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Having Lived A Little While

Having lived a little while myself most things tend to be a little heavy. With age and growing up I've learned ... That you cannot make someone love you. All you can do is stalk them and hope they panic and give in. Some people are just assholes, no matter how much I care.

It takes years to build up trust, and it only takes suspicion, not proof, to destroy it. You can get by on charm for about fifteen minutes. After that, you'd better have a big dick or huge tits. You shouldn't compare yourself to others - they are more fucked up than you think.

I've learned that you can keep puking long after you think you're finished. Unless we are celebrities, we are responsible for what we do. Regardless of how hot and steamy a relationship is at first, the passion fades, and there had better be a lot of money to take its place.

Sometimes the people you expect to kick you when you're down, will be the ones who do. I've learned that we don't have to ditch bad friends because their dysfunction makes us feel better about ourselves. No matter how you try to protect your children, they will eventually get arrested and end up in the local paper. The people you care most about in life are taken from you too soon and all the less important ones just never go away.

Too often, we lose sight of life's simple pleasures. Remember, when someone annoys you it takes 42 muscles in your face to frown BUT, it only takes 4 muscles to extend your arm and bitch-slap the motherfucker upside the head. I've learned to say "Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke" in 6 languages.

Aging gracefully is a widespread self-esteem challenge. Let's put an end to that right now! "Well, Happy Birthday! How old are you anyway?" "Oh, I'm just 29 ... again." It's a harmless game, denying our age, right? We play sensitive about our age as we get older, as we get further away from birth and closer to death. It's just a way to share our unease of growing older with people around us. Ah ... aging gracefully.

Try as we might, time marches on and we get older just the same. I was reminded about this when I recently read that we are now seven million years old. That's at least a million years older than we were just one year ago. Of course, that does not mean you or I personally aged a million years in the past 365 days. That would be taking the term "personal growth" or "aging", gracefully or otherwise, too far. It would be either a b-rated horror movie or the phenomenal work of a genius. In fact, an early human skull found in the Sahara Desert is 7 million years old, pushing "the start of human evolution back at least another million years."

For you and me, age is important. Denying one's age, or even being sensitive about it, can be disabling to many of us. Our years, our lines, our scars are part of who we are. They should be a matter of comfort and pride and even our joy. Happiness eludes us when we feel embarrassed, guilty, or even shy about any part of who we are.

What's at stake here? Our happiness. Our self-esteem. Our zest and sense of daily joy. Our life satisfaction. It's time for each of us to take pride again in everything we are. Try saying something like this: "I am pushing 40 (or whatever age applies to you). I have lived 40 years of happiness. I have survived 40 years of challenges. I have experienced 40 years of personal growth. I have learned so many life lessons from 40 trips around the sun. (I have much more to learn, so God, please let me live another 40!) I am aging gracefully. I have thrived, mostly, during 40 years. And I am proud of every one of those years."

Once upon a time, the elders of the village were revered. They bore both knowledge and wisdom. Now we settle for just knowledge. The elders carried traditions down from generations. Now we just create brand new "traditions". The elders were our leaders. Now we downsize them.

Youth has its own beauty, its own advantages, its own joy, its own reasons to be admired. So, too, does middle age. In fact, every age is important and every age is beautiful. How old are you right now? (Really, I don't mean "29 again".) Whatever age you are, right now that is the perfect age for you -- and the perfect age to be proud of. Oh sure, it is sort of harmless to kid about one's age. And many people joke about it harmlessly. But many of us also have a deep unease about our age and our aging -- an unease that can hold back our self-esteem and our happiness.

I recall sitting in my pew when it suddenly dawned on me why one member of the all-female choir looked so different. Every lady was at least 40 years old. Most were over 50. But the other heads were jet black or honey brown or sandy blonde or some other artificial tint. White Top Lady stood out from the crowd. She packed a loaded bundle of white hair.

It is no sin to dye one's hair, as long as we don't do it during the service. It is just one of many ways we adorn ourselves. But the sight of a dozen elderly ladies with hair colors impossible for their age (and perhaps even impossible for any age!) made me want to laugh out loud right there in church. (I resisted.) All the heads would probably have looked normal if White Top Lady's hair had not been screaming out, "I'm proud of my color. I'm proud of my age. I'm not going to hide. I'm aging gracefully." It's time to be proud of everything about ourselves, including our age. So to everybody aging gracefully out there, "Happy Seven Millionth!"

But is our fate really so fixed? Is the march of time always so cruel? All signs point to . . . not really. On a broad variety of prominent stages, more and more, people aren't clinging to empty platitudes about age being just a number. Instead, they're ignoring age as a limiting factor entirely. Time, it turns out, is something you can bargain with.

It is an important scientific debate about the inevitability of the aging process and what even young and middle-aged people can do to blunt the adverse effects of time. According to scientists, it's entirely possible to grow significantly older without getting much slower - as long as we're willing to put in the work. The elixir of youth, it turns out, is an old-fashioned cocktail: blood, sweat and tears.

This scientific research arrives just as the graying of the baby boomers is leading to an explosive growth in medical treatments that promise a perpetual adolescence. With its offerings of dietary supplements and caloric-restriction diets, face creams infused with fetal stem cells and injections of Botox, the anti-aging industry has managed to turn an inescapable biological process into a lucrative source of anxiety. What the latest science suggests, however, is that the best anti-aging treatment isn't something you apply to your skin or buy in a bottle: It's what you already have in your head. The bad news, of course, is that the same research shows that the passage of time is not an equal opportunity eroder.

A large study led by researchers at Harvard University compared the brains of young adults and senior citizens. As expected, the scientists found consistent differences between the two groups. The most significant occurred in a brain system known as the "default network," which is active when people turn their attention inward, as when they're trying to remember a name. The default network is defined by a series of pathways between the front of the brain - this includes areas of the prefrontal cortex - and the "back" of the brain, such as the cingulate cortex.

Under normal circumstances, the default network ensures that these two brain areas work in perfect sync. The deficits in the default network might be responsible for many of the classic symptoms of old age, such as an inability to focus and problems with memory retrieval.

So far, so depressing. The aging process is a biological wrecking crew. But buried in all the bad news are some optimistic data. It turned out that nearly half of the older subjects exhibited brain activity that appeared indistinguishable from that of the young adults: Their default system was nearly as synchronized as those of people in their 20s. Furthermore, these differences in brain activity were correlated with performance on a battery of tests that measured short-term memory, abstract reasoning powers and processing speed.

How do some people manage to maintain such a spry cortex? Some scientists argue that the secret to thinking like a young person is cognitive exercise. If you stop exercising the brain - and this is what often happens during retirement - then you shouldn't be surprised when it starts to die off.

There are no shortcuts. Even people blessed with ideal genetics - those lucky souls at low risk for wrinkles and memory loss - still need to exercise the mind to preserve their mental vigor. But the mind does have one crucial advantage over the body: It can rewire itself as it tries to cope with the challenges of getting older. What this suggests is that successful aging has little to do with stopping the aging process, because that can't be done. Our flesh is mortal; there is no fountain of youth. The brain is a flexible machine: If we put in the effort - and it takes lots of effort - our cells will find a way to stay fit. Nobody ever said aging gracefully was easy.

David Leonhardt. Aging Gracefully (You're How Old?). The Happy Guy humor column.


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