August 27, 2013

How Old Would You Be? ~ Courtney Rae

On the cusp of her 30th birthday, a close friend recently said to me, “I’m so old now!”

Physically, she’s not old. She is active, healthy, unwrinkled and still able to do everything she always has with the exception of some cheerleading stunts from high school.

If numbers didn’t exist, would she still feel old? Or do those two little digits, a mere time stamp, pack the punch all on their own? Thirty, fifty, eighty or one hundred…it’s all relative, right?

I wondered: how old would she be if she didn’t know how old she was?

To cure my friend’s birthday woes she read Neenah Ellis’ book “If I Live To Be 100.” In it, Neenah interviews Centenarians on their life experiences and gains insight on the “magic secret” to maintaining vitality. One interviewee began almost every day at dawn by carrying her paddles down to the lake, where she lived, to enjoy a morning row.

One hundred and three years old and still rowing nearly every day! She wasn’t wilting away. Even with her aches and pains, she was living life with zest.

How old would she be if she didn’t know how old she was?

My parents come to mind. Do they wonder where the years have gone? How do they feel about their accomplishments and where the next road will take them?

People often reach a point in their lives where they succumb to monotony. They become complacent or get attached to the notion that they’re “too old”. But when you’re thinking in terms of living 100+ years, 70 may just be the start of a whole new chapter.

I can still see my parent’s youth reflecting in the simplest moments of indulging in silliness with their grandsons. Mom could out-garden a 21 year old horticulturist. And Dad…he just triumphed in his sixth hole-in-one in his life on the golf course two months ago. Vitality! 

How old would they be if they didn’t know how old they were? 

How old would I be?

This morning, walking into work with my coffee and files in tow, I was 45 years old.  But tonight, giggling on the couch with my son in stretchy yoga crops and a Beatles tee direct from my freshman year of college, I feel like a teenager again.  Tomorrow, who knows?

I strive to not confine myself to the limits of being an exact 31 years and 11 months old but rather appreciate the age I feel in any given day or moment.

The idea of “youth” is a peculiar thing. It can really psyche us out in moments where we may be feeling the weight of our age.

Have you ever watched a child eat a cone of ice cream? They dive into it. No apologies when it’s running down their chin or concern over the calories, just pure joy and indulgence. Children play with a vigor that leaves them drenched in sweat and barely able to hold their eyes open at the day’s end. Children giggle. Children dance, no matter who’s looking.

Why do we, as adults, have such difficulty in doing the same?

Plain and simple, children are uninhibited and care free from the burdens of stress that we, as adults, have accumulated over a lifetime. Answering that question was simple. It’s how we break away and renew that youthful liberation that presents the real challenge. We carry our stress around like it’s luggage and that junk gets heavy sometimes.

When I’m overwhelmed by my “luggage” and jonesin’ for reinvention or simply need to feel the power of where I am in this moment, there is one word I return to consistently. It’s always waiting to tap me on the shoulder and remind me that the answers I’m searching for are already present in me.

Just one word: mindfulness.

Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hahn, defines mindfulness as “the continuous practice of touching life deeply in every moment.”

Be mindful of yourself. You spend so much time wondering what other people need/want/think.

What about what you need/want/think?

Look inward at all those desires coursing through your body and your mind. Observe them. How can you apply them to shape the life you are seeking? And I don’t mean the life you are encouraged to live by your surrounding culture.

The life you want to live.

Endless fulfillment can be generated by quieting the mind and allowing your instincts to guide you. You are the only person who gets to live this one life. Why not make each day unique? Tweaked even just slightly from the one before.

Take chances.

Be brave.

It really can be that simple.

You may find it is a moment as immense as sky-diving or as effortless as calling someone you’ve been missing to laugh until your belly hurts. Imagine the de-aging that will occur when you bring awareness to your needs and release to invite those moments into your life.

Soulshine moments, I like to call them.

You don’t have to live with reckless abandon or be one of the world’s great adventurers. We all must power through many less than glorious moments in the day to day of it. That’s life. I’m not knocking structure and repetition because that can be some pretty good stuff too.

I simply invite you to cultivate awareness so you can seize those “soulshine moments” when they arrive. Maybe it’s 30 minutes after the kids are asleep or, glory upon glory, the whole day. Either way, embrace it and live it to its full potential.

Walk your dog down a new road tomorrow morning and see where it leads. Rise 10 minutes earlier and experience the difference a morning meditation can generate. Pause to appreciate the perfection of a breeze blowing across your face. Take a row. Enjoy a spectacular sunset from a hot air balloon. Indulge in the ice cream cone. The list goes on…

Seeking these moments and having appreciation for them when they occur could very well be the key to sustaining your life – no matter how many years you may roam this earth.

We’ve been given every day with all the highs and lows each one may bring, for the rest of our lives, to absorb and reach for as much as humanly possible.

Shouldn’t we make the most of it regardless of our age?

How old are you today?

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Asst. Editor: Kristina Peterson/Ed.: Bryonie Wise

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Courtney Rae