I am not normally a big sports fan, but when the Olympics rolls around I join the rest of the viewing public in watching the best athletes in the world compete.
Do you know what I’ve noticed?
The best athletes in the world are much younger than I am. Astute observation, huh?
But why does it matter?
Because watching those YOUNG athletes can remind me of all the ways my body is no longer young and in top condition. [I am going under the assumption that we were all in top condition once upon a time. Work with me here.]
Letting go of Youth
We live in a society that worships youth and beauty. People spend tons of money on products and activities that promise to keep them looking younger. All of which makes it extremely difficult for those of us traversing the middle of life to accept the fact we are no longer young.
We aren’t, and no amount of exercise, anti-aging serums, and hair color will change that fact.
Instead, we need to buck the trend and embrace our not-so-young selves. That doesn’t mean we should give up looking our best and let our bodies go to pot.
It does mean changing our attitudes and expectations.
Expectations: Embracing the New Normal
My friend Janet wrote a book about recovering after a devastating car accident. The extent of her injures meant she would never return to her previous physical condition. In her book she described her struggles to accept her “new normal.”
We middle-aged folks need to take stock of our new normal from time to time.
New normal might mean:
- We can no longer mulch all the flower beds in one day
- We can’t keep up with our kids on the ski slopes or hiking trails.
- We’re no longer the last ones to leave the party
- Reading glasses
- Surgery scars or artificial joints
If we want to grow old with grace, we need to accept our new normal instead of trying to fight it and return an old normal that is out of reach.
Attitudes: Aging with Grace
I am not always happy with my new normal, but instead of beating myself up for what I can no longer do, I can embrace my new limitations and find ways to live with joy and purpose within them.
Aging gracefully might mean:
- Giving yourself permission to spread the work over several sessions instead of doing it all in one marathon session. (And permission to enjoy a rest and a cool drink in between.)
- Admitting you can no longer do some things, and either giving them up or finding someone else to do them for you. (This applies to both chores and hobbies.)
- Exploring new activities that fit within your new normal. Anything from different kinds of exercise to new hobbies that replace ones you decided to give up.
- Redefining what is important. Some things that seemed vital at thirty (a tidy kitchen, career advancement, beating your racquetball partner) may no longer be so important. Let go of out-dated expectations and embrace the opportunity to spend time on what you now deem most important. (Grandchildren? That latent desire to learn watercolors? A second career in a completely different field?)
You and I will never be twenty-years-old again.
We can either allow disappointment to consume us as we try vainly to regain our lost youth.
We can decide that a few wrinkles and gray hairs are not the enemy, and instead decide to age gracefully. We can decide to focus on being grateful for all we have rather than growing bitter for what we have lost. And we can decide that letting go of no-longer-practical expectations opens door for new and exciting opportunities.
Where might you be holding on to youthful, no-longer-true realities?
How might you decide to age gracefully instead?