We're all getting older, which is not news. But we're doing it with more resistance, resentment and reluctance then at any other time in human history. And we're worrying about it sooner. My children are constantly asking after my health. They think I eat terribly. On most counts they are right. Bottom line is my kids are more health conscious, at 20 then I was at 40. Ironically science says that the additional worrying they are doing is not in their best interest health wise. Acting your age has become a most ambiguous conundrum.
I am not a big fan of ambiguity. I actually go out of my way to research ambiguity, so i am prepared to face it in all its various offensive incarnations. To act your age should be beyond the physical confinements of your body. Acting your age is a mental and a spiritual endeavor. Homo sapiens are the only species that knows, or cares, how old it is. Behaving like a normal Homo sapien is to fear the end. As the days of a life stack up, more and more do we fill them with narcissistic introspection and auto analysis we find on line. We draw on drugs to counter the noxious alchemies of nature, sex drive and spoiled children (very correlated); we get hair transplants and face lifts to shore up and bedeck our slowly rotting exteriors. Finally comes the age trauma. Life starts looking like a funnel, with the range of your hopes and likelihoods diminishing until the only remaining outcome is back to nature— the grave.
You start hating the ideas that fun is the exclusive property of kids and that life, which could be such a ballet, seems to keep turning out to be a tap dance. Work is how you kill time waiting to croak. Living simply becomes what your doing till your dying. Now that sounds depressing, but before you jump to conclusions, I am absolutely a firm believer that how well you lived your life makes all the difference in how long you live. Thus living begets living, and the better you live the longer you live, or so logic says. Though there are an alarming amount of exceptions to that rule as well.
Good Old Days
OK, you can live and survive with this attitude at 50, even 45. But you're in some kind of trouble when you're 23 and your thoughts keep coming up Good Old Days and how before long you'll wake up 30 headed for the cemetery like everybody else and then, there is the horrifying 35 after which you're barely still able to be relevant. Most people do not even begin to grasp the concept of time until they are over 40.
Grow sentimental at age 25 and you'll be moping over your lost youth for a good 40 to 60 years. That's a lot of vitality to blow with your head in the sands of recollection, brooding miserably over the years to come. Nevertheless, there's a virtual epidemic of age trauma blitzing the 25-to- 40 age range; a conscious desire to maintain one's youth that indicates not just an early recognition of mortality but the first light of a preoccupation or even obsession with the subject. It feels like a direct result of the digital age and the rise of the immediate satisfaction generation. Good advice is hard to come by and there are some things that cant be resolved with an App.
We like to deny that we concern ourselves with aging, but the fact is we're at best unenthusiastic about the prospect and at worst scared and resentful. We get cute and point out that it's one of the few things we're all doing together and thus a broad unifier, but, in fact, we tend to do it in varying degrees of haste, comfort, health and enjoyment. This complicates most long-term relationships and turns plenty of them into Netflix couple dramedies or Amazon Prime romantic pansexual comedies. And if we coyly call age, the Great Leveler, this is only because it is our universal common enemy.
It's only natural that, as the machinery runs down, we begin fencing with the inevitable. Who doesn't quail before power strong enough to give Arnold Schwarzenegger heart trouble, George Clooney wrinkles, the William sister’s wrist pains, and Mick Jagger bifocals? “You’re looking older these days” is the death shot of small talk, bordering on the rude and obnoxious. It hits the ego like a Peter Gabriel sledge hammer.
We know a hell of a lot more about how we age than why. Current theories ascribe human collapse to neuron gaps, RNA loss, thickened nerve sheaths, mitochondrum decreases, contorted microtubules, cha-cha-cha. “Our DNA program runs out,” cry some. “No, it cracks and breaks,” insist others. Other prime suspects include the hypothalamus, various enzymes, the immunity system, the thymus, free radicals, failing antibodies and assorted hormones. Take your pick.
And don't forget personal history and behavior. Sloth, for instance, ages faster than combat. Cornell med-school studies show that extended inactivity in young people results in the “same fatigue and poor body tone as [exist in) old people.” The best rejuvenator and antiaging medicine, by general consensus, is moving your ass. Calories nip away at our remaining days like the piranha of nutrition. Damage to the body can take years out of us.
Many call the realization that their days are numbered and that the number is decreasing, by the name of Age Trauma—the sudden downdraft of spirit that hits the first time we find that we can’t abuse, extend, batter, ignore or make demands on our bodies as we used to. A relative drops dead and for the next two weeks, every ache is relevant. The dentist points out that these are your last teeth, ever. Nothing is visible below the stomach, but not much is going on down there anyway. There's still sex, but not as prolonged, energetic, frequent or in as many contortions as before. Marijuana and beer must be negotiated with.
Thrills and chills. But for most civilians, Age Trauma comes much more mundanely and with discouraging selfishness, often accompanying the ultimate confession: “That's what I always wanted, and here I’m not gonna get it.” The bite lies not just in aging but in aging without achievement, failing to show sufficient success and progress. Sure happiness, satisfaction and success are all relative terms, the tick is to never give up. Never stop. Always move forward even if it is by sheer force of will. These are the simple tricks to staying young. As a wise old sage once reminded me that in life, if you are going to go up to the bell, make sure you ring it.