The Fountain of Youth... Or The Fountain of Life?
I am writing this entry from 35,000 feet above the Atlantic. I am on my way back from Germany. I was there for THE Oktoberfest. I am also one week post my 32nd birthday. Part of the reason I went on this trip is to celebrate my birthday, and another is just to live some fucking life.
I was also accompanied by my two cousins. Well, one is the wife of my one cousin who passed away from cancer in January; however, I consider her a cousin. The other is my first cousin. She just got out of a 13-year relationship. A divorcee, a newly single woman, and a widow… all at Oktoberfest. It is basically the opposite of a bachelorette party. All of us are well out of our 20s and into our 30s (me), 40s (cousin’s wife), and 50s (my first cousin).
Age and life. The more years I add onto my age, the more I am living it. I think plenty about life too, don’t get me wrong. I am a philosophical thinker at my core. What got me thinking about this post, though, is the fact that I am 32…and yet I feel more “young” than ever.
But that isn’t it. I think the wording is misconstrued. Youth is a stage of our lives. Adolescence and young adulthood is a phase in our human journey. There are certain things the stage of youth provides that are different than our more accrued stages. There is reproduction of course (unless you’re a dude… I saw on the news some guy in India who is still spittin’ out kids with a younger woman who is in his 90’s. Dang son.). The body has certain changes in greater years, but that also is strongly influenced by how you live life and take care of yourself. So really, all I can think of that youth can offer over other stages of life are spittin’ out babies and less wrinkles with potential for a tighter bod (although that does not have to be part of aging… google Ernestine Shepherd. You go girl!). These are facets of why I think we focus on “youth”, but it isn’t the whole picture by ANY means. I truly believe we value something deeper than youth, but have misconstrued it. Youth is not a state of mind or a state of being; it is merely a phase of our lives.
I do not believe we value youth as much as we think we do… we more so value and yearn for vitality and vibrancy. However, here in America, we have tied that to youth, as if they are one and the same. I am here to argue it isn’t, and it is a big fat misunderstanding. And we are in desperate need of shifting our perspective.
Nearing this “middle aged” category is interesting. I see many of my peers or people around me in a bad way. Not all people, but many. I see more middle aged folks in the U.S. who are pretty much half dead already, even though they are young. They wake up, they go to work, they watch tv, and go to bed and do it all over again. Or they wake up, they mindlessly do whatever their daily routine is, and then go to bed and repeat. They are completely out of touch with who they are and what they want. I grew up with parents who did this too. It was about keeping up with the Hedersons. I remember it was exhausting to watch how exhausted they were in running the rat race.
They look tired… because they are tired. They look less than enthused because they are in a state of feeling less than enthused. I hear so many people say, “Getting older sucks,” or “Adulting sucks.” What does that even really mean? What is the difference between when you were having an amazing time and now? I see that we have HUGE expectations around what it means to be an adult and who we should be in society as one. Here we go, back to the concept of “shoulding” ourselves to death. And then we package ourselves and try to fit into this proper adult society, while losing our whole and who we are as individuals along the way.
I have been there in my own way…lost and disconnected from my whole. I remember I was in the thick of my marriage falling apart several years ago; I remember playing some music from the band The Used, which was my favorite band in high school. They are a pretty hard core, screamo alternative band. I had not listened to their debut album in about 8 years. I was going bananas singing to it in my car, and felt this freedom. And then I thought about it… I started wondering, “What happened to that girl? The one who would dress in clothes from Hot Topic and listen to screamo rock music? Where did she go?”
It reminded me of that scene in the movie American Beauty, which by the way, has been my favorite movie of all time for about 16 years now. It is the scene when Lester is breathing on his wife’s neck and asking her, “What happened to the girl who would have fake seizures at frat parties when she got bored? Who used to run up to the rooftop of our first apartment building to flash the traffic helicopters? Have you totally forgotten about her? Because I haven’t.” You can start to see her get in touch with that, smiling, connecting to him. They are kissing, passionately, for the first time in God knows how long; but then she notices he is about to spill his beer on the couch. “Lester, you’re about to spill beer on the couch.” And womp womp, it’s back to the present depressive reality of the priorities within their present lives. Lester picks up a pillow, throws it down, and screams, “It’s just a couch!”
Now, I do not condone faking seizures for kicks, however I appreciate the point being driven home in this scene of the movie. She was someone who valued having fun, who cared more about enjoying life than status or materials. But somewhere along the way, that changed and her priorities shifted. I see way too many of us abandoning ourselves for the Italian silk couch (again, nothing wrong with liking the couch, it becomes a problem when it becomes more important than the relationships in our lives… whether it is to ourselves or other people).
It wasn’t that I wanted to be wearing Hot Topic shirts and listening to The Used all of the time now… but that is part of me, and that day when I was listening to it in the car for the first time in 8 years, I woke up to that. I had completely neglected it without knowing it. And I started to realize how “tamed” I had become, when my soul is a wild gypsy.
What I was missing was the vibrancy that was the untamed and wild part of my soul that I had more access to when I was in high school. It Wasn’t gone, it was just buried.
How did this happen? For me personally, I saw it as a result of a very busy and routine 20s. I was married this entire decade in a very routine marriage, we did a lot of planning ahead. I honestly got lost in the planning. We finished undergrad (both with very rigorous degrees with nursing and biomedical engineering), bought homes, went to medical and grad school (very demanding school curriculum). I do not regret what I did in my 20’s, and I also would not do it that way again. I did way too much work and not enough play and fun (although that was certainly there too, just VERY unbalanced). Also, it was the only life I had ever known.
