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Do you think that as you get older, you get bolder?

This question was asked on the Gail King show a couple mornings ago. What a question! Heck, yeah! At least for me that’s true. I used to be very shy and withdrawn as a young girl. I preferred being behind the scenes - never upfront. In all of my classrooms from kindergarten through high school, you’d never find me sitting in the first three rows of seats. Nope - not at all!

I loved to dance (still do) and would dance every chance I got. I even had a lovely voice for singing (I’m told I still do) but you would never, ever see me performing anywhere. What? People would to be looking at me! All that focus and attention I would not be able to handle. I sang and danced at home while washing dishes, while bathing or playing with my siblings so I was quite comfortable around my family - not out in the general public. I never took part in school plays, debates, Girl Scouts, dance performances…anything of that sort. I always thought that what I had to say may just “not sound right” or that I might look really silly while dancing. So much for self-confidence.

In my 20s I never wore any form of makeup. Didn’t like wearing pants. Earrings or other accessories - oh no. Shoes with heels - absolutely not! Need I say more? One thing though -- my hair always looked great. That was about the only thing I didn’t mind doing - having the best hairstyle ever. But, when the compliments came (which they always did), I would blush so hard, you could almost see a deep purple in my cheeks.

And as for having a boyfriend in late middle or high school like many of my friends did…what? Who, me? I was way too shy for that. I used to wonder why everyone was so bold and outgoing. What was wrong with them? Why weren’t they low-keyed and reserved like I was?

Then BOOM - I started getting older (for me this was age 35). And as I got older, I got bolder. I would now actually sing and let other people hear me. I even performed a few years ago at a huge congress center for my workplace Idol finals!!! I couldn’t believe it myself. I started wearing makeup -- real makeup. I started speaking out in any arena I had a chance, be it among friends, at work, listening to talk radio. I surprised my own self sometimes.

Now, I participate in the social media arena and actually love doing so. At events like birthdays, weddings, graduation parties - any event where there’s an opportunity to speak or pay tribute, I’m right in line to say something. I’m a totally different person now and I know that all of this is definitely because -- as I got older, I got bolder!!

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It happened. I lost a long-time acquaintance to obesity and unfitness. Paula (not her real name) grew up as a thin, 5-feet 4-inch girl with a tiny waistline. As she grew into her late 30s, Paula noticed that she was gaining weight rapidly. It was during these times that I actually met her and she always had photos in her wallet of how thin she used to be. The then and now photos were two totally different-looking people.

I often chided her that she needed to be careful and to try to get a hold of this weight gain before it got out of hand. "When you see that you have to be buying bigger-sized clothes each time, let that be the wakeup call", I once told her. "Girl, please!" she replied. "I'll just buy a bigger size blouse if I need to!" I took that as my cue to leave her alone where that issue was concerned, so I did exactly that.

I lost contact with her for over 12 years but saw pictures of her on Facebook and in a couple newspaper articles, as she was pretty active in her high school old girls' association. She had gotten even bigger! Her arms were triple the size of what I last saw, and she looked even shorter than the 5' 4" due to the weight gain. I sighed to myself, saying that it looked as if Paula was trying to have a short life-span.

Sure enough, I received the bad news this week that Paula passed away as a result of a stroke and a massive heart attack. She had just turned 50 years old late last year. I was surprised and disappointed but somehow, not completely shocked. I saw it coming. Paula was never an active person so living a mostly sedentary life-style, being overweight and not really caring about her overall health, led to her ultimate demise. How very sad.

Folks, we must take proper care of ourselves, particularly as we get older. I certainly don't profess to be this big fitness guru, but I do try to be cognizant of what I eat, the progress of my weight (I'm on the scale every other day, just to make sure that my weight stays within a certain range), doing some sort of activity, and just overall being careful with my body as I age. Let us all do this and if you have a family member or friend whom you notice could use your help in this regard, don't be afraid to offer it. You might just be what they need to get started on the road to living healthy for the remainder of their lives.

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Fitness, eating healthfully, working out regularly, living a stress-free life...these are all important issues for everyone and in particular, the 50-plus man or woman. I'll attack each of these important issues in subsequent blogs so stay tuned.

Fitness is of utmost importance as we get older. I'm sure you already knew that. As for me, a sedentary lifestyle is an absolute no-no. Now don't get me wrong - I don't profess to be this huge fitness buff! No sir, by no means. In fact I wish I were so I really need to be doing more.

I try to do something active every day. For example, instead of driving to work – from one garage to the next - I take public transportation so I can get a total of 20-25 minutes worth of walking done doing just this each day. Now, that's not much but its way better than nothing at all! (Plus, it’s way cheaper than buying all that gas and paying $125 per month for parking!) Then throughout the working day, I get up and walk around the office do various chores. When its spring, summer or autumn, I walk for an additional 30 minutes during my lunch hour at least three of the five days of the week and this is quite invigorating. But at winter time, yuck, I'm certainly not walking in the cold. I hate cold weather as a matter of fact. The Caribbean in me will not allow me to conform to it!

