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Little Adjustments Make For Better Living

I’m trying to find the beauty in getting older, beyond the obvious truth that hey, I’m still alive. In order to embrace the process properly, you have to suspend disappointment about certain things, like forgetfulness or thinning hair.

But the strange thing about getting older, at a certain point, before you are old, is that you are in a strange phase simply called “getting older.” You are still mostly healthy, able to leap small buildings in a single bound, still capable of being the adult you always were but with some minor adjustments.

When a catalog comes to the door from a company that sells high end sheepskin clothing, with hand-stitched coats and boots comprised of natural fibers, handcrafted to last a lifetime, I look through it realizing I’m probably not going to be riding horses through Taos, New Mexico in one of their beautiful offerings. And even though I probably wouldn’t have ridden horses through Taos in one of their coats in my 30’s, it feels a little more disappointing now. In my 30’s, there was still time to do it if I wanted to–to be more adventurous, to cultivate a life very different than my own.

I got a pair of boots from this company for Christmas. If you see a lady riding to Wegman’s on a horse in a pretty pair of boots, it’s just me, living the dream.

I think getting older involves managing disappointment about expectations, about certain dreams we had. Most of us made a million little compromises as parents that took us down some pretty conventional roads. Also, us over 50’s lived in a very different time when Possibility was spelled with a small “p.” We didn’t have the Internet, which is really just a key that unlocks life for the younger generations, where dreams can be fulfilled with just one click, where pictures of every kind of life you may have ever dreamed of living appear in a regular cycle before your eyes. Rancher? Wood worker? Tech dynamo? Dream cake baker? Island hopper? A move to Switzerland? It’s all so possible now. The most adventurous and out-of-the-box anyone I knew while growing up was one friend who visited a kibbutz in Israel as a teenager. Another took her dad’s American Express card in college and went to Hawaii with two friends. We never saw her again when the bill arrived in his mailbox a month later. True story.

I guess I envy the range of possibilities kids have these days. I will settle with wearing my sheepskin boots around the house today, no horse in sight. It’s all about tempering dreams. It always has been about tempering dreams as the years tick by for human beings. Sometimes you end up with a plastic palm tree on your desk instead of a trip to Bora Bora.

As a tour director, I often see a subset of travelers on my trips whom I label, “You Really Shouldn’t Be Here.” These folks have yet to recognize their limitations and show up with their Indiana Jones hats, ready to climb a Mayan temple in the jungles of Guatemala. Evidentially, the same sheepskin catalog that I got came to rest in their mailboxes and they grew starry eyed about a different kind of life.

I love these people, though, because I understand their dreams. I understand that they worked all their lives and now that they’re 68 and retired, they want to see something, want to hold the unusual in their hands and marvel at it. So what if they’re a little off balance or their joints ache? My job is temper their expectations at times so they might have to settle for a picture of a Mayan ruin instead of a climb to the top.

And so the word for the new year is “adjustments.” It’s not a really pretty word, not endowed with depth and meaning like the word, “peace.” It’s a practical word, meant to inspire you to follow a path that has been tempered with reality but still holds some semblance of your desires and your dreams.

Order those sheepskin boots and go for a walk on a snowbound path. Take a ride to the Indian mounds in Ohio and experience our own country’s most mysterious ruins. Do something unusual, tempting, or exciting this year. Live a little.

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