“Live the full life of the mind, exhilarated by new ideas, intoxicated by the romance of the unusual.” —Ernest Hemingway
Looking into the mirror to see the face of my parents—at their age, not mine—after a night of poor quality sleep is not my favorite way to start the day. Truth be told, I’m not exactly embracing the aging process with open arms. As my mother told me, one day there’s a line we cross when things just aren’t what they once were.
I have a hypothesis that may be flawed, but to my mind, it’s easier for the coupled to age than the single. To gradually age along with a partner means you both come to accept the changes in the other because of what you see in front of the mirror. To be out in the world with the anticipation of finding love past the bloom of youth is intimidating. Will a new love interest accept us with our wilting mug?
As it stands, aging is an inevitable part of life on earth. I am fascinated with people who, in spite of this, somehow seem ageless and defy the predictable outcome. In my endless quest to understand the meaning of life, one of my observations is the behavior of others and of myself in regard to what makes us old and what keeps us youthful.
As Christiane Northrup M.D. points out, the studies done on aging mostly don’t add up. When we cease doing things we used to do, naturally we are going to atrophy, gain weight, and age the same as a 20 year old does when glued to an X-Box. If we stop moving, we deteriorate.
Here is a checklist of some significant warning signs that you’re acting old before you thought you would.
Do you remember how you used to roll with the punches and didn’t sweat the small stuff? If you got a dirty fork in a restaurant you either wiped it off or ignored it. If your server had purple hair and 14 nose rings you didn’t bat an eye.
Being a chronic complainer is a symptom of oldness and it’s a slippery slope to misery. Being difficult will not win you friends or influence people. It never works when you’re trying to negotiate a deal or want something upgraded. Diplomacy and tolerance will keep you feeling happier and younger and works wonders in communications.
Saying no on a constant basis.
“A bunch of us are going to that amazing new fusion Greek-Cajun restaurant on Friday and your favorite person X is going. Want to join us?”
“Oh darn, I’ve taken out a casserole and I want to watch Glee.”
Throw out the casserole or give it to the neighbor and TiVo Glee. Get out and try something new.
“It’s going to be +28 and I’m making a gourmet picnic and heading to the mountains tomorrow. Want to come?”
“I have to shampoo the dog tomorrow.”
Bring the frigging dog along–he’ll love you for it–and you can wash him when you get home.
“I just won front row tickets and a backstage pass to Il Divo tomorrow night. Wanna go with me?”
“No thanks. I’ve got an early meeting and have be in bed by 9:00.”
One late night won’t kill you. When someone offers you an opportunity to have fun or do something out of the ordinary, just do it. You can sleep when you’re dead.
Spontaneity is one of the elixirs of youth. Rigidity in routine is the elderly’s siren song of demise. Say YES a whole lot more and see how alive you feel.
You stop learning.
Keeping an active mind and building new neuronets (roadways) in the brain can stave off Alzheimer’s and dementia. Be curious about the mysteries and wonders of the universe. The world is an infinite university filled with fascinating things to study. Challenge yourself and stay sharp by learning something new. It’ll keep you from repeating yourself!
Watching too much TV.
I sometimes use sitcoms as a drug of choice when I want to check out of my head. Television is an opiate. We’re seduced into believing it’s just entertainment, but it numbs the mind and programs you to follow the masses in hysteria, fear, or plain stupidity. It’s been proven in many studies that watching too much TV acts as a depressant. Think about the ridiculousness of reality TV. Watching someone else’s life? We need to get our own lives and live them.
Fixating on ailments.
My warranty ran out early and I’ve had too many ailments for my time here. Nevertheless, I do try to come up with alternative and healthy solutions to issues. My belief is that the best way to handle illness is to do something you absolutely love to do. It reduces stress, takes your mind off of what ails you, and it’s good for your emotional wellbeing, which in turn improves or heals the condition.
Constantly talking about the problem and letting it consume your life will age you swiftly. Nobody, in reality, wants to hear a rundown on every ache and pain you have. It’s a downer. And it’s common knowledge that what you focus on expands.
