Growing older is a fact of life which we will all face at some point. Our perception of age and aging probably differs greatly depending on which part of the world we come from. However, aging signals to most that we are no longer in our hay day and therefore are bound by a different set of rules and expectations. Some societies revere their elders and others have less tolerance and sympathy for those who have past their prime. The fact is that we will all at some point belong to this demographic. With so many people having access to information readily at their fingertips, people have begin to live quite different lives from their parents. Advances in medicine and science also mean that people are living longer by eating healthier and exercising in an effort to live longer. However as the years pass and as our biological clocks tick signaling the passage of Time; it is important to question how well we are aging. Is it a question of quantity versus quality?
I have a great respect for older people. They are our Grandparents, Parents, Uncles and Aunts, neighbors and friends. In Guyana, we have the lovely custom of calling anyone our parents age or older “Uncle” and “Aunty”. It is with the utmost respect that this title is bestowed. My children having been born and raised in Haiti had great difficulty understanding this phenomenon. In Haiti only family members are given this title. My boys could not understand that all of the aunts and uncles in Guyana were not always directly related to us. One summer they spent 6 weeks with my parents in Guyana. When I saw them later that summer, they told me that they never knew that I had so many brothers and sisters beyond the ones they already knew. Everywhere they went they met Aunty this and Uncle that!! I tried to explain, but I think that they were only able to grasp this as they got older. The other day I was confronted with a reality. I realized that I was the oldest person in a sports program I was doing. I was floored…What!?! This had never happened to me before. I was always one of the youngest in any group of people I knew. Then it happened again when an adult friend of my son from Guyana called me Aunty!! I had become older and joined the ranks…I was officially a “Guyanese Aunty “!!
Recently, I have been thinking quite a bit about the age process. I feel that I am still young enough to be considered “not old”; but I do realize that my grown children are now the age that their father and I were when we married. This makes them full fledged adults and me the mother of two grown men. Thankfully, I still have a 13 year old who keeps me on my toes and in touch with all things trending and hip like ” hit the folks “, and can understand the sayings like “woke” ” shake” and so on, I too can be “humble” like Kendrick Lamar. Recently, I committed myself to stay as fit and hope to continue doing things with my adult children as long as I can keep up with them. They have always encouraged me to do things with them like going to music festivals, block parties, swimming with the dolphins, climbing mountains, zip-lining , dancing, laughing, and things that celebrate love and a passion for life. I know that my salt and pepper hair ( which I proudly sport) and the pain which I sometimes experience in my knees and lower back, when I do some over zealous exercises Insanity work outs with that crazed “Sean -T” or doing the 10,000 squats in 30 days challenge. These certainly are indications that I am a slightly older version of me than I have to accept. I have come to the realization that I am a mature woman and I acknowledge that I want to embrace life and enjoy the moments I have left while I still have the physical ability.
I think that age is a state-of-mind and has little to do merely with a number. I admire old people who are young at heart and full of the zest of life. What a joy it is to see someone who has embraced life to the fullest, one who is now gray haired, wrinkled, happy and who lives without regret. Such an individual has cast aside society’s labels of what is expected of someone at a certain age. Great respect is due to those who have chosen to find their happiness in all that they do. One of life’s greatest tragedies is the sadness of seeing one who lives a life of regret while still holding the capacity to seize the day and change his or her outlook. There is profound disappointment for the one who reaches a golden age while harboring the regret of never pursuing a passion nor savoring the sweet moments of Life. This happiness is attainable irregardless of money or social position. It’s about living life and finding purpose in getting out of bed everyday and being excited for what the day has in store.
Here is something which I have been realizing of late; old people were once youthful and leaders of their generation. Behind every old person is a young person wondering ” how the heck did this all happen so quickly and where did my youth go?” Life just goes by so quickly. Isn’t it funny how time seems to pass so slowly when we are young. The older we get, it seems that there are not enough hours in the day to get everything done. The new year begins, we blink and it’s summer vacation. You sleep a couple of times and it’s already almost Christmas. I think that this is due to the fevered pace of our lives. So many things to get done at home and work, and then social media… that takes a big chunk of change out of our lives. Stop comparing your lives to others!! Comparison is the thief of Joy! Be happy and content in your own situation. Anyway, before we realize it, we have reached an age where we want to do things that we had always dreamed of but never pursued. We as human beings always have a tendency to put things on a back burner to do later. Life goes by in a blink and often when we realize this, we may no longer have the courage or the physical capability to realize the dream. The moral here is when an occasion presents itself to do something that you’ve always dreamed of doing, DO IT!! There may never be another chance again.
