhaps I’m unusual in my feeling pain due to lack of responsibility and deep relationships (our general cultural narrative would tell me I am) , but, I’m actually pretty sure I’m not alone, as I’ve talked with a number of people who feel similarly. (We also all feel invisible:-P)) I think of the quote that happiness is something to do, something to love, and something to hope for… and think, I’ve got 1/3.

        Reply
        1. Thriftygal Post author

          This this this. A million times this. I love my life, but it does feel rather empty and shallow. Thanks for putting this into words.

          Reply
        2. Anna

          I too can relate. I hit the big 4-0 this year. I have a spouse and yet never had the desire to have children. I am actually envious of people who always wanted to have children and did all the right things at the right time. The decision of having children seems easy while the decision of not having one is excruciating. Maybe this is related to this evolution-biology thing. In my case, life is easy but not that challenging and this is so difficult.

          I appreciate that some people have ”real” hardships : diseases, disabilities… and hearing such a statement must sound so frivolous to them.

          Reply
          1. Thriftygal Post author

            That’s my problem too! I don’t hear my biological clock ticking at all and almost wish I could. Isn’t that normal?

          2. Anna

            I thought that the biological clock would be a fun feeling. Like youhou time to have babies. But it is more of a time bomb, like my whole brain will explode. All this coming with the realisation that if I was to have children they will have a very old mom. I will be dealing with teenagers in my late fifties. Not sure if it is fair for them. It is akin of a lose-lose situation.

          3. Thriftygal Post author

            Yes, but being in your 50s isn’t as old as it used to be. By teenage hood they’re basically self sufficient anyway, right?

  4. Mike Geers

    Your caring personal insight is charming and attractive…only little bit of advice (not that you asked) stay positive with your visualizations. What you think about has a wonderful way of manifesting itself. My challenge to you (not that you have any obligation to accept) is to reframe this manner of creating appreciation in a way that does not involve thinking of all the “bad” things that could happen later. That’s it. Small thing – said out of caring, thank you for sharing. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Thriftygal Post author

      I used to think that too (only be positive), but I read about the negative visualizations from stoicism and found the relief to be palpable when I practice it. You can only appreciate the highs when you’re aware of the lows.

      Reply
  5. AnnW

    Get moving. Learn to do something physical that scares you. I’m going to be 71 in 2 months. That’s scary. I was in the world snowshoe championship (a 10k) this year and the USNational Tango Championship. Going back for more tango next year in a more difficult category. I do push ups and planks. I don’t think I’m in that great a shape, but my dance instructor thinks I am. Drink more water, it makes your complexion really nice.

    Reply
  6. Anjani

    Another way to be happy is to talk to people older to you 🙂 Like this post.

    Reply
    1. Thriftygal Post author

      Yes! I answered the phone a couple of weeks ago when visiting my parents and talked to their 90+ year-old neighbor for several minutes. She can’t drive anymore and seems lonely and grateful for any interaction. After I hung up, I felt immeasurably better about my own “oldness.”

      Reply
  7. steve poling

    I stole this from Dave Ramsey: when asked how i’m doing, I invariably answer, “Better than I deserve.” When asked why, I explain thusly:

    If I think I’m doing worse than I deserve, I’ll be angry and bitter. But if I think the opposite, I’m grateful and happy. I think this is a sort of corollary to your negative visualization.

    Reply
  8. Mary Ann

    Love it, you picked a great day for this topic as I, too, need to focus on my positives. Happy Happy Birthday and I hope you enjoy many more!

    Reply
  9. Louisa

    Your counter-intuitive approach to visualization is intriguing! I’ll try it! The only thing is, are you setting yourself up to be decrepit at age 97? My dad is 96, and is losing some short-term memory, but he’s still camping, flying on a plane, hosting parties, making his own granola and more. I’m 66, and I’ve discovered many times in my life that an age can seem really old from a distance. Then, by the time, I reach it, it doesn’t seem so old, after all!

    Reply
  10. Anna

    What do you mean that life is not a race? A race towards what? Would you like to have children? What is the underlying goal here? Thank you so much for writing this post.

    Reply
    1. Thriftygal Post author

      I think a race in the traditional milestones. Getting married, having babies, buying a house, climbing the corporate ladder. Facebook seems to love reminding me of everyone doing this while I’m twiddling my thumbs.

      I’ve never longed for children, but I’ve also never been in a relationship long enough where the topic ever came up.

      Reply
      1. Anna

        Facebook is a photoshopped picture of life. I deleted my account a few weeks back, it made me feel slightly better 🙂

        Reply
        1. Thriftygal Post author

          I have to have a facebook for my blog. And I think it’s a good way to keep in touch with people. I think a solution would be to not go on as often. Or be grateful that the universe is bringing good things to people in general. Easier said than done.

          Reply
  11. Brian

    Thx . That helps !! Happy Birthday Anita !! I enjoy your writing !!

    Reply
  12. Faithless

    This is brilliant. Thanks for posting this, it puts things into perspective.

    Reply
  13. Rae

    Hi, ThriftyGal – I’ve enjoyed your blog a lot; thank you for doing it! Just wanted to drop you a tiny piece of encouragement re: not wanting kids. Maybe you will be like me: I never wanted to be a mom, and at least every week or so I think – Wow, not having kids is one of the top 3 best things about my life! I’m 45, and I just love it more and more as time passes. I’ve got a simple but full life 🙂

    Reply
    1. Anna

      How do you keep ot full? Are you not affraid that you missed out on something? How do you see yourself in old age (60-70). Also curious about the 2 other best things!

      Reply
  14. Laszlo

    Happy Birthday.! You are beautiful and driven – what else do you need or want?

    Reply
  15. classical_liberal

    “Today we’re younger than we ever gonna be”
    -Regina Spektor

    Reply
  16. M

    It seems that missing so makes you feel bad. Trust me that many couples feel bad as well. Sometimes it’s easier to be happy of our own than with a so.

    Reply
    1. Thriftygal Post author

      I have a list of things I like about being single and “not being in a bad relationship” is on the list. 🙂

      Reply
      1. walter

        out of the mouths of babes….if you’ve never tried being in a bad relationship, how do you know you won’t like it? why else would people stay in bad relationships for so long? i say this in jest of course, but if you’re interested in starting a potentially disastrous relationship, sign me up! i’m up for some excitement too! Happy Belated Birthday Anita!

        Reply
          1. walter

            the plot thickens. very good reply counselor. i stand corrected.

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