By Noelle Sterne
It is never too late to be what you might have been.
Can you believe you’re already (gulp) ____ years old? Do you feel it’s too late to do that secret something you’ve always dreamed of? Do you keep repeating that you’re too old-tired-sick-weak-set-in-your-ways-disorganized-undisciplined-busy-uneducated-rusty-fearful-fat-thin-poor-far behind . . . ?
Or maybe you’ve bought into the subtle beliefs that so many people catch like the flu. They all start with “You get to be a certain age and . . .
• You’re supposed to think only of retirement.
• You’re supposed to look forward to retirement.
• You’re supposed to get all kinds of ailments.
• You’re supposed to live quietly, meekly, resignedly.
• You’re not supposed to even think about doing many things, much less break new ground.
• You’re supposed to wail, “It’s too late!”
Well, you do not have to accept such contagions, especially today. The number of older adults in the United States has grown to “unprecedented” numbers in our history, and they’re more healthy, educated, and active than ever before. In fact, the number of older adults is predicted to double from 2000 to 2030; centenarians have increased since 1990 by 53 percent! (“A Profile of Older Americans: Highlights,” Center for Elders and the Courts, National Center for State Courts, http://www.eldersandcourts.org/aging/index.html).
Old Doesn’t Mean Fold
Contrary to our society’s insidious view, growing older doesn’t mean inevitably growing more frail, weaker, sicker. A few years ago, Connie Goldman and Richard Mahler published a myth-busting book called Secrets of Becoming a Late Bloomer. In the foreword, gerontologist, author, psychologist, and visionary thinker Ken Dychtwald gives an encouraging command:
“The antiquated view of maturity as a period of stagnation and decline must be replaced once and for all with the reality that the latter part of life is an exciting time of growth, productivity and newfound pleasures—if we know the secrets of becoming a Late Bloomer.” (p. xi)
Late blooming is good. In Brendan Gill’s book, aptly titled Late Bloomers, he profiles 74 well-known and history-changing people from every area of life. All had one thing in common: they “bloomed” late. Surprisingly, it was an advantage:
“The lateness is every bit as significant as the blooming. . . . [I]t has to do with the moment in time at which we discover . . . some worthy means of fulfilling ourselves. . . . If the hour happens to be later than we may have wished, take heart! So much more to be cherished is the bloom.” (pp. 10-11)
A few of Gill’s (equally surprising) examples: Harry Truman, Paul Cezanne, R. Buckminster Fuller, Julia Child, Ed Sullivan, Charles Darwin, Pope John XXIII, Edward VII, Mary Baker Eddy, O. Henry, Mother Teresa, Miguel Cervantes, Jonathan Swift, Charles Ives, Edith Wharton, Sir Alexander Fleming.
Could it be that late bloomers flower bigger?
Maybe you’re saying, “Yeah, yeah, these are all famous people, talented and brilliant, not ordinary like me.”
Okay—here are two examples of “ordinary” people. At 64, when many people are ready to throw in the towel, spread it on their couch, and pick up the remote, Bill Weinacht (who incidentally does daily spiritual reading) resumed running. He’d stopped for 50 years. When he began again, he started to amass state medals and went on to world events. In Japan, he finished first place in the 100 and 200 meters and set a world record. He was 76.
Then Bill had triple bypass heart surgery. After four months (would you believe?), he was running again and winning more medals. At 84, he competed in the South Florida Senior Games (Kathleen Kernicky, “Still on Track,” Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, February 4, 2001, p. 3E).
Another—a friend of mine—started tennis lessons at 32, “not an early age,” she admitted, to begin any sport. “I practiced six to seven hours a day, competing with teenage stars. Somehow my age or idea of what old was didn’t stop me. When I finally retired, I was very satisfied. I had a reputation on the circuit, three shelves of trophies, and a scrapbook of full of clippings. But more important, I knew I had fulfilled a lifelong dream.”
The barriers and stereotypes are breaking up and making news. Actors James Earl Jones at 82 and Angela Lansbury at 87 starred together earlier in 2013 in a touring production of Driving Miss Daisy (http://news.yahoo.com/james-earl-jones-star-driving-miss-daisy-033542904.html).
Clint Eastwood at 83 continues to produce and direct stellar films and said recently (April 27, 2013) that he dreams of making films for two more decades (http://movies.yahoo.com/news/eastwood-says-hed-love-directing-age-105-210648052.html).
A woman in my town has a tremendously successful public relations and marketing firm. She’s just begun to think about retiring next year. Her age? 90.
