I push the treadmill speed past six and look up into the mirror in front of me. I see determination staring back. I see the runners on both sides of me and I have a good ten years on them. When did this happen?
I was always the youngest in the pack. In my career climb, I was the youngest in the department, on the management team, and heading a division. My birthday is late, so I was always one of the youngest in my class. That is until I returned to get my last master’s degree when I was 38.
As you age, you learn from life and experience. Most days you share from the days behind you with those who will need your wisdom for the days ahead. I have a lot of life and experience to share. When I went through my phase of burnout, I didn’t have the energy for life or sharing. But on this side of burnout, in hindsight, it seems so obvious and easily avoidable that I can’t help but want to make things easier for others.
We move to some kick-boxing in our HIIT class. This is insane. As I watch the 21-year-old demonstrate the exercise, I wonder if she will be doing this at my age. I admit I am comforted by watching the young guys struggle to do it right. The difference is that they don’t appear to have my concern for something popping out of place.
At my age….
Except at their age I didn’t exercise.
Aging is inevitable, but hopefully, we get to have some say in how we do it. Although I have much to share of the seasons that have come and gone, I feel like a newborn to this aging thing.
I have good examples and poor examples around me. Do we have a choice?
I am praying that my life experience and the picture in the rearview mirror will inform my path forward, albeit a new way. It is hard and scary going on a journey to a new place in the dark of night. That is what it feels like doesn’t it?
I am daunted.
As we care for aging parents, the pressure is pressed up against our hearts, threatening our sanity and our current season in life. I admit to myself that as much as I hate the timing, it is just in time.
There is still time.
Time for wise decisions.
Time for correction.
Time for grace.
I wish I had enough in the rearview mirror to advise you, guide you, and encourage you. Unfortunately, I sit at a crossroads and must determine my own path and direction. As I navigate, I see many crossroads ahead.
To stay healthy physically is only partially in our control. We also need good genes, a healthy environment, and God’s mercy. But we can move. My son told me about his wife’s grandma he just visited, who in her 80’s, still walks two miles a day. At around 54, my husband and I joined these HIIT classes and started hiking for the first time.
Eat for Living.
I can’t begin to recount the Taco Bell or Burger King I stuffed in my face while flying down the interstate, late for something. We can choose to eat fresh non-processed foods. We can drink lots of water. We don’t need sugar in everything. When we are in our eighties, we will wish we had chosen well.
I am amazed at how people respond to other people and situations. When we respond with anger and venom, we are stressed (and we are probably causing someone else stress). When we stay in reaction mode….we are stressed. We can’t always choose what happens to us, but we can choose our response. To age gracefully means to respond thoughtfully.
I have always needed space. To be creative, I need time to think. To write or practice art, I need to explore and wander and see what percolates. I don’t know if I have ever seen anyone love well in a hurry. In order to get more from life, and give more in our life, we need to slow down. Less is more, as it is said.
There are many a song written about wanting more out of life, putting dreams aside, and the regret that comes with all we missed in passionately pursuing one day. God doesn’t promise us easy or even good. But He does promise us peace and joy that only comes from Him. We risk missing it by rushing ahead and trying to figure everything out ahead of time. To make an impact and encourage others, we must be fully present in our lives. Seek the joy, experience, and learning in the now.
Manage Your Affairs.
We take for granted our ability to manage our lives independently. We begged for it as teenagers. We avoided it in our twenties. We have kids’ lives to manage in our 30’s and 40’s. And unfortunately, soon after, we are managing the affairs of our aging parents as they are no longer able. Yet we hate handling our own. I do particularly. But, I don’t want someone else to have to deal with my mess of neglect.
Keep Chasing the Lord.
Honestly, aging is not for the faint of heart. I want to age gracefully, but I know as much as I know anything, that isn’t going to happen on my own. Without God’s mercy and grace, I don’t have it in me to go peacefully into eternity. Yet, in my desire to find someone’s example to follow, I feel like in most of life, we need to step into this season in faith. We need to trust that only through Christ can we show a path of graceful aging to the generations behind.
Since it is about time to go to the gym, I will end with advice to myself and anyone else who may be in need. Whenever I fight with God for control, He lets me have it until I turn back to Him. As I stress over which senior living home can provide my Mom with the best care, worry about her finances, and fret about her health, I recognize that I am not leaning on Him. These are for sure the troubles of this world. I know I need to step forward in faith, do what I can, and trust that His Holy Spirit will guide me through, not only this season but all of the ones to come.