Middle Age (01/31/07)

Dear Zelda,

I'm forty-five and look back and wish I was thirty again. My mirror tells me that things are shifting south and I'm worried that the thrill is gone. What can I do to put some zip back in my life?

Young at Heart

Dear Young at Heart,

Guess what? Age happens. We're all getting older, and I feel the years as much as anyone. Now I pee on the carpet even when I'm not trying to get revenge! So from my perspective you ARE young, and forty-five can be the beginning of something wonderful. Sure, your body has changed a little, but you haven't. The most important place to stay young is in your mind. This doesn't mean getting obsessed about acting or looking younger than your age, it means staying excited about the world. Don't focus on aging, focus on living.

Think of the happiest older people you've known; are they happy because they still look younger than their age? No! Because they don't have any wrinkles? No! They're happy because they have lived their lives fully: they have gone through the full range of complex, wonderful human (or canine) experience. They have lived, loved, and been loved; or they have done something they cared about and been rewarded and respected for it; they have laughed, cried, been heartbroken, and been head-over-heels in love; or they have just taken the time to pull a few "do not remove" tags off some sofas in their day. While youth-obsession and youth-envy is becoming a national pastime, contrary to popular opinion it's NOT a natural byproduct of aging itself. Many of these desires stem from unresolved issues that weren't settled in those earlier stages of life: you'd like to be thirty again because you've still got some thirty-year-old things you'd like to do, things you feel you didn't get the chance to do, or things you aren't happy with in your life now.

As a first step to greater happiness, I'd suggest you make two lists. Your first list should be all the things you're grateful for: good health, great friends, a loving family, a sunny day, a great dog, a pair of red satin shoes that your great dog hasn't chewed, etc.  Take time each day to add one item to that list, and use that time to also think back on all the things you're grateful for. The second list is things that are missing from your life and that you'd like to change... this is your wish list. But don't just use this list as a place to store your old New Year's resolutions; getting in shape and eating right may be important, but what's more important is to figure out what meaning is absent from your life right now. More significant relationships with your friends and family? A sense of adventure and excitement? Falling in love? Taking risks? A new sense of purpose and direction? Making a difference? Skinny-dipping in the ocean? It's up to you.

The final secret is to be bold enough to actually try and change some of those things on the second list. You're not going to change all of them, and you shouldn't try. Figure out which one or two are most important, which would make the biggest difference in your life, and which you could realistically change. Then gather up your courage, talk yourself into it, and come up with a specific plan to actually make it happen. At first it may seem impossible, silly, or embarrassing, but that's just because after enough time we get so used to our routines that we can't imagine things being different. After the first few steps you'll be amazed at how easy it becomes. No one ever thought I'd be modeling bikinis, after all, and I'm sure no one thought I'd look this good doing it in my seventies!

Remember, you're not aging, you're living. When you forget to live, you just age. But when you focus on living well, you will. Trust me and try it.

Zelda

Dear Zelda,

I am a middle-aged woman and my 25th high school reunion is coming up. On one hand I'd love to see some of those people I went to school with, but on the other hand, the thought of having to face them with my new middle-aged look is depressing. What's your advice Zelda?

Reluctant to Rock 'n Roll

Dear Reluctant,

Here's the great secret of high school reunions... EVERYONE'S THE SAME AGE!  Sure, you're older now, but so is everyone else. And I've got to tell you, just the thought of attending a reunion makes me want to put on my poodle skirt and get ready to rock around the clock! What a wonderful opportunity to take a walk down memory lane and find out whatever happened to old so-and-so. Remember the guy who said he was going to be President of the United States? Well where's the Secret Service?  What about the cheerleader you always envied? Does she still have her girlish glamour, or has the pancake makeup just gotten thicker? How about your old beau? Happily married with kids, or writing anarchist manifestoes from a shack in Montana? And what happened to 'The Brain'? Has he come up with a cure for aging? If so, he'd definitely be worth talking to (you've got to plan for looking good at the NEXT reunion, after all)!

The answers to these questions will come ONLY if you attend the reunion.

What really matters is that you go and have fun. It's not just about you anyway.  It's about all of you... who you were during those tough teenage years, and who you've become now. Attend with an open mind and a loving spirit, and don't worry about how well you're going to stack up against your former peers. Just enjoy the memories you once shared and the stories your former classmates tell about their time since the good ol' days. Leave your insecurity blanket at home. Go to the reunion and be yourself. Be proud of the person you've become, and be happy to see your old friends and classmates. People may have forgotten what you did in high school, but they will never forget you now if you're happy with yourself, and if you can make them feel good about who they've become too. It's normal to be nervous to go back to the past, but if you don't go, won't you always wonder what you missed?

We all find nostalgia enticing, and reunions are one of the few occasions we get to really indulge that feeling. Put on something you love and attend your reunion looking for new memories and maybe even a few new friends. Go proudly, go as yourself, and you'll be sure to Bow Wow Wow them!

Zelda

Dear Zelda,

Recently a friend of mine lost her dog and you gave her advice on the phone that helped her find her dog. She says that without your advice she never would have located her dog. Could you share your advice for finding a lost dog?

Lost and Found

Dear Lost and Found,

Losing your dog is like losing your best friend. But if it happens to you, there's no time to waste shedding tears. You need to take action fast. Save the tears for the happy reunion. Of course the first thing to do is to look in the vicinity where your dog was lost, and ask people in the area if they've seen anything. Go door-to-door if you have to. If that fails you need to print posters or fliers of your dog. Use the best and most recent photo you have, and list your dog's name, a verbal description, your name, phone number and email address. Most importantly, offer a reward. Generally people won't accept the reward, but you'll be amazed how much it motivates them to call in the first place. It seems strange, but I can't tell you what a difference this makes. Post your fliers everywhere in the area where you lost your dog, and elsewhere in the city. One of the best places to post fliers is at local veterinarians' offices. Find all the local vets in your area and drop off pictures at each one. Often people will bring a lost dog into the vet if they don't know whose it is, or forbid the thought, if they’ve stolen your sweet ‘lil Muffin and are just bringing her in to the vet for a check up. Also place an ad in the newspaper, place postings on the 'lost and found' section of Craigslist in your area (www.craigslist.org <http://www.craigslist.org> ), and call the Humane Society and any other local animal rescue organizations.

No one ever expects to lose their dog, but accidents happen, and the most important thing is to be prepared. Make sure your dog always has on some form of identification. Be certain they're wearing a tag on their collar with your contact information on it, including your name and phone number. You might even consider including something on the tag about how there's a reward if they are found. Many people are also getting interested now in having their veterinarian place an identifying micro-chip in their dog. I know a lot of dog owners get a great sense of comfort knowing that their dog can't lose their ID, can be identified anywhere in the country, and can be returned to them safely.  What ever way  you choose to go about it, never, never, never leave your dog without some kind of identification. Prevention is the best medicine.

Losing a dog can be traumatic, but if you're prepared beforehand, if you act quickly, and if you stay calm when it happens, you'll greatly increase your chances of a happy reunion. Rover may be running all over, but if you keep a cool head he'll soon be home safe in bed.

Zelda