If you fear tomorrow, is it possible to enjoy today as deeply? I am always looking for examples of people who lead fun and fulfilling lives, especially if they are older. The hope is to find enough advantages to aging, that some of the inherent challenges become more acceptable.
In North American culture, we tend to approach getting ‘old’ with great reluctance and disappointment. In particular the perceived “loss” of physical beauty is regarded as an enormous personal “failure”. I’ve discussed this idea previously in the article Aging with Grace and Skill.
One of the risks of having an anxious and foreboding sense of what the future brings, is that it can make ones current problems seem even bigger. For many people of all ages this can lead to problems with depression, and possibly even increase suicidal tendencies. The question, “Is this the happiest I am ever going to be?” is very intense.
I can remember being 19 years old and highly stressed about various pressures: deciding what to study at college, learning to manage money and things like health insurance, struggles to feel attractive and trying to figure out how dating worked. I felt overwhelmed and began to get very depressed. Becoming an “adult” seemed like a huge, confusing pile of responsibilities.
Crying one day I asked my mother, “What is good about being an adult? Why should I want to move forward?” Luckily, she had an immediate reply about how exciting travel and finding a career one loved could be. My mom talked about how the freedom to make my own choices meant that life could become more and more customized to my liking. She mentioned that it is possible to try out a variety of lifestyles and that most decisions could be changed later if necessary. (Here is a link to an article and video about my mother, who died twelve years ago.)
After that I was so much more optimistic about “getting older” (than 19)! During low points from then on I remembered that conversation and felt motivated to move forward when I felt stuck or scared.
It seems like the better we visualize the future to be, the happier we can become with the present. When problems and hard times come around, we can know that other opportunities and good times may lie ahead.
Has anyone ever given you really good advice? Are there role models of happy aging that you look to for inspiration?