As part of the Graduation process of becoming a Certified Yoga Teacher for the 50+ population through the Yoga Vista Academy, I require my student teachers to write an essay on aging. Some touch me with wisdom that I think we can all learn from… like the one below. Do you recognize either of the cousins illustrated in this story?
A recap of a Final Chair Yoga Teacher Training “Aging Observation” Assignment:
This Aging Observation essay is about two cousins. Although they came from very similar backgrounds, their choices led to growing old in very different ways. I use the word “choices” because I believe, as Charles R. Swindoll argues, “Life is 10% what happens to a person and 90% how one reacts to what happens.” That means we have choices regarding the attitude we embrace each and every day of our lives.
Cousin A has always been a control freak. However, as she got older and started to lose control of many things, she became bitter and did not know how to let go. She always prides herself on the fact that through the years her personality, tastes and opinions remained unchanged. This fact alone should be enough to confirm to those of us who welcome change as a learning tool that Cousin A has chosen not to grow from her life experiences.
As Cousin A got older, her rigid temperament became more apparent and she started to be very disrespectful and rude to people whom she perceived were challenging her authority. Anywhere she went, she would demand attention and expected people to serve her hand and foot. She would get very anxious when things didn’t go her way. She regularly sees a psychiatrist and pleads for various medications to help her cope.
Her body posture leans forward, perhaps because she uses a walker. She has a caretaker bathe her because she is afraid to lift her foot to go into the shower. She is always down in spirits and complains about her everyday life. Additionally, she is focused on her aches and pains and blames everyone but herself for her misfortunes. Although she won’t admit it, she is also scared to die. It is all about losing control, and I guess when you are dead, you are no longer in control.
Switching gears to Cousin B who is the same age as Cousin A. She cared for her ill husband for many years in her home, but put him in a nursing home when his needs became too much to handle. As the years went by, she lost her eyesight completely in one eye and sees very little out of the other one. Ten years ago, she went on a diet and lost all her extra weight.
Life has dealt many blows to this woman who, in spite of everything, continues to be very socially, physically and mentally active. She always seems to be upbeat and smiling. Indeed, she would be a good spokeswoman for the slogan “Life is Good.” She dresses very elegantly and walks very tall with a cane through the streets of her town. Twice a year, she gets on a plane and spends time with her daughter. Above all, her enthusiasm is contagious and seeing her gives me hope that old age is not as bad as Cousin A continuously claims.
Cousin B has many friends and spends as much time with them as she can. When called at the last moment to go to lunch, she gracefully accepts. She makes the best of any situation she faces. She also remains calm under any problem that arises and does what is needed.
The two cousins grew up pretty close and have been friends all their lives. Yet, I always wonder how a friendship can last that long with such opposite personalities.
I am very interested in the process of aging gracefully. I think that is the reason why I chose to teach older people. Getting older has to be hard, no doubt. However, my advice to anyone having a difficult time would be:
- Know yourself and your body,
- Work on whatever you feel needs work,
- Keep your mind and body active,
- Cultivate friendships and do not attach yourself to worldly possessions,
- Live and let live,
- Grow old with dignity,
- And be thankful for the opportunity to be on this planet one more day.
The story of these two cousins has taught me a great deal about aging gracefully. I have learned that our health is largely in our hands and has a great deal to do with our attitude and the choices we make. “Glass half full” gives us a healthy orientation toward the inevitable changes of life. On the other hand, “glass half empty” looks for the negative in every event that occurs and ultimately calls forth the ill fortune that one expects.