- Aging & Longevity
My Age, Part One
Learning to Face "My Age" in a Way That Is Empowering
What’s going on for me at "my age?" Yes, my age. That’s what it is. No number to it, just my age!
And at my age, I find myself wrestling with whom else, but myself, over this nagging pressure to resign. And I’m not talking about resigning from a job or a particular position, however, one could be wrestling with that as well. It’s another kind of resignation that I am talking about.
Although I don’t look old when I look in the mirror, and people don’t believe me when I tell them how old I am, something is changing for me. Perhaps not my spirit, but definitely my body. I walk the same four to six miles three to four times a week for exercise, but now at a much slower pace. I do not have the same physical energy or stamina that I used to, and I cannot ignore my body’s demand for more sleep.
I also notice that I have less and less tolerance for anything that requires tolerance. I have less tolerance for stress, although stress is my middle name. I have less tolerance for anything that strikes me as insane or stupid. Oh my, you don’t want an example, you will just get me started.
Overall, I’m just very tempted to resign myself to what some people refer to as “the facts.” The fact that I won’t accomplish what I had hoped to accomplish, the fact that I won’t finish all the unfinished manuscripts, the fact that I will never be on the Oprah show, the fact that I stop myself from showing up at the Improv on open mike night, the fact that my double digit age qualifies me as not only senior, but OLD, the fact that I am only a few years shy of when Obama Care can decide whether or not I’m worth saving. Like the ending of the movie, Shane, Obama waves to me, “Vern, Vern.” Unlike the little kid in the movie, Obama hopes I will keep riding off into the sunset and save all the rest of you folks some cash! I know, you don’t even know the movie, Shane. I told you I am old. These so-called facts, they just go on and on and on. Joe Friday would love it! And you don't know who he is either, do you? Zalright! You remember that guy in the box? Ed Sullivan show! Zalright if you don't.
When I say I have been wrestling with myself, it has been a real wrestling match. It’s not like me to resign to anything. So I tend to fight the urge to resign tooth and nail. Yes, I’ve been biting my nails, and parts of my teeth are falling out! And the harder I have fought in say, the last six months, the more depressed and sad I have tended to become. Depression, yes, depression is about loss, and I have this sense of losing, a pervasive sense, and I fight it.
But I recently discovered that if I just stop wrestling, just stop fighting with that Vern who wants to resign, if I just stop arguing with him, stop trying to convince him that he can do whatever his hearts desire, and I just listen to him and reassure him that it’s ALL good, that he doesn’t have to accomplish ANYthing, that I will be here with him no matter what, all of a sudden he settles down, begins breathing again, and then that same Vern will say to me, “So why don’t you start with getting that ebook off to the publisher.”
When I heard him say that, I just looked at him (myself obviously) in complete amazement. I looked at the so-called process (so esoteric!) in complete amazement.
So yes, I have stopped working so hard to push back the so-called facts, or whatever they are, and stopped working so hard to resist giving in to these so-called facts. And as I already implied, when I stopped all the wrestling and fighting and cheering, “Come on, you can do it....,” a great paradox occurred. My energy suddenly startled bubbling again.
A key in all of this are WORDS. Words are very powerful. Throughout my wrestling match, I have never stopped paying attention to my words and my conversations with both my self and with others. I have consciously avoided giving voice to my wrestling and my experience of being almost 70 with any self talk like the following.
My body is breaking down....My body is getting old....My body doesn’t work the way it used to....I can’t do what I used to even a year ago....I have so many aches and pains it’s not even funny....My heart is giving out....I have heart disease....I wonder what else will befall me when I turn seventy....Is it all downhill from here on?....Shit, everything hurts....I’m getting old....I’m growing old....I look old....I wonder how much time I have left....I wonder what it’s going to be like if I can’t walk....What am I going to do if they diagnose me with cancer?....
In my book for couples, From The Frying Pan To The Jacuzzi, Gourmet Recipes For A Gourmet Relationship, I dedicated an entire chapter, Chapter Thirteen to be exact, to the power of words.
The words we speak create and shape our reality. Words begin a process of “creation” somewhat similar to the description of the creation in Genesis. God said, “Let there be light,” and, lo and behold, there was....when I say that something or someone is impossible, lo and behold, impossible it is or impossible he or she is. Or when I tell my Sweetie Pie, “You look gorgeous...so handsome today,” lo and behold, gorgeous and handsome they are.
Our words are powerful, very, very powerful....We are constantly making statements which literally bring into existence all kinds of realities that open the door for even more possibilities, some of which are not particularly desirable.
So taking my own best advice, I use my time alone, for example, in the car commuting, to literally come up with statements that describe the changes I am experiencing (not going through) in a way that creates a reality in which I can continue moving. That’s right, another way of saying motivated. That’s what motivation is, MOVING or better DANCING. And moving or dancing for why? Moving and dancing to live, and moving and dancing to continue to dream no matter what day it is, no matter what year it is, no matter what digits are assigned to my age. Because after all, it is my age.
And so, at my age, I say to myself, My body is going through some changes....I know when to modulate and conserve my energy....It’s okay for me to do whatever it takes to enjoy my exercise....My knee feels so much better when I give it some extra support by wearing a brace....Wow, I walked my second of four miles in sixteen minutes....I’m really not interested in documenting or even paying attention to so-called aches and pains. I am interested in learning more about my body’s current strengths and limitations so I can enjoy myself and my exercise....Of course, my body is older, but not old!....My aortic valve does not open the way it is supposed to according to the cardiologist, so I’m working on that with him....I am talking to my cells and my muscles every night and giving some good instruction to repair and heal during the night....Yes, I may experience some pains, but I step outside the pain and observe it and I choose not to suffer....I have already died at some future time, which is totally outside the dimension of infinity, so I’ve decided to live on the active side of infinity where I have already faced death. It is over and done with. I live in the now, each and every moment....I will not look at anything that does not yet exist in the present. I will not imagine disease because that will only bring it into existence. I will use my imagination to continue to live out my dreams, the big ones and the little ones.