I grew up being “mom” and “the rock” of my family. I love my family, both my mom’s and dad’s sides, very much. And, they have complicated and dysfunctional dynamics as many families nowadays do (just because it is normal does not mean it is ok though). I grew up in a family drowning in codependency and performance based ideals. There was a lot of work hard, keep busy, fix everyone else’s problems, and neglect your own wants and desires. In many ways, because of being so overly responsible as a young kid, I missed out on much of a childhood. That is not a “poor me” statement, it is simply fact. Everyone did the best they knew how, and I have healed and have empathy for that. But because of the tremendous amount of stress and pressure I experienced, I do not recall my “youth” being one of vibrancy of vitality for what my potential for that is.
My silk couch was accomplishments. Yes, I went back to school because I wanted to be a nurse practitioner, and it is something that continues to serve me and others… But, I got lost in the perfectionism of it. That is where the tipping point was for me into the realm of unbalanced. Getting everything done became more important than how I valued what I was learning and took over my time from having fun.
It’s ok to appreciate what you have; it is another to covet it and value it more than your own heart. What happens when that silk couch goes away? If things burn to the ground? Is the silk couch really living? Of course not! Again, if we really like it and have it we can appreciate it, but putting our happiness into looks and things is a hollow façade.
Last year was my overhaul on getting back to me. I left my marriage that was not a match, I got let go from two jobs that were not for me, and started to finally ask, “Well what is me?” Once I started answering those questions and ALLOWING myself to live into those answers, I started feeling this new sensation…This vibrancy I have not felt to this degree before… not even in high school.
So again, at 32, I feel more “young” than ever, but it is really feeling vibrant and alive. I feel very vibrant and alive! And you do not have to be in your youth to experience it. In this newfound vibrancy and aliveness, I have found several key points that contribute to this vibrancy. Everyone is different, but the overarching umbrellas I have found to be consistent and the same.
WAYS TO REAWAKEN YOUR VITALITY AND VIBRANCY.
1. Find alignment with your heart and your purpose.
a. Your soul is what has you alive! When people die and their souls leave, your cells are merely a corpse that turn into dirt in the ground. Sounds morbid, but hey it is true. Until you can align with who you are and get in touch with that deep, inner knowing of your purpose (where you feel true joy), that is going to be buried. It shows, you will look unalive. So start digging for that on your inward journey. For me, helping others heal, learning about life and spirituality, traveling, yoga, hiking, camping, and being outdoors are some of what I call “soul sparkers.” They keep my fire lit and are a huge part of my journey here. What are yours?
2. Activity and self care.
a. People, you have got to move. I love being in Europe because everyone is walking everywhere. I am working on making a more consistent move schedule for myself by walking or running every morning. Our bodies are made to move, and there is plenty of research showing that exercise and moving leads to anti aging, better mood, more energy. Also, eating food that is fresh and real.
a. Purging of toxins within your soul, your mind, and your body’s cells can make a huge difference. Toxins can build up on your being, and you can look like hell. So do things like grounding, infrared sauna, cleaning up your food, cleaning supplies, and cosmetics for your body. You can do theta healing, meditation, or shamanism for your soul. And for your mind, do journaling, clean up your perspectives. Perspective precedes thoughts, and everything goes through your perspective goggles. If you have the “everything sucks” goggles, then everything is going to have a flavor of suck. Clean up house (that’s you).
4. Being outside. Don’t coop yourself up.
a. You have to make time to be outdoors. Get some sun (some, not a sunburn) and vitamin d, fresh air. Again, walking on the ground in your bare feet helps you detox (this is proven with science, boom).
5. Being in community. HUGE.
a. We are not an island. We need to be around people to connect to. Do not surround yourself with negative people or relationships that are not mutual. Be around people where you feel loved, alive, and authentically you.
6. Lack of stress/fear AKA not giving a fuck
a. Yes, not giving a fuck is a huge contributor to vitality and vibrancy. Not the kind where you completely disconnect (like a drug addict in the street who does not give a fuck because they are high as shit and disconnected from themselves and everyone), but the kind where you are completely connected and engaged to yourself and everyone. You start to wear what you really want and the other people at the PTA meeting start giving you the eyes of shame. Whatever. Y’all do you and I’ll do me. You stop putting pressure on yourself and just be. Chronic stress wreaks havoc on the body, cells, and DNA…Not to mention your dear little soul. So join me in the zero fucks given club!
Going back to my cousins who joined me on this trip… this was very special for me. They have both just been through a lot and lost a lot. I saw them come alive though on this trip. They may be 13 and 23 years older than me, but it sure did not feel like it this week. They let off the “shoulds”, put on the whatever, and let it rip. They were alive… dressing in dirndl, singing and dancing for 10 hours straight with me and our new friends at Oktoberfest. They were vibrant and had this vitality because they were living in the moment, allowing themselves to do so. Allowing myself to do so.
We all have access to this vitality and vibrancy at any time. It is a choice to find it, and then another choice to allow ourselves to access it.
I encourage all of us to realize that age really is just a number. Vibrancy and vitality… now that is something within us all. Shine on.