In June 2013, a man named Sy Perlis set a new world record for weightlifting. He started lifting only at age 60 and had a pacemaker implanted last year. He still looks 60—and he’s 91 (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/14/sy-perlis-bench-press-record-video_n_3443354.html).
The world’s oldest yoga teacher, Tao Porchon-Lynch, with over 400 students in New York City, teaches regularly and travels extensively—she’s 95 (http://taoporchon-lynch.com/¬).
In the fall of 2012, award-winning novelist and author of The Caine Mutiny, Herman Wouk, published another blockbuster, The Lawgiver. He was 97, and this year celebrated his 98th (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/13/books/herman-wouk-on-his-new-book-the-lawgiver.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all&).
Almost daily, headlines herald citizens over 80, 90, 100 who’ve gotten married, stopped robbers, formed a band, had milestone birthdays. When we remind ourselves of such “late” accomplishments, we may find it easier to plunge into a third business at 48, crack the books in a university degree program at 52, or lace up our running shoes at 64. But most of all, we may need to change our mindset.
How? To accept and visualize what we desire. Jesus put it this way:
For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance.
Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. (Mt. 25:29)
These words are often quoted (with frustration at the apparent unfairness) in relation to coveted material wealth. But what they really point to is consciousness. When we believe and feel we already have what we want, we will have it. When we believe we don’t have it, we not only won’t get it, but our focus on the lack takes away what little we have. We attract what we believe and think about.
So, if you have faith and feel that you already have what you desire—energy, health, verve, enthusiasm for your dream, the means, the mental acuity, the persistence—you’ll be shown the steps to take. Soon you’ll experience what you’ve dreamed of.
Then you’ll realize, with relief, joy, and gusto, that there’s no such thing as too late. In the essay (and affirmation) “It is Never Too Late” (in Always in God’s Presence: Stories of Answered Prayer), Unity writer and teacher Martha Smock says this: “It is never too late to let go of old ways and begin again . . . . What has gone before—age, years, doubts, or self condemnation—none of these things can deter or dismay us when we live and act on faith” (pp. 5-7).
In a book whose title can be a continuous mantra, Ageless Body, Timeless Mind, Deepak Chopra proclaims: “You are much more than your limited body, ego, and personality. . . . In reality, the field of human life is open and unbounded.” (p. 7)
Remember the child—or adolescent or young adult—you were? The one who felt, and knew, that life is unbounded, endless, exciting, and filled with all possibilities? Whatever you see and judge in the mirror, that child is still yearning to express.
Dreams at Which I Cannot Fail
So—make a little list of your dreams now. No one else has to see it. As you write it, picture and feel yourself confident, alive, eager.
1. I would like to begin ______________________________.
2. I would like to resume/continue _____________________.
3. I would like to complete _____________________________.
4. I’ve always wanted to ______________________________.
5. I’ve always wanted to ______________________________.
6. I’ve always wanted to ______________________________.
As you muster the courage to unleash and enunciate your dreams, everything in your life will support and sustain you. Take a step: clear out the spare room, enroll in a course, dig out your paints, wiggle into your tights.
Remember and repeat the stirring words of poet James Dillet Freeman: “Dare to be what you are meant to be and do what you are meant to do, and life will provide you the means to do it and be it” (quoted by Joel Garfinkle, Dream Job Coaching, “Dare to Be Great,” http://www.dreamjobcoaching.com/resources/articles/dare-to-be-great).
If you’re blooming late, so what? It’s never too late to reshape your thoughts, correct your words, take the first steps, and activate the life dreams you crave. You and your dreams are already provided for. Age has nothing at all to do with it. Late bloomers flower bigger.
Noelle Sterne is an author, editor, writing coach, and spiritual counselor. She writes fiction and nonfiction and has published over 300 pieces in print and online venues, including Writer’s Digest, The Writer, Women on Writing, Funds for Writers, and Transformation Magazine. For a year, she wrote a monthly column in Coffeehouse for Writers tilted “Bloom Where You’re Writing.” A story appears in the new Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just Us Girls, out in November 2013. With a Ph.D. from Columbia University, for over 28 years Noelle has assisted doctoral candidates in completing their dissertations (finally). Her practical-psychological-spiritual handbook in progress helps them further. In her book Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams (Unity Books; one of ten best 2011 ebooks), Noelle draws examples from her practice and other aspects of life to help writers and others release regrets, relabel their past, and reach their lifelong yearnings. Her webinar about the book, with narrative and slides, is available on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95EeqllONIQ&feature=youtu.be Noelle explores writing, creativity, and spirituality on Author magazine’s “Authors’ Blog”: http://authormagazineonline.wordpress.com/ Visit Noelle at her website: www.trustyourlifenow.com.
© 2013 Noelle Sterne