I’m glad I’ll be celebrating my birthday in Rome, the Eternal City. In a city over 2500 years old, I’m sure to feel young.
I’ll also regain some perspective. We can get so caught up with the seriousness of our lives that we can miss the big picture. What difference will it make in a year, in 10 years . . . in 2500 years?
My patients talk about their age all the time. When one is suffering from an injury, he may say he feels so old. I can reassure him that he will recover so he can feel young again.
All of us over a certain age become resigned to the inevitabilities of growing older. We shouldn’t pine for our lost youth. We all have had our time in the sun (though dermatologists would say we would be better off if we had stayed in the shade).
When patients lament of their physical decline with successive birthdays, I offer sympathy and encouragement. I remind them that we’re all aging at the same rate and that age is relative. I encourage them to spend time with people who are older than they are. Volunteering at a nursing home is a good start.
I also remind them that they are actually young – compared to how old they will be in 10 years.
Aging is poignant when we realize what we may have been denying for the first three decades of our lives – our lives will eventually end. We will die one day.
But we should neither deny nor fear death. It is inevitable and that certainty makes our lives together all the more precious. Reflecting on this can give us the clarity and perspective to enhance how we live each day.
Death is tragic if we have never lived – if we have not fallen in love, lost ourselves in passion . . . and learned to love fully and unconditionally, without judgment or reservation; if we have not made mistakes, fallen down, acted foolish . . . and learned from our mistakes, picked ourselves up and gained some wisdom; if we have not pushed ourselves to our limits . . . and learned how fast we can run, how far we can climb and how deep we can dive.
You do not have the right to call yourself old if you have not pursued your passions, answered your calling, nurtured your talents, struggled to realize your potential, loved fully, and committed your soul to a cause greater than your self.
So who is old?