Early this morning, I got up to do my exercises and mediation before heading to the airport for my annual Christmas visit at my best friend’s family’s house in Spokane, WA. Before I put the last bits and pieces in my luggage for the long drive to the airport, I checked my inbox.
In response to a story I had written recently about “Lies We’re Told About Aging,” a woman in her early 60s responded by noting that she wanted badly to write, but that her current situation cramped her creativity.
In my article, I had tossed out the idea of cruising down the Nile. This woman had done just that not long ago. What that had achieved was put the exotic spice of possibility into her nostrils, and she had drunk deep of that enticement.
Now, she’s perplexed. Do I stay where I am (because I think I should) or do I follow my heart (because I really, really want to explore and write)?
For each of us who has had a dream pass us by, the bittersweet acknowledgment that such things often don’t come again can be painful. By the same token, this woman is where many of us are at this point.
There is still time.
While life circumstances drive most of our choices, the other truth is that certain life circumstances can be shifted and renegotiated. My best friend Jill, whose mother died a few years ago at 96, now takes time out of her year to travel.
Suddenly released from the daily responsibilities to take her mother to appointments and shopping, Jill not only has time to devote to her burgeoning (and very successful) pottery business, she also has more time for her horse herd.
In many ways, as she approaches her mid-70s, her life is fuller, richer, and more engaged than ever. This has given her endless energy and a brand-new way to embrace life.
My neighbor across the street lost her 93-year-old husband to an aneurism this past winter. During the year, her kids regularly showed up to help her clean out the house and conduct garage sales.
I made sure she had resources to help with tree trimming and yard work. Suddenly, as she adjusts to her new life, she has a wholly different set of options.
There is still time.
As I stare down the barrel at my approaching 67th birthday, I am increasingly aware of what is and isn’t possible. I just finished climbing Mt. Kenya this past November, and when I got home, I discovered that my left hip had developed arthritis. It happens.
However, for my part, that simply gives me something to manage, not an excuse to quit doing adventure travel. What it does mean is that I need to be more mindful during my exercise routines so that I don’t over-train and irritate my joints.
It won’t prevent me from heading to Indonesia on my birthday, nor will it stop me from taking a four-week pack horse trip in British Columbia this coming summer.
As we age, there are some simple facts of life that we face. One is that we’ll wrinkle, our skin will sag, and time will indeed imprint its inevitable journey on our faces.
The other is that we can avoid decrepitude and decay for a very long time. However, that doesn’t come without work on our part. The true fountain of youth is available if we exercise – and of course, eat well.
There is no reason whatsoever to fall into disrepair as we age. We can begin at any age, because the body will respond to work. You can regain strength and flexibility, and with those, many more options.
I wrote my online woman friend back before I hit the floor to do my exercises. While in truth there are situations where life does indeed get in the way, if you or I have a dream to write, or to explore, or to live as an ex-pat, what on earth is holding us back?
This Christmas, I’d like to suggest an exercise. If you could wave a magic wand over your life and change some things, what would they be?
Then, if you could do the same with yourself, what would you change (kindly, we don’t get to be young again, but let’s say you wanted to be that writer, or that ex-pat)? What would you need to do to make that happen?
For so many of us, the key to filling what time we have left with joyful and fulfilling activities is permission.
Permission to take care of ourselves and our amazing bodies. Permission to change our roles in life. Permission to have the fun we always wanted – something we can now do, since other life obstacles are no longer an issue. Can you remove a few? What would it take?
The greatest Christmas gift of all is permission to have joy in your life. To fulfil the promise of your potential. Many of us don’t even begin to come into our own until late in life.
My friend Jill has a saying on her refrigerator which says it all for me:
We don’t stop playing as we get old. We get old when we stop playing.
There’s still time. How are you going to use it?
What gift will you give yourself for Christmas this year? What heart’s desire will you give yourself permission to realize? What long-held dream will you permit yourself? Please share below and let’s have a discussion about it.