Growing Wiser With Age? Maybe…
It’s my birthday today, and I thought I’d write a little on the topic, even if it does mean I’d stray a bit off the beaten path of my typical daily posts.
Although I’m just a tad older than I was in this shot above, circa 1979, I’m still a kid at heart…running around like crazy every day (literally), riding bikes, swimming, and just enjoying life in general, thanks to the good fortune of having developed a career I feel so passionate about, I may as well consider it playing, too!
Part of that is my writing, which I truly love.
When I decide on my weekly blog theme, I’ll often implement a few different strategies, one of which is checking to see if any National Days happen to fall during the week and whether or not they have any relevance to the paleo diet, fitness, nutrition or overall health and wellness.
I had a quick peek today and found that in addition to being my birthday (which, it turns out, is actually not a National Day), September 15th is also:
- National Cheese Toast Day
- National Linguine Day
- National Cheeseburger Day
- National Creme de Menthe Day
It’s also the national day for several other significantly more deserving causes, such as Greenpeace Day and National LGBT Awareness Day (kinda makes you wonder how the first four I listed got their own days,doesn’t it?).
At any rate, all joking aside about each our birthdays not being a National Holiday, one’s birthday could be likened to New Year’s Day.
You are, in fact, beginning your own new year and as such, you have the opportunity to make positive changes in your life and indirectly, that of those around you.
It’s a time to reflect; what have you learned over the course of the past 365 days? What challenges have you had to endure and what joys have you had the pleasure of embracing?
And celebrating birthdays is part of our evolution; some scholars have pointed to the Bible’s reference of a Pharaoh’s birthday as the earliest known mention of a birthday celebration (around 3,000 B.C.E.).1
Yet this day, your very own special day, is often met with anything but excitement and happiness.
In a word, fear.
We’re afraid of getting older.
We’re afraid of aging.
And we’re definitely afraid of dying.
I write this in general terms, as it certainly doesn’t apply to all of us.
In fact, it seems to be far more prominent in Western Cultures, and it may well keep us from living full lives.
“There’s so much shame in our culture around aging and death,” Koshin Paley Ellison, Buddhist monk and co-founder of the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care, told the Huffington Post. “People themselves when they’re aging feel that there’s something wrong with them and they’re losing value.”2
A grim prospect, and likely one that many of us have experienced, either first hand or through a close friend or family member.
But we don’t have to leave it at that.
First of all, consider some other cultural perspectives:
- Native American elders pass down their knowledge and aging and death are accepted simply as part of life3.
- In Korea, elders are highly respected. It’s also customary in Korean to have a big celebration to mark an individual’s 60th and 70th birthdays. The hwan-gap, or 60th birthday, is a joyous time when children celebrate their parents’ passage into old age. The age is thought to be reason for celebration in part because many of their ancestors would not have survived past the age of 60 without the advances of modern medicine. A similar large family celebration is held for the 70th birthday, known as kohCui (“old and rare”).4
- In India, elders are the head of the family and are supported by the younger members of the family; they in turn play a key role in raising their grandchildren.5
Next, and perhaps more importantly, think about what it is with regard to aging that is particularly alarming to you.
Is it the idea of pain and suffering?
Disease, illness, sickness?
These are factors you can absolutely take the upper hand in.
Genetics play a role, of course, but the old nature versus nurture argument comes into play here.
Choose how you view aging and how you treat your own elders, and simultaneously choose your fate in terms of how you’d like to see your years unfolding.
Then accept one thing: there is absolutely nothing you can do about how old you are…in years.
But there’s everything you can do in terms of your attitude.
And it’s for this reason that I’ve always felt completely indifferent to telling anyone who might happen to ask my age just what it is… and celebrate it!
So today, I’d encourage you to do the same.
Assess where you are, where you’re going and how happy you are with the path you’re on.
Determine what isn’t working and start on the road to address it, whether it’s being overweight, not eating well, feeling unsatisfied with your career or simply overwhelmed and burnt out with life in general.
It doesn’t have to be your birthday, or New Year’s Day, or any certain day in particular for you to implement positive motion.
If your birthday resonates with you, like mine does for me as a time to draw from the past without dwelling and then move forward with a vision of what you want to see in your future, go for it!
Or maybe it’ll be an event that occurs to nearly send you over the edge that proves to be your tipping point.
In any case, embrace the one body and the one mind you have and know you have so much more potential to steer your course more than you likely ever dreamed.
Own your age, and be proud of it!
(And if you eat real food and move, no one’s every going to guess your real age anyway! How do you like them apples?)
- Luling, Todd Van. “This Is Why You Get To Celebrate Your Birthday Every Year.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 11 Nov. 2013. Web. 14 Sept. 2015
- Gregoire, Carolyn. “7 Cultures That Celebrate Aging And Respect Their Elders.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web. 14 Sept. 2015
- “NATIVE AMERICAN ELDERLY.” National Indian Council on Aging. National Indian Council on Aging
- Yamato, Alexander. Asian Americans in the United States. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Pub., 1993. Print
- Contributor, Quora. “In Your Country, What Is the Role of Elderly People?” Slate. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Sept. 2015.