Advice from a 109-Year-Old: Relax. Stop Worrying. Don't Sweat the "Stuff"

Recently I had the amazing opportunity to attend the birthday party of a centenarian. Mrs. Eula Cousins turned 109 this month, and as happens every year, a group of women gathered to celebrate her life. This particular group is what my friend Jackie Radford has labeled a "wisdom circle". It consists of women from every decade of life--from their teens, through young adulthood, through middle age, through the senior years, and though the old-old and Mrs. Cousins herself. And its intention is to share information inter-generationally. "Older women have a lot of information to share, but you have to ask them," Jackie says. Mrs. Cousins' cut buddies consist of a group of 4 or 5 90-something-year-old-women, so experience abounds. Each year, these women share pearls--big fat Hope diamonds, actually--of wisdom, advice for better living, marvel at our lives-- and rejoice that they don't have to live them.

This year our elders kept returning to a similar theme: God has a plan. They repeated this statement so many times--using these words and others--that I wondered if there are things they can see from the vantage point of their senior years that the rest of us cannot because we are too young. So I asked them: From the vantage point of having lived nearly a century or more, can you look back over your life and see patterns, or make sense of what took place, in ways that you cannot when you are younger? That is to say: Can you connect the dots of your life? 

Their answer? A resounding yes. This response made the remainder of their advice make tremendous sense. It was:

 1. Relax. There's no need to worry or stress ourselves out the way that we do. In the end, things are going to be okay.

 2. Become less attached to material things. They're meaningless, our elders told us, and we're way too tied to them. They detract from our peace of mind, hinder our freedom and cause us to worry and stress out too much—major reasons we struggle to relax.

3. Get less caught up in the circumstances of our lives. Just as material possessions come and go, circumstances do also. When you look back on them later in life, the women said, life's happenings mean something entirely different--carry an entirely different significance--than they did at the time that they happened. To me, this suggests that things don't mean what we think they do—that we should stop judging, assigning meaning to and beating ourselves up about them.

We "young" women of the wisdom circle found this advice very timely and wise. And in this post Great Recession/ Depression era, anything we can do to reduce the pressure on our finances and reduce our stress can vastly improve our quality of life.