February 6, 2010

Growing Older... So What?

Last week our choir sang at a thanksgiving Mass for a gracious lady who was celebrating her 90th birthday. During the homily, the priest turned to the celebrant and asked her how she was feeling. We were all expecting her to say "happy," "grateful," or "blessed." Instead she quickly answered: "excited!"

Of course, she later continued to say that she was also grateful to still be alive and in good health, and to have her family around her. Perhaps the fact that her family and friends had just surprised her with an intimate party at an elegant restaurant in the metropolis made her feel excited. But I could tell from the spring in her step and the sparkle in her eyes, that she was a woman who had not allowed the years to let her lose her sense of excitement at life's little joys. 

"Wow," I thought to myself. "To be 90 and still be excited, hey, I'd like that, too!" 

Then this week, my husband, brother and I went to visit a 69-year-old friend of the family in the hospital. He had an accident over the weekend while on an out-of-town trip with his motorcycle buddies. 

I marvel at him. He has a youthful demeanor, and does not look like a 69-year-old at all. Just a month ago, he, together with my husband and two of my brothers, had gone on a road trip to Baguio on their bikes. They had dropped by our house and I noticed even then that he was fairly agile and sprightly for his age. I later found out that he also does yoga, and that in his sixties he could still do a head stand!

Despite his injury, he had a positive attitude. He told us, "if I wallowed in self-pity, nothing would happen to me." He remains upbeat that when he recovers, he could go back to motorbiking - but concedes that he may have to do it at a slower pace. I admire how he has not allowed age to stop him from pursuing his passion and living his life fully. 

I'm thinking of these two recent encounters as I sit here at my desk contemplating turning another year older. To be honest, I feel age creeping up on me. I not only have bifocals now for distance and reading, I also have to have a separate pair of glasses for the computer. My back and joints feel achy in the mornings. And the so-called "senior moments," well, I'm having more of them than I care to admit. 

But the 90-year-old lady and our 69-year-old family friend have inspired me to look beyond the veneer into what enables them to live their lives undeterred by age. 

Having passion. Being excited. A powerful force at 19. Powerful still at 69 and 90. How do you get it? No book can tell you. No life coach or counsellor can mentor you into acquiring passion and being excited. Sometimes someone can inspire you. But mostly the passion and excitement comes from deep within, like a wellspring that just suddenly fills up and you can tap into. 

I've had my own flings with having passion or being excited about life in general, and about certain people, activities and events. But I can't tell you how I get the feeling or how I arrive at it. I just know that it comes and goes and when it's there, it lets me experience life in living color. It puts the spring in my step and my life's dance is no longer a slow drag but a hip-hop. 

And so through it all I pray that even if my body and all the parts left of it no longer operate and cooperate the way they used to, may my heart, mind and spirit never grow old. May I never lose that sense of wonder at life's many little joys, that excitement about life's possibilities. May passion and purpose both get me up every morning and sustain me through the day... and contentment put a grateful smile on my lips before I sleep. 

I acknowledge that life is not all bliss. Some days will be better than others. Not everything that I want or plan for will come to pass. 

But if I can keep in my heart this hope, this trust, this sense of excitement and of possibilities... then growing older will come to mean not just a diminishing of time but also gaining a better foothold into eternity. 

Every passing year simply brings me closer to where we were all meant to be. 

Then I can truly say of growing older: ...So what?