A number of years ago, long about the time that I started to notice I had lived more life than I lay before me, I came up with a theory: the reason people die is that they cease to feel relevant. This observation didn’t just drop on me like an anvil. Like a fine wine, it developed over time. Furthermore, I’m certain culture holds a big key to longevity.
The first blush of this idea dawned when I realized I had no more idea whose face was on the cover of People magazine than a goose knew how to multiply nine times eight. The who, what, and where of the Kardashians was a complete mystery, the why anyone cared, even more so. Like most people, I live my life making choices as to how to spend my allotted attention. Pop culture, I left any overt interest in my rearview mirror around the advent of the Bee Gees. Mind you I didn’t entirely turn my back. US, and People the purveyors of the culture were my go to reads at any medical office. My children filled in the gaps in rest of my sketchy knowledge base.
What I didn’t realize at the time was I was enjoying one of the few and greatest spoils of middle age. I still had skin in the game but no real cognitive investment in what celebrity lost twenty pounds or the present occupant of Jennifer Anniston’s bed. One of the few benefits of a time in life where people are wrestling with questions with far reaching consequences like what to do about Mom and Dad and how to steer your teenager through the pitfalls of a ferrous sex drive without losing your mind or gaining a grandchild.
It wasn’t until the progeny flew the nest did pop culture all but disappear in my everyday discourse. Suddenly tabloid headlines screamed of dire dilemmas faced by complete strangers. Easy enough to dismiss, but I warn you do so at your peril. The slope is treacherous, possibly leading to a rapid downward tragic trajectory.
Steady, there is no need for a full-bore panic attack nor must you choose quantity over quality of life, at least not yet. If you don’t become immediate twitter pals with Hollywood royalty (as if you even knew how or with whom) you will survive. Out of necessity, I possess a plan to remedy the situation. For if a long life requires a primer on present-day pop culture spoon-feed daily, kill me now.
Here are ten suggestions that won’t guarantee longevity but can make what time you have a lot more interesting and relevant to you and yours:
- Take little steps out into the new and unknown like finding a different way to get home once in a while. Introduce yourself to someone new. Buy an article of clothing you would never have thought of wearing until now. Slowly up grade your look.
- Embrace change. You don’t have to give it a huge bear hug. Try one of those tepid embraces you saved for your mother’s aunt who you saw exactly twice in your life.
- Mix up your routine. Better yet throw it out altogether. Do something you haven’t done in years or ever. Show interest in your grandchild’s favorite computer game. Learn some of the jargon. Ask if you could play. Take your kid to a movie. Better yet take your kid’s kid to a movie of his or her choice.
- Go out and test-drive a new car every month or so. Make it a different car and sometimes one you always wished for. It is amazing how hard it is to drive a new car. You have figure out where the clock is or how hard to hit the breaks good stuff for your brain creates new neuropath ways.
- You don’t have to know them well enough to pick the Kardashians out of a lineup but work on remembering their names. I know. I know. Believe me. I know. The dividends of adding new synapses will be worth it, I promise and it will blow your younger relatives away. This is what puts more grooves in your brain.
- Every once in a while break the law. I’m not suggesting that you rob a bank. Break the speed limit. If you are uncomfortable driving too fast go forty in a thirty-five mile an hour zone just push it the tiniest bit. If you have a lead footed history drive the speed limit. Tear those DO NOT REMOVE labels off your pillow instead.
- The next time you go out for dinner go someplace you have never been. Eat a cuisine you’ve never eaten. Introduce a new recipe to your dinner rotation at least monthly.
- Take a class in something you have been vaguely interested in but never had the time for. Make time for new often. It makes for more brain plasticity.
- Travel to a spot you’ve never been. It doesn’t have to be far, or exotic just new to you. Learn a foreign language or skill.
- Read a new book regularly. If you need suggestions I would happily make a few.
Becoming more relevant has a lot to do with climbing out of your comfort zone. It’s up to you. Following old established habits and patterns while comforting could be shortening your life span. I’m not willing to take the chance. There is not a pillow in my house with a do not remove label on it. Next week I’m going to test-drive a Porche Panamera just for the fun of it. How about you?