In addition, there's a school near my house so I might walk around the track there on a Saturday or Sunday morning. I also moved my elliptical machine into my living room so I hop on for a few minutes from time to time. I do a little strength training here and there with my little 3 and 5 pound dumbells (need to move up to 8 and 10 pounds now). And, (so proud of myself) I just ordered a really good skipping rope for some cardio workout. I know for sure I'll use it as this is something I loved doing as a kid. I also found this place that sells a great hoola hoop called the Hoopnotica travel hoola hoop. It even comes with an instructional DVD so you know I’m getting one of those!! I'm even now contemplating what to sign up and pay for - yoga, African dance classes or a gym? I'm more inclined to do the dancing because again, this is something I absolutely love do to. But rest assured, if I pay for it – I’m going! I'll let you know which one I chose.

So as you can see, I'm definitely trying to stay active and not embrace the sedentary critter. That critter is dangerous for the body.

Maya_AngelouI just finished watching Dr. Maya Angelou on Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) in the Master Class series. Oh what a joy it was to watch this 82 year old woman speak. She said that her 50s and 60s were great, her 70s - even better...that she loved that era, but her 80s...she's having such a good time! She gave me the chills! Most people are so afraid of becoming older and this great woman makes it look so much like something to look forward to!

You know what? I'm with her. That's my reason for starting this blog in the first place. As Dr. Angelou got older, she became even wiser through her various life experiences, and has certainly mellowed with age. She even looks more fabulous as she ages. Such grace and eloquence. All this time, I had not read any of her books. Can you believe that? Oh -- that is going to change now. This is my first real look at this woman. What greatness! What a wonderful role model she is. Amazingly as she spoke, I detected not even one ounce of anger in her despite being raped at age 7 by her mother's boyfriend, not being wanted by either parent upon their separation, being called all sorts of names, the brutality of racial discrimination – these among the many trials and tribulations she experienced in her life. She came out completely unscathed despite all that! What an icon!

She is making me look even more eagerly towards my 60s, 70s, 80s and even further (longevity happens to run in my family) with great anxiety. Uplifting and inspiring is what Dr. Maya Angelou is.  A global renaissance woman indeed!!
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I'm mellowing with age.  Yes - I know that and I'm not by any means afraid to admit it.  And, that is not just with the way I look.  It's my thoughts, feelings, actions, decisions, desires, deeds ... almost every aspect that I can think of.  I woke up to this reality (that I'm mellowing with age) a couple years ago and here's why I say this:
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I'm finding as I get older that certain things that used to big a big deal, really don't matter anymore.  I now feel as if I wasted so much time, energy, feelings, thoughts, etc. into these certain things.  One of them is - what people thought about me.  Oh my goodness!  Was I the biggest I-have-to-please-everybody kind of girl.  I never ever wanted anyone to be mad at me therefore I hardly ever said the word "no" to anyone.  I always felt that I had to make everyone happy.  Being this way robbed me of many things (on which I couldn't elaborate in this blog)...but I got older and of course, wiser.

Another aspect is the way I dressed.  I dress so much better now and as a result, look younger than I did even up to eight years ago.  I look back at some of my pictures from back then and wondered why didn't someone say something to me?  Even the way I styled my hair.  I just can't figure that one out!  Now I'm the queen of accessories (according to my children) and may I mention - and of nice purses!  I'm even into wearing belts now.  A marked improvement!

Yet another aspect -- my whole outlook on life.  I'm much more confident with who I am, much more sociable and more optimistic than I was as a younger girl.  If I knew and felt then what I know and feel now, there's no telling how much further in life I would be today.

My moods are another aspect.  I'm much more jovial, I take things and people less seriously, I smile more, I choose my battles more, I have a higher level of tolerance and...I could go on and on.

And so I embrace getting older.  Yes - I love my fifties!  No wonder I went back to school in my fifties.  My whole outlook on everything is now so different.  My fifties are indeed my best decade ever!

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If I knew then what I know now! How many times have you said that in your life? Seriously! How many times? C'mon - tell the truth!! I have said it many, many times as I look back at all or most of the mistakes I made in life. And those mistakes are numerous! You have a few too, don't you? Nothing wrong with "fessing" up. We all have some. Yes - all of us. No matter your profession, title, position, religious or political views, situation, etc., etc. - we all have made them.

I have looked back at even some of the choices I made where many things were concerned. These choices included friends, significant others (oh yes - not afraid to fess up to that one), jobs, paycheck, foods, my health, education..should I stop here? When I look back at some of the poor choices - YUCK! I feel like banging my head on a wall somewhere! What was I thinking then? In my country of birth (Jamaica) there's a saying for this that goes "Yu mussey drop and lick yu head?" (I must have fallen and hit my head somewhere!)

Those poor choices have resulted into many of the situations I've had to endure as I went about the daily business of life. I even continued doing some of them - - not even realizing it! However in all of these goings-on, I have tried to take the lesson to be learned from each of them and knew for sure what I wanted and what I absolutely didn't want again in my life. Mind you, I'm not at all saying I won't ever again make poor choices. But guess what? I'm more cautious, experienced, observant/perceptive, mature...all of the things I was not when these poor choices were being made, and consequently have been able to make far better choices today. Sometimes I smile in the midst of making various decisions, and say to myself "This is not what you would have done back then, Valerie! You would have done or said this or that instead." Makes me beam at my apparent growth!

Then there are things that I had said I would NEVER do back then - things that I am currently doing today. Had I done some of these very things, I would have been "sailing pretty smooth" today. My education is a perfect example. Should and could have been more realistic and focused with that very important and essential task. Young, foolish, know-it-all, naive, I got this. My mantra back then. Couldn't tell me anything because I KNEW WHAT I WAS DOING!!

I surely have come a long way baby!

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