Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Thoughts on Turning Fifty (written in 1999)

Sheri at One Year
Oh, what a beautiful baby!

Inevitably as one approaches a milestone birthday, the question is always asked, "If you had your life to live over, would you do anything differently?" I have read countless octogenarian accounts that say, "I have no regrets and would not change a thing." This answer always baffles me. Surely there is something they would do differently!

As I approach the big Five - O and look back on my life, I would do nearly everything differently. In truth, I have already lived my fiftieth year on earth and my impending Fiftieth Birthday means I will soon be entering into my fifty-first year. I always knew that this monumental birthday would come at the end of the 20th Century and on the eve of the new millennium. Somehow I always thought when this momentous time came to past that I would be wiser, richer, happier, more fulfilled and with more accomplishments under my belt.

I certainly thought I would know more when I got this old. The truth is this:
I know a lot about a few things;
I know a little about many things;
I know practically nothing about most things.
The universe seems to get bigger the older I get.

I do not have overwhelming regrets about any horrible thing I’ve done. I can live with my bad choices. It is all those aching regrets about things I didn’t do. All the "shoulda, coulda, wouldas." All the missed opportunities. All the wasted time. I’ve let the minutes, days and weeks slip away into years. The years have slipped away into decades and now my biggest regret is all those missed moments. At Fifty I wish I could say, "I am proud of how I have used my time here on earth."

When I was growing up, John Goddard was one of my heroes. He spoke regularly at my Junior High School and showed slides of all the rivers he'd run, mountains he'd climbed, all the exotic animals he'd photographed. His life was filled with adventures, dangers and challenges! Goddard was featured in a Life magazine article in the 1960s with a list he made as a boy of 100 things he wanted to do in his life. He had accomplished almost everything on the list by the time he was 35 or 40, and then he made a new list of 100 things he wanted to do. He set high goals and was tenacious about completing them. I admired that then and I still do.

On April 15, 1972 (when I was twenty-two), I made my own list–not of 100 things–but of 40 things I wanted to accomplish in my life. I laugh now at some of the things on the list and wonder whether I really wanted those things. "To own an Afghan Hound," "To play tennis proficiently," "To visit South America and Egypt," "To learn gymnastics and jujitsu!" "To have six children!" I DO NOT regret never doing these things.

Actually, most of the items on my list are things I do not regret never doing. But I DO regret that I have only accomplished a couple of those 40 goals. To be fair to myself, I have done many worthwhile, valuable and enjoyable things that were NOT on my list. But I have also missed so many opportunities to improve my life, my family’s lives, and the lives of my fellow human-beings.

Of the items on my list: I've never been to Germany, Australia or Alaska, BUT I have been to Washington, D.C.(many times) and England and I learned so much in both places.

I have never been on a cross-county bike trip, but I watched in awe as my son raced mountain bikes for four years and as my husband has attempted the LOTOJA three times. The Lotoja is a bicycle race of 206 miles from Logan, Utah to Jackson, Wyoming, from sun-up to sun-down in ONE day.

I will never own a horse, but my daughter takes care of horses and is learning to ride. I have never learned to play the guitar or piano and I have never written songs, but my son is a great "music-mixer." I can’t say that I know much about classical music and I usually can’t tell Beethoven from Mozart, but I do enjoy a wide-variety of music, including classical, jazz, Celtic and rock.

I’ve never read the Bible from cover to cover. I didn’t finish my Master’s Degree. I didn't join the Peace Corp. I will never teach college (but I DID have a teaching assistantship at BYU for one semester). I have never written or illustrated children’s books (but I have compiled family history books). I have never learned to paint (but I do make rather nice "Memory Boxes"). I haven't weighed 140 pounds since High School and have struggled with my weight for thirty years. I have not read all the works of Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Thoreau, Dickens, and Twain, but I have read some of them and I have read many other wonderful modern-day authors.

Aging is okay if it means improvement–as in wine or cheese. Unfortunately, to humans, aging means decline. The years have not been kind to my body and I feel much older than I am. This is one of my biggest regrets. . .that I have not taken better care of my body. If I had stayed in shape. . .if I had eaten properly. . .if I had exercised regularly. . .if I had avoided Coke and candy-bars. IF. IF. IF only. . . I am sure I would feel younger now.

Thirty years ago (1970), I went on Survival with BYU, I came back fit and healthy (physically, mentally and spiritually). I SWORE I would maintain those conditions for LIFE! How easy it was to fall back into old habits of laziness (both body and mind). Why are bad habits so easy to acquire and good habits so hard to cultivate??

I regret all the time wasted watching television. I regret all the time spent reading trash. Life is too short for such nonsense. I regret never writing all the poems and stories and essays that have wafted through my head as I drive, or walk, or clean. I regret all the prayers I didn't say. I regret all the hugs I have failed to give–the encouraging words I never spoke. I regret not teaching my children to have faith in themselves.

I regret not laughing more.
I regret that I am not a good housekeeper or a good cook.
Most of all I regret that I have always lacked confidence.
I have failed to love my most important friend–ME!
I have learned some important lessons in fifty years. I hope I can keep learning, but mostly I hope I can start LIVING what I KNOW.

Little Things to Conquer Daily:
  • Physical: Control of body - eating, exercise, getting up in morning, going to bed at reasonable hour

  • Mental: Control of mind - daily planning, journal keeping, controlling what you put into your head

  • Emotional: Control of emotions - be patient, cry, laugh, shout with joy, hug, love

  • Spiritual: Control of spirit - practice prayer, meditation, study, listen to conscience

Sheri (at 50) and husband Bill

1 comment:

Marty said...

How interesting to see your thoughts after all these years! I don't know if you remember, but you beat me in two elections (I think) and I was always totally jealous of your success! It's reassuring that even winners have doubts at times.