serene ambition™

transforming the culture of aging

Fork in the road

Posted by Jim Selman on 10/17/06

I am 64 years old. Somehow the number seems significant, although I don’t know why. Everyone I have ever spoken to about age agrees: they feel a lot younger than they imagined they would feel like at this age (however old they might be).

It’s almost as if we reach a ‘fork in the road’ age-wise—a particular moment in time, usually in middle age, when we experience a total disconnect between what we see in the mirror and what we experience in our mind. I think this phenomenon, and the degree to which we experience the disconnect, reveals our resistance to aging (at best) and outright denial (at worst).

For some, this kind of ‘fork in the road’ occurs more than once in a lifetime. When I was a teenager, I felt older inside than my biological age, and ended up wrestling with my own and other people’s perceptions of me as being ‘too young’. I don’t recall thinking about my ‘age’ again at all until I reached my early 50s. And then it was to realize that my body and my self-perception were out of sync again.

I believe our internal conversation about “How old I am” versus “How old I feel” serves a purpose: it keeps us more and more in our minds and less and less in our bodies… This living in our minds leads to a variety of aging stereotypes like living in the past (where we’re preoccupied with our memories) or the future (where we’re preoccupied with dying or whatever we believe is next).

This past or future focus definitely blocks us from living in the present…just plain old “being alive”. What would it take to see age as simply a fact—a piece of trivia having no more or less meaning than a number?

We don’t view our age as an interpretation—when in actual fact it’s simply a value we have placed on the number of times our planet has rotated on its axis while we have been experiencing life.

I don’t know many people who, if they had a choice, would choose to be the age they are. Not that they are suffering with their age, but they view ‘age’ as a circumstance that happens to them and believe the best they can do is cope, rationalize, resist or ultimately resign themselves to it and all the cultural baggage that goes with it.

Age is just a conversation.

It’s just because it’s so close to us—what is closer than our bodies changing?—that we cannot see it. We end up spending the last half of our lives wresting with the paradox of “How old I am isn’t how old I feel!”. So what would the second half of our lives look like if we were totally integrated and our age-based feelings were a ‘non-conversation’…what if these thoughts about age as a circumstance that we have to deal with simply never came to mind?

Perhaps we’d never think about how old we are. Or, more likely, we would love every moment of living without regard to age. We might also conceive of the second half of life as being one of ever-increasing possibilities, satisfaction and abundance, rather than, as is too often the case, one of gradual isolation and decline.

© 2006 Jim Selman. All rights reserved.

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