When asked why his early works looked so solemn but later works seemed more exuberant & exciting, Pablo Picasso replied: “It takes a long time to become young.”
I think the great artist was on to something. I believe it is possible to grow older but not grow old. To mature in wisdom and knowledge and at the same time become more playful and childlike. I have watched a few octogenarians demonstrate this idea beautifully. Here are a few of the things they do that separate them from their peers.
- They live with enormous gratitude. It almost is laughable how thankful these seniors are for all things. It is childlike, naive and quite beautiful. I do not believe you can be young when you are old without gratitude.
- They maintain optimal health for their age and constantly work on staying in the best shape possible. Dick Van Dyke wrote recently in his book Keep Moving: And Other Tips and Truths About Aging, that he refused to go down the stairs sideways no matter how much it hurts him to walk down normally. He believes as soon as you give in to the temptation, the over-compensation will result in hip, knee, and other injuries that just make aging worse.” Dick Van Dyke was born in 1925 and is 90 years old. And, he carries himself like a man 40 years younger.
- They forgo worry. They have lived long enough to know that worry never helps a situation. They have learned to change those things they can change and accept those things that can’t be changed. But most of all, they don’t spend any energy worrying.
- They live with purpose. They serve in their community, church or synagogue. They make cakes and take them to people they know who are homebound. They stay in touch with their friends on the phone or on Facebook. They look out for each other. They keep their grandkids or their great grandkids – regularly. They live meaningful lives that give them a sense they are still contributing to their world. Their lives matter. They have a reason to get out of bed every day.
- They have finally become comfortable in their own skin. They no longer have to put on a facade. They can be who they truly are. And that is very liberating.
I was a pretty serious young man. I had places to go and people to see and successes to accumulate. I wasn’t always sure where I was going but I knew I was moving fast. I was told more than once that I had a permanent scowl on my face. I was stressed out. I was old, yet still young. Now it is reversed. The stress is leaving. The laugh lines are growing deeper. I am learning to love people with no judgement. Life is sweeter than I ever thought it could be. I am truly thankful for every new day. It does take a long time to become young. But the journey is oh so worth it.