When Is the Last Time You Did Something For the First Time?
The banner is a photo of Japanese friends pointing towards Mt Blanc
A few weeks ago I gave a webinar on this topic at Wellspring. The title was inspired by Carol, a webinar participant. The spirit of the title is something I write about a lot, but the exact, precise, and economical language of this title is significant. When is the last time that you did something for the first time?
It was like a whack on the side of the head and I immediately thought of my Mother.
When she turned 65, she began a practice of learning something new every year.
- First year it was weaving: learning about design, yarns, and looms.
- At 75 it was swimming not for pleasure but to improve her arthritis. Although she had been terrified of drowning since childhood, she took lessons and after a year she could swim, and it significantly reduced her arthritic pain.
- At 80 it was painting, primarily watercolour. After her beloved stepson died, from melanoma, watercolour classes helped her navigate this new territory and brought her joy.
- At 91 she went up in a hot air balloon for my 65th (she had to fly from Vancouver Island to Ottawa to do this)
- At 92 she bought her first iPad and signed up for a 16-week program for seniors at the library. When it ended, she was the only one left.
- At 97 it was her first marathon, where she walked 10 k with 45 members of her extended family, in Halifax, and required another coast-to-coast flight.
- At 98 she learned to knit so she could make Harry Potter scarfs for all of her great grandchildren and some of her great nieces and nephews. (odd that she hadn’t knit before but sewing and crocheting were her skills)
- At 100 she learned to use zoom, google duo, and other video conferencing apps. Thus, we could celebrate her 100th birthday on a cross continent zoom party.
- At 100 yrs. and 3 months she learned how to say goodbye to her beloved family for the last time and to turn it into a celebration of love and life.
My Mother was an ordinary woman who grew up on a small farm in NS, and moved at age 55 to Vancouver Island where she spent the next 45 years. She left an unhappy marriage, handled her own divorce and started a new life.
“You are never too old to learn new things,” was her mantra.
Learning new things is fundamental to living well with or without illness. And the research shows it is the fountain of youth for successful ageing. Anything that catches your fancy can be fun to learn: write, juggle, swim, draw, study a foreign language, knit, fly fish, you name it. We don’t need to become masters of everything. And talent isn’t the secret. Effort, and practice is what helps us improve and everyone can improve.
Take drawing. All the teachers say, it’s not a talent, rather it is a learnable skill. Obviously, some people are talented and will go on to become professional artists. But here is the important thing: it is something we can all learn, get better at and have fun with.
In my family, we all have sweet watercolour paintings created by my Mother. You wouldn’t find them in an art gallery, but you wouldn’t look at them and think ooh, how awful. They are charming, delightful and we all love them.
For those of you who hesitate to learn new things, there is evidence in the research, with my Mother, and many others that age is not a factor. (Age can be a factor if I want to be the world’s best pole vaulter.)
To learn new things, we need to consider not only what interests us but also to be open minded when we get an invitation to try something new. Consider saying yes to new things even with trepidation. When I first came to Ottawa my daughter invited me to join her in a pottery class. I was immediately intimidated. I love pottery but wasn’t keen on potting. It was fun, nonetheless. It wasn’t something I continued but it set me up to try new things.
When we develop the practice of learning new things, we get to create more memorable moments for our friends and family. Mostly because we cultivate a mindset of let’s try. The ancient Hawaiian’s had a saying: Try see. Try it – see what happens.
We all, at our core, are bold and brave and have something original to contribute. Why not do so while we have the chance? What are we waiting for? Why not splurge on life with each other while we have the opportunity? Carpe Diem is more than a saying. It is a way to live with outstretched arms, and when we do that we triumph over fear and take responsibility for our life.
Don’t close your own doors.
Truth is that life is short. What do you really have to lose by putting it out there – who you are and what you want to do or be? You may try something new and fail. Guess what? Failure is always part of the package when we try new things and being willing to risk failure is a passport to living fully.
A question and answer from my grandson.
Nana, what do you think is the hardest thing about learning something new?
Not quitting. (he added)
Learning new things is important and we get to have fun learning for the rest of our days.
As long as you live, keep learning how to live.” Seneca
Note 1:) I am on the lookout for inspiring pieces by others. This week I am giving you a link to a lovely piece by a friend and subscriber to my blog, Janice, who was invited to submit to Poetry as Mindfulness in the UK. Janice has her own weekly blog called Heart Poems and I recommend it for people who enjoy poetry.
Note 2:) Anyone interested in reading more about this topic may be interested in a book written by Tom Vanderbilt called: Beginners:The Curious Power of Lifelong Learning, published by Atlantic. I was introduced to this by Julie, a participant in my webinars. she heard an interview on CBC and thought I would like it so I pass it on to you. This link is an interesting review in The Guardian.
Note 3:) Thank you for stopping by and you know that I love having this time together every Wednesday. With appreciation and all my best wishes, Trudy