I was looking through my social media feed one day and was taken by a poster and quote shared by one of my connections. The quote featured was from Albert Einstein and I loved the opening four words - do not grow old. I paused and let those four words sink in, to embrace the truth of it, then continued to read the rest.
“Do not grow old, no matter how long you live. Never cease to stand like curious children before the Great Mystery into which we were born.” - Albert Einstein
It is important to understand that anytime you look at the process of aging, it's not simple. There is a dichotomy. The common definition that we are given is pretty cut and dry. Oxford Dictionary says it is simply the process of growing old along with the visible signs of aging. I find this limited definition tight, narrow and depressing.
When it comes to physically growing older, there is only so much in our control. Exercise, diet, reducing stress, embracing joy - all these things can have a positive effect on our life expectancy as well as how we feel on a daily basis. Cosmetic surgery can always hold off the visible signs of aging for a while, but it's not for everyone. There is no right or wrong here. Want to ease into looking older by embracing it as it happens, that's great. Need the odd nip and tuck to be able to look in the mirror, so be it.
Now for the side of aging that no one talks about. I was going to say our mind, but that can be very connected to our physical health. Instead I'd like to use the word soul. If that doesn't resonate, another might be spirit or even heart. Find one you are comfortable with. For me, soul embodies the person I am. It is the sum of my personality, my joys, my sorrows, my passions, my dislikes, my dreams and my hopes. Simply me.
The good news is your soul is ageless. Well, perhaps it is better to say your soul is as old as you chose it to be. I have met 40 year old's that were ancient. Their world was so small and dismal. On the other hand, I had one grandmother who was sharp and vibrant right up to her passing at the age of 100. Growing up I was surrounded by friends who were creative thinkers and world changers. As they aged, several of them became rigid and limited. I hardly recognized the young person I knew. Others stayed a breath of fresh air with a world that kept getting larger.
Sometimes we lose sight of how important creativity and openness is to keeping us young (at heart) and vibrant. Life batters us on a daily basis. The result can be the desire to pull back. People move, friends pass and the world around us changes in ways that cause us turn inward. Comfort is found in old beliefs and rituals, in clinging to the friends and family we have. Unfortunately this way of coping can cause our life to get smaller and smaller over time.
There is a different way to walk that will keep you always growing: eyes wide open, arms spread wide, and a soul that is eager for all the world has to offer. Try to set fear and lethargy aside. Step out of your comfort zone regularly. Expand your world by saying yes to new opportunities, new experiences and new connections. Embrace new technology with curiosity. Leap into the unknown with abandon. And most of all, stop talking about the good old days. They weren't as great as you might paint them and everyone has already heard these stale stories.
Every time someone is surprised by my actual age I am taken aback. Honestly, I look my age physically. What they are responding to is my soul. I do my best to stay young at heart and full of curiosity. My soul loves new ideas and is always ready to let go of old ones that no longer serve. My spirit continues to explore the wonders all around me and reach to discover Einstein's "Great Mystery." I hope I can continue to do this for as long as I live and breath.
Each day when I wake up and take a new breath I take a moment to remind myself every day above ground is a blessing too many I knew no longer have. Let me not waste a single one.