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The Cure for Aging

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Here’s a depressing reality that everyone eventually notices: time goes faster as you age. The days and years seem to get behind you with increasing speed, and it’s easy to understand why: to a one-year-old, a year is a lifetime, while to a 40-year-old it’s only one-fortieth of a lifetime.

This means we are, essentially, accelerating towards our graves — but there’s something we can do to make this a non-issue, and I’ll explain how.

I turned 34 last week, and when I think about that number, it seems to belong to an entirely different stage of life than 33 does. A 33 year-old is a just a 31 year-old you haven’t checked in on for a bit, and a 31 year-old is just a 29 year-old plus a quick pair of summers, and 29 is what everyone wants to be anyway.

But 34 is the mark at which the rounding begins to go the other way. We know that 34 might as well be 35, and one president later you’re 39, which is the same as 40. And at that point, while you’re nowhere near old age, you’re probably on the leeward side of the mountain of time that is your life, and your days of being a young person are over.

All of this is just a pointless thinking exercise though. It doesn’t mean anything. Numbers make fools of us. That’s why retail prices still end in 99, statistics mislead us relatively easily, and the Monty Hall Problem still blows people’s minds.

When I put the numbers aside, and look at my actual experience of aging, life has gotten consistently better, not worse. I am calmer, happier, more confident, wiser. I get more enjoyment out of ordinary moments, I experience fewer crises and less fear. I have just as many problems but I dispatch them more quickly. I find it easier to do hard things as I get older.

Yet it’s suggested repeatedly to us, that aging is something to be feared — that an older you is a worse you, and that any birthday beyond your 29th is a small tragedy.

I am also aware that I only turned 34 and not 64, and that I’ve barely begun to experience the effects of aging. But I have every reason to believe that all of the improving qualities listed above will continue to improve until I’m about dead.

There are tradeoffs of course. When I was five I could fall down and probably not hurt myself. I used to be able to drink Slurpees for lunch and not feel like crap afterward. My skin was clearer. And eventually I’ll probably experience joint pain and other goodies. But I believe that with age I will gain vastly more than I lose.

What do we really lose as we age? Why do we think it’s such a bad thing?

Well first of all, what we’re most afraid of isn’t aging, but the thing that happens when we’re done aging — and we often confuse the two. Death and aging aren’t really the same problem, and I don’t think it makes sense to worry that aging is bringing you closer to death. The fact that life ends has been a part of the deal from the beginning, and you knew that. And death, whenever it comes, will render all of the problems of aging irrelevant. 

Your body will tend to get weaker over the decades. We know that. But it’s important to note that your level of fitness and physical ability has a lot more to do with how you spend your years than how many of them you’ve spent in total. I’m a total novice in the world of fitness, but I’m already in much better shape than I was at 25, and still there are 65-year-olds who can run circles around me, or even bench-press me a few dozen times. While it’s true that our limits for physical prowess do decrease as we age, not many of us live in such a way that we’re bumping up against these limits.

We do experience more age discrimination, which is obnoxious but not exactly insurmountable. It’s also not really a function of aging; it’s a consequence of living in a culture that overvalues youth. In other words, getting younger isn’t what’s required to overcome age discrimination. As we know, many cultures (past and present) revere age.

We do get less physically beautiful, at least in terms of raw biological sex appeal. I will certainly have less hair and more lines in 20 years. But even as you gain wrinkles, you can simultaneously become a more articulate, likeable and admirable person, if admiration is important to you. While the most superficial aspect of your beauty may wilt, you can cultivate charisma and appeal indefinitely in every other area. Even outward beauty can be preserved or improved over the medium-term, with an investment in fitness and health, if that’s still something you value.

For women there is a unique aging issue: the loss of the capacity to give birth to healthy children occurs relatively early in life, so beginning a biological family is one of the few things that might be regarded with a bit of urgency (again, if that’s something that’s important to you.)

I’m willing to accept the gradual fading of my physical qualities, knowing that I’m steadily becoming more learned, more easygoing, more skilled and more wise. I have no reason to believe I will lose any of those qualities from age alone, until I’m pretty close to the end.

