Remember when you thought 30 was old? If you still do, you’re under 20 no doubt. Funny how, as the years pass, the portion of life we think of as middle age slides slowly upwards. Remember when we thought the phrase “Life begins at 40” was a way that older people consoled themselves – and then maybe you discovered that it really does begin then?
How do we cope with the realization, when it finally hits, that life is an irreversible process, and one that keeps moving on? Well, this can be scary for some. There are fears about loss of physical health and strength, intellectual capabilities, and change in physical appearance.
Certainly aging affects us all, but how it affects us is determined, to a large extent, by our attitude towards it. If we think of all the changes as losses, then aging can become an extended grieving process with little to look forward to.
If, instead, we see our lives as becoming richer with each passing year, then we can carry a sense of contentment in our hearts. But what if there are stresses and difficulties that cause us pain? How can we see life as full and rich? What comes to mind is the young child who cannot eat any more dinner but still has room for dessert. This is deftly explained by the fact that “the dinner part is full, but the dessert part is empty.”
Maybe at times when we feel that our lives may be lacking something we need and to think of life as having lots of little compartments. Perhaps the pain parts are pretty full, however, there may also be a part that is full of joy about grandchildren. Maybe the health part is low but there is a full, loving relationship. You can create as many compartments as you like, and see which ones you want to attend to. Perhaps it is more time with friends or pursuing a new interest. Maybe it is more reading or exercise, or spending more time enjoying life with an intimate partner. It might even be repairing estranged relationships.
Certainly, as years go by, one comes to appreciate the value of life and how swiftly time passes. And the sooner we realize that we create the quality of our lives, the sooner the quality is enhanced. We all know individuals in their forties, fifties and even eighties who seem virtually unaffected by aging. They have the same enthusiasm and excitement about life as always. These people know the secret of life. So do young children. It is that life only happens in the present.
Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning Psychotherapist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books or cds, visit www.gwen.ca