Your chronological age cannot be changed, but your attitude can. Whether you are 25, 85, or somewhere in-between, loving your stage of life is entirely in your own hands
By CATHERINE EDEN
Remember when you were a child and your greatest longing was to be a grown-up who lived by her own rules? And when you became that independent adult, remember how you thought back longingly to the carefree days of your childhood? Where we are on the age continuum never seems to be quite as good as where we might be going or where we once were. Although we are constantly moving, we spend a lot of time wishing we were somewhere else instead. The trouble with this futile hankering for the past or the future is that it means that we overlook the present, and that means that we miss out on life.
The ‘present’ is a gift; the gift of whatever experience unfolds for you today. Giving that experience your full attention, integrating it into your reality and learning from it is the best way to create a more meaningful tomorrow. By making the most of now, you carry positive energy into next week, next month and next year – whatever your age.
A wise teacher once said that life is like a cup of tea: if you don’t savour it you will miss the flavour and aroma, and when next you look, the tea will be gone. We are all inclined to live with the illusion that when we get a great job/make enough money/find the perfect relationship/lose 10kg, then we will be happy. But if and when we attain those goals, inevitably we find that there is some impediment to enjoying them. We wish we could go back and take more time to smell the roses, but of course we can’t. Yesterday is over and tomorrow isn’t here yet. While it makes good sense to learn from yesterday and prepare for tomorrow, it is crucial that you consciously enjoy and engage with today, because it is today that you are alive.
Every age, from birth to death, has its advantages and disadvantages. When you are young you are usually beautiful and healthy and, if you are blessed with a loving family, your needs are satisfied. You have no responsibilities other than to learn and to grow. The downside is that you are inexperienced and uncertain; you make mistakes and get hurt; you are dependent on others and have to live by their rules.
When you are older you have character and wisdom; you have experience, capability, confidence and independence. The downside is that you may not be as fit and attractive as you once were; you may have fewer opportunities open to you, or, if life has not been kind to you, you may have battle scars that cause you to feel disappointed or cynical.
Check your belief system
The trick to being happy with your age is to focus on the good stuff, and to let go of feelings of inadequacy about the things you have not yet achieved or the things that have passed you by. Ageing gracefully is about accepting yourself as you are now, believing that everything you have been in the past has brought you to this moment in the present, and that it is exactly where you are supposed to be. As designer Coco Chanel said, ‘a woman has the age she deserves’, implying that we are all growing into ourselves, all busy with the business of evolution. Who you once were no longer matters, and who you might be is yet to be determined. It is who you are today that counts; and it’s what you think at this moment that will affect your ageing process.
Chronological age has very little to do with energy. If you buy into the belief that it’s all downhill after 40, your body and spirit will begin to reflect that belief. If, however, you believe that the best is yet to come, your life will blossom in unexpected ways.
Embrace the age you are; mark your rites of passage with rituals and celebrations, and learn from the experience of others. Everyone has something to learn and something to teach. By interacting with people of all ages, you will develop a context and appreciation of your current cycle, and grow in your understanding of life.
Love your body
Hardly a woman on the planet is happy with her body. Emaciated models and airbrushed images encourage us to buy into an impossible quest for society’s current view of physical perfection. Instead, we should be appreciating our bodies for the remarkable machines they are; for their strength, agility and uniqueness. Celebrate your good points, because whatever your age, a few years from now you will look back at your more youthful self and be amazed that you were so critical of your minor flaws. So make the most of what you have right now.
‘In my 20s I thought my thighs were chubby, so I never went swimming with my friends,’ says Sarah. ‘Now, in my 40s, I berate myself for my silliness. My body has carried children and served me well. I’ve decided to focus on my blessings and not my faults. I swim whenever I like now – flabby thighs and all – because I’m grateful that I can.’
Nurture your health
Good health is something we take for granted – until we lose it. Ask yourself where you abuse your body, and in what ways you could strengthen it. Value your energy and acknowledge the extraordinary things your body can do. Exercise to retain or regain flexibility and fitness, and pay attention to your personal nutritional do’s and don’ts. Diet plays a critical role in the prevention of illness, and by tuning in to your body’s needs, you can take charge of your own wellbeing.
‘At about 38 I developed adult onset asthma,’ says Kate. ‘I hated using pumps and pills and cortisone to control it, but this was all conventional medicine could offer me. Then I went to see a naturopath who took me off dairy products and wheat, and prescribed a daily walk with deep breathing. At 50 my health is better than it ever has been. I’ve started yoga, because I believe that a supple body and mind will help me cope with stress and adjust more easily to life’s challenges.’
The brain has the capacity to grow your whole life long. Read, explore stimulating topics and be open to new learning experiences. Relationships, both romantic and platonic, are the classrooms and battle fields where we learn about life. If you’ve had some knocks, explore your patterns and try to do things differently next time. What sort of people are you attracted to and why? What do you expect from relationships? What do you have to offer? Perhaps you are a rescuer attracted to victims, or perhaps it’s you who wants to be rescued. Whether you are in a partnership or alone, whether you are 25 or 65, your happiness is always in your own hands. So nurture your friendships, because while romance may come and go, true friends last forever. Develop your creativity and your independence; keep expanding your mind. Find joy in small things and in your own company.
Make gratitude your attitude
Take stock of your talents and strengths, and use them to improve your own and others’ circumstances. Self-doubt and sadness afflict people of all ages, but by focusing on the positive experiences you have, you can attract more of the same into your life. Whatever your age, be grateful for your potential, your capacities, your experience and your skills. Fight disappointment and depression, and know that when you’ve hit a bad patch, there is always a bigger picture to consider. Be enthusiastic about life and all its possibilities. ‘Nobody grows old merely by living a number of years,’ said poet Samuel Ullman. ‘We grow old by deserting our ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.’ Follow your passion, whatever it may be. Having a mission in life keeps you vibrant, connected and interesting.
Listen to the voices . . .
‘I don’t know what’s in store for me, but I have great role models to follow, and I’m excited by the potential life offers.’ – Clara, 26
‘Being a mother is challenging, exhausting and wonderful. My career is on hold, but that’s okay, because I know this phase won’t last forever. I don’t want to miss a moment of it.’ – Stacy, 37
‘I’ve learned to value the important things in life. I’m less materialistic, more health-conscious. I’m proud of the balance I’ve achieved, and I’m proud of the lines around my eyes. They show the world I’ve done some living.’ – Lee, 49
‘At last I’ve reached the age where I can do as I please, without worrying about what others might think. I don’t buy the tag that comes with any particular age; I feel younger and healthier than I did ten years ago. I’m good at my job and I know what suits me, and I’ve learned that confidence is just as effective as beauty in attracting others.’ – Joan, 55
‘I like who I am and what I’ve done with my life. I’m less anxious to make my point; more anxious to understand where others are coming from. I’m patient these days, and much more tolerant. I’m comfortable expressing love and appreciation. I respect the person inside every body, because I am aware that I have either been there or will be there one day. I am in awe of this journey called life.’ Lucy, 70
Good Living Magazine