Of course, getting better year after year requires an intention to get better year after year. Self-improvement doesn’t happen by accident. A lot of what age apparently “takes” from us — health, possibility, optimism, confidence, personal power — is really just what we’ve given up on voluntarily. If you make a standing priority of improving in the areas that matter to you, then your birthdays will come to mark increases in capability and skill, rather than atrophy and loss.

But if you tell yourself the fitness ship has sailed, then it has. Same goes for the dream-career ship, the traveling-the-world ship, and the write-a-great-novel ship. You didn’t miss them, you just stopped thinking of them as your ship.

I think what many people particularly feel they lose is possibility. The range of what you can do with your life seems to shrink as you become more entrenched in your current obligations.

I don’t think this is due to age, but rather the cultural norm of letting your habits stagnate once you hit 30, and the subsequent slipping from improvement mode into maintenance mode. If you’re 5 or 10 years into a career, it’s harder to switch to something better because it usually means taking a pay cut. We take on family and work obligations that can easily consume all of our energy, if self-improvement is allowed to slip off the list of non-negotiable priorities.

If you’re living life in maintenance mode, then you are losing a step when you age. If you’re just getting older without a focus on getting better, then the same things become harder.

The passage of time isn’t a problem to someone who’s determined to improve every important aspect of their life over time. You still experience some tradeoffs, but it’s easier to say goodbye to your smooth skin and Olympic aspirations when you know you’re moving towards greater wealth, wisdom, skill, personal freedom and equanimity.

If you have long-term goals, age creates some pretty excellent consolation prizes. For example, if you’ve got a goal of getting into marathon-shape and doubling your income in the next three years, is it really that bad when you do find yourself three years older?

Disease and physical breakdown are inevitabilities, but they can be slowed with a long-standing commitment to health. When they do eventually set in, they can be managed gracefully with wisdom and presenceif developing those qualities has been a part of your lifestyle.

What the self-improver is really creating is ease — long-term ease. Taking five years to transition to a career that doesn’t drive you nuts might be harder in the short term, and much, much easier in the long term. Working out is harder than skipping a workout, but beyond the hour it takes to do either, the first option creates much more ease in life.

The lifelong self-improver is always setting up life so that it delivers increasing dividends in ease and joy. If it’s just a matter of course for you to spend every year of your life building skill, wealth, and wisdom, then birthdays come to feel like “leveling up” instead of losing out.

***

Photo by Joe del Tufo
Sandra Pawula October 13, 2014 at 12:17 am

You’ve raised some excellent points, David. And for the most part I agree with you, there’s so much goodness that comes with all the experience that happens as we age. I just don’t think it’s necessarily going to be all so peachy up until the very end! Even if we attend to our health, we don’t know what our DNA and karma have in store for us. Whatever happens, if we approach it with wisdom and grace, it will be easier for us.

David Cain October 13, 2014 at 8:57 am

There will definitely be non-peachy parts, especially as our bodies are in the final stages of breakdown. This is as inevitable as death and our fear of it shouldn’t make us fear birthdays. As you say there is a lot we can do throughout our years to learn to deal better with pain and difficulty when it does come.

Amy October 13, 2014 at 1:36 pm

Well said! Many of us do everything possible to maintain optimal physical and mental health but are struck with disease and disability just the same. Living to learn with severe limitations and/or chronic pain and illness is the reality for many, perhaps most, adults over 50.

StephInIndy October 13, 2014 at 2:21 am

most worthy of considering- thank you.

Mike October 13, 2014 at 3:06 am

I share your sentiments about aging. I turn 34 on 25 October. Personally, although I am not even remotely concerned about the outward signs of aging, I am increasingly concerned with using my time wisely. This stems partly from the fact that 9-5 office life often makes me feel like real life is passing me by. However, it is also because my wife and I now have a 3 month old son. Having a child has radically changed my perspective on time. More than ever I have a profound sense of urgency to do all the things that I often dream about. Further, I want to make sure that having fun and going on multiple adventures becomes standard practice each year with my boy. Growing up in New Zealand, I have always taken its outdoor beauty for granted, thinking that I can do a particular hike or climb a certain mountain at any time. However, the truth is that I seldom take advantage of such opportunities. My perspective has now changed dramatically, to the point where I am happy to take unpaid leave from work if necessary to spend quality time with my son, friends and broader family.

At age 33 I finally realized that life is for living. And I now feel like I’m just starting to live it.

David Cain October 13, 2014 at 9:09 am

Growing up in New Zealand, I have always taken its outdoor beauty for granted, thinking that I can do a particular hike or climb a certain mountain at any time.

I have noticed this about kiwis! There is unbelievable beauty all around them and so they say they can always see it later — in contrast to the tourists, who are trying to see everything in three weeks.

Caroline Devitt October 13, 2014 at 3:49 am

Nice article. You make a very good point: our absolute physical limits decline as we age, but most of us don’t explore our absolute physical limits anyway, so how relevant is that really?

Anne October 13, 2014 at 4:21 am

How wonderful to have thought this out by the age of 34! I was in my late 50s… But my 60th birthday last year was a great celebration and I felt only excitement for what might still lie ahead, having recently emerged from a long period of inner struggle. Another valuable aspect of increasing age is that it brings a longer perspective on life and its ups and downs: looking back on the difficult times, I can now see how much I learned and how good eventually came from them. That encourages me now when times get hard: change DOES come, the light comes back. That was so hard to believe when I was younger, but now I have plenty of evidence that it’s so. The prospect of ageing isn’t a pretty one – my Mum died last year, reduced to a shell by dementia and physical ailments – but, as they say, it’s better than the alternative!

David Cain October 13, 2014 at 9:11 am

Another valuable aspect of increasing age is that it brings a longer perspective on life and its ups and downs: looking back on the difficult times, I can now see how much I learned and how good eventually came from them.

This is a theme that’s becoming more and more central in my life. Looking back on “trouble,” so much of it strengthens us. I am trying to maintain that perspective in the moment trouble strikes in real-time, so that I can see the elder “me” some years past it, better for it.

michellepdaoust October 13, 2014 at 5:17 am

I’m now 56. two of my children are 31! (now THAT’s a reality check). I have 2 grandchildren!
(the exclamation points are an expression of my utter astonishment at how quickly I reached all these markers)

For someone your age :-) , you’ve figured out a lot of essential things.

My perspective on life is that there are limitless possibilities for change and growth and discovery and connection, provided that I am still able to communicate with the world.
I have found a profession I love in the past 6 years; become a blogger in 2 languages; travelled alone and begun a serious practice of yoga.

Life has so much to offer, and as I experience all the small, daily losses you list in your piece–and they are sometimes grief-inducing– I also realize that my ability to travel inward, even as I reach outward to new experiences, is boundless.

David Cain October 13, 2014 at 9:14 am

The boundlessness of that inward travel is a major theme in among contemplatives. As you age, you care less and less about the material things, which are dropping away anyway, and more and more about the spiritual side of it — your actual experience and your relationship to it.

Sav October 14, 2014 at 10:21 pm

Michelle, what’s your blog please?
David, great article. Thank you. I’m 40 and for some reason have reached a stage of fear in my life. Fear of death. This is stopping me from really thinking about future potential and growth. Doesn’t this article go against living for the moment?

George October 13, 2014 at 7:18 am

These are some good points (as always). I think for me, birthdays remind me of how much I HAVEN’T accomplished, how lazy and afraid I’ve been, and how others my age or younger seem to be living the lives I wish I could live myself.

David Cain October 13, 2014 at 9:15 am

All the more reason to be better this year than last year, right?

BrownVagabonder October 13, 2014 at 7:32 am

I absolutely agree with your statement, that we get better as we age, not worse, as media would suggest. I am 31, and I feel physically, emotionally and financially healthier than I ever did at 21. I feel that the more time passes by, the better I get. I have a lot to learn and accomplish still, but I feel reasonably sure that I am in the best place I ever could be.
I also agree that people aren’t necessarily afraid of aging, but of death, and sometimes what they believe aging will bring – like memory loss, health loss, financial loss, etc. All of which is preventable.
Thanks for the post!

David Cain October 13, 2014 at 9:16 am

Thanks BV

Roz October 13, 2014 at 8:37 am

When you asked people for suggestions on what they would like you to write about, this was my suggestion, so thank you very much for the well-reasoned article! I have just quit my very well paid job as a scientist to devote more time to being a musician, and people’s reactions to this have really varied! Now you have put it all into great perspective…

David Cain October 13, 2014 at 9:19 am

Congratulations Roz! That’s just wonderful. What kind of music do you make?

Roz October 13, 2014 at 11:12 am

Violin I in a symphony orchestra, and fiddle in a Celtic band. Unpaid but so much fun.

aditya thakur October 14, 2014 at 7:40 am

Rock on brother!!

Free to Pursue November 19, 2014 at 11:10 am

Roz, Too funny about the “varied reactions”! When I left my well-paying corporate job 18 months ago, some people thought I must have suffered burn out or a mental breakdown because it’s the only way they could get their head around how I could possibly just walk away…

Chris @ Flipping A Dollar October 13, 2014 at 8:54 am

I just turned 29 on Friday! Apparently it’s the best age even though it feels like everything else. The biggest change I’ve seen is that birthday’s aren’t as fun as they used to be. Too much other stuff in the way now. “You mean I still have to do chores if I want the house to look reasonable even though it’s my birthday?!?!”

I am in better shape now than I was at the end of high school, but not better than 3 years ago. Definitely my choice though as I haven’t kept up with my fitness like I did then!

I can imagine that it must be hard for someone who’s been coasting only without any direction to “wake up” and look at the mirror and say “where have all the years gone.” It’s much easier to deal with when you’re actively deciding on what you want to do next. You don’t’ have to sit and watch TV (but it’s still fine if you do). Just realize it’s a choice!

David Cain October 13, 2014 at 9:21 am

Happy birthday Chris. Yeah, I don’t make a big deal out of birthdays themselves anymore either. I just take the day off and have dinner with my family, and it’s just perfect.

izzy October 13, 2014 at 8:57 am

Wait until you get a little older…

David Cain October 13, 2014 at 9:28 am

No need to wait, it will just happen.

betty October 13, 2014 at 9:07 am

Great article as usual!

I have some comments though :
” time goes faster as you age. ” I want to debate this, since it has always puzzled and sort of frightened me. I dont think it is true. I think if you stop having new experiences it does seem so yes. But if you keep challenging yourself and doing new things and meeting new people time will move slow. When I lived in Buenos Aires for a month it felt like a year since everyday was an adventure. But if you do the same job, and the same routines everyday everything turns into a long blur.

Also I think as you say any age can feel old, I feel old now at 28, shocked that people treat me like an adult (but I felt old at 18 too so it is more a matter of feeling than actual age). However as you say, age comes with benefits like respect and hopefully wisdom :)

I think a lot of womens, and my own fear of aging is about getting unattractive. Women should always look 20 according to advertising and media, while men can have wrinkles and grey hair and still be attractive. Sad but true. I dont know how men in general feel about this though.

David Cain October 13, 2014 at 9:35 am

It does depend on how you spend your days. I have also noticed that time seems to slow down as you travel, because there are far fewer similarities between one day and the next. So they seem deeper and slower.

My female friends tell me that aging is scarier for women than men and I believe it. Aside from the biological clock issue there is more emphasis placed on the superficial aspects of beauty for women than for men. It’s a cultural problem, and I hope we grow out of it. We can get some mileage out of limiting these influences in our lives. No TV, no crummy magazines.

Duška Woods October 13, 2014 at 9:51 am

Hey David, I have been following you for five years now!, and enjoyed every one of your blogs immensly. On the issue of aging I must say being chronologically old, I do not feel it. I am wiser, calmer, more introspective, have friends of all ages, still work etc. For us women being beyond age of raising children, and…oh, what a challange and job that was…I finally have time to emarge again and do thing that make me who I am. I am writing the story of my life which is quite extraordinary, having been born in totaly different culture, lived in several countries, daughter of a hero father i never new etc. I know that everybodys life is a story, and needs to be told if for nothing else for our the children. Looking back, I cannot beleive I lived throught so many challanges and still fully enjoy life, no bitterness. I understood early that our life is our path and tried to learn from it. I understood that we are not chosen over others to suffer, it’s a fact of life and if we looke at suffering as a human condition along the joys life brings we have made this life worth living. Persuing this ‘happiness’ that our culture promotes is so misleading and creates more suffering. I do not feel old as a matter of fact I am not old, my soul or spirit if you will is still the same if not more aware of itself. I hope when my end comes I will die with dignity. thank you for your generous spirit, be well. Duška

David Cain October 13, 2014 at 11:13 am

Hi Duška. It’s always good to hear from you. I’m glad to hear this account of aging in your experience. So much of our culture oversells the superficial things that we can’t hang on to and can’t improve.

Trish October 13, 2014 at 10:26 am

I just turned 70. I thought that landmark year deserved some attention so I spent my 70th year planning and executing an 800 mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. I made a few journal entries here http://trailtrish.wordpress.com/journal/ but so far haven’t really made that a priority. If anyone is interested it does give a bit of the flavor of my year. Maybe some day I will write all about it.

Part of my motivation was to do something that has the power to dispel, at least in some minds, the cultural meme that you naturally deteriorate with age. As you point out here, David, mostly what deterioration takes place is not only voluntary but condoned by an overly youth obsessed society. Yes, yes, you have to pay attention and physical stuff can slip faster and take longer to regain as we age but I think at the end of my time on the trail I was in better physical shape than I’d ever been in my life. Bodies are really super resilient!

Thanks for this post. We really need to get the word out that aging is not a four letter word and that life indeed does get better in so many ways as we go along on this amazing journey of life in a body on planet earth. And for those who say, Yes, but…” I say I think that if I were home bound or in some institution the inward journey could sustain me happily as well. The mind is even more resilient than the body! It’s a great opportunity to be where we are, doing what we are doing as long as we aren’t just doing TV. Enjoy those birthdays while ya got ’em!

David Cain October 13, 2014 at 11:05 am

Hi Trish! I’ve been waiting for more updates from you. Sounds like the PCT has been unforgettable, to say the least. You have undoubtedly inspired a ton of people, and I’m one of them.

Free to Pursue November 19, 2014 at 11:14 am

Wow Trish. How inspiring. Thank you for sharing your important accomplishment…at any age.

alicia October 13, 2014 at 10:56 am

Until you actually age, and reach 50, 60, 70 80 and beyond, you have absolutely no idea what you are talking (writing) about.
Sorry.

You lost me at 34.

You have no idea what you are in for, sweetie.

David Cain October 13, 2014 at 11:02 am

Well, to be fair, you don’t know what it will be like to be me in my 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s either. If you think decrepitude and steady decline is the universal experience of aging, then all I can do is disagree with you. I’ve been receiving emails all morning from people in their 70s and 80s who don’t share your attitude.

George October 14, 2014 at 12:26 pm

That is fair, but I’m not entirely sure attitude necessarily cuts it. Other. Things. Happen. But it certainly can’t do any harm…

Rebecca October 13, 2014 at 1:21 pm

Everybody’s aging experience is different, and directly related to attitude, attention to health, and did I say attitude? ;) David, you are on the right track of thought. Don’t be deterred by those who insist on seeing the glass half-empty.

Judy W. October 13, 2014 at 11:23 am

I just turned 71, and the view is pretty good from here. One thing you didn’t mention, because… 34. Retirement is GREAT! I retired 3 years ago from a very rewarding but stressful career, and now I can do what I want to do (at least as long as my health and stamina last). And interestingly, I’m doing a lot of what I did when I was working, but not so much the stressful and annoying parts, just the really rewarding and fun parts.

Also, as a woman, I feel confident to say that I look better than I have in years. Some of it is really paying attention to what will look better on me (new glasses frames, different hair style, awareness of clothing that flatters), and some of it is lowering my expectations (that jowly neck is never going to go away, so oh well…). When my 5-year old grandson took a close look at me and said “Wow, your lips are REALLy wrinkly!” I just said “Yup, that’s what happens when you get older,” and smiled through the wrinkles.

Another key: give up regret. I made a very specific decision about 8 years ago to give up regret, and it has made a huge difference to me. Yes, I have certainly made some bad decisions (really big ones), but what’s done is done and my job is to move forward.

Thanks for this. I love that you have figured out such important life lessons at a relatively young age. 34 was my WORST birthday, but it got a lot better.

David Cain October 14, 2014 at 8:56 am

Thank you for this comment Judy. These are all great points. I’m not retired, but I did “retire” from employment last year. Now I truly choose how to spend my days, and it is so totally different to wake up and know that I’ll spend the day in whatever way I think is best.

ET October 13, 2014 at 11:37 am

“Disease and physical breakdown are inevitabilities, but they can be slowed with a long-standing commitment to health.”
No, not all diseases or physical breakdowns can be slowed with a long-standing commitment to health. Sometimes disease happens, regardless of how well we take care of ourselves.

Rebecca October 13, 2014 at 1:32 pm

I choose to look on the positive and hopeful side and believe that my reality will manifest accordingly. :) And that isn’t hocus-pocus. There is a lot of research that supports my belief. :)

David Cain October 14, 2014 at 8:57 am

I meant this in general terms. Obviously healthy living does not make us immune to everything that can happen in our bodies.

Janet October 15, 2014 at 3:00 am

Yup sometimes shit just happens. My mother was super healthy and fit and got cancer in her 60s and died. I know a couple of people dying of bowel cancer in their 30s. There is no rhyme or reason to it. While healthy living can help, sometimes things just happen. In the meantime, you just get on with living positively. Reminds me of an earlier David article about accidents, rather than death: http://www.raptitude.com/2010/01/being-alive-puts-you-at-serious-risk-of-death/

John October 13, 2014 at 11:39 am

As with most pre-programmed and accepted thought patterns in society, aging is one that seems like it can be overcome. While our bodies do inevitably decay and become diseased/injured, we can either make these facts into our identity and “me and my story of XYZ disease” or we can always work to be aware that none of these diseases and associated labels- “I’m an arthritis sufferer, I’m an Alzheimer’s patient,” are truly “us.” Just more words and labels that can never truly describe or shake the underlying thread of life beneath all things, youthful or not.

David Cain October 14, 2014 at 9:02 am

The longer I live the more relevant this idea seems: that identity is a huge determining factor in our actions and our quality of life. How we self-identify colors almost everything that happens to us, and how we respond to what happens to us. This is a good argument for self-introspection and meditation, because it helps us refrain from “selfing” like this.

Rebecca October 13, 2014 at 12:19 pm

I agree with almost everything you say in this thoughtful article. I turned 57 this year, my youngest child is 17, and I am the fittest, healthiest and happiest I have ever been at any prior point of my life, and looking forward to the rest of the journey. I no longer fear aging at all; but honestly, I never really did. I have understood from the beginning that each stage of life is different, and comes with its own set of advantages as well as drawbacks. As in all things, attitude can make or break you. :)

David Cain October 14, 2014 at 9:03 am

That is awesome and I’m so glad to hear so many others saying the same thing. Thanks Rebecca.

Kenneth October 13, 2014 at 1:22 pm

Best. Raptitude Article. Ever. (for me..)
I’m the 64 year old you are talking about. You, 30 years later. 4 years ago, I weighed 270, and was $150,000 in debt. With the clock ticking faster and faster, I decided to do something about it.
I started exercising 4-5 days a week, 30-45 minutes a day. I changed my diet, far less empty carbs. Result – i weigh 210 now.
I started paying down debt, faster and faster. Then I started reading MMM, and questioned and improved every line item in my budget. Result – the debt is all gone, the investments are growing, and I am now 63 Mondays away from a comfortable retirement.

David Cain October 14, 2014 at 9:09 am

This is what I’m talking about. You have “aged” 30 years in that time, but you’ve made truly enormous gains in that time. Congratulations on your success and your impending retirement.

Chris October 13, 2014 at 3:11 pm

Love all the folks in their 60’s and 70’s chiming in! Great to hear their insight.

If you’re 5 or 10 years into a career, it’s harder to switch to something better because it usually means taking a pay cut.

Absolutely. I know this because I have people emailing me every day that aren’t choosing to improve their finances in order to reach financial independence, but because they want enough of a cushion to have the flexibility to switch careers without impacting their lifestyle. And maybe they throw in a mini-retirement too, as outlined in 4-Hour Workweek.

David Cain October 14, 2014 at 9:11 am

Yes, and that “cushion” is a huge argument for frugality. You need to know how to live well below your means, or else you are really in a straightjacket in terms of work options. Doing work that you don’t hate makes an unbelievable difference to your quality of life every single day, and it you can pull it off at all it’s worth any adjustment in spending.

Jannik October 13, 2014 at 3:42 pm

Love your blog! I stumpled upon it on google when I read your “88 important truths I’ve learned about life”. The things your write are always really thoughtful and well written and I hope you’ll keep it up. What I like is that you don’t post too often which means there’s room to reflect on the essence of each post. Now I’m not a big reader of blogs (or in general) but this is really one of the best I’ve come across.

Cheers from Denmark.

David Cain October 14, 2014 at 9:11 am

Welcome Jannik!

Dale Niemeier October 13, 2014 at 7:02 pm

Having always, or at least as far back as I am able to see, thought of myself as similar to the cat with nine lives. I have enjoyed every one of these lives and look forward to the remainder of them-thank you for the glass half-full and for sharing your specific outlook on life. Just as a side note, I am 76 years old and, almost exactly one year ago, retired as a public high school instructor. I taught 9th – 12th graders for 20 years. It was invigorating and made me think of what I have yet to accomplish for both myself and the world. Live this life fully is exactly right!

David Cain October 14, 2014 at 9:14 am

That’s great Dale. Congratulations on your new life! Your comment reminds me of this:

http://www.smbc-comics.com/?id=2722

aditya thakur October 14, 2014 at 7:41 am

Happy belated birthday David!

David Cain October 14, 2014 at 9:14 am

Thanks!

Michele Kendzie October 14, 2014 at 7:47 am

Hear! Hear! Next month I’ll be celebrating my 43rd birthday. This year I have established at least two good, healthy habits. One of them is daily walks. As I type this I’m sitting on my front porch enjoying the fresh air after this morning’s walk. I’m also slowly working toward my next career. I like your term “improver”.

Thanks again for your inspiring words.

David Cain October 14, 2014 at 9:15 am

Just a single good habit can really change how your life feels. Walking is so good for us on every level.

Cris in Miami October 14, 2014 at 8:35 am

In my case, I worried for so many years about the physical damages of aging, that I ended putting lots of efforts towards avoiding or at least minimizing and delaying that as much as possible. I’m kind of glad with the results as I’m now turning 45. But what took me totally by surprise, and I did not prepare for that at all, is what I discovered to probably be the biggest damage of all of aging: the lost of the capacity for surprise and amazement. Yep, the faster and more “been-there-than-that”s you accumulate as the years go bye, the less impressed you get by anything. And I believe that as there is less and less to discover and be delighted about, that’s what in the mind builds that perception that time keeps accelerating. Life become less and less difficult to “decode” and as the senses are not “impacted” as strongly as during our earliest year but all that is new, the perceptions of time somehow starts speeding up in our minds.
That is now what I fear and worry about the most about aging. I’ll trade any day one inch of my muscles or my still-showing abs, for the chance to get chills up my spine once again in the same way I felt them the first time I saw Madonna live, or I watched a show of fireworks.

David Cain October 14, 2014 at 9:22 am

This is interesting. I had this same weariness, by the sounds of it, in my mid-twenties. I saw that “freshness” was a constantly-declining quality, and things that once amazed me no longer did, and it felt really sad — like a true, permanent loss.

