By Joy Birnbach Dunstan, MA, LPC, MAC
No Need to Get Old!
It’s inevitable: life throws many challenges our way, and we must deal with them one way or another. Some things are just a fact of life; we don’t have to like it, but we can learn to accept it with grace. The only thing we can truly control is our attitude as we face these challenges.
Getting older is one of those undeniable facts of life. There’s no stopping it. Doing it with grace and acceptance makes a world of difference.
I’m reminded of a story that highlights this well: A very old lady looked in the mirror one morning. She had only three remaining hairs on her head, and being a positive soul, she said, “I think I’ll braid my hair today.” So she braided her three hairs, and she had a great day.
Some days later, looking in the mirror one morning, preparing for her day, she saw that she now had only two hairs remaining. “Hmm, two hairs… I fancy a center-part today.” So she duly parted her two hairs, and as ever, she had a great day. A week or so later, she saw that she had just one hair left on her head. “One hair, hmm…,” she mused, “I know, a ponytail will be perfect.” And again she had a great day.
The next morning she looked in the mirror. She was completely bald.
“Finally bald, huh,” she said to herself, “How wonderful! I won’t have to waste time doing my hair anymore.”
Now, that’s a positive attitude!
I understand how difficult the adjustment to our aging self can be as I look in the mirror these days and wonder who that old person is looking back at me. We live in a youth-focused society (particularly up north, where most of us grew up). Youth is touted as beauty; older folks step out of the way.
But how about, instead, if we learn to honor aging by seeing wrinkles as badges of honor acquired from years of living passionately. Let age be determined more by your attitude instead of the calendar. Old is more about being cranky and impatient, bored and boring, with no sense of humor. Aging is inevitable, but getting old is optional. I’ve known “old” people who were still in their twenties and thirties!
It is said that middle age is the awkward period when Father Time starts catching up with Mother Nature. It happens to us all, like it or not (unless, of course, we are struck with the far-worse alternative).
Age is certainly not the only thing we need to accept in this life. Many things come our way that are not of our own choosing. For some, change of any sort is unwelcome. But change is inevitable, and not always the change you were hoping for. Finances can change, relationships may change, health may change. We don’t always have control of these things.
Do what you can to make things the best you can, and learn to accept those things you can’t change. Being angry, bitter or depressed doesn’t make any of them get any better. You don’t have to like everything that comes your way, but if you can’t change it or avoid it, acceptance is about the only thing that allows a person peace of mind.
Adopt the spirit of Patti LaBelle who sang: “I’m feelin’ good from my head to my shoes, Know where I’m goin’ and I know what to do. I tidied up my point of view,
I got a new attitude.”
It’s up to each of us to choose to be peaceful inside regardless of what is happening outside. After all, that’s all we can truly control.