By Mary Boutieller
“The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.”—Madeleine L’Engle
Happy New Year to one and all—so full of promise and the feeling that we can begin again! Always in January, I tend to reflect upon the past year to see what I can glean from my experiences. I look over my old wall calendar to see what filled up my life and ponder all of it. Individually and collectively, we have seen our share of triumphs and tragedy, love and loss, joy and sadness. I wonder what we should do with all of this accumulated energy and experience? Do we shove it under the rug in hopes that we never have to do “that” again? Do we journal about it, try to incorporate it, ignore it, learn from it, move toward or away from it? Do we see it as a momentary experience that has no significant meaning, or is each moment in our lives important in some way?
Lately, I’ve been hearing myself say “as we get older” an awful lot! It both speaks of wisdom gained and sounds really old, like something my mother might have said. A small knee injury of mine that would have gone unnoticed in my 20s is now in it’s fourth week of healing. Healing seems to take longer “as we get older.”
This whole idea can be rather daunting if we allow it to be. The idea of getting older—of thinking we are not our fullest selves; of some day dying…such heavy stuff that most of us choose to not think about. Do I approach aging with fear and aversion—pushing it away and refusing to acknowledge it? Do I attach strongly to the idea and feel sorry for myself? Or do I accept that this, too, is a part of life—that in order to live, I must age. From the moment we are born, we begin to get older, so why struggle against it? As they say, it beats the alternative. So “getting older” really is a matter of perception.
I think some of this continues to come up for me because of my stepfather’s recent passing. Losing someone you love has a way of bringing up the possibility of your own death. And that’s okay for me. I don’t want to be afraid of the idea that I am getting older and will someday die. I want to be able to talk about it, think about it and accept it—but not be morbid about it!
Instead, I want to reframe the idea of getting older and embrace the life I am living. There are as many ways to embrace life as there are stars in the sky. The idea that we are no longer vital because we are not in our 20s seems absurd to me. How many of us would take our 20-year-old bodies if it came with our 20-year-old mentality and maturity?
I see different versions of vitality all around me. They inspire me and remind me that many of my excuses are full of hot air. For example, my wonderful neighbor and friend has battled cancer twice, yet doesn’t let it hold her down. She is older and wiser and talented and does things I wouldn’t even know how to start! Another woman I know had two hip replacements and just finished walking the Camino de Santiago Norte—300 miles! Yet another man I know took to the road on his bicycle in his 60s and rode across the United States. So many examples of youth in aging! A quick look on Google gleaned a great story of an 80-year-old runway model named Wang Desun. He was nicknamed the “hottest grandpa.” His workout routine would put mine to shame, and his creativity and art are amazing to see. As interesting as his health was to me, I especially liked something he said in a GQ Magazine article. He said, “I pursue nowness. That’s what I do.” What a cool idea – to pursue nowness. To live in the present moment and not worry about the past or about something that hasn’t happened yet—just living right here and right now, each day, as it comes, looking at it as pure potential and possibility of what can be—nowness!
The Dalai Lama said: “As human beings we all want to be happy and free from misery… we have learned that the key to happiness is inner peace. The greatest obstacles to inner peace are disturbing emotions such as anger, attachment, fear and suspicion, while love and compassion and a sense of universal responsibility are the sources of peace and happiness.”
As the New Year begins and winter continues to unfold, maybe we can reflect on the past year, take in the lessons, let go of regrets, and contemplate how we want to spend our days here on Earth. Maybe, instead of holding on to what is no longer relevant, we embrace what is, taking one bold step after another in the direction we want to go, becoming the person we are already. Maybe, this year, we grow the seeds of compassion and inner peace and decide to truly love ourselves, warts and all.
This life is remarkable and we are remarkable—each day truly a gift, each breath another opportunity.
Let us celebrate that and celebrate each other and find gratitude in all of it!
Mary Boutieller is a Registered Yoga Teacher through Yoga Alliance. She has been teaching yoga since 2005. Her work experience includes 22 years as a firefighter/paramedic and 10 years as a Licensed Massage Therapist. Mary’s knowledge and experience give her a well-rounded understanding of anatomy, alignment, health and movement in the body. She is passionate about the benefits of yoga and the ability to heal at all levels through awareness, compassion, and a willingness to explore. She can be reached at: SimplyogaOm@gmail.com.