With my birthday just around the corner, I’ve been thinking about how all the teachers I had in grade school were probably right around the age I am right now (back then I thought they were “ancient”, by the way) .
Its crazy to think that Miss Bojack and Mr. Cross had a life after 4pm. They probably had families to go home to, friends to drink wine with. I wouldn’t have believed they had anything on their minds other than fractions and Watership Down. I think I thought they were just animated statues that stayed at school forever.
With all this in mind, I’ve been wondering what one can do to nourish the soul and maintain the spirit of youth. How can we hold onto that vibe of childhood magic?
Here’s what I’ve come up with:
1. Exercise the imagination: Imagination is like a muscle in humans. If not used, it gets weak- but don’t fret, its not lost because of a wonderful thing called muscle memory.
a. Partake in the arts. If you happen to be crafty or artistic this one is easy. Make a clay pot and glaze it, paint a landscape or portrait (canvases aren’t expensive at Michaels), art- design a party environment. If you aren’t particularly artistic, go to a museum and observe some paintings. What do you see in the painting? Can you make up a story that goes with it?
b. Play a childhood imagination game. My favorite is listening to music and writing a story that goes with the symphonic cadences. Also there’s the cloud game. Go for a hike but leave your phone at home- look around and observe what you see. Does anything look like something its not? Ex. Sometimes I think trees look like gigantic broccoli. You may feel silly doing this, but get over it. Just live and be. Don’t stifle your inner-child.
c. Read a good book. This doesn’t have to be complicated literature. Although reading Beowulf is great mental exercise, I’m talking about fun reads here ( aka “airplane reads”). Don’t cheat and see the movie. Instead make a movie in your head. Who are you casting as the main character? What does the world look like in the book? Really imagine it as you read. I just read Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. Amazing. And guess what?! HBO and Reese Witherspoon are making it a TV mini-series. I can’t wait to see how different it is from the movie I made in my mind!
2. Pamper yourself: No matter how extroverted you are, its imperative to take some time to yourself and recharge the soul. An overextended/exhausted soul = an old one.
a. Take a spa day
b. Go for a long walk
c. Sit at a coffee shop and meditate.
d. Snuggle with a pet.
The goal here is to find some Zen time for mental and emotional relaxation. Be in the moment with nothing to do but breathe and observe. Can you imagine having a chunk of time where you are not thinking about where you have to be next or what you have to do? Even just a few minutes a day to refresh the soul, I’m certain, will add years of youth to your life.
I met a cheerful 93 year old woman at a Thanksgiving dinner a few years ago and we had a long wonderful conversation about life. She explained how everything seems to go in cycles; repeat after repeat. Friends come and go and most things are not forever. She explained its important to embrace and appreciate the now, but to let things go with ease as well. When one relationship ends it leaves the door open for another meaningful connection.
This woman was so happy-go-lucky and alive. I asked for her secret to maintaining such magnificent quality of life, and this is what she said:
a. “Maintain a good attitude. Find the silver linings. Dont sweat the small stuff, and everything is the small stuff.” (this seems to be a motif amongst the well preserved elderly).
b. “Take care of yourself and your body. The one thing that will be in your life forever is you.”
c. “Exercise your brain. Work, but only do what you love. If you start to hate your career, change it- its ok to do that. But keep learning and using your mind. I was a mother, a teacher, and now an accountant. I still do accounting, but I’m learning how to sew.” (do you love her already?)
d. “Every morning for the past 80 years I have followed a ritual. I get out of bed, I turn on my favorite upbeat happy song, and I dance around my room in my underwear.” This one is my favorite!
A zillion years ago my college roommate, Jennifer, and I were exhausted from the stress of mid-term exams. It was well after midnight yet we were still plugging away at our studies. Coffee in hand and pjs on, we sat at our desks reviewing overly- reviewed information. Suddenly pit pat pit pat and booooom. A thunderstorm! Jen looked at me and said “put down that coffee and come on!” Bewildered, I listened as she grabbed my hand and pulled me out the door. Chasing her down the hallway I asked “what are we doing?” “Come on!” she responded as the main entrance door swung open and she ran out. Not hesitating, I followed. We spun in the rain as she sang Singing in the Rain. We laughed and were soaked and it was AMAZING. I’m not sure if its the exercise or the serotonin released from the happy music or a combination of both, but I swear that dancing is the key to life.
As my birthday approaches, my goal for this next year is to practice living life with childlike enthusiasm and cheer. I double dog dare you to join me 😉