Drop your old story and create a shiny new one. Absorb yourself in what makes you happy, what makes you laugh, and what inspires you. Open your mind to the new world of neuroscience and engross yourself with the quantum healing abilities you have within your mind and body. There are countless stories of people overcoming all types of terminal and chronic illnesses and you could be one of them.
Driving Miss Daisy.
Driving below the speed limit, taking corners at a snail’s pace, being exceedingly cautious, not merging in a merge lane, and freaking out over a dusting of snow is old. Drive “defensively,” but with confidence. When you start becoming afraid of driving and traffic, you’re headed for the La-Z-Boy recliner.
North America’s obsessive ageism is fatal to feeling like a sexual being as we get older. We’re force fed an endless barrage of images that tell us that sexy is only for the young.
If you’ve lost interest in sex, hormones may be to blame. They start to fluctuate wildly as we age and can wreak havoc on our libido. But we can still feel amorous if we make it a priority. Writing off this delicious slice of life as a thing of the past will make you feel old well before your time. The French are frolicking well into “old age” and we may do well to follow their lead.
Fitness and flexibility.
This one’s obvious but bears reminding. I’ve put myself on a 3-month Fish (called Wanda) Fitness Challenge that I intend to implement as a lifestyle because I’ve allowed myself to fall out of a regime. The way we move gives away our level of fitness and reveals if we are prematurely aging. If you walk like there’s a pole lodged someplace, it’s a sure sign you’re not getting enough exercise.
Meet Ernestine, the 77 Year Old Bodybuilder (truly inspiring)
Yes, life can sometimes make us feel like a dung beetle endlessly rolling a dry turd up a steep hill. But acting a little goofy can take off the edge. Being silly and a little crazy does not mean you’re an idiot.
Do you remember the last time you fell on the floor laughing? When was your last “play date” with a friend where you had nothing else to rush off to do? Do you flirt and smile at strangers just for the thrill?
Don’t act your age and lighten up, Francis!
No more singing or dancing.
The other day I was in a particularly great mood on a sunny drive back from Edmonton. I sang my favorite Céline songs at maximal volume most of the way. My lungs were revitalized with the extra oxygen and my solar plexus got a workout. It felt good. Really good.
Do you still sing in the shower? Do you dance? Dancing is incredibly therapeutic. When I belonged to the Latin Corner Dance Studio (now defunct, much to my neverending chagrin), I swear it kept me from Seasonal Affective insanity. I felt sexy and strong, and my heart was in peak shape. My bone density was rated at age 25 (and I was 45). There are so many beautiful forms of dance. If there’s one that’s been calling your name, sign up.
Bitterness, grudges, and cynicism.
We’ve all known old people who harbor grudges from 40 years ago. When we are embittered by life and the ways of the world, not only are we no fun to be around, but our attitude and outlook becomes hardened just as an artery congeals with too much cholesterol. Learn from the theme song from Frozen and Let it Go.
I had what I call a “pod epiphany” in January. I’d been gifted a float in a sensory deprivation tank. As I laid suspended in the salt water, my mind chatter blissfully disappeared. I left with a clear head and a spark of realization lit fire. The cause of my emotional malaise was obvious. Based on the “reality” I saw in front of me, I’d tucked my most cherished dreams into a file of impossibility.
I think the most destructive influence on our life force is when we fall into a tunnel of hopelessness and impossibility. I immediately sat down and wrote out a massive dream list of things I could do in 2015. You know what? Some have already come true. If we’re not dead yet, we need to keep those desires in the forefront instead of a dusty file. Where there is life there is hope.
Age is a state of mind. Ordinary people are shattering the worn out paradigms about aging in record numbers. A friend of my sister’s, an avid runner, just celebrated her 60th and looks not a day past 40. It’s not about vanity; it’s about living an engaged and effervescent quality of life until you decide to check out of this Hotel California.
May the fountain of youth be with you!
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