Age Truths 

As long as I can remember, I could not wait to get older. This image that I had carefully crafted of adulthood involved this picture-perfect model of assuredness, wisdom, and poise…admonishing any traces of the fear and emotional pain that accompanied childhood. I would constantly console myself with, “I can’t wait until I’m 40 and everything will be okay”. That’s a lot of pressure for 40. Strangely enough, that unconventional mantra helped me survive a lot of trauma in my developmental years and for whatever reason, that memory remains faithfully by my side until well past its deadline.

Whether it was a true premonition or self-fulfilling prophecy that 40, indeed, would become this magical age, I’m not certain. It doesn’t matter. These days, this naïve promise I made to myself so many years ago serves a much more positive purpose than protecting me from my youth. Not only did it all end up okay, I consider my years of experience as a badge of honor, as I look forward towards many more.

 

Aging is one of those true gifts in life that is long overdue for an image overhaul. In our society, aging is unfairly associated with decline and decay (unless you happen to be wine). I observe a lot of very intelligent and gifted people struggle with it unnecessarily every day. In future posts, I’ll touch on other big hitters that I believe deserve a similar image overhaul, as a gift of respect to our mental well-beings; namely, perceptions of beauty and individuality in modern culture. It’s difficult not to intertwine these subjects, as many times they tend to collectively be used as weapons, but I will do my best to give each its own spotlight in its own time.

 

A while back, I stumbled upon this TED talk given by American novelist, Anne Lamott. It was titled, “Twelve Truths I Learned From Life and Writing”. It’s short, succinct, very amusing and very true. As I listened to her impart her words upon her audience, all I could think of was how absolutely beautiful it was; such wisdom, such peace that is achieved only by age. I strongly encourage a Google search for the lesson, as she delivers her ideas with much more charisma than I could ever regurgitate. Anyhow, it inspired me to engage in the same exercise. At 43, what were my truths, my pearls that I have earned now as a seasoned adult?  Allow me to share mine with you:

 

  • Life’s truth is a paradox. I’m stealing this one straight from Anne. It is most deservedly number one. It is so incredibly important to understand and respect that our universe operates on dualities. The world is filled with equal parts joy and catastrophe. I see so many people, especially in our current, instant-gratification culture, try to remove one, demanding a greater result of the other. Not only is this incredibly disastrous to one’s mental health, but..."it doesn't work that way". Instead of wasting valuable brainpower on attempting to eradicate all of the  perceived negative in the world, apply all of that inner wisdom to the development of positive life skills to manage it when it presents itself. 

  • Accept Resistance. Resistance is another unwelcome visitor that is futile to evict. It lies within each and every one of us, in the form of excuses, avoidance, depression, fear. It convinces us to remain stagnant. Again, instead of trying to conquer resistance, practice skills to coexist with it. One of my most cherished books I have ever read on the subject is a gem that I keep at my painting easel: "The War of Art", by Steven Pressfield. And no, you don't need to be an artist for this to apply to you. Trust me, it will speak volumes.

  • Change lies within yourself. I hesitate verbalizing this viewpoint, because it will invariably be misconstrued. It's a hot topic. I have come to know that real change lies within one vessel - one's own. We are all navigating through such volatile social environments that elicit unrest and hostility. Everyone gravitates out, out, outward with demands to be heard, seeking validation that they are right and just, but no one wants to listen. We are allowing our patient and understanding spirits be bullied by our outraged and entitled egos. You want to help your community, assist a friend, change the world? BE that change...less talking, more doing. People gravitate towards actual, living examples they admire, not by endless rhetoric.

  • Forgiveness. Forgive yourself. We have worked very hard in this life, endured much, at no matter what age. We all bear battle scars of disappointment, embarrassment, injustice and regret. Wear it as a badge of honor, not of shame. You survived and you evolved, so be sure to recognize yourself for that. This is not to imply that you need not be held accountable for your actions; that needs to come first for the other to bear any benefit. So....

  • Be accountable. There are few things in this world more respectable and credible than a person that takes raw accountability for every part of themselves.

