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Accepting aging

May 27, 2015 0 Comments

  The years keep piling up; one year rolls inexorably to its end and another quickly takes it place. This used to frustrate me a good deal, and I kept trying to figure out ways to stop or at least slow down the process. Finally, I think, I simply realized the struggle was futile, although I don’t think it was an especially serene acceptance. I still find it a bit unbelievable that I currently exist into the 21st century.  Why, it was only yesterday that we reached the century mark! Where has all the time gone?

Today it seems that while each day lasts longer (or certainly many of them do) the years fly by more and more quickly. Have I always had a fascination for Time? I suspect so, although I know that fascination has increased as I have grown older. The most fascinating thing of all about Time is the fact that, though I obviously have grown older with each passing year, in some inexplicable way, I haven’t aged at all. Essentially, I am the same as I always was. I know, of course, that I’m no longer a baby, helpless and dependent on others to get my needs met. I have matured in the way I view the world, deal with others, conceptualize my Higher Power, accept reality, and so forth. But at the core of my being I’m still the same Me. 

It’s extremely difficult for me to believe that I am 75. But then I felt that way when I turned 50, and then 60, and so on.  However, when I look back over the years, I can readily accept the fact that my childhood took place many years ago. Actually, I don’t remember my very early years with a lot of clarity. Mainly I remember feeling afraid of anything that was new to me.  I seemed to have been born with a terror of making a mistake.  And yet, I remember my enjoyment at certain radio programs (like the Cinnamon Bear at Christmas or the scary, creepiness of The Shadow). I also remember with fondness going to the annual company picnic thrown by the company for which my father worked.

Childhood does, indeed, seem far away. But young adulthood is another story entirely. It seems just yesterday I was in college, preparing to get married, expecting my first child. Can it have been more than 40 years since I passed that first big milestone and went from age 29 to being 30. I think that was the first time I really became aware of, and feared, the aging process. In my mind it was great to be in my twenties.  I was glad to leave my teens behind me.  Now I was mature, an adult, I could do what I wanted to do.  But when I realized that I would soon be 30, I felt as though I were going from being a young person into the start of middle age. These last 45 years I must have been in suspended animation, because I still feel as though I am going from a young person into the start of middle age. Only now I am 75 and old by anyone’s calculations.  Why has my body changed and aged so much in those intervening years when my mind has changed so little.  My mind hasn’t aged; it has only improved.  Its perspective has shifted from time to time to enable me to lead a better life.

Naturally, life has changed a lot over the years. I know this. It’s a fact. But my mind has not in any real sense become old. Instead it has become more flexible, more stable, more aware, less fearful, more trusting.  I am much more comfortable with my emotions today than I was in the past.  Of course, I forget things more often than I did in the past, but I have trained myself to remember those things that I need to remember.  I make lists to help my forgetful mind. I can even see that there are sometimes benefits in what I choose to call “selective forgetting.”  Perhaps some of the forgetfulness has been necessary in order to enable me to get more in touch with the “Inner Me.”

Today, I’ve gained more control over my mind, and find it’s far more likely to do what I want it to do than ever before.  If I make up my mind that I am going to be happy, I can usually be happy. vI can also enjoy being miserable if I wish to be, and sometimes I still do. A good cry is very healthy, and a little self-pity can be very comforting as long as I don’t let it go on too long.  Insights and knowledge have gradually come to me as I’ve matured. A few are especially significant, so much so that I wonder why it took me so long to learn to accept them. The knowledge has been around for centuries, but until recently I haven’t been able to take it in and use it.

I’ve learned the importance of focus for one thing. I’ve finally realized that whatever things I allow my mind to focus on are going to increase. Therefore, if I focus on any pain I have, I’ll feel more pain, But if I focus more on more positive things, if I try to seek out some small good in any difficult situation and dwell on that, that good will increase.

Secondly, I’ve finally realized how important perspective is.  The way I look at something (determined mainly by overall attitude) has a lot to do with how I actually see it.  I have a bow window in my living room and I keep several cut crystal ornaments on the sill.  The patterns of light, the rainbows at times, coming from those crystals are determined by two things. First, by the external factors, so that I get stronger rainbows on a sunny day than on a cloudy one, or with moonlight.  Secondly, though, what I see depends on where I sit in the room.  Changing the way I look at those object–sometimes just making a slight shift, can make all the difference in the beauty I see.  Just as attempting to make a slight shift in the way I look at other things in my life–perhaps resentment toward someone or a feeling of anxiety–can suddenly allow me to see things I hadn’t been able to see before.

All in all, it’s a given that everybody ages and all of us are terminal from the day we are born.  As a child I can remember being told that the only things certain in life were “death and taxes.”  Still, when we are young, old age seems very far away.  Even as we age, I think most of us human beings believe on some level we are immortal. Of course we know we aren’t going to live forever. But death feels like something that happens to others, and I suspect for most of us, though we know it will come someday, we live as though we were going to live forever. I have really struggled to live in the present moment and not slip into either the past or the future. I keep telling myself over and over to “stay in the now.”  Nonetheless, I know it’s a human trait to not be able to accomplish this with any degree of success.  It’s very natural to relive the past and to worry about the future. I try to avoid beating myself up for my inability to always stay in the here and now, and to simply work on doing the best I can.

The other thing I remember being told over and over again was that “aging was just a state of mind.”  Others told me, “You’re as young as you feel.” Part of that is valid, but in recent years I have been very aware that my body just doesn’t function as it used to.   I’m still concerned about my looks, and sometimes I get a jolt of surprise when I look in the mirror and see someone who, in that first brief instant, looks more like my mother than like me.  I get this odd feeling in which I wonder who I am anyway. I didn’t used to look so much like my mother, but I sure do today! The old body has obviously changed, though the Spirit, I think, has stayed essentially the same.  I still wonder at times how this is possible.

There’s a favorite Peter, Paul, and Mary song which says, “the answer my friend, is written on the Wind.” There is so much in this life for which we really don’t have answers. All we really have are theories; I’ve read my share of books with all kinds of theories about who we are, why we are here, where we are going.  The ideas that best suit me these days are those that indicate that while we live temporarily in bodies which go through an aging process, essentially we are not bodies, but we are Spirits. These Spirit can change and mature, but there is a part of them which is eternal.  Therefore, I am most comfortable with all my many birthdays when I can stay focused on the fact that those birthdays belong to the bodily part of me.  My Spirit doesn’t have any particular age.  It simply is, and I believe it will always be, even when my body is no longer around. Of course, I haven’t the slightest idea where it will be when my body is no more, but I figure that’s one of those things I’m not meant to know at this point.

I used to be terrified at the idea of dying. I can’t say I feel pleased at the prospect at the current moment, but I don’t fear it the way I did before.  I can even imagine that there might be instances in which death would be welcomed.  I can almost feel myself moving toward the place where I could believe that, whatever else it is, dying may also be the start of a fantastic adventure.  I don’t fully look forward to it (not yet anyway) but I no longer dread it.  For now, I’m just grateful to have achieved some comfort level with living, with growing older, and with the knowledge that there is an ageless quality to us all. It makes me hopeful about the remaining portion of my life. Today I want to be the best Me it’s possible to be for today, and tomorrow I plan to do the same. For now, that’s enough.

I’m a retired senior, married 53 years, and have three sons and two grand children.  I’ve written all my life but have only published two books and one workbook.  I worked over 20 years as an addictions’ counselor.  My most recent book is of scripture based daily meditations and is titled “Talks with our Creator.” Information about the book can be found at

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