There are many clichés about age that many frequently use in American culture. Their purpose seems to be to try 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. Maybe I am prickly about these phrases because I am sixty-nine years old and I don’t want anyone to marginalize me. But that is not the reason; I find these lines 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 sorry for you 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 have taught me over so many years helped me develop into the best person I’ve ever been and to take greater comfort with my life and character.
You too are the result at 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 stirred up about this topic 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 people in their sixties and older. I too use these expressions from time to time. This is especially true when I tell my kids about something I am doing. But, after hearing my friend use this excuse to rationalize her actions, I realized how off base doing this really is. First, no matter your age, one should not postpone joy. Do things you want to do as soon as you can. Second, you need not justify what you do to anyone. Third, your age does not deny you the opportunity for greater days ahead.
A big part of the reason we diminish our value 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 outstanding 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 grows into a butterfly. A growing crab does not disappear 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?
I have experienced many endings in my life; divorce, job loss, health problems, and various forms of betrayals and failures. Yet, even now in my sixties, I am 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. I am living my best life!
The beauty of knowing death as an end is an illusion is that you can chase your dreams in this world without worry, knowing that nothing or no one can deny your pursuit of the things you feel passionate about. You can live life knowing that your greatest days will never be behind you.
Remember, now is all anyone has, make the best of it.
Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash