“The good news is this is the last time you will ever have to experience this procedure.” Those were the words that lingered in the air as my physician, Angelina, left the exam room. You would think I would be happy to hear her statement. The truth is I think the prep work is disgusting. Not to mention the flexible camera lurking around in your body attempting to detect abnormalities or disease. Colonoscopies are no fun, period. Yet, that is not what really bothered me. When Dr. Angelina left the room, I begin to ruminate on the meaning behind her words. “What is she really saying?” My internal critic was ready at hand with an answer. His snarly voice shouted in my ear “I think she is trying to tell you in another ten years your life will be irrelevant, or possibly over. You are definitely on your own.”
Undoubtedly, Dr. Angelina had no idea how her words landed with me. They triggered many repressed fears that I wasn’t even aware of, yet somehow they had taken up residency in some compartment of my mind. Now that door was unlocked and stood wide open accompanied by Charlie the naysayer, my zealous critic. “Face it, you are much older than you would like to believe”.
I have always thought of health is a private topic, one in which I’d would prefer to keep that way. Particularly when other well-intentioned beings alert me to the fact that I am getting older. Even my nine-year-old grandson, Auggie, takes great pleasure in reminding me of my age. Especially since he has finally come to the conclusion that indeed I am older than his father. When he was three, he was quite certain it was the other way around. This was due to the fact he believed his father was much smarter than I am; therefore he must be older. Since then, he has discovered the truth. He now knows I am older than his father. Somehow in Auggie’s eyes I still know less. How can he have it both ways?
I remember the first time I read the British children’s book The Velveteen Rabbit. It was in children’s literature class when I was in college. At the time, I didn’t relate to the passage where Margery Williams reminds her readers through the voice of the Skin Horse “By the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, your eyes drop out, and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But those things don’t matter because you’re Real. You can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” I fell into the category of those who didn’t understand. I do now.
Today, I find I’d like to hold onto Mark Twain’s saying that “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”
Societal norms often tell a different story. These norms account for why people in an older age group feel they experience isolation and discrimination. I believe it is because they struggle with their identity. They find themselves wrestling with a loss of personal status, loss of power and control, influence and regard. Real or unreal they all feed into the subtle formation of limiting beliefs. Many don’t have the skill set to turn limiting beliefs into expanding beliefs thus they get layered on top of one another. Eventually they are overpowered with beliefs that keep them stuck.
Twain is right — it is mind over matter. However, he forgot to say it isn’t easy. It takes commitment and the willingness to create a healthy lifestyle, beliefs, habits, and expectations.
For me, I believe the only way that can happen is when I don’t allow the naysayers in my life to get in the way. I don’t listen to my critic or people in my life who attempt to indoctrinate me into their lifestyle, their beliefs, their expectations.
Perhaps it all starts each morning when I look in the mirror. I can ask the person peering back at me: Who and what do I want to see or be today? What can I explore, rediscover, or investigate? I think I’d much rather live in that world, the world of wonder and hope even if like the Velveteen Rabbit my joints are loose, and some days I do feel a bit shabby.
Ruthie — the Velveteen Rabbit is my absolute favorite children’s book — even before I became shabby with all of the loving that I have received. It is an important reminder that we need to anticipate that the equivalent of “nursery magic” will happen most easily if we listen to the voices of young people who value us the way we are.
To your list of what it takes to practice “mind over matter” I’d add luck! Sometimes all else fails. . .