Between my turning 50 this year and becoming a Mindfulness educator, I am more aware now than ever to the mixed messages we get when the talk turns to getting older.
On one hand AARP can't wait to get a card in the hand of a "freshly-minted" 50 year-old so they can add to their numbers and subsequently their massive ability to lobby the federal government and on the other hand we are bombarded incessantly on all the things we can do to stave off that bastard, "old man time." Figures he's a man. Kidding!
But honestly, hurry up and be a "senior" but you probably shouldn't look like one? What do you think? Is it just me?
In the almost 8 months I've been teaching folks in their 60's up to their 90's how to find more joy and peace in life through Mindfulness and meditation practices, I have learned a ton. The first thing that was apparent to me was that I was not ready to face my own mortality very well. I'll be honest, I was a little "freaked out" for the first 4 or 5 months I began teaching. Just when I thought I had a handle on it with my 60 and 70 year-olds, I was hired to work with 80 and 90 year-olds and I got to say a hearty "Welcome back!" to my fears around aging. Nice.
Life loves teaching me things. I couldn't run away if I tried. So I began seeking out the lesson and my "place in this space." One of the conclusions I came to is this. Ultimately, I am not my body. I am the spirit that inhabits it. I read somewhere that we should think of our bodies and those of the ones we love as simply "containers." Containers that hold what REALLY matters and that's our spirit, our essence, our soul.
Call it what you will but I love the idea that although the "container" is going to change drastically over the years and will no longer be animated one day, my spirit, my essence, my soul can live on in the people who cared about me and the people I touched while here. If I had to put an image to what I think that essence might look like, I would imagine it would be like the beautiful twisting, twirling smoke that emanates from one of the sticks of incense I light every morning before dawn. It would smell good too. A little woodsy with an equal amount of spice. Yea. A hippie right to the end. That alone makes leaving this place a bit easier to take. At least for me.
As of today, this is what I know about aging. That we think everyone of us will become senile as we age, which is not true, by the way. That getting older stinks because you can't do much of anything. False! I'm finding half my seniors have simply bought into the idea that they need everything done for them because people, who mean well, keep taking away their ability to choose. That we will sit around lonely just waiting for our family to visit us, yea, it doesn't have to be that way either, not if you don't want it that way. In other words, we have many more choices to consider, believe and embody when it comes to aging than many of us ever give a thought to.
Speaking of aging, it's like if we don't think about it, it won't happen. That's funny.
AARP can keep their card (choice) I am nowhere near retiring and don't know if I ever will be, thank you. I'm going to take care of myself the best I can (choice) so I can head into my older years with the healthiest "container" possible. I will continue to learn new things (choice) to fill my essence, soul or sprit "tank up", with everything from heavenly to heavy metal and I will keep my ability to make friends of all ages (choice) because I think that's one of the best ways to enjoy life, whether you are 5 or 95.
Aging. You "got this" or will it "get you?" Make your own rules, rebel. Make your own rules.
“Another belief of mine: that everyone else my age is an adult, whereas I am merely in disguise.” ― Margaret Atwood