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?