Aching joints, slowed recovery time from injuries, decreased healing response, less available energy. Ageing sure looks like it sucks.
I'm writing this post as I'm about to complete my 40th lap of the sun. In my younger years I clearly recall thinking of 40 as old. In fact, as a teenager I remember once jokingly saying that I might as well kill myself at 40, as life would surely not be worth living after that!
When we’re young, our youthful energy heals us quickly, provides us with abundant energy to engage in living as well as a prodigious ability to learn new things at a phenomenal rate. The skill required to maintain health and to progress through life accumulating experience is quite low. It comes easily and naturally.
Youth is for the inexperienced.
As we age, this youthful vibrancy diminishes, creating a need for us to skillfully manage our energy. We must be much more cautious of how we apply our body to physical pursuits as injuries take progressively longer to heal and often leave residual traces that linger. Our resistance to illness lessens and our recovery times increase requiring us to more expertly navigate our self-care, especially around others that may be unwell.
Also, our mental plasticity may decrease making our neural pathways more rigid as our beliefs and ideas become more embedded into our mind. Changing these perceptions and allowing for new information to be assimilated becomes more challenging and requires more conscious attention.
Ageing; a curse or a gift?
Perhaps it seems logical to assume that these changes are negative and need be thought of as a curse. It does seem to be that our culture reveres youth and shuns ageing as some fault of nature that needs to be conquered. Prolonging life seems to be the primary mandate of modern medicine, rather than the enhancement of the quality of the life one lives. When we see death and aging as a disease, we create an aversion to it, which deprives us of the amazing wisdom that comes with this intelligent process.
What if we see ageing as an embedded program in life to promote skill development?
As one ages we simply can’t keep playing life is the chaotic, reckless manner that we did in our youth. The application of our bodies in physical pursuits must be carefully considered as to our current ability and the potential risks and rewards. Our maintenance programs must be adhered to if we want to enjoy a healthy body that withstands the assault of the years and the adventures we put it through. To sustain our bodies in tip-top shape we have to become much more conscious and intelligent in the way we use them.
Our current widespread "gaming" (aka video game) culture is a place where people enter into some virtual world where they can develop a character that acquires greater skill as they gain XP (experience points) over time.
What if fantasy mirrors life? What if life is just a game that we enter into where we get to navigate the various challenges we encounter to gain as much XP as possible to upskill our character (soul). What if each time we die we take the accumulated experience into our next life and continue playing the game from there? What if a disability or significant life challenge that one is born into, such as poverty, illness, disability, abusive environment, oppressive culture are all possible selections for a soul to increase the level of difficulty of their game? A choice made by a soul to increase the XP gathered from that life? Wouldn’t that effectively eliminate pity and replace it with admiration and respect?!
Another thought is that this game has a built in time limit for each life, and as the character ages the level of difficulty of game play increases due to the decreasing physical abilities of the character. That is to say aging is an in-built measure forcing you to increase your skill of living.
I am going to die.
What has become clear to me from my 40 years of life is that the appreciation of this life and its offerings has become so much more pronounced in me. I’ve learned so much already. I’ve danced, played, loved, hated, faced death and then turned to face life again, and again, and again.
I choose life, and not because the alternative is something to be feared. I choose life because I am learning so much! I choose life, even in the face of my aches and pains, because it's teaching me how to accept myself more fully as my many ‘flaws’ increase. My ageing body is an ever-present reminder that this life is impermanent. I am going to die. And where once this thought made me cringe away from the pain of the thought… now a wry smile etches itself on my wrinkling face in a knowingness that when the time comes I will know I eked out as much XP as I could from this crazy experience!! YeeeHaaaaa!