Are you afraid of getting old? All those who see death at a ripe age have to go through old age. There are some who keep defying it up until their last breath and there are many who start feeling old even in their forties. Does the human body become more fragile as people age? Well, a general observation of the world around us certainly vouches for that. But what if, hypothetically speaking, we removed one’s physical age from the equation? The concept of old age will get a new definition perhaps. I have known numerous people who lived through abusive relationships, who suffered torment, trauma and torture for the most part of their lives only so they could have someone around when they got old. The fear of being alone when old can really haunt some. So, when does one get old? Read on.
When your life has more memories than ambition, consider yourself old. When all you have to talk about is how you did this in the past or how you did that in the past, how you were amazing a decade ago, or how you were so incredible back then. When you no longer live your present or look up to your future, when all you do is reknit the same stories in the present using yarn of the past, you are old. An unfailing sign of the one who feels old within is they mostly talk about their past.
Old age is inevitable for all blessed with a normal lifespan. When anything is inevitable, it means you only have two choices: first, handle it with grace and gratitude or second, deny it with griping and whining. Old age is like Friday afternoon at work — it gets quiet, it slows down before the weekend break. And what is death? Well, death is the weekend. Consciousness moves on. If you believe in the soul or rebirth, a new birth awaits you. If you believe in heaven or hell, who knows, you may just live the life of your dreams in one of those places. If you don’t believe in anything, well then, hopefully, you know your own answer.
A priest went to a rich man’s funeral. The deceased was his friend and a hardcore atheist who vehemently refuted any notion of God, heaven, or hell. It was an elaborate funeral. He approached the coffin. It was made from exquisite teakwood, with a soft satin lining inside, and the body was clad in a handcrafted silken robe.
“Oh, what a shame,” exclaimed the priest, “all dressed up and nowhere to go!”
Personally, if you ask me, I am at perfect ease with any of your beliefs. Whatever gives you inner strength and gives you a sense of peace, adopt that belief. After all, these are all theories anyway, some more convincing than others. That’s all. They are not capable of manifesting the truth for you. At the most, they give you an intellectual choice, a way of living.
The quality of your breath, the basis of your life, does not deteriorate until the last moment. So, you may as well enjoy the various seasons of life. What others think of you is their problem. Deep within, you know yourself better than anyone else. Society, the world, will try their best to make you feel old. Why, even parents, elders, and teachers keep telling you to grow up or that you are grown up now. They are not doing it intentionally, they just don’t know any better. Have no grudges against them; just learn to increase the volume of your inner voice. It will guide you and help you decide your course of action. One day when Mulla Nasrudin, at ninety, decided to marry a girl who was only eighteen, his sons, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were appalled.
“What are you doing, father?” the son said, “Fatima’s only eighteen!”
“So what? Even your mother was eighteen when I first married her.”
“You don’t get it, do you? Let me be straight up with you; copulation at this age? It may result in someone’s death! I’m warning you.”
“Aah…don’t get all worked up as your mother used to, you stress-head! Don’t worry. If Fatima dies too, I’ll marry another one!” Mulla said.
I am not saying you kill reason and sense; just don’t let anyone ever dictate the way you feel about yourself. No teacher, no preacher, no religion, no authority, no partner. The legal system, your faith and those around you may give you a framework of living, but you alone should set your rules of life. When distant memories become obstacles in covering the distance of your present journey, take charge of your life, your present, and start living! With compassion for others and yourself, make the most of every moment.
Childhood does not last forever. Youth is not permanent, and old age will end too. Nothing is worth clinging on to. These are fleeting seasons. Live, love, laugh, give while you have it. Do so in such a manner that you fall in love with the person you see in the mirror, in a way that there is no burden on your conscience when you put your head on your pillow.
What I longed for will be set aside
The things I pursued in vain —
Let them pass
Let me turn
To things I overlooked
And carelessly threw away
To possess them truly until they are mine.
(Tagore, Rabindranath. The Stars Look On.)
Be yourself. Love yourself. Know yourself. You will find yourself beyond age.