Aging Gracefully: Flexibility of Body, Mind and Spirit

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Deng Ming-Dao says in his 365 Tao Daily Meditations, “When young, things are soft. When old, things are brittle.” Brittle things break easily, fall apart and die. I contend for a woman to age gracefully, she must  be able to maintain her suppleness and her flexibility not only in the body, but equally important in the mind and spirit as well.

I came to this understanding when I was confronted by experiencing two disparate emotions and thoughts at the same time.  I was stymied and stuck at my inability to comfortably hold them both without judging, criticizing and blaming myself. I remember how shut off I felt to myself and others. My chi was stuck and I felt like I couldn’t breathe.

I was mired in feelings of annoyance and frustration, kvetching about my life circumstances while I was equally aware of the huge amount of gratitude I felt. I was about to learn a great lesson from a simple discovery; While I understood that in this case, Kvetching and gratitude  could in fact be (strange) bedfellows,  I have come to understand that life is often complex, nuanced and sometimes downright confusing. Being able to accept and hold two seemingly disparate emotions and experiences allows for a flexibility of mind, body and spirit. And flexibility, whether metaphorically or not, keeps one supple, fluid and nimble…..a most important component of an aging gracefully woman. 

Several months ago, I reached a new milestone in my life.  Never before had I realized that I could have 7 medical appointments in one week……but I did.

The truth is that I was getting a bit worn down from all of this.  It had been a year and a half of dealing with chronic pain, discomfort, information, opinions,, doctors’ appointments and finally hip replacement surgery, and then of course, the recovery; only to be followed by more doctors’ appointments and physical therapy. The older I’ve gotten, the less I like sitting in those usually stuffy, noisy and uncomfortable waiting rooms……..only then to be called to sit in yet another small and even more uncomfortable space with less air and windows that don’t open as you wait and wait and wait some more.

So there I was complaining that I had to suffer through 7 medical appointments that week.  I was feeling grumpy, irritable, tired and annoyed that instead of going to the gym, doing yoga or taking a walk, I, instead had to park my ass for who knew how long in yet another doctor’s office……

But, how can I complain??????  How dare I kvetch, moan and groan when I have excellent medical coverage, a doting partner who took meticulous and loving care of me and a wonderful support system of dear friends and my sister who supported me throughout my ordeal.  I have a lot to be grateful for…..I know it and I appreciate it. And yet, I was miserable.  I didn’t want to be around myself at that time.

And then my Wise Ass, NYC Crone dropped in for a visit.  In her less than subtle tone and dramatic flare, she belted out ,

You can have an attitude of gratitude while you kvetch, whine & complain

You can have an attitude of gratitude while you kvetch, whine & complain

Have a party of pity if you feel shitty……go ahead and kvetch, whine  and complain

Enjoy your attitude of gratitude while you kvetch, whine & complain”

And I got it.  I understood how important it is as we grow older to maintain the tender pliancy of our youth……certainly in our bodies but equally important in the ways we think, feel and behave. I had started to feel like an aging plant that was becoming  rigid, stiff and hard……And once I realized that I could  embrace and gently and kindly hold that which confused, frustrated and annoyed me, while accepting my attitude of gratitude,I relaxed and felt more  fluid, flexible and limber. Where before, my breath was shallow, now I could breathe deeply and easily.

And, I thanked my Wise Ass NYC Crone.  I thanked her for showing up and giving me a valuable lesson on listening and trusting my inner guidance. And I thanked her for connecting me to the bigger message…….that aging gracefully requires fluidity, flexibility, and gentleness of the mind, spirit and body……..

By Roberta Teller