February 10, 2015

The one Thing We can’t Change.

old woman on swing

Humans are wonderfully mutable beings.

We are constantly growing, dividing, shedding, ingesting, expelling, absorbing—changing. In fact, with the frightening developments in medicine and technology, we can now change our hair color, eye color, breast size, nose shape, waist line and a thousand other perfectly acceptable imperfections.

Some folks are even brave enough to make occasional changes in attitude, opinion and habit.

But, there is one thing that no surgical or technological procedure can change—the day we swam out of the womb and fell kicking and smiling into this world.

It seems that, as a culture, we have become obsessed with age and terrified of aging. There are countless products and services available nowadays that can help us to hide our age and appear to be something that some of us actually aren’t anymore—young.

We have come up with all kinds of sayings to help us excuse and refute the unpardonable act of aging:

“Fifty is the new thirty”, “You’re only as old as you feel”, “Thirty-nine forever.”

Many of us go to great pains to hide our age. I used to purposefully clip the gray hairs out of my beard, until the task became absurdly overwhelming. I even tried shaving my beard off a couple of years ago, after more than fifteen years of hiding behind whiskers. According to my kids, I probably stepped back a few years in time, but it only took me two weeks to realize that I dislike shaving a lot more than I dislike gray hair.

I came to realize that I love the fact that I was born in 1969—the year of Woodstock, guys walking on the moon, the Mets winning the World Series and Maya Angelou publishing I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

The interesting thing is, I am savoring getting older. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I have experienced an epiphany and have been blessed by some divine knowledge, but things do become clearer. At 45, I feel calmer, more focused, grounded and balanced.

That’s not to say that my world couldn’t turn into blinding chaos at any moment, but for now, things are solid.

Our perceptions about age and aging are formed, largely, by the media and advertising. Everywhere we turn, we are bombarded with images of young people, laughing and frolicking in their sleek bodies. Middle aged and older folks are not of much use for marketers, unless they are selling some product to help the body do what it’s supposed to do.

With the many images of young people savoring life, we feel start to feel a little guilty and out of place as we age.

The truth is, however, that our age is the accumulation of our experiences, mistakes, wrong turns, right turns, accomplishments, failures and dreams.

When all of that is thrown into a blender, it makes for a great smoothie. The one ingredient that can’t be left out is consistency. No matter what happens in life, we must remain consistent with our values, principles and beliefs. These are the threads that weave the different stages of our lives together.

I have also have had the great fortune to be able to mentor some younger friends in the search for direction in their lives. Looking back to 25 from 45, provides a unique perspective on how to (and how not to) build a purposeful life.

Everyone does it in their own fashion, but the good news is that there are young people that aren’t satisfied with super-sized TV’s and soda pop. There are young people who want more from their time on Earth and I have had the honor of sharing ideas with many who are embarking on the mindful path.

We can and should enjoy each stage of life to its fullest. If we become too concerned about hiding gray hair, ironing out wrinkles and snipping fat, we’re taking time away from being present and appreciating every moment.

Gratitude: just for being alive, for making it this far.

The one thing we must never do, no matter how far along we get, is stop dreaming and scheming. Setting goals, taking steps, moving forward, that is what keeps our blood flowing and our eyes wide open. It is also helpful to remember that dreams grow better when they are fertilized with a bit of spontaneity and improvisation.

Dream. Age. Enjoy. Thank. And then do it all over again.

Relephant read:

Growing Old Gracefully.

Author: Peter Schaller

Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock

Photo: flickr

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