“It’s all in the attitude”!
Okay — maybe not ALL…
However, much about life and living IS about attitude. I understand ATTITUDE to mean how we think or feel about someone or something. Attitude also describes the ways we behave that are initiated by these thoughts and feelings. I describe what attitude means for me in such phrases as: “Is the glass half full or half empty?” “When you look out at night, what do you see — total darkness or the light created by the stars and the moon?”
I have been curious about my attitude toward the word AGING. Until recently, I hesitated to use the word. Yes, “to age” was okay or “to transition through age” was even better. How could I think and feel with optimism when I would see aging defined as the “process of growing older?” I now understand my hesitation to use the word.
Am I avoiding a reality?
Age is the length of time a person lives or is in existence. Why do I say “I am 70 years of age” instead of “I am 70 years old”? Am I avoiding a reality? Does the word “old” or the “process of growing older” conjure up visions of me and others as decrepit, helpless, and on a steady decline to total deterioration? If I have that attitude, then it makes sense I would avoid all references to AGING.
However, what if I consider the possibility that I can think and feel about this in a different way? What if my struggle with the word and the idea of aging is more about the challenges to ADAPT to increasing age than it is the actual process of increasing in age? I have seen this idea explained as a “de-tuning of adaptation”.
In other words, it’s less about the actual getting older and more about HOW we adapt, how we learn to live with, and in my language: “develop a relationship” with age, its inevitable increase, and resulting effects. Wine and cheese seem to know how to naturally adapt to increasing age with amazing results. Human beings can do the same with a “tuning” of their attitude to aging.
The last of the human freedoms
On a recent trip to Europe, I fell on my left knee. I had been running so the impact was jarring. The next day, I felt something stretch. With swollen, painful legs, I had to walk slowly. At a couple of sites, I did not do my usual climb to the highest point where I find the most enjoyable view. I was relieved that nothing was broken and thankful for the care I received to begin the healing that now continues well. With a planned stop at Terezin, the ghetto and concentration camp north of Prague, Victor Frankl came to mind. He survived in the Auschwitz camp, created the logotherapy of existential meaning and wrote these words: all can be taken but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude, in any given set of circumstances (such as painful knees, legs and resulting slow walk) — to choose one’s own way. His attitude is my inspiration to learn and thrive in the adversities of my present and advancing age.
The aging experience has many descriptors: soulful, conscious, well, successful, positive. For instance, the World Health Organization uses the term “active aging” as the optimizing of opportunities for health, participation, security to enhance the quality of life as people age. TED TALKS has many speakers focus on the topic of how to feel good about getting older. Humans are responsible for their attitude toward an experience that is natural and yet often feared.
At my 40th birthday when my mother, at 73, spoke of how good I looked and how young I acted for that age. I did not know how to respond. How was I supposed to look and act at this life phase? I know I avoided conversations about getting older. Even at my surprise 50th birthday party, I did not understand the purpose of all the attention. Why would anyone want to celebrate more years? AH — life and its ironies — I was ecstatic when finally I celebrated my 16th birthday, the last of my girlfriends to reach this special age. Back then, getting older was worn as a medal of honor. And now?
My family and friends have wondered about the source of my abundant energy, especially as the years and my age advance. I was not aware before my 40’s of energy and its effects. I am committed with more wisdom now, to honor the source of my energy and to facilitate a similar experience with others as they age. The relationship with a Universal Spirit of many different names invites me to understand and embrace a healthy attitude toward my mind, body, and soul. As I shrink and descend in height, I notice my heart and soul ascend in connection with my Life Force, with Spirit of many names.
It’s about the attitude
To age, to transition through age, to adapt, learn, heal and grow from aging — whatever terms we use — for me — it’s about the attitude we create in the presence and relationship with Spirit.
I am also of the attitude that we are drawn forward through the years by purposeful reasons to our existence. We can be supported by the practices of formal, organized religion or the informal, inward directed practices of spirituality or a combination of both. I seek to make peace with my fears and worries and encourage patience to transform them with love. I embrace a compassion for myself and others so my attitude of aging includes respect and dignity for all who inevitably share in the experiences of this life phase.