Louise Hay once said, “Know that you are at the perfect age. Each year is special and precious, for you shall only live it once. Be comfortable with growing older.”
Last Wednesday, I visited my regular supermarket to stock up on my monthly grocery items. I took longer than usual not because the place was full of shoppers but just because the items I buy are imported from several countries. I spend more time checking the labels on the packaged foods than in buying them. In my commitment to eat healthier foods, I check out the fat content of the milk, yogurts, cheese and the mono-unsaturated fats in the different types of Olive oil on the shelves. I do a lot of walking between the shelves looking for wholegrain bread, brown rice, lentils, fresh tilapia fish, fresh local fruits like pineapples, mangoes, oranges, watermelon and leafy vegetables. For more than three decades, I have focused on eating to be healthy so that I can build and maintain a healthy body, stay energized and get the nutrients I need for proper body function.
I know very well that if I want to live a good quality of life in old age, I have to engage in physical exercise every day, eat a well- balanced healthy diet and honour the regular medical checkups with my doctor. The old adage, “Prevention is better than cure,” holds true today, more so in this digital technology- driven and era of huge scientific advancement.
World Health Organisation(WHO) defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. I have to maintain the enriching relationships that I have established over the years. They form an essential element of my Social Wellbeing.
Later in the day, I was required to send some old photographs to one of my childhood friends to include in the Thanksgiving Service booklet for her mother. Long before the invention of the Digital camera and the Smartphone, I used to be a keen amateur photographer so I have a big collection of photograph albums. I spent some time scrolling through them, I was reminded that I had been taking official photographs on my birthday since I was that little sweet sixteen girl! As you have guessed it, I have a catalogue of such photographs. Little wonder then that I got so wrapped up in these photographs that I forgot why I had opened up the albums in the first place. I looked at each photograph carefully as fond memories flooded in. I could see how my face and body had changed over the years. Having taken each photograph on my birthday , I noted that I was relaxed and calm. It turned out that they were all great photographs communicating the joy within. They went from a simple genuine smile to a wide grin, capturing moments of true joy.
The most recent one taken last year in August , showed that the once plump lower face had grown small as the jaw bone grew smaller making the forehead, the nose become more pronounced. The lips were becoming thinner and a few permanent wrinkles had developed round the corners of the mouth. However, the eyebrows and eyelashes had not yet gone grey and the eyelids were not drooping.
I was thrilled and excited that despite the years, the eyes had remained sparkling , conveying happiness and confidence. The confidence had come with age and endowed me with more beauty!
William Wordsworth said, “The wiser mind mourns less for what age has taken away than what it leaves behind.”
Franz Kafka said that: “Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.”
My experience in the supermarket and now this treasure trove of photographs got me thinking about growing old and other major life changes.
Undoubtedly, change is an integral part of life and therefore inevitable. The world around us is constantly changing though most of us prefer to cling on to the old and familiar. The psychologists tell us that most of us fear change just because we want to have control over the future. We tend to demand for certainty in a world of uncertainty. This is what creates anxiety and stress in us. Dr. Elliot D. Cohen, PhD, a psychologist and critical thinker advises each one of us to strive to find a comfortable place between blind fearlessness and cowardice – not being too afraid and not being afraid enough. It is the only thing that will keep each one of us balanced and relaxed.
For the young ones, they have to be reminded that the present affects their future; today’s choices will create their tomorrows. They need to acquire more knowledge and skills to help them accept responsibility for the choices they make about the future. They still have the power to control their desires, hopes and wishes but have to be reminded that external things like approval of others and guaranteed success are not in their control. Making informed choices will give them some degree of freedom over their future.
As for the likes of us, the senior citizens, we need to keep ourselves busy doing what we love and reading more to understand the changes going on in our bodies and in the world around us. We have to keep ourselves relevant and useful. We can do this by using our knowledge, skills and experiences to serve others , to mentor the young and help them to achieve their goals and full potential.
We have to summon the courage to face the uncertainty of the future other than cave in to the fear of uncertainty. According to the psychologists, we can age gracefully by embracing our age then keep moving forward happily and remaining optimistic that we still have a lot to offer to the world.
Embracing the natural process of ageing has its rewards: feeling energetic and youthful internally.
Many times in the past, I have asked myself why I should fear what is inevitable instead of accepting death and allowing it to guide me through life for the rest of my life . When we are still young , we tend to be guided through life by our ambitions, success and achievements. By middle age, most of us have come to accept our mortality so we start focusing on being good, wise and generous human beings.
Being led through life by death, has proved extremely liberating to me; humbled and grateful and endowed with the wisdom and hindsight of old age, I have been able to live a relatively relaxed , happier and meaningful life. I wake up each morning filled with gratitude and ready to take on the day’s adventure.
Jackie Joyner- Kersee, a 1988 American Olympic medalist, once said, “ Age is no barrier. It’s a limitation you put on your mind.”
Sophia Loren’s quote about ageing made me extremely comfortable with growing older. She said, ” There is a fountain of youth : it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of those you love. When you learn to tap its source, you will truly have defeated age.”
I can’t wait to celebrate my next birthday and to pause for the next official birthday photograph.
Question: Have you yet embraced who you are?
Are you proud of it?