But I no longer believe this is a permanent effect. Since then things have gotten fresher and less predictable. I think what happens to us is that as time goes on we see more and more patterns across similar experiences, and so even new things seem old because we have more past experiences to compare them to. I’ve found that meditation helps this “rust” from appearing, because it trains you to observe every moment without being so quick to associate it with and compare it to past experiences. It’s like re-learning to see everything for the first time, and in my experience it absolutely works.

George October 14, 2014 at 12:35 pm

I enjoyed that. Although I’d say there are indeed “lost opportunities” that don’t come back, and if you are unlucky you can be faced with an “endurance section” during which you may not feel particularly “fresh” – but at least getting older means these things will pass.

The sooner you start getting focusing on what you want and (to some extent) ignoring where you are the better – think about your strategy? – while also coming to some conclusion about what you are, really, is important. What is this “self” you seem to be? And what do you intuit your actual desires, goals to be – not what you think or assume they are.

Some sort of daily “letting go” exercise and some free space to ponder, or at least let creative thoughts appear, are essential at a minimum. It is easy to get lost in the momentum of ‘endurance’ and not change your situation.

Anonymous October 16, 2014 at 10:02 am

dear david
Facing strange times in my life, Didn’t know why it is happening to me but
with situations, with peoples, or anything i not being able to stand all the way for my beliefs or my stands / or kneel down and didn’t stand at all, just give it all.
just hanging in the middle. what do you think? why it is happening and what i can do. needed help to survive, i end up in situations where i can be beaten up as iam not strong enough or destroys my relations with peoples around me.

holly October 21, 2014 at 6:45 am

Being somewhat older than you, OK a LOT older than you, I can look back over the decades and see that each one presented it’s unique challenges. For me I think my 40’s were a wonderful decade in that my body hadn’t started doing weird things yet, I felt strong, and I felt wiser and less worried about what everyone thought. The biggest challenge of the advancing decades is health and body issues as we move toward our “use by date.” We can certainly take good care of ourselves but genetics and luck play a big part. The other challenge is the accumulation of losses. The longer you live, the more likely you are to have lost multiple friends or family members. I was thinking about aging myself recently and wrote this: http://yakkityyaktalkingback.com/2014/09/15/aging-whats-so-bad-about-it/

KJ October 30, 2014 at 11:01 pm

Great article! =)

I was 24 when I had not one, not two, but three strokes, so I’m definitely in what I call the “zone of old people problems”. But honestly, it’s been great! I joined a group of seniors at my church who started a writing group (fun!), and they were some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. They were interesting, too!

When I was 28, my husband and I got pregnant for the first time. 23 weeks into the pregnancy, we lost the baby, a girl we named Annie. Talk about aging you overnight — that was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Giving birth to your dead baby is miserable.

Anyway, long story short, the strokes exhausted me; to this day, I can’t do much more than drop my rainbow daughter off at preschool and come home, on good days do a little quilting, on bad days just go back to bed. So death will at least offer a little relief from that! I will no longer be tired!

But more than that, I’m hoping that someday I’ll get to meet Annie, and if I do, I think death will be pretty nice. I’m not suicidal, I’m just saying that dying might offer something that I really, really, really wanted to do in this life: meet my first daughter.

I’m not scared of it.

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Free to Pursue November 20, 2014 at 12:47 pm

I’ve found the comments to this article as useful & enlightening as the article itself. Anything can be seen as a blessing or a curse. It’s all a matter of perception. Positive outlook = positive experience.

The excuse/warning of “wait until you get to be my age” is laughable. My husband and I have been hearing this “threat” for years and we always seem to be in a better state when we reach [insert chronological milestone here] than the one uttering the warning. It doesn’t feel like much of a coincidence anymore.

David Cain November 20, 2014 at 4:25 pm

The excuse/warning of “wait until you get to be my age” is laughable. My husband and I have been hearing this “threat” for years and we always seem to be in a better state when we reach [insert chronological milestone here] than the one uttering the warning. It doesn’t feel like much of a coincidence anymore.

Haha… definitely. I’ve already reached the age of the first “wait till you’re my age” people who warned me about how rusty and cranky life gets. I feel better than ever, and the older I get the better able I am to deal with acute rustiness and crankiness when it does happen.

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