One of the fundamental things I am learning about living is that stress plays a huge role in our lives. The way in which we deal with our stress will affect our general well being. Schedules and timetables are all great but have you ever noticed how we react if we are thrown off slightly in a schedule? Usually we get very edgy and frustrated. We bite down on our molars and seethe. Here in Haiti, traffic, tap taps and Moto taxis cause anger and frustration everyday on the roads. Still, there is not that much we can do when we are stuck in it most days. Turn on some good music and relax. Wanting to rear end the car in front of you because he inadvertently wedged himself between you and the car ahead, will not make you get home any faster. It’s all about balance. Don’t sweat the little things. The truth is that the frustration of the moment will pass and more than likely tomorrow will be better. We spend a great part of our lives and energy stressing instead of achieving positive outcomes.
Another life changing truth is that holding grudges is also something which takes a huge toll on our well being. Jealousy and anger eat away at the soul and at our lives. Forgive and forget when you can. It will help you to move on and put bad karma behind. Nature will take care of things. Just do what is right and never act in vengeance or in anger. Often after a while, your outlook will change and the scenario can look quite different when you have cooled down. Anger causes infuriation and stress. When people are angry they generally do not make good decisions as they tend to be more emotionally driven.
Getting older means some physical changes. We expand in different directions by just looking at our favorite food. Years ago we could consume a plate of pasta at 2 am and it would have no consequence on our belly. There is also the issue of those pesky gray hairs. The ones which which sporadically appear are enough to send us scrambling for an appointment at our salon to hide the tell tale signs of age. I started to gray quite prematurely in my late 30’s. At first it was a couple of stray gray hairs and my then baby girl would say ” mama you have some gray strings stuck in your hair”. Occasionally I would pull them out as they were just a few strands. Once I realized that the grays were coming in faster than I could pull them out, I realized that I had two options: Either start to dye them or just accept them. I chose the latter. I could not fathom having to join the countless numbers who periodically have to touch up and change colors to hide the natural aging process. For a while, I thought that I was the only person graying as everyone else had perfect ” non- gray” hair. I have even been told that I was courageous! Why? Because I went out in public with my gray shamelessly. Then I realized that women were always going to the hair salons to cover up their grays. Men were mostly exempt from this ” shame”. Once a women whom I do not know told me that I was too young to be walking around in public like that and that I could lose my husband if I did not take care of the gray quickly. I was shocked. It was actually my husband who told me about 15 years prior that I would gray early and that he had dreamed of this and that he liked it. Society puts constant constraints on people ad we fall victim to the belief that we have to look a certain way to conform. I beg to differ. It’s liberating not to have to do what other people think or say, but rather to do what I feel is right for me. LEARN TO LOVE YOURSELF! You are your worst critic!!
Without further ado here’s a list of things that I subscribe to in my life as I get older and I find help me to keep things in perspective:
1. Learn to live life well, but in moderation. Too much of anything is not good for the body or the soul.
2. Try to be fair, kind, patient and most of all honest. These simple things can make a world of difference in the way we interact with people.
3. Do not fall for flattery or gimmicks. “To thine own self be true”. There will always be a fad diet or latest craze beckoning to be followed. Hopefully with maturity, we can differentiate truth from fiction. Do not succumb to pressure to join the bandwagon.
4. Eat dessert and enjoy carbs but in small portions. Life is short and a little sweet and delicious comfort food is good for the soul. Again in moderation.
5. Drink lots of water everyday; it’s important to remain hydrated and it’s great for your skin and hair.
6. Have a glass of wine (or two) occasionally, but it’s really not necessary to drink the entire bottle alone.
7. Remember that quality versus quantity is of real value.
8. Help someone in need. Your actions could literally change a life.
9. Remember the mantra “do unto others as you would have done unto you”.
10. Respect Nature and protect it always. Mother Earth is our home and the home of our future generations. Give her respect and love and she in return will do the same and more.
11. Be kind to your elders as they deserve respect and patience. Our parents sacrificed for us and so we are indebted to take care of them as they age, just as they cared for us when we were young and unable. Remember that our children will see how we react with our parents and one day it will be their role to assume the responsibility. If you have shown them good examples, they will treat you like they have learned.
12. Remain humble in Life and keep grounded.
These are a few tips that I am learning as I embrace life. I do not want to grow older with anger or regret. Today is mine but tomorrow I cannot assure. I am thankful everyday for my blessings and my life.