Wednesday, May 8, 2013

How To Stay Young

Since I turned 30 some months back, I've been thinking a lot about aging. Sure I have a  few fine lines, but I started wondering if something more had changed from my youthful twenties. I realized that I had started to grow "old" on the inside. By "old" I don't mean "mature," or any of the other positive connotations that you could imagine. I mean tired. I mean worn out and spiritless. For a better understanding, let's contrast it with being "young."

Being young on the inside frequently coincides with being young on the outside. In my school days I was fervent, hopeful, energetic. I was idealistic.  I had an impervious resistance to settling.  I was ready for any and every adventure, and I needed very little to get by. I spent plenty of time pondering the mysteries of life, the nobility of man and the tragic beauty of human existence.

And then I finished school, and got married, and had kids, and moved, and moved, and moved some more. Looking at mysteries turned into living mysteries, the mysteries of marriage and parenthood, of the passing of time, and of physical aging in myself and others. And as paradoxical as it seems, the proximity often made it harder to see. Instead of revealing the big picture more clearly, it takes great effort to see beyond the concrete present, beyond the dirty diapers and lack of sleep, the general difficulties and anxiety of making one's way through life.  Sure, occasional intense rays of the real pierce the veil, such as at the birth of a child, but these moments are fleeting when weighed against the balance of "average" days.

I found I wasn't carried away regularly by the great transcendent things anymore - sacrificial love, honor, heroism. In fact, I wasn't even thinking of them. Unconsciously, the valid struggle for material success and financial well being was being elevated to the primary striving of my day to day, month to month. Life was becoming more about comfort than flourishing, security more than the adventure of living authentically. The subtle haze of survival mode was slowly settling over my heart. And this is the beginning of growing "old."

Sounds awful on paper, doesn't it? Worse, even, than grey hairs and crows feet! Yet it is such an easy trap to fall into. The great news is, this is one type of aging that is preventable and reversible. How is one to stay forever young? Here is what I've come up with:

Reflect. I try to spend a few moments daily to think about why I am doing what I'm doing, and really let the answer impact my actions. Everyone should take a few minutes to jot down his or her reasons, core beliefs, and goals, just to have them down, so if things get muddled and confused one only has to look so far as the journal for clarity (I also do this for individual projects, like blogging).

Discuss. Have regular discussions that go beyond the surface, either with a close friend or your spouse. These talks are absolutely necessary in a marriage. Two people can get through many difficulties if they  are united in purpose, and assured that they aren't going it alone. The lead in to such conversations is often as simple as asking, "How are you?" and waiting for a real answer.

Nourish. Feed your soul with what it needs most: the true, the good, the beautiful. These are found so readily in nature, literature, prayer, the arts, and time spent with good friends.

Does this resonate with you? How do you see beyond the daily grind?


  1. Mary, I think this is so important to remember! And I'm glad you put Reflect as the first point, as I think it's the one to prompt the other two. :) One of the things, I think, that makes retreats so good and so necessary is this falling into the daily grind and forgetting *why* we're grinding. ;-) Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    1. Thanks, Mona! Retreats - great suggestion!

  2. This might be something really small, but something that is my focus this summer is to be outside, have the windows open in my car when I am driving, etc. I think getting enough sun (in whatever way) is important for our bodies and helps one adjust to things. This was something I was rather unaware of until the last year or so and I used to talk about how pointless getting a tan was because it was a waste of time to sit outside and stuff ... but now I am willing to waste a whole lot of time if it is going to help me feel and be healthier :)


Please leave me a comment. If you don't blog, you may not realize that comments to a blogger are like sunshine to the whole of the photosynthesizing world. What I'm saying is, each comment means a lot! P.S. If you have an email connected to your profile, I'll most likely respond there.