Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Aging Ourselves

(Our little apple tree is covered in blossoms this year!)

I've been thinking about aging a lot lately. First, I am 41 and getting into one's forties is definitely a traditional sort of marker. Second, I returned to dance at the age of 40 and dance is not known for its kindness toward anyone much over 25.

Before I returned to dance, worrying about aging was just one more thing I could put on my Anxiety To Do list, and I was, frankly, always on the look out for items for that. It was also one more reason to Be Depressed.

Turns out that recovering from life long anxiety and depression had everything to do with...living. Thus the subtitle to my blog: It's never too late to embody your bliss. Most of us -- regardless of our callings -- need to come back into our bodies, having neglected them for too long. Our bodies are our gateways to our spirits and thus to our capacity to have a joyful life.

Back to thinking about aging. I am healthier, I think, than I have ever been in my whole life. I am also stronger and more creative.

I have decided that aging is mostly in our minds. We tell ourselves a boat load of stories about what to expect and then act surprised when those expectations are met.

I do not deny that I am getting older. I simply do not believe that that has to automatically mean I am deteriorating. Use it or lose it is my motto. Also, hydrate it; feed it well; and do what makes it happy.

Ah! Right there! That last one! That is where most of aging really comes from. We are not living our happiest lives, and as we get older, we think we have run out of time.

We haven't.

Or we have. It all depends on the story you tell.

This past weekend, I read a sad story. A woman, age 38 (come on!), saw (in a mirror in a gym) that a part of her body wasn't quite what it used to be athletically and so came to the conclusion, basically, that this is "it," from here on, it's all downhill.

She decided that this is what "aging gracefully" is -- accepting the inevitable.

I would like a different definition, how about you?

How about aging gracefully being defined by how we live in every moment with joy and abandon, that we never give in to "should's" or "supposed to's" or "that's how it's been's."

I refuse to believe that I had one moment in time when I was able to have the life I was meant to have. Believing it's all downhill from here, for me? I may as well stop dancing right now and start eating more donuts and just settle into my role as a consumer of products.

Instead, I choose to believe that I am where I was meant to be. I believe I have come to dance at this age for a reason. I believe it is my responsibility to take hold of that destiny and squeeze every ounce of happy out of it that I can.

I believe that my greatest responsibility is to write my own story and never let anyone or anything else define me -- including a mirror in a gym.


Megan Matthieson said...

hmm. aging. gracefully. while most would say that i'm doing that physically (i work my ass off for that) i really think it's more of a mental thing. haven't you met an older person who is still so full of life? most are not. but a few are. i think we have to grab each day. stay interested! i feel younger now then i did 10 years ago. i'm 50. i'm about to post a dance i did this weekend. in a bikini. :)

giulietta said...

Hi BlissChick,

My crabapple tree is budding as well! Nothing like spring to usher in a new lease on life.

Most of aging is cultural. We start to look older because we give up on life, mainly because the adulthood presented to us isn't custom designed. The way to stop "aging" is to grab your life back and make it your own.

You've done this with dance. Who says you can't dance in your 40's or 50's or 60's or 70's? People are urged to give up their lives and become dutiful shoppers.

The horror!

If we make up our own rules, we can do anything at any age!

Great post.

Giulietta, Inspirational Rebel

Christine Claire Reed said...

Megan, Yes, yes, yes. At 41, I am in the best physical shape of my life but more importantly (and intimately entwined with that) I am in the best emotional/mental "shape." :) I canNOT wait to see the dance you are posting. And YOU are someone who totally inspires me, by the way.

Giulietta, Yes. You got it exactly. People give up. :(

claire said...

I am going to turn 64... My body needs love, tender loving care, gentleness, kindness, patience...

Holly said...

I like this post. Our bodies change as we age, but we can remain strong and capable if we choose to be.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Your definition of "aging gracefully" is right on!

Raine-Lee said...

Great post! I think aging is all in how you perceive it. I started not really caring about age since I was in elementary school! I never really understood all the fuss about birthdays and attaching a number to yourself. Even to this day if someone asks me how old I am, I have to pause and think about it before I answer because I honestly don't give it much thought. I have always felt ageless and I'm not about to let society change that for me!

Carolynn said...

Me too. I'm 49 and am often mistaken for 35. My Mom, is 75 and still working full time as a nurse, no less. She's often mistaken for 60 and I can barely keep up with her energy.

Aging is, to some degree, a choice. I can get out my walker after a certain birthday of my choosing, or I can embrace life.

As you know, I just took up West Coast Swing dancing. I'm really enjoying it and just this morning have signed up for 2nd Level classes. Onward and upward!


Tess said...

At 56 I can tell you categorically that age is mostly in the mind. Yes statistically we are closer to the end than the beginning, but so what? I like to think of it as ageing on my own terms.

Moira Nordholt said...

so much a part of staying young is movement and so much of movement is in our minds! we have to encourage ourselves out for that walk or to the studio for dance or yoga. yes, the minute we resign ourselves to the "it's all downhill from here" school of thought, the couch becomes a venus fly trap and begins digesting us whole. thanks for posting! i'm off to the gym:)

Stacy Hurt said...

AMEN Sistah! It truly is all about self image and I don't mean the negative; fake one society dicates; but the one you carry in your head right!!! Sure; at 47 I may currently resemble a few too many indulgences; but inside my head; when I'm working out what I feel is not even close! I'm lithe, strong, elegant! And that makes me feel so good I keep on working out and eventually I'll get back into my 'healthy jeans' I used to wear when my muffin top bellie wasn't so... muffiny!

svasti said...

Mark Whitwell, the yoga teacher guy I did the Heart of Yoga workshop with over Valentine's Day weekend this year, has a very interesting theory. Well, not so much a theory as an overlooked fact.

Yoga classes are great for introducing people to the general practice of yoga. BUT a class containing people of all different levels is going to only partially meet the needs of all the attendees.

For some it will be too much, and for others, not challenging enough. He says everyone needs to find "their" yoga - the yoga that works for their body and mind. For some people that will mean a very energetic, gumby-like practice and for others (say people with injuries) it will be much more staid. But you can still find a way to do yoga (breath/mind/body work) in a way that is beneficial.

I know I'm rambling but basically, I think the same can be said for dance, too. And many other activities. Who cares how old you are when you start? As long as you find the thing(s) that make your heart ring out, then GOOD. And then do them in a way that helps and not injures your body. :)