I was having a conversation with a friend the other day. She was talking about how she was approaching “a certain birthday” and how hard it was to get older. During the discussion, she shared her fear of getting older and what it now feels like to hear her age said out loud. She explained how it seemed unbelievable that she could truly be that number on her driver’s license.
The conversation continued as she began to share all her fears of staying active and reaching the age where her health could fail. She admitted that these thoughts were consuming a lot of her time. It rattled her to hear that a friend’s mother had died at the age that she was approaching. As I listened to her, I gave deep thought as to whether I’ve been experiencing the same feelings and beliefs about growing old.
I believe that John Glenn might have said it best when he said the following: “Too many people, when they get old, believe that they have to live by the calendar.”
In other words, they allow the number on their birth certificate to influence the decisions that they make in life. They rationalize why it’s too late for them to go back to school or attempt a marathon. They are convinced that their days of learning and growing are over because, according to the calendar, they just can’t or shouldn’t do it anymore. They don’t check in with how they feel, emotionally and physically, in order to make their ultimate decision. They live by the rules that have been established by their beliefs, values or culture.
I was recently taking a spinning class at the gym. There were about eight women of all ages, shapes and sizes in the class. At one point, I caught a glimpse in the mirror during the most strenuous part of the class. Every woman was sweating and working feverishly to keep on going. Let me backtrack a bit and share that I’m one of the older ones in the class. At that moment, I realized that I was going the fastest by far and wasn’t breathing even half as hard as my teammates. A shot of adrenalin rushed through my body with this realization and I felt strong and empowered with this new knowledge. Most of all, I felt young.
I suppose if I chose to, I could just have easily taken that glimpse in the mirror and focused on the wrinkles in my face and the veins sticking out on my legs. I could have analyzed every piece of me that looked different than it did 20 years ago. Trust me, there’s plenty. I could have gone right from that realization to lamenting the fact that I can’t run anymore because of my chronic back issues. However, I CHOSE to not focus on what I CAN’T do, but zero in on what I CAN.
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experiences.” I’ve found that the happiest women in life live their days in this very manner. So, instead of focusing on the fact that I can’t run, I focus on the increase in stamina I have in biking. Instead of focusing on how the years are going by and I’m getting old, I put my energy into my passion— helping other women move forward in their life. I try to live out my purpose and passion in every day of my life, while being open to new experiences. Ironically, this leaves little time to focus on regrets of the past, or fears of the future.
So far, it seems to be working.