5 Easy Steps to Choosing Joy in Your 60s

by Debbie Hensleigh

There is such potential for joy in our 60s and beyond. And, of course, there is also a possibility for growing bitter and sad. Without thinking about it, we will probably end up being more of what we’ve always tended towards. In reality, though, by thinking about it, we can choose.

I have
decided to choose joy.

As my
husband of 46 years and I sit on the front porch of our new home in the woods,
we have so much to be thankful for.

At least
once a week, as we watch the sun go down, I remind him: we are both healthy,
our kids are all in good relationships and have jobs they enjoy and are good
at, and our grandkids are too young to cause much angst.

We need to
intentionally take in this moment, this time. Choose to be aware of the good
that is right now. We are making sure we don’t miss this time of goodness in
our lives, no matter how long it lasts.

We agree
to enjoy NOW, with the full understanding that hard times will come just as
they have in the past. Health will decline, accidents will happen, grandkids
will become drivers (yikes!). Those things are not here, not now. Now is good. So,
I am choosing to enjoy now.

I am choosing joy.

Here are a
few tips for choosing joy. Because, truth be known, there are a few things in
my life I could complain about, if I wanted to. But I won’t. I choose joy. So,
tips are sometimes necessary.

Let Go of Expectations

I would
say that letting go of expectations is good advice for any stage of life. But,
to find and focus on joy in our later years, expectations must go.

  • I don’t expect a phone call from each of my
    kids daily.
  • I don’t expect written thank you notes from our
  • I don’t expect my husband to anticipate what I
    really want for Christmas.
  • I don’t expect perfect weather on the rare
    days all of our family finds a way to be together.

expectations, each phone call is precious, and I remember that these are busy
adults who took time out to talk with me. I appreciate the improving writing
skills of the grandkids who do send a thank you note, but will take a hug or a
phone call as sufficient thanks.

If I
really want something for Christmas, I tell my husband what I would like to
receive and have joy at having a man who still wants to make me happy.

Well, we certainly have no control there. Just go with it. A favorite, joy-producing
photo from our last family outing has our two youngest having a grand time in
the mud.

Live in the Moment

There is a
lot of talk about living in the moment. Google it and you will find lists of
how to live in the moment, song lyrics about living in the moment, and exercises
to do to learn to live in the moment.

reminder is our front porch. Standing there, I know today is a good day. I got
up, had plenty to do and to eat, was able to walk the dog, and even
accomplished a few things. Thank you for a good day.

For me, to
focus on my achy hip or the self-imposed deadline I have missed, or how I maybe
should have walked the dog further, gives no joy and is not fully enjoying
today, now, and all the wonder right where I am.

I can
choose to say, “This is today. I will enjoy it as much as possible.”

Don’t Invent the Future

My book, Which Old Woman Will You Be? tells the
story of my mother on her 72nd birthday. No one in her family, as
far back as anyone knows, had ever lived to be older than 72. So, on my
mother’s 72nd birthday, she got up, got dressed, blew out her candles,
ate her cake, and sat down… to wait to die.

She had no
serious illnesses and no real reason to feel like she was near death, but she
invented a future that held no future for her. No one else had lived to be 73. She
wouldn’t either.

For the
next few years, every phone call with her was sad. She was sad. Always
expecting some bad news about her health.

Until she
was about 74 ½. One day, she called me. “Debbie, I’m not dead yet! I’m going on
a cruise with my sister and some friends.” And so she did. Go on a cruise.

And, then
a bus tour. And later, a European vacation. And to Alaska, and Hawaii, and to
visit my family 1000 miles away, driving the distance until she was in her 80s.

My mother
found joy after she stopped inventing her future. She took care of herself,
traveled, and found ways to give to others with rewarding volunteer
opportunities. She lived in her own home into her 90s.

To choose
joy, I see from my mother’s experience that it is best to accept that the
future is unknown.

Don’t Live in the Past

So much
past. So many good and happy memories. Births, weddings, victories, successes,
promotions, vacations, trips, moves, opportunities. Wonderful memories to
return to with photos and old letters and journals.

anyone who has arrived in their 60s and who is honest will say that there has
been difficulty in their past as well. Deaths, divorces, losses, failures,
firings, lack of funds, missed opportunities.

All of
that is good to remember, I believe. The good, the bad. That is how we have
arrived here. Those stories and experiences have gotten us to today.

In my own
life, I lost my dad too early, I had cancer, I had a neuromuscular disease that
had me in a wheelchair, part-time. I have a son with Down Syndrome, another son
who is a recovering heroin addict (clean 17 years!) and, of course, other
off-spring related challenges that I don’t have permission to share. And this
46-year marriage? It has taken serious work.

Yet, I
choose joy, today.

The fact
that for a few years, I could not have walked to the end of the lane makes
walking to get the mail a joy. To see my son, who has Down Syndrome, celebrate
his 40th birthday with his fiancée by his side, gives me joy. A
visit to my recovering addict son’s home and to see him thoroughly enjoy his
children and wife, makes me so, so grateful.

It makes
choosing joy pretty easy, put in perspective.

I will say
that much of not living in the past that brings me joy is having learned the
great freedom that comes from forgiveness.

Letting go
of the results of hurts and traumas, and saying, “Yes, that happened. But I
will not continue to carry the anger/hurt/disappointment that it caused,” allows
room for joy. I have an idea that true joy requires a lot of forgiveness along
the way.

I heard a
talk recently that suggested that unless we have fully experienced the
difficult, we cannot really enjoy the wonderful times. That makes sense to me. Unless
we have had a health scare, maybe we take good health for granted.

If we have
never had a period of lean times, financially speaking, we might not fully
grasp what a privilege it is to have enough money to shop for groceries without
totaling prices as we put things in our cart. Not to mention the luxury of
choosing which restaurant to patronize tonight.

Let Go of Regrets

Oh, my. Regrets
have such great power. And we have no power to change what might have been.

The best
use of regrets is as motivation to live with purpose now. If there are
lingering regrets, there is probably a way to satisfy that longing.

A good,
skillful therapist or counsellor can be so helpful in leaving regrets behind.
Or, maybe a life coach. Or, a wise friend. A bit of sharing and discussion on
the topic of regrets can open the road to being able to choose joy.

Our lovely
days on the porch that are all rosy now, will change. But, even when sadness or
difficulty comes, I believe that joy will be an option.

consciously choosing joy, we gain perspective and experience that can allow us
to remember that “this too shall pass” in the darker days. And, even as life
changes, we can be satisfied and that will allow joy.

I am
choosing joy now, when things are good, so that in a time to come, when things
will be hard, I will know how to choose joy… even then.

What is
your usual mode of living? Do you live with joy or sadness? What would it take
for you to choose joy? What reminders do you think would be useful for you?
Please share your thoughts and stories with our community.

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