There are a lot of bad clichés and metaphors in this world, but one of the worst of all is the phrase “over the hill” used in the negative connotation of people in their autumn years.
By the way, the autumn metaphor isn’t so good either — fall means leaves falling off the trees, fallen arches, fallen tummies, everything decaying and going to pot.
We need to redefine these old clichés and turn them into positives. The fact is that fall is the best season, and the fact is that just over the hill is the best place to be.
Anyone who hikes or bikes or runs knows that cresting the hill and starting down the other side is what we work for and what we love. It’s exciting, it’s fast and it’s beautiful.
And it’s easier. Coasting a little is fantastic. It allows you to pay more attention, to be more aware, to see where you are. Once you crest the hill, life becomes more aesthetic, more present, more in perspective.
We live at Timberline, in Park City, just over Parleys Summit. The canyon on the way up is pretty steep, especially if you’re on a bike, and the hillsides are treeless and a little barren. But the moment you go “over the hill,” everything gets better. Fir and pine trees everywhere — no more smog, bluer sky and suddenly it’s downhill.
The crest, just over the summit, is the best place to be — both in our canyon and in our lives.
We are currently working on a new book, tentatively titled “The 5 Gifts of The Ageless: Making the most of what you know now but didn’t know then,” and we are having a blast writing it.
But what we are discovering is that almost all of the common metaphors about this phase of life are negative — and wrong. Some more examples:
Empty nest: An empty nest is foul (excuse the pun); it stinks. But our empty nest has never smelled better — no kids around to stink it up! We miss them, of course, but we can go see them or have them come see us, and we can have them go home.
Slowing down: We don’t think so! At the risk of mixing metaphors, it’s over the hill where you pick up speed and efficiency. Things are easier because you know how to get things done and you know what matters.
Put out to pasture: Hey, we’ve got horses, and there’s nothing they like more than the green pasture they are in right now at Bear Lake. If you’ve done most of the work and paid your dues in life, what’s better than a pasture?
Fading fast: Most of us do fade a bit as we get a little older — physically, at least — but usually it is anything but fast. Most of us actually change less between 60 and 80 than during any other 20-year span of life. Autumn can be a long, fairly flat plateau where, if we take care of ourselves, change happens very slowly.
Young at heart: Usually a patronizing phrase used by juniors to suggest that seniors are irrelevant and trying to imagine that they are younger. The fact is, as Jonathan Swift said, “No wise man ever wished to be younger.”
So if you are in autumn — or Indian summer — like we are, don’t listen to the clichés.
Or if you do, redefine them. Because this is the best part of life. And we haven’t even mentioned the best part — grandchildren.
Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Visit them anytime at www.EyresFreeBooks.com or www.valuesparenting.com. Their latest Deseret e-book is “On the Homefront."