Old Age Doesn’t Have to Be a Slow March Into Enemy Territory

I will never be an old man. To me, old age is always 15 years older than I am.

~ Francis Bacon

Have you ever caught yourself looking into the mirror and been startled by the image of the “old person” staring back at you? Ya, me too. Perspective matters. Irrespective of our age, most of us don’t feel as old as the person we see gazing back at us in the mirror. It was disconcerting for me when recently I spoke to one of my high school classmates on FaceTime. All I could see was an “old” man—clearly much older than me; I felt like I was talking to my grandpa. I thought (hopefully not out loud) OMG, what happened—he looks ancient. When we finished our call, I took one look in the mirror and saw precisely what had happened; it’s called the vicissitudes of living in a human skin for over seven decades, LOL!

This month marks my 74th sojourn around the sun and the only thing I can say is the journey has gone by more quickly than I was prepared for. Can you relate?

I’ve concluded that growing old(er) with grace, ease, and acceptance is a large part of the lesson we’ve come to the earth school to learn; too many of us are dragged into our elder-hood kicking and screaming. Perhaps we need to see the aging process as a badge of honor rather than a punishment. What I know is that we can run from that lesson (and lord knows many of us try), but we can’t hide because the body we live in goes wherever we do. The physical garment that we’ve been gifted with appears to be the primary learning-laboratory in which we experience that lesson in a multitude of ways. The first layer of learning is about transcending our attachments to the way things once were. Impermanence is a fact of life. Change is inevitable and we need to honor it rather than resist it. To push back against change is not only fruitless, it’s painful. To this point, several months ago, I hired a trainer at my gym to assist me in dealing with the changes my 74-year-old body is going through. It never fails that I leave our training sessions, realizing this skin-suit I wear doesn’t fit comfortably as it once did. It isn’t as strong, fixable, flexible, fit, fast, or pleasing to the eye as it once was. I am learning I have muscles I never knew I had and they ache in ways I don’t fancy.

Relatively speaking, the fact that I now have more hair growing out of my body in places where I don’t need or want it and less on the top of my head where I do need and want it seems like minutia compared to the rest of the aging dilemma. Whenever I think about this, I wonder what kind of sense of humor God must have. Without fail, about this point in my lamenting, my higher Self pops in and says, “Hey, it beats the alternative, right?” Yup, it does indeed; Any day above ground is a good day.

Change happens, and it’s not always painless, but it still trumps not having a body to complain about.

When discussing this topic recently with my older brother, his retort was, “Old age is like a slow march into enemy territory—no one comes back alive.” While his is a perspective I endeavor not to embrace, he makes a good point. Growing old is not for the faint of heart or sissies; it requires courage to face the fact that we are all on a one-way trip to the great “next yet to be.” This is when our perspective matters. The garment of flesh and bones we see gazing back at us in the mirror isn’t the whole story.

We Are More Than What Lies Between Our Hat and Boots

I pass death with the dying and birth with the new-wash’d babe, and am not contained between my hat and boots.

~ Walt Whitman

As we “mature”, remembering that we are more than our body makes the pending saunter to the finish line more meaningful. To honor the earth suit lent to us by the Creator upon our arrival, we must be mindful of how we perceive it. As Walt Whitman infers, the sum of who we are comprises far more than what we see in the mirror. What we can’t see is that part of us which is eternal, ageless, and indestructible; it’s where the sweet, sacred essence of the Beloved personalized itself as you and me. Balancing the awareness of our spiritual nature with the temporal fragility of the human condition is the practice of a lifetime. Our physical body is merely the delivery device that allows our soul to touch the earth. When we can remember that it’s nothing more (or less) than a carbon-based, biodegradable, disposable vehicle in which we traverse the human condition, we are more easily able to transcend our attachment to it. What our body looks like now and how it functions is secondary to the fact that we’ve been blessed with the privilege of using it for as long as we have. With this awareness, irrespective of how old we are, no matter what the apparent condition of the vehicle is, we can look into the rearview mirror and smile with a grateful heart, knowing old age is not a slow march into enemy territory; it’s a necessary glide path to the next great “yet to be” and that is a beautiful thing. Perspective matters.


Dennis Merritt Jones
Dennis Merritt Jones
Throughout his lifetime, author, speaker, and mentor, Dr. Dennis Merritt Jones has been on a quest to inspire and lift people to a higher expression of life. His vision is to guide people to their purpose, knowing that when one fully awakens to who they are and why they are on the planet, they share their gift to humankind and create an enriching life for themselves and the world around them. Dennis is the award-winning author of six books—three of which are recipients of a Nautilus Gold or Silver award—and hundreds of articles and blogs. He has written and released the following books: The Art of Abundance - Ten Rules for a Prosperous Life; The Art of Being - 101 Ways to Practice Purpose in Your Life; The Art of Uncertainty - How to Live in the Mystery of Life and Love It; Your ReDefining Moments - Becoming Who You Were Born to Be; Encouraging Words - Proof That Who You Are Matters, and; How to Speak Science of Mind. Dennis believes we each have the capacity and, ultimately, the responsibility to contribute something positive to this world, leaving it a better place than it was when we arrived. Reflected in his writings and presentations, his teachings promote a contemporary life-affirming, spiritually logical, and positive outlook on life. As a keynote speaker, Dennis is equally comfortable addressing an audience seeking spiritual inspiration or those seeking a purely secular motivational message. He uses his understanding of universal principles to draw upon wisdom from both eastern and western philosophies. As a mentor, Dennis works with individuals and non-profits to assist them in clarifying their vision and mission. He believes that there is a deeper consciousness of unity, cooperation, and reverence rising in humankind where the value of all life, regardless of ethnicity, geography, culture, or sexual orientation, is sacred. He believes this consciousness of unity, cooperation, and reverence for life and the planet will be one of the most significant influences upon society as we approach the challenges of 21st-century living.

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