Yes, at age seventy, life is different than it was at age twenty-one or thirty or forty or even sixty. But that is all it has to be is DIFFERENT. It doesn’t even have to be more challenging. It can simply be different. It doesn’t have to be filled with more aches and pains. It can simply be different. And I believe that I get to decide how it is different. I get to choose the words that describe the difference or define what that difference is all about, including any conversation I have with myself about dying. As of today, I am looking at living into my hundreds. Why not?
I have always been good at nursing old cars along and for that matter new cars. For example, I work hard to avoid slamming on the brakes, and when I see a signal ahead, whether it is green or red, I get somewhat prepared to stop so I don’t have to frantically stop at the last moment. If the light is red, I begin slowing down ahead of time, and gradually slow down enough so I almost never have to use the brake. I can go almost forever without a brake job. And no, I do not hold up traffic or keep anyone from getting where they need to go. Remember, we all end up at the stop sign or the light at the same time no matter how fast we are going, no matter how much lane changing and honking we do. I love it!
So why not nurse my body the same way? If I can walk a twenty minute mile (four or five of them) and not tax my heart and still discharge my high levels of stress, why not? I’d rather walk twenty minute miles tomorrow than be listening to monitors. Yes, it does require, for lack of better word (if you can come up with one, let me know), some discipline for me because not too long ago, I was walking fifteen minute miles and before then, twelve minute miles and not too many years ago, I was running a 10K several mornings a week in forty eight minutes. So I look back with pride. And I look at today with gratitude not defeat.
For me, this is a good example of why the serenity prayer is so powerful. I love this prayer.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.
Some people hate this prayer because they think it is a form of resignation or giving up or surrendering their personal power. On the contrary, I find it very empowering. The second line of the prayer is critically important. The courage to change the things I can.
So when I go to the doctor, do I have the courage to say yes and no to the doctor’s recommendations? Do I have the courage to ask for second opinions?
Do I have the courage to have my yes’s and no’s with my schedule, so I can have the necessary time to walk my slower pace? Might mean saying no to morning appointments and making up the difference with book sales or workshops.
Can I have my yes’s and no’s with my friends and loved ones? “I’d love to go with you this evening, but you will have to drive....I’ll help with your move in any way I can, but I’m not into lifting anymore....I hate to call it a night, but I am off to bed. (You could add if you like, “Would you like to join me?”)
Can I have the courage to change my lifestyle in ways that will promote my being around for awhile longer? Can I have the courage to eat healthy, stop smoking, stop drinking, stop being so unloveable with the people I love the most, stop being so angry about everything? Can I have the courage to take a look at what makes me so very very nervous and keeps cortisol pumping into my body like middle east oil?
Ah yes, the last sentence applies to me in spades! I have to admit it. I have been a very uptight and “stressing” person for a very very long time to the point that I hold my breath A LOT as if I am under water or as if I’m anticipating something scary, painful, or sad. In the past when I would catch myself holding my breath, I was just intrigued. And prior to five years ago, I’d just take a drink and that took care of any stress in very short order! But after years of a daily routine of a bottle of wine and a couple of scotches, my liver started screaming and telling me it was better to be stressed and hold my breath!
I think I have always known, somewhere inside my brain and my soul what holding my breath is all about, but recently, it has become extremely important to me to take note and to end this automatic behavior that serves me no purpose in the present moment. It complicates my life, compromises my energy, maintains a high level of cortisol which does nothing for my weight not to speak of my heart and my immune system nor my finger nails.
Do I know what the stress is all about. Yes, and I will share the story or stories with you on another day. For now, I have become very aware it is there and no longer helpful. I am also aware that I have consciously and unconsciously worked hard to mask this part of me, even from myself. Ironically, the stress is a loyal and long-time friend. And I will share another day just how I am learning to weave my stress into the fabric of who I am so it is only a part of who I am and available if I ever need it. I don’t believe in getting rid of anything unless it really does not belong to me. I will talk about that later as well! I mean, come on, how can I get rid of such a loyal and good friend!
So this is one of my latest discoveries. I bet if you are “my age,” you might have a similar discovery to make and perhaps even share in the comment section.
I do know that my walking is critical to keeping my stress at a level that is healthy. I also know that engaging people everywhere I go is also a good stress-reducer. I also know that retreating into a “cave” where I literally block out the presence of others, even those I love, where I engage in wars, court battles, and adversarial conversations with any and everyone, produces an abundance of stress. O my God, an abundance of stress. I do much better to rant and rave and harangue in these blogs, hubs, and articles.
So I have begun sharing with you what is going on with me at "my age.". Some things I have just touched on, and so there is obviously more to share. Hopefully my sharing will provide you some information and perhaps direction for yourself if you are “my age.” And if you are much younger, hopefully the information will support you getting started on your own journey to that time in your life where you can also talk and write about “my age.” I love being “my age,” so all that I am sharing with you is VERY VERY important.
What's next in parts two and three? Well, we'll take a look whether or not we are living our own life, and if not, whose life we are living. We will talk about all the very old "stuff" stored out of our consciousness in our amygdala. Stuff that impacts our relationships and our health. We'll talk about S-E-X and aging, And we will take a frank look at how we are influenced by the media, by the medical community, by advertising, by everyone and everything but ourselves and our own awareness of who we are at "my age." And finally we will take a look at death, both our own, and of those who have already passed on, leaving us behind.