As we age, life changes. For lawyers, getting older means our bodies change, our thinking changes and our goals must change. As we start to realize that we are not immortal and bullet proof, we need to change the focus of what we want out of life. Even if we have healthy lifestyles, age requires us to make allowances for changing metabolism, health challenges and realizing our mothers may have been right.
I am 64 years old, and I am taking the Oregon State Bar Exam this summer. I admit that my approach for this bar exam is much different than my last one forty years ago. I am studying on a plan, not a whim. Even if I feel like I know this stuff, it is daunting that pass rates for the last bar exams given across the country are well below 50%.
There are some things that I have learned about growing older and being a lawyer that can help people like me feel younger, stronger and more vibrant. Since Moses came down with 10 rules for living, 10 rules may be a good format to follow. So here are the 10 tips for getting older, smarter and happier.
- GET A BLOOD TEST. I learned the hard way that our bodies change on a hormonal level when we get older. Our thyroids decline and our testosterone/estrogen levels change. Many of the complaints of getting older are directly attributable to hormonal changes: sleeplessness, night sweats, chronic fatigue, lack of focus, memory loss, muscle loss, lack of stamina and lack of libido. I highly recommend that you go to a clinic that specializes in hormonal replacement therapy and get your hormonal level checked out. Talk about a new lease on life! You might even feel 40 years younger! And my wife loves it.
- I exercise every day, but my flexibility sucks. A doctor told me to stretch when I was 8 years old. Screw him. Now I spend 15-20 minutes every morning stretching before I get out of bed. My lower back is a mess and my hamstrings feel like concrete. I started doing some simple yoga moves to try to help my lower back, called the 5 Tibetans (google it). I hate them. However, they do make my body feel better and I don’t hurt so much when I exercise. If you can touch your toes, by any means, you are good.
- EXERCISE IN THE BODY YOU WERE GIVEN. It is important to exercise every day. Low impact exercise is more appealing to me at my age. My feet can’t take running anymore, even though I have run 5 marathons. I acknowledge that my feet are telling me something, like “stop running you idiot!” For people that are 70 years old and still running marathons, I envy you. But I must live in the body I was given, and genetically marathons are not a good idea for me. So, I do some stretching (see above) and keep active. You can do some leg raises in bed, isometrics, calisthenics, even some weight training. If you do lighter weights with higher repetitions, you can get the same benefit as the gorillas in the gym. I love the rubber bands that have handles on them, they are keeping me fit.
- ARE YOU REALLY GOING TO EAT THAT? Most people aren’t very conscious about what they eat. I remember skipping breakfast because I knew that there would be a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts waiting for me at the office. I have a sugar addiction, I admit. As I got older, I noticed that my body felt better when I ate healthy. The problem with getting older is we start facing things like insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, and diabetes. The more sugar we eat, the more real that becomes. Not only has my thyroid gotten lazy, but my pancreas is not having much fun either. Simple carbohydrates are not your friend.
- THE SUN IS NOT YOUR FRIEND. I didn’t know that getting that George Hamilton IV tan every year would have consequences. I just had a piece of my face carved off because I had a basal cell carcinoma. I know people who are much younger than me that are dealing with this stuff, and it is real. This is the way it has been since I got 3d degree sunburn on a trip to Florida when I was 15. Wear a hat, adult clothes, 50 spf with wide band protection (Coppertone baby sun block). The professional golfers that I play with don’t leave home without it.
- LET GO OF EXPECTATIONS. When people get old, it seems like some of us lose our patience and our sense of humor. Perhaps it is because we hate getting old. Getting old is simply a change in our experience and usually involves learning from our younger experiences. Unfortunately, it also involves soreness, stiffness, expanding waists and gravity lowering bodies. I have a pet theory that people get bent over with age because they are carrying on their back all their unrealized expectations. We all carry regrets, but as we get older they seem to calcify and get in our way. If you have any regrets, realize that they interfere with our enjoyment of life. Let them go.
- GET NAKED. I realize that this will probably be a bit shocking to most people who are conservative in nature, but remember that we came into this life without clothing. Take off your clothes in the privacy of your whatever and experience life without walking around clothed. Walk barefoot on the ground. It is amazing how much better you feel when you spend a little time without clothes. It is cathartic to your skin and will wake you up! It also gives you the chance to appreciate that great body you have.
- HUG MORE PEOPLE. I realize that as I get older I have started to feel like I am less attractive. The truth is as I get older, people want my hugs and appreciation more. I never knew my grandparents, so I never got many hugs from older people as I grew up. The best gift an elder can give to a younger is a hug. It is unfortunate that life in the legal world makes this difficult to hug younger lawyers, but it is not illegal. Does your law firm allow hugging? A hug raises your endorphin level and lowers blood pressure.
- CHECK YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE. The silent killer is hyper tension. I was shocked when I went to donate blood that my blood pressure was 150/100. I didn’t feel any different. I had to eat better, meditate and exercise. I take my bp every day. Don’t have a stroke like my father who had to quit practicing law because he stroked out.
- We can’t keep ignoring the benefits of meditation. Just sit down and count your breaths to 500. You can get to more advanced stuff later. Your body and your brain will love it. It makes you calmer, less frustrated and more alert. It will improve all of the issues raised above.