There is a myriad of sayings about age that are frequently used in American culture. Their seeming purpose is to make us feel better about growing older. Here is a small sampling;
“You are only as old as you feel.”
“Age is just a number.”
“Wrinkles are traces of where our smiles have been.”
“Old age is a lot better than the alternative.”
“He/she is —– years young.”
Every step you take builds from the last step you took
The back of my neck bristles every time I hear one of these sayings. Some may think I am touchy about these phrases because I don’t want to accept my age and accompanying bodily decay. But that is not why, I hate them because I find them to be discourteous, condescending and they minimize the value of attaining a greater age. Whenever I hear a young person use one of these to describe an older person, I imagine what they are really saying is,
“I feel bad because you are old, so I have to say something to make you feel better.”
I don’t live inside another’s skin, so I can’t speak for anyone else. But the many lessons my varied experiences taught me over so many years helped me evolve into the best person I’ve ever been and to take greater comfort with my life and character.
You too are the result this very moment of everything you have experienced. That cannot possibly be a bad thing no matter your age.
You are never too old to fulfill your dreams
What got me going on this subject today was when a friend, while telling me about a new adventure she had just experienced, began justifying her actions with the following statement;
“Since I am a lot closer to the end than I am to the beginning, I decided to……..”
It is not uncommon to hear this phrase used by sexagenarians on up. It is also a common part of my vernacular, especially when I tell my kids about something I am doing. After hearing my friend use this phrase, I realized how off base it really is. First of all, no matter your age, one should not postpone joy. Do things you can do when you can. Second, you need not justify what you do to anyone, you always have the opportunity for greater days ahead, so take them.
In my case, this translates into real things. Yes, I have divorced twice, but the lessons I have learned about relationships give me the opportunity today to find the greatest love of my life. I also have the opportunity to fulfill a great purpose. Although my career as an engineer, public servant and politician seems to be over, I have found that sharing with others my life lessons through my writing and speaking is very fulfilling. Now in my sixties, I am more fit and athletic than I have ever been in my life. I am also growing more open to the greater angels of my nature; love, joy, gratitude, acceptance, respect for all, generosity, kindness and the courage to overcome my fears.
A big part of the reason we feel sorry for ourselves as we age is that we continue to measure who we are with the eyes of a culture that worships youth and material things. We falsely believe that when we stop being the great athlete, the hot young woman, the CEO, the community leader, add your own “I once was”, we are lesser in the eyes of our community.
It is as though deep down inside we have adopted Oscar Wilde’s satirical phrase about age;
“I am no longer young enough to know everything.”
A new vision
Imagine what your life would be like if you stopped thinking you are closer to the end and began thinking you are closer to a new beginning? Pindar, the Ancient Greek lyric poet, suggested this when he said;
“A graceful and honorable old age is the childhood of immortality.”
Seeing immortality in nature is easy; the caterpillar does not die; it evolves into a butterfly. A growing crab does not dissappear when it is molting, it is making room for a bigger form. Trees don’t perish when they lose their leaves during the winter, they grow internally and come back stronger than ever in the spring. Even when plants “die”, they are not, for they decompose, nourish the soil and return as part of a new plant. You get my point. Why would this be different for human beings?
The beauty of knowing death is an illusion of an end is that you can chase your dreams in this world for as long as you live. When you live with this in mind, nothing or no one can deny you the things you feel passionate about. Your greatest days will never be behind you.
Remember, paying gratitude for your life forward will fill you with great joy and contentment.