By Liz Marchi

I haven’t taken a real vacation in a long time. My husband and I travel a great deal, but we haven’t planned a time to “vacate” our daily lives and just “be” somewhere in more than a decade. With all the political and social turmoil occurring around us, and the heavy winter we have experienced in Montana, I have to say I feel more than blessed to have spent three weeks in Maui. We rented a wonderful place on the beach from friends in Polson, brought books and planned to do nothing. This is not in our DNA. We are ranchers, workers, doers and thinkers. I am especially tethered to my iPhone. In this “nothingness,” I found some great lessons on aging.

Walking on the beach each day, I loved watching couples in their 70s, 80s and maybe 90s strolling hand in hand. They were happy. Of course, you should be happy if you are in Maui in February, but there was a wonderful contentment in their smiles. Great lesson: growing old with someone you love and whose company you enjoy is worth a lot. Don’t ever take your partner for granted; treasure every moment of health and togetherness.

One of the big struggles for me with aging is knowing that I no longer have the same gift for remembering people, places and events. My husband turned 70 last year, and I notice he drives much more carefully (too slow!) and is very deliberate when he parks. It takes us longer to pack and load the car, something we have done a thousand times on short notice, but now we need the “list” or we forget something important.

I have spent hours thinking about how age affects my work ability. Through the magic of Facebook and our global neighborhood, we connected with a great Montana tech guy who had a place on the island. We had brunch on a Sunday together and discussed a new business idea. The two of us are part a very wonderful community called Hatch, as in Hatch a Better World. I would say I am in the senior division among members of the community. Hatch holds an annual conference that is limited in its number of attendees.  I told him I hadn’t attended the last few years because I felt that someone younger could benefit more from the experience than me.

“Oh no, we need you to share your wisdom and experience,” he replied.

Great lesson: As we age, some things diminish while others are enriched. We should continue to spend time with all ages, and to make new friends and seek new experiences. It’s better to focus on what age affords us than what we’ve lost.

Real change is hard. I’ve always sought the new experience, taken the road less traveled, or been less risk averse than many — at the core, we are who we are. Age won’t take away the love of competition, entertaining, learning, or social needs. It won’t change our basic person. This vacation helped me change some habits: slowing down and being still so that you can smell the air, hear the waves, treasure the nothingness and the quiet.

As we age, we experience the losses of people we love and admire. During my vacation, I mourned the loss of Velinda Stevens, the CEO of Kalispell Regional Healthcare. I loved her passion, vision and grit. I am grateful to have had time to shed tears over her untimely death and reflect on our friendship. It’s been bittersweet. Vacation gave me the time to really contemplate and embrace her life and the beauty of her last goal: a world-class women’s and children’s hospital for the Flathead.

Great lesson: Loss is inevitable but making space to feel, reflect and “be” in the wonder of this amazing Earth is very wonderful.

We are already planning to take a vacation next year.

Liz is fascinated by the various approaches to aging — from denial, to plastic surgery, to running marathons, to depression. Given our current demographics, Liz thinks there is a lot to explore, celebrate and learn from those living and aging in the Flathead Valley. Contact her at Liz@frontierangels.com.