I feel old these days.
Right now, people reading this that know me personally are laughing hysterically, especially my longtime older clients. They tried to warn me about what it is like getting older back when I was in my 30s and they were in their 50s, 60s, 70s. Of course, I nodded and agreed, and thought I got what they were saying, but did I really understand?
I was sure I did at the time, but let’s just say I have much greater understanding now! But I think anyone older than me would still say, just you wait, because growing older never stops. Recently, I have found myself trying to warn clueless youngsters, “Enjoy your perfect reading vision while you still have it!”
This is the nature of aging, is it not? We all know it’s inevitable but one day we wake up and we’re like, what happened? This seems to occur more and more as the years go by. Later decades of our lives also bring an ever-accelerating onslaught of change that can feel totally out of our control.
The good news is that it’s never too late to face the inevitability of growing older with an empowered mindset. The bad news is that it’s easy to feel like it’s already too late. Yet, right now, anytime, this is when we grab our aging and take charge of it! If not us, who?
To start with, physical strength is crucial. Later, it literally becomes a quality-of-life issue, and you will know this when you can’t stand up from the toilet, or easily ascend a flight of stairs, or lift your grocery bags. This is the time to take this seriously and prepare for this, even if you think that it can’t possibly happen to you. As a veteran of complicated fractures that have permanently compromised my wrists, allow me to remind you that a life circumstance such as an accident or a medication always takes a greater toll on an aging body. Muscle atrophy is no joke as you get older. Perhaps it’s not in your future, but we cannot count on anything to go the way we think it will. It is so important to start building and/or maintaining muscular strength and endurance right now!
Next, support the body that supports you. I’ve always eaten relatively healthy, exercised, lifted weights, tried to get decent sleep, all the things, and you probably have as well. Most of us do our best in that regard. But I have been hard on myself in many other ways, such as ignoring tweaks or injuries and assuming my body would heal instead of allowing recovery time to support its healing. I’ve done my share of avoiding beneficial activities such as stretching or icing or easing up on activity intensity, even if I knew would benefit me. Why not treat yourself with more care and be a little gentler on yourself? Maybe clean up your diet a bit. Get a little more sleep. Vacation more. In general, listen to and respect and love the body in which you live.
Also, practice resilience. There are some people who have this gift for optimism and an incredible ability to glide through life seemingly unfazed by anything (I happen to be married to one of these.) I can’t even imagine! I work every day to keep my mindset positive and to see the good in my life, to be appreciative for what I do have (and to enjoy every precious moment), to be accepting of the aspects that I can’t control, and to be empowered in all the ways that I can. Life will find ways to bring us down and it is up to us to find ways to get back up, whatever it takes.
In addition, there is tremendous strength in having a purpose. What do you love? What do you value? What makes you come alive? What do you want to accomplish or achieve? What is the legacy you want to leave? Using the perspective and wisdom achieved through your experiences is a hugely powerful way of using your dreams and goals to empower yourself through major change.
Finally, accept that inevitability is our destiny. Aging is an incredible privilege, because, well, we all know what the alternative is. It’s not natural or practical to spend each day as if it is our last, but the older that we get it becomes easier to tap into a deeper understanding of how little time we really have. I have never been more aware that anything life-altering can happen in an instant but I don’t want to waste a single moment living in fear of the unknown.
As Choquash, a Native American storyteller advises us:
The elders have sent me to tell you that now is like a rushing river, and this will be experienced in many different ways. There are those who would hold onto the shore . . . there is no shore. The shore is crumbling. Push off into the middle of the river. Keep your head above water. Look around to see who else is in the river with you, and celebrate.
The rushing river is inevitable. Push off to the middle and celebrate!
— By Pritam Potts
Coach Pritam Potts is a writer and strength coach. After 16-plus years of training athletes and clients of all ages as co-owner of Edmonds-based Advanced Athlete LLC, she now lives in Dallas, Texas. She writes about health and fitness, grief and loss, love and life at www.mrsathlete.net and www.advancedathlete.com.