  • Keep a hobby. Life can get out of balance very quickly and before you realize it, you are reduced to an avatar of your profession. I feel similarly about keeping hobbies as I do with keeping rituals. They are guaranteed moments of serenity in a chaotic existence. I bet your childhood self could offer a ton of suggestions, should you find yourself at a loss for what to pick up. Hobbies offer a sense of individuality, mental clarity, and best of all...joy.

  • Rest qualifies as a hobby. At least it does in this modern age. Rejuvenation rituals are so beneficial to mental and physical and spiritual well-being. We've all spent far too many of our professional and educational years burning the candle at both ends, foresaking rest. Schedule it into that busy calendar and say, "no", when someone or something makes attempts to double book.

  • Trust yourself. This takes a lot of practice, but it is a rewarding exercise. Our inner voices have been effectively muted for quite some time, so we've grown accustomed to not even hear them. It's there, and it is your intuition. Practice listening to that voice that warns you, that questions, that encourages you to take a different path. We are not a one-size-fits-all species, and how beautiful is that? Nonetheless, we still catch ourselves conforming as such, in one aspect or another, whether we are living someone else's expectations, other people's dreams, other people's successes. We subject ourselves to others defining how we should eat, how we should look, what we should believe, how we should mother, or what platform we should be standing on in order to be accepted by our peers. Enough already. The answers lie within you, just like change.

  • Embrace discomfort. It's uncomfortable, it's frightening, it's annoying,and it never, ever gets easier. Resistance just loves to pay a visit here, to dissuade you from your valiant efforts. The more you get used to the feeling, however, the more change you will see for the better. Whether this is embarking on a new endeavor or improving my paces in running, I acknowledge that Resistance will bully, scare, frighten me and block me with micro-failures along the way....Don't overthink it and just keep chipping away at that brick wall. It comes down.

  • Opt Outside.  If you are going to travel outside of yourself to find answers, for any reason, literally stepping outside is the only exception. You are a part of nature, so it's technically not cheating.

  • Disconnect. I'll devote a separate post to this in the near future, as it deserves it's own stage. As we are not moving in a direction of less technology infiltrating our every day lives, but more (I talk to a hockey puck on my end table....and it responds), it is essential to hone our time management skills.  It is inaccurate and hypocritical to claim that technology is the proverbial bad guy. We all benefit from modern society to some degree. However, too much of a good thing ends up being...a bad thing. Be mindful of the negative aspects of electronic communication and remind yourself how beneficial it is to disconnect and "unconform" from time to time, without feeling obligated to provide an explanation to anyone.

  • Happiness is a choice. Oh, the days when I just wanted to punch people in the throat for saying that. Seriously, how sanctimonious. It's true, though. Gah. The same goes for anger, by the way, so it's good to be equally mindful of that. Anyhow, at a particularly unpleasant life upheaval several years ago that completely caught me off guard and gutted my spirit, I decided I owed it to myself to test this notion of how to welcome happiness in the midst of tragedy. How did I do it? See bullet points above.

I would like to point out that none of these age truths involved any references to a fountain of youth, global adoration, or a magic lamp. This is really important. Instead, these valuable age truths reflect common sense, self-awareness, and more than a little self-deprecation to keep us all laughing and grounded. Without my younger self realizing at the time, this is what I was really looking for when I’d declare to the sky, “I can’t wait until I’m 40 and everything will be okay”.  

 

What would your own life truths be? What do you hope for them to in be in 10, 20, 30 years? I believe this to be a valuable exercise at any age, to be repeated again and again. It serves as proud reminder to celebrate your present, wherever you are in life, but most importantly, to view beauty as a measure of wisdom and experience, and how much more beautiful that becomes the older we get. Plus...imagine if we listened and learned from all of our unique and simultaneously similar perspectives, the progress we could make. 

 

Looking back, I really should have revered every life stage like the one I was so looking forward to, but in a way I did, and I certainly will as I advance in this world. To quote Anne Lamott in the same talk, “My inside self is outside of time and space, it does not have an age. I'm every age I've ever been and so are you."

That is something beautiful to be very, very proud of.

My wise and valiant Calli, at 13.