Last night I was watching an episode of Grace & Frankie (the Netflix series starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston). If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s about four older people in relationship to each other in different ways (too long to explain here, but worth checking out).
The two women share a home and are starting a business together. In the episode I was watching last night, they both hurt their backs and were unable to accomplish the simplest of tasks.
At one point, Jane Fonda says to Lily Tomlin “It seems like every day our bodies try to tell us we can’t. But in my mind, I think I can do anything because I’m still a little girl climbing trees.” To which Lily Tomlin replies and reassures her “That little girl is still there. She’s still in you.”
I loved that. It made me sit up and take note . . . literally.
I don’t know about you, but some days my body feels every day of my age. Most days, not even close. And always in my mind I’m still that young girl with dreams and ambitions. Maybe not the one climbing trees (was never much of a tree climber to begin with, give me the monkey bars any day), but definitely the girl climbing her way to new adventures.
The reality is that our physicality changes as we age, and not always in a good way. It takes a bit more effort to keep things in check, and a lot more effort to improve our fitness. So we do what we can and carry on.
For example, I didn’t sleep well last night. Woke up around 2:30 and couldn’t go back to sleep. Today, I’m dragging a bit. When I was younger, this wouldn’t have fazed me. In fact, I could get little sleep for 2 or 3 nights in a row and be fine, then catch up on the weekend. Not now. This is when I feel my years.
With all that said though, our physical self is not who we are. It may have changed in ways we’re not thrilled with, but we should certainly not be defined by the changes.
We are a reflection of many things, including our mental and emotional states, our values and belief system, our life experience, and our own definition of who and what we are, but not our health status.
Coming from the Boomer Generation, the generation of eternal youth (or so we like to think), aging can be a harsh reality. Never wanting to give up that banner of youthful & hip, we are also the generation, I’m hopeful, that will change the face and expectations of aging.
I know I’m not alone in choosing to be defined by how I live my life, by who and what I love. And by what I give. Not by aches and pains.
I think it is vitally important to keep in mind that as we experience some physical changes that feel like a loss in our bodies, we can supplant them with mental and emotional vigor to invest in new interests, intelligence, experience and savvy to take on life’s challenges and chances, and a loving heart to offer hope and strength to the generations behind us.
“I love living. I love that I’m alive to love my age.” Maya Angelou wrote that. Don’t you love it. She went on to say “There are many people who went to bed just as I did yesterday evening and didn’t wake this morning. I love and feel very blessed that I did. I love, too, that I know a little more today than I did yesterday, or I simply know it more profoundly.”
Sigh. So beautifully stated.
So while we may not be the little girl or boy who climbs trees anymore, aren’t we now so much more?
Till next time,