The other day I got a letter addressed to me from AARP. Yep, the American Association of Retired People. I did a double-take and was immediately incensed that someone thought I was old enough to get a letter from Matt McCoy. I tore it up and haven’t stopped thinking about it since.
The truth is, I’m turning fifty in November. When I was a kid, I thought that a fifty-year-old person was old. I mean, they weren’t old, old, but they were definitely old. Then again, anyone over the age of 30 was old. But what I am is neither young nor old. I am no longer sprightly, yet not weary. I am not foolhardy, but not wary and skittish either. Sandwiched by aging parents and younger children, I am somewhere in the middle of all these things.
If the year were 1921, I would have already lived 83.3% of my life. Yep, exactly one hundred years ago, the average lifespan for a woman was sixty-one and sixty-years-old for a man. Thanks to substantial health improvements (although this is declining in the US), we are all living longer lives. They say fifty is the new forty, and technically it’s true. Globally our lifespan has doubled since 1900. We live longer, but our quality of life is diminishing, and the stigma of getting older still exists.
For me, middle-age hasn’t meant much. According to my doctor, I have the bloodwork of a healthy twenty-five-year-old. I credit my plant-based diet, my yoga practice, and my love for physical activities. I have also recently taken up kayaking and trail running. After years of pounding the pavement, I am now more of a dirt and roots kind of girl. I am seeking things that challenge me physically and mentally push me out of my comfort zone. I am, as Thomas admonishes, “raging against the dying of the light.” I know that it is up to me to keep the flame burning bright. I think, therefore, I am.
But if age really is a state of mind, then I will leave you with the wise words of my Guru.
“Growing old is a long-established habit of losing the authority to remain vital. It’s an approval and disapproval that’s passed through generations of DNA with body language, eye and facial expressions, tones of voice, gestures with the hands, and countless conversations about exhaustion. Staying young and vibrant throughout life — mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually — requires maintenance of an authority to be unique and never give up. This means honoring the cells of your body; the ideas in the mind, and the freedom to relate in a heart-to-heart way with everyone.
When conscious of this, you grow wiser and remain vital, and life’s stresses dissolve in a healthy awareness. Human beings need to capture this immortal authority. . . random traits with no real value, or vitality that do no good. To remain youthful, vital and healthy, you must give yourself permission to be full of yourself, and then validate this freedom. This freedom discovers the true nature of evolution . . . a step by step process of progress. It’s a trial with errors and healthy forgiveness with loving kindness . . . a check and balance that assures the ultimate accuracy of your growth. This allows you to keep up in the midst of “normal” doubt and the “looks” you’ll receive for impacting the Earth so dramatically.
Our prayer is that you choose to remain this vital and free, rather than following the habits of the crowd; that your ideas remain as tolerant of others as you expect others to be of you; that you connect your physical world to your immortal soul, and allow this marriage to guide you through a kind and loving life on Earth that extends the envelope everywhere, and does this well beyond one hundred years.” —Guru Singh Yogi