"He who is of a calm and happy nature will hardly feel the pressure of age, but to him who is of an opposite disposition youth and age are equally a burden." ~~from Plato's The RepublicThree aunts, an uncle, and two great-cousins are proving the 'calm and happy nature' part of this quote to be true. All mid-80's to mid-90's, going strong, enjoying life, experimenting with new adventures, and sharing their love and wisdom along the way. Sure they have health issues, aches and pains. Their bodies creak, and their vision and hearing are skittish. Certainly they've had their share of hardships in life. But their minds, ah, their minds are elastic, confident, curious, and balanced. It's not simply a matter of positive thinking. It's positive being which leads to fresh thinking and the courage to try new things. It's focusing on what is good in life rather than what is disagreeable.
To this I aspire.
The opposite disposition, the frazzled and discouraged, tends to crash early on, it's true. They head for the end of each day like a frothy horse for the barn, and more often than not, sitting underneath a frazzled and discouraged outlook is a reclining chair with a remote control nearby. The R & R Club. Once a bottom learns the backwards flop into the cushiony seat of a recliner, once the arms and feet do the simultaneous dance of raising the foot rest, once the remote control becomes a fixture on the armrest, nearly all is lost. It's just a matter of time from there, my friends. From years of succumbing to this flirtatious, quicksand-like trap the lounging spine, hips, and knees take the shape of the chair when reclining and when rising to walk the stiff, bent walk of the R&R member.
It's a downward slide, usually premature, to the unnatural mindset of 'old.'
I remember one time Tom and I invited a couple who are ten years younger than we are over for Sunday lunch. Having been separated from them by time and miles we were eager to share a leisurely afternoon. The night before our planned get-together I confided in Tom that I wondered if we'd seem old to them.
I needn't have worried.
Before the first hour yielded to the second the conversation had been hijacked - by them - to the subjects of aches and pains, feeling 'cold all the time', the necessity of afternoon naps, scaly rashes, blood sugar dips and spikes, thyroid levels, cholesterol numbers, the need for fiber as 'constipation has become an issue,' and 'I feel chilly. Do you have any lap blankets in here? We always wear lap blankets when we are home."
I sat there, the fattest, grayest, cheeriest person in the room, struggling to keep a straight face, to keep the guffaws inside, nice and quiet.
"Are they serious?" I asked myself. It was obvious that age-fear had captured the minds of this couple, imprisoning healthy bodies, brainwashing them into false thinking and behavior.
Glancing at Tom I saw upwardly peaked Norwegian eyebrows hovering over somewhat alarmed eyes. I quickly looked away, suppressing the laughter. Sad, sad was the scene playing itself out in my living room, yet the absurdity of it induced astounded humor.
I'd just turned 50. The couple had just turned 40.
I just don't think in those terms.
"Have you noticed, now that you are older, that it takes much longer to heal from injuries and illnesses?" asked the still-in-the-prime-of-his-life husband.
"I guess so," I said, while thinking, "Get me outta here!" Steering the conversation like a drunken pirate only led me back and back and back to the same old stuff. Pills, holistic doctors, and natural remedies. Organic green grass drinks for breakfast, and goat milk for lunch. Nothing wrong with those things, but they didn't seem to be working for this couple.
Maybe a little chocolate now and then and a potato or two would help. Vodka in the wheatgrass smoothie.
Yes, I realize that health is not something to take for granted, nor is a good attitude any guarantee of a long and limber life. Genes play a role along with the will of God. Calamities happen. We live in a dangerous world. I do suggest however, that with whatever we are dealt we can choose to make the best or worst of it.
To a large degree happiness is a choice.
And so is 'old age.'