Last summer, I was dragged into watching a reality show, “The Bachelorette.” My college-aged daughter invited me to join her in this indulgence to promote mother-daughter time. Although I love time with her, I was skeptical about the merits of this particular series. But I agreed and tolerated watching a handful of episodes.
Admittedly, I enjoyed rolling my eyes along with her during some of the scenes, smiling at this absurd kind of setup for marriage proposals, and discussing what real-life healthy relationships should look like. And, surprisingly, I discovered something new. I learned that people in this show loved to talk about having deep and meaningful conversations, but often, at least on camera, never actually did it.
Most of us are wired to enjoy a good conversation. The kind that pulls you in by curiosity and in the end leaves you informed, happy or contemplative. But unless we are intentional about it, it doesn’t always happen.
As the holidays unfold, and we are in the midst of serving up some of the most amazing and delicious foods of the year, we are surrounded by wonderful opportunities to also serve up meaningful, fun and full conversations with those around us. I encourage you to take advantage of it.
This is the perfect time for active older adults and their families to have discussions with each other about what it means to them as they age forward, and to clarify the plans which need to be in place to make that process a well-informed one for everyone involved.
Many retirees have been smart about getting their wishes down on paper in the form of power of attorneys and wills. But even if you haven’t, it is never too late to start. Living wills are also a beneficial tool for letting your family know how you would like to be cared for and who will speak for you in the event you can no longer verbalize your care wishes. Putting these documents in order is a gift your heirs will appreciate beyond measure. But talking about it with them will also provide depth and understanding.
I also encourage you to write down details about yourself which may not show up in wills or living wills. It could look like a personal resume to describe you and your history. Share who you are, your daily routines, your likes and dislikes, what you did for a living, and how all of that made you into who you are today. Writing down your opinions and values will show what’s important to you. These may be things you think your family already knows about you, but they might not remember it quite the same when under stress or pressure.
It can be difficult and awkward to open up these conversations with our loved ones. Some cultures may even find it rude to be so bold in voicing opinions and end of life wishes. But not doing it at all, leaves everyone in a state of uncertainty and worry. The truth is, the timing may never feel right and words may never sound perfect, but making the effort to be open and honest will be worthwhile.
This is the season for joyful gatherings and connecting with friends and loved ones. Bring your voice to the table and serve up important conversations. Throw in a side of honesty and vulnerability. Spice it up with love and intentionality. At the end of the day a festival meal includes both a full belly and a full heart.