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Many years ago, I directed the musical, Peter Pan, for the high school where I taught. I was always inclined toward that musical mostly because, well, I was a bit like Peter Pan, a child who simply would not ‘grow up!’ I loved climbing trees, swimming in creeks, sledding on hills, hiking in woods, and some of this crept into my adult years as well. When I was in community leadership, I was appalled to learn that a new candidate in the novitiate had never whizzed on a sled down a hillside into a snowbank. Early one evening I showed her how to do it and she exclaimed, “I can’t remember having so much fun in a blizzard in all my 26 years!!” Twenty-six years I gasped! And I wondered how did she ever live a real childhood and youth?
That’s the Peter Pan Principle in action!!
Well, my Peter Pan force has slowly diminished in recent years into a shadow of itself, but luckily its spirit still guides me for the joie de vivre it surfaces in my life. While I do not climb trees or swim in creeks or sled down hills anymore, I have learned to substitute such activities with vigorous alternatives keeping my feet safely on terra firma, even though they stumble a bit and sometimes miss a step.
Does mental acuity diminish along with physical abilities? In some ways, yes. Names might not come as fast as they used to. Specifics such as where you were and what you were doing in certain years fade a bit though the memories might remain strong. Titles of songs and books and movies have slid into some unreachable cave in the brain just when you need them for a crossword puzzle or a game of Jeopardy. But fortunately, the wisdom such knowledge fostered does not always leave and you can provide advice when asked.
But there are caution signs to be aware of when reflecting on one’s ability to live one’s wisdom years with more happiness for yourself and for others. I have collected a few that you might find helpful. They apply to younger people as well because you will be aging before you know it. And you might be able to assist older friends and relatives who are now struggling with the aging process. These caution signs tell us to slow down, reflect for a moment and take the next step with grace. They are:
- Be aware of impatience. Not everyone can read your mind and your sudden loss of words to express something. Take it slowly and deliberately when trying to express what you want or need, especially when someone is trying to help. Simply put, avoid being crabby.
- Be grateful every day. Find something to thank God for by the time you prepare to rest for the night. Keep a gratitude journal. Writing always reinforces ideas.
- Be friendly and kind to everyone. A smile goes a long way. Even if you do not converse with everyone you can smile and greet them. Be especially kind to those with whom you live even if it is very hard because the kindness is not always returned.
- Be prayerful during certain times of the day. Set aside prayer time every day when you can include the needs of persons you love and those you do not even know.
- Be happy. Simple as this sounds, it will make you happier and those around you too. Look for joy in little and big things in life. Look for the humor in everything.
- Be curious. Learn something new every day. Take classes. Adopt a hobby. Read good books, newspapers, magazines even if you do it through listening devices. Let the brilliance in your soul surface.
God made us to be happy in this world so that we would be happy with Him in heaven. So says the Baltimore Catechism, kind of. The late writer, Kathleen Dowling Singh, urges her readers to give up what is no longer real as we age like ‘self-image,’ ‘reputation,’ ‘imagined security.’ The ego resists vulnerability so we pretend the knees don’t ache, the hearing isn’t going, the sight is not weakening when in reality we are all losing a bit of all this every day of life.
Here is something from Singh’s writing to pray with as you face the reality of aging in your own life:“If we can claim the last years of life that hold the possibility of awakening into equanimity and lightness, into the very embodiment of grace, we need to bear witness to the ripening of that possibility. Not only would it be a blessing for each of us, it would be a blessing for a world starving for such witnessing.”
Two books which I recommend that discuss the spirituality of aging are: The Gift of Years by Joan Chittister, OSB and Vesper Time: The Spiritual Practice of Growing Older by Frank Cunningham. Both books can be purchased through Amazon. Vesper Time includes a discussion guide for book clubs. Chittister is a respected and popular writer in spirituality and Cunningham is a retired publisher of religious books and a fine writer as well.
To all my readers and my Anonymous Angels, I say: Flex those muscles of body and mind and get going on to a new adventure. Make life an adventure. Seek joy. God bless all of you.
I love this!!! Thank you for the gentle reminder that when we bring God into every aspect of our lives, the adventure is enriched!
Reblogged this on Out of the Chrysalis and commented:
God plants desires into our hearts so that we enjoy life. The times when you have the urge to climb a tree, or simply admire a breathtaking view, God has given you that notion. Days that seem to drag will come, and when they do, revel in the memories of the more adventurous times. This blog post written by a dear colleague is a wonderful roadmap for bringing adventure into faith. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Thank you so m much Kim. You should know what I’m talking about here because despite your challenges in life, you managed to write that beautiful children’s book, “Bella’s Beautiful Miracle.” I hope my readers check it out for children ages 8 to 10. We need to install beauty and fun in life especially for kids and you surely have. (Kimberly Novak, author.) S. MAF
Thank you so much, Sr. Mary Ann, for these wonderful, hopeful and positive words to keep living a full, happy and spiritual life. I am a child at heart too, especially in my later years and it gives me great joy! Peace and blessings.
Stay young-at-heart Rita. You’ll find life more pleasurable. Blessings, S. Mary Ann
Go see “A Man Named Otto” to show how we can all change for the better. Thanks for the reminder.
I just read this morning that “A Man Named Otto” is a surprise winner at the box office. I want to see it. I think it’s based on a prize-winning novel by a Norwegian author…Thanks for the suggestion. MAF
Sister, Just wanted to tell you that my husband, Tom, and I both enjoy reading your weekly posts. We find your writings to be very uplifting and inspirational. In fact, today, I just ordered the recommended book, The Gift of Years. Keep up the good work.
Bless your heart Rhonda! I remember you and Tom with appreciative fondness. Glad to know you read these posts. I hope you get something from Chittister’s book. I find aging to be daunting so I need all kinds of help! Bless you and Tom!! MAF