Lately, I’ve been feeling that perhaps we are all just trying too hard. We are looking for ways to make changes in our lives but maybe we don’t have to? Change is good, but the adage ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, sometimes can be just as valid. I was delighted when I received my next guest’s post for the Over 50 & Thriving Series, because she was discussing exactly how I had been feeling.
Janet Mary Cobb is my guest this week and I met her through the AtoZ Challenge this year. I started following her blog and she has certainly led a very interesting life. We had much in common and I was keen for her to be part of the series and to write about what helps her to Thrive. I’m sure her words will give you something to ponder and I hope you will connect with her through her website and social media links at the end of this post.
Over 50 & Thriving: Just the Way I Am
When Sue asked me to contribute as a guest blogger for her Over 50 & Thriving series, to share my thoughts, I was both honored and a bit stumped.
I think about many things all the time. In fact, many years ago when I claimed that I would spend the day ‘vegging out’, a mentor chuckled and said, “I’ll believe that when I see it. Your mind never stops.”
But what I have never pondered is the word ‘thrive’.
So, I got to thinking – am I thriving?
What does it mean to thrive?
I’ve heard the expression ‘failure to thrive’ referring to babies and small children who cannot maintain adequate nutrition or meet the minimum growth requirements. And I thought of just a few years back when my life consisted of personal financial crisis, unimaginable stress at work, and a serious struggle with depression. I made it through – I did not ‘fail to thrive’ – I survived, in the strictest sense of the word.
But what does it mean to thrive in midlife and beyond?
To inspire thought, I needed to do what any word nerd worthy of the name would do – first check the definition: to grow or develop well; to prosper.
Then the etymology to learn that it comes from ‘grow, increase’ and ‘grasp, get hold of’.
Then a thesaurus – which had a wide variety of words including: bloom, blossom, boom, develop, flourish, grow, mushroom, prosper, shine, succeed, advance, arrive, progress, radiate, rise, score, bear fruit, get fat, get places, turn out well, grow rich… many of which caused my jaw to clench.
I began to play tug-a-war with whether or not it is possible to ‘thrive’ if we weren’t actively ‘doing’ rather than just ‘being’.
I then checked the Chinese word: 興旺 (xing wang) – because I often find insight from how Chinese words are formed. The first character (xing) is made up of several parts that mean “to carry on one’s shoulder, together with.” The second character (wang) is made up of two parts that mean “sun or day” and “king/ruler/royal.”
Ah, if only I could be king for a day – sitting in the lap of luxury, waited upon, with power to rule over others…
We’ve all heard the stories of someone who spends life trying to get ahead, amass wealth, become ‘successful’, gain power – only to realize they are still miserable. Do I need to live like a king – even for a day – to truly thrive? Or must I live like a pauper instead – as I believed in my convent days?
The more I thought about whether or not I am thriving – and what that means for me, the more I realized that I thrive when I ‘get hold of’ myself and ‘grasp’ who I am, and ‘carry on my shoulders with’ others I love.
For me – to grasp myself and own who I am, I must accept me – strengths and weaknesses, flaws and limitations and all.
Isn’t this one of the beautiful gifts of midlife? As we inch more closely to self-actualization, just through the process of outliving the gossip, drama, pettiness, and judgments of life – we thrive in the simple joy of being.
That said, I don’t avoid or ignore activities that make me feel good physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I ride my bike, walk, garden, cook, listen to music, color, do jigsaw puzzles, visit with friends – and sometimes eat a big piece of chocolate cake for dinner (or even breakfast), stay up too late, and binge watch a Netflix series – just because. [Ok, maybe depression isn’t totally ‘under control’.]
Because I thrive when…
- I thrive when I know with every fiber of my being that life is good – just the way it is – with my broken porch step, weeds in my garden, dirty dishes in the sink, unfinished works-in-progress on my computer, mounds of debt, frizzy hair, and wobbly stomach.
- I thrive when I act with integrity, respect, and compassion towards each person I encounter.
- I thrive when I recognize my wholehearted love and support of my husband and children – and theirs for me. (I don’t need to be off saving or changing the world – perhaps it is their turn now.)
- I thrive when I do not need to prove myself (my intelligence, my talents, my beauty, my worth) to anyone – including me.
- I thrive when I choose to en-JOY the moment.