My recent retirement has me obsessing over the concept of aging.
I spent the first few weeks secretly believing my death was eminent and acting accordingly.
Not in the way you would expect, like going skydiving or visiting the Serengeti. It was mostly living in fear of not waking up in the morning and making sure my affairs were in order so as not to inconvenience my family.
Luckily that was just a passing phase, and I have moved on to other things, like spending hours watching cooking competitions on my television. My most recent obsession is “MasterChef Junior.” The contestants range in age from 8 to 12 years old, and it is astounding how talented they are for being so young.
The thing that really touched me, though, was their compassion and genuine love for their fellow cooking competitors. At the end of each episode, two of these tiny chefs are eliminated. While the remaining contestants are relieved that it wasn’t them that was sent home, the main emotion that I witnessed was compassion as they embrace their departing friend, offering hugs and sincere words of encouragement to keep on cooking.
Comparably, the adult cooking competitions are much more cutthroat. Watching these children so full of love and hope started me wondering where the courage to share all of those beautiful emotions disappears to as we get older. Those children were so open and genuine. Tears rolled down my face as I realized somewhere along the way, I had learned how to shove my feelings back down so that no one would be inconvenienced by my vulnerability.
A friend recently texted me. She was struggling with a technical issue on her phone while trying to access some articles she wanted to read. Her message, relaying her obvious frustration, said she just felt like an old granny and should just give up and retire.
I wasn’t any smarter than she was about the issue and this fed into my fear of becoming useless as I get older. I swallowed my pride and reluctance to be an “inconvenience” and reached out to my 10-year-old grandson for advice. He, of course, got a crooked smile on his face, rolled his eyes and said, “Sit down here grandma. I will show you.” I said, “Can’t you just do it for me?” and he told me, “No, I had to learn it for myself, in case I ever needed to do it again.” Wise words from a tween!
I have to admit I started feeling a little jealous of all of these young people and the way they were embracing life so wholeheartedly. They say what they feel, ask for what they want, and it never crosses their minds that they might be inconveniencing anyone!
I wanted to regain that sense of wonderment and learn how to see the world again through those unscratched lenses and recapture the innocence of my youth in spite of these old jaded eyes.
I did what I always do and turn to wise words from my favorite authors, philosophers, and basically, just people who are a lot wiser than me.
Here is what I found:
“It’s still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out into the world it’s best to hold hands and stick together.” ~ Robert Fulghum
“To all, I would say how mistaken they are when they think that they stop falling in love when they grow old, without knowing that they grow old when they stop falling in love.” ~ Gabriel Garcia Marquez
“Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.” ~ Betty Friedan
“…one can remain alive long past the usual date of disintegration if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things, and happy in small ways.” ~ Edith Wharton
“A man came up to me & said…’Don’t You Think You’re TOO OLD To Be Running Around The Stage Like That,..Singing Rock n Roll’ !? I Said ‘I Don’t Know,.. Why Don’t you Ask Mick Jagger’” ~ Cher
“Here is the test to find whether your mission on Earth is finished: If you’re alive, it isn’t.” ~ Richard Bach
And finally, referring to one of my all-time favorite song lyrics:
“You laugh, you cry, no one knows why
But OH the thrill of it all…
You’re on the ride, you might as well open your eyes!”
~ Jessica Riddle
I am going to continue this journey with my eyes wide open, feeling and sharing all the emotions, saying yes to all the adventures because it really is true—age is just a number, and the thing I should be most grateful for losing in my old age is the fear to show up as my true wonderful, beautiful, authentic self.
And now if you will excuse me, I need to go get my tablet and google a recipe for a chocolate soufflé because if an 8-year-old chef and a 10-year-old gamer can do these things, so can I!