Friday, April 1, 2016
“Start by doing what is necessary; then do what’s possible,
and suddenly you’re doing the impossible.” ~Francis of Assisi
I remember when I was very young hearing my 93-year old great-grandmother repeat that old maxim, “If I’d known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.” Like most youngsters, I didn’t take my elder’s wisdom to heart. And, eventually I did recall the conversation, with regret. Because as a much older me, I was suddenly receiving messages from my own body – I had begun to face one challenging aging ailment after another, barely coping with one before another popped up. I shouldn’t have been so surprised – I had already written another essay based on it seeming like our older bodies might be falling apart, but it could also be our chance to partner with our bodies. But, of course, we humans are always forgetting and then being reminded again. The truth is that our bodies are finite, they do wear out, and they do malfunction – especially if we haven’t taken good care of them, and have taken them for granted.
So, what can we do to ensure that our later life is as healthy and productive and happy as we would like it to be? Well for starters we need to realize the fact that statistics already show that human beings are now living longer than ever. The trend that’s already obvious is that the 70s are the new 50s and the 90s are the new 70s. This means (statistically) that we are going to be “old” for much longer periods of time than our parents and grandparents.
That fact automatically shoots taking better care of our bodies up to the top of all lists. Every day for decades we’ve been inundated with information that encouraged us to eat a life-enhancing and nutritious diet, to exercise, lose weight, run, walk and keep moving so that we can have a fit and healthy body.
As seniors, many of us already had a handy excuse for ignoring the fitness craze that is still sweeping our country, because we thought it had nothing to do with us. After all we were too busy focusing on what we thought were the last years of our lives. Yet the truth is: Better late than never. Thank you, Granny.
While it’s obvious that younger generations will have more time to adjust to living longer lives, we oldsters have already recognized that life itself is an incredible gift, and the opportunity to live to an advanced age can be an even greater blessing. It’s our responsibility to make the most of it, and to prepare our bodies for a longer lifespan by staying healthy and fit, and we can do it wisely without ripped muscles and six-packs.
We also need to expand our minds and embrace the new concepts of agelessness and youthfulness, as well as life-long learning and goal-setting. Another self-defeating thing that we foot-dragging oldsters do to stay firmly entrenched in “the old days” is to resist all changes, and particularly technological change. I’ve heard many of my peers say when they are being chastised by their family members for retreating from the high-tech world we now live in: “Oh well, we’ll be long-gone soon.”
People who think that way have already started opting OUT to put it bluntly. The thought being, that we can’t move forward or don’t think we can, or don’t have the urge to do so. The upshot of that closed and unhealthy mind-set is a fear of learning new ways, and of trying new things. It can also isolate us from society – and put our lives in a static kind of holding pattern – that says we’re still here, but patiently waiting for the way out.
I remember a quote by bestselling author Richard Bach that fits this situation perfectly: “If you think your mission on Earth is complete, if you’re alive it isn’t.”
I have to admit that I am still one of those “foot-dragging” seniors. For example, just like my parents I resist using the drive-in window at my bank, and still write checks to pay my bills. I don’t even want to talk about how little I know about my one high-tech concession, computers, for if it works that’s great, but if it doesn’t I have no clue as to what to do. My young grandsons are my tutors.
After I was recently presented with another aging ailment, I began seriously wondering what the final chapter(s) of my life could be like if I changed my outlook and became part of our world’s evolution into a higher conscious awareness. I knew immediately that not being part of Life and just kind of “hanging in,” wasn’t for me.
Here’s what I did. I took a week off for a self-imposed retreat (which I call time-out-of-time) to ponder my stage of life and to revisit some of the wise words of my mentors and teachers, as well as famous sages and philosophers who have gone on before us.
This statement from my late friend and mentor Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross captured my attention
Each and every one of us is a unique, individualized expression of God – the Divine Mind – and we’re here for a reason, and there will never be another me or another you.
I was touched at the core of my being by that quote, and took the time necessary to do two things. The first was to accept the fact that in order to continue experiencing life on Earth we must have a body and the healthier the better. Next I took a clear look at my life to figure out what I would need to do (physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually) to help me make the best of the rest of my life.
Feeling somewhat overwhelmed by the latest ailment I was experiencing I sat down and listed my half-dozen maladies, along with specific dietary do’s or don’ts for each one. I also added prescribed exercises, meditation, visualization, and embryonic (qigong) breathing as well as homeopathic and holistic healing modalities.
Having focused my thoughts by writing down my concerns and what I could and would do about them, I no longer felt overwhelmed. What I had done was to come up with a simple list of how-to’s that in a very short time (two weeks for me) became a healthful and uplifting habit.
As soon as I started working with my body as a willing partner, I immediately felt supported and empowered by the positive energy that now coursed through my being. I was no longer a helpless victim just waiting for the next aging ailment to show up, I was consciously partnering with my body to attain and maintain a higher level of energy and well-being to prepare me for whatever life presents. (This includes a bit of time to have a snit-fit when and if another malady shows up.)
As my great-grandmother also said, “When you have your health, you have everything!” She was right. I’m aware and kind of gobsmacked that at the age of 80 I committed to a new vision – with a healthier diet, exercises and taking full responsibility for my body. My goal is to continue experiencing life on Earth, growing in conscious awareness instead of just getting older … and making the best of the rest of my life.
I made my decision with a tip of the hat to the late Art Linkletter, who wrote a bestselling book years ago titled – “How to Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life – in which he said, You can’t stop the clock, but we can rewind it.”
I chose to do that. I finally realized that it’s time to embrace this brave new world instead of resisting it. Life is change, and the world is changing fast and in ways that will affect every aspect of our lives—and they’ve only just begun. The good news is that part of living in a time of rapid change also means we can take advantage of new and unparalleled opportunities … and use them to make the best of the rest of our lives.
Copyright © 2015 Fern Stewart Welch
The author’s books: “Becoming a Spiritual Warrior of the Heart,” (April 2013); “Tea with Elisabeth,” recipient of the 2010 Silver Award for Non-fiction; “You Can Live A Balanced Life In an Unbalanced World,” (Nov. 2008); and “The Heart Knows the Way – How to Follow Your Heart to a Conscious Connection with the Divine Spirit Within,” (Feb. 2008) are available at Amazon.com other online booksellers and bookstore chains such as Barnes & Noble.