Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Never too old

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”
- C.S. Lewis

Moving Day on the Farm, Anna Mary Robertson, 1951

Having raised four children, volunteered in scores of classrooms over the last thirty years, chaperoned dozens of field trips, ballet festivals and road trips, and now having the privilege of sharing our home with my two grandchildren and their parents, I consider myself  'experienced,' if not an 'expert,' regarding children.

For heaven's sake, my very first paying job was babysitting for the children of friends from church when I was just twelve. That job (at fifty cents an hour) morphed into a consistent source of income until I left home for college, and eventually included babysitting jobs for children of Kansas City Chiefs football players (they paid much more than fifty cents an hour). I was destined to be a 'professional' mother.

Most times, that doesn't seem to count for much, but observing infants, children, adolescents, and young adults through all the phases of growth has certainly has given me great insight into the aging process. What I have come to realize, is that we are never too old to do...well, anything!

The painting above was done by America's iconic primitive artist, Anna Mary Robertson. Oh, you've never heard of her? Maybe you know her by her nickname...

Grandma Moses, age ??

Grandma Moses. This petite, anonymous elder (with a case of arthritis that forced her to give up her beloved needlework) took up painting at the age of seventy-six and the rest, as they say, is history.

Is something so trivial as a number holding you back from doing something?  Our society has come a long way in addressing the issues of racism, sexism, homophobia, and freedom of (and from) religion. Many of us still struggle with ageism. Why is this the last bastion of free thinking?

Here's my list of things we're Never Too Old To Do:
  • Try new foods: C'mon, try it, you'll like it. We encourage the little ones to try new foods, but have you become stuck in a cycle of pizza, hamburgers, and tacos? Have a gastronomic adventure once in a while...sushi? vegan chili? calamari? Choose something just for the 'newness' factor once in a while. Your tummy will thank you for it!
  • Make a new friend: "Go over and say hello" we tell our children, encouraging them to form bonds of friendship. As we age, our busy schedules (and often-narrowing attitudes) sometimes prevent us from widening our circle of friends. I say, take the time and take the chance on continuing to "go over and say hello." You know you won't regret it! [Hi, Robin, a 'now friend' I met yesterday through our mutual friend, Tess of Life at Willow Manor. Robin and I discovered a mutual love of movie quotes, British humor, and the arts. We also both think that Vladimir Ashkenazy walks on water. If he can put up with an effusive American woman, we should be fast friends. You should check out his clever blog, The Eton Mess. It's a delight.]
  • Pick out your own clothes: A big rite of passage for me was in third grade, when my mother, who had dressed My Twin and me in matching outfits, allowed us to choose our own clothes. Of course, being the 'younger twin', I chose to wear the same thing My Twin wore, until she admonished me for it, forcing me to go my own way. I still sort of resent her for that. [I actually thought that being a twin was more unique than being and individual...but that was then and this is now.] Are you buying clothing that marketers have deemed "age appropriate"? Pish-tosh. Wear whatever you like, just not one of those ghastly red hats, please.
  • Explore new ideas: Learning new things is not confined to the classroom. That's not to say it can't be done there...I'm a huge proponent of continuing education...but it doesn't have to be done there. "Google it" is a favorite phrase in our house, and it's always a great place to start when you're feeling curious about something. You are still curious, right?
  • Raise a little hell once in a while: Remember how much fun that was? Well, some of you do. When I was younger, I was never much one for the party scene. Now that I'm a little older, though, I've come to the conclusion that I deserve to take off that  earnest Virgo hat  I usually wear and replace it once in a while with a tiara and "dance it out". Who cares if I can't dance? I want to dance!
  • Try a new career: Oooh, you say, and here's where you stop reading my blog. Hang on. I know there is much to be said for security and status and trivial things like, to pay the bills. But if you have a burning desire to change course in your life, then good for you. Yoo-hoo. We're not getting any younger, are we? If not today, then when? And most certainly, if a roadblock has been put in the path of your current career (have you become unable to physically or emotionally continue your current job?), then see the roadblock as that which will of necessity veer you off into a new (and possibly, better) career. After all, look at Grandma Moses. She lived to be 101 years old, and if, at the age of 76 she had said, "I'm too old to start this," she would have missed a twenty-five year career!
  • Fall madly, deeply, truly in love: Nope. We are never to old to fall in love. We are a species who seeks connection, and most of us never outgrow that need to be connected to another. As relationships change, transitions occur, and we grow in maturity, it becomes increasingly important to forget about the number we've assigned ourselves as our age. After all, how many "young" people have you known that are much older than their years...stodgy,even, in some cases? And how many "older" people have you known who can run rings around the rest of us? [My friend, Lorene, met the "love of her life" at the age of 80-something. She and her new husband, Clarence, went white-water rafting in Colorado for their honeymoon. Now well into their nineties, they aren't spry enough to go rafting anymore, but they still laugh and flirt and hold hands, and are the envy of everyone in their senior living center. I want to be like Lorene when I grow up.] Don't listen to anyone (including yourself) who tells you that you can't fall in love with whomever you choose at your age. More importantly, learn to accept the possibility that someone else can fall in love with you!
That's my list. What's on your list of things you're never too old to do?

Today, I hope you accept your age, but reject the labels that other have put on it. 

Today's music selection comes via my newfound friend, Robin, who sent this to me yesterday. What a gift I can share with you...something I've not been able to do before now. Here is video of a live performance of Vladimir Ashkenazy (my not-so-secret crush) playing Chopin's " Etude op.10-1".

Watch Ashkenazy play, and you will see why I have a not-so-secret crush on the man. Such passion and power, such love for his art, such handsome features...oops, going too far. His hair is a thick shock of white these days, and he is in his 80's, I think, but I tell you without hesitation that it's NOT about the number! Enjoy!

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