— By LARRY M. JONES
For reasons painfully obvious, as we grow older, we slow down and are forced to adopt a more sedentary lifestyle. We make changes that do not require as much stress or damage to the fragile body structure in which we dwell.
In our youth we were never concerned about abusing the body with excessively strenuous sports, sunburn, over indulgence, or any other destructive activity. We were young, and everything would heal overnight, or could be “fixed” with a simple medical procedure.
Later in life, as reality sets in, many of us recognize that we have done irreparable damage that will haunt us for the rest of our days. As the effects of aging begin to manifest themselves, people handle it in a wide variety of ways. Some refuse to accept the inevitable and will go to extreme lengths to cling to youth through elixirs, surgical procedures, fanatical exercise regimens, and any other desperate grasp for eternal youth. Ponce de Leon didn’t find this proverbial “Fountain of Youth” in the 1500s, yet we’re still looking even harder. Most, however, merely adapt to a more calm and mature lifestyle.
While we should do our best to keep our physical bodies strong and healthy through age appropriate exercise, proper diet, and restraint from harmful habits, we must also look after perhaps the most important facet of our being—our minds. How do we do this? I would suggest that the procedure is quite simple—use it. Like the slogan adopted by the United Negro College Fund, “The mind is a terrible thing to waste.” Like so much in life, we either “use it or lose it.”
While most of us will strive to stay active as long as possible, eventually we have to accept the reality of advancing age. A couple of months back, noted author, historian, and overall nice guy, Doyle Marshall of Aledo, summed up a great concept with regard to aging in a letter to the editor. He stated that as a youngster he pitied older folks for not being able to get around very well. He further offered that, “In retrospect, little did I understand that their limited mobility, lifestyles, and desires suited them just fine…” By accepting these limitations, they were comfortable in their present place in time. Those individuals who can recognize this ability to feel comfort with their advanced lives are the blessed ones, not those to be pitied.
While I still try on a daily basis to be as physically active as I can reasonably be, I can also find comfort and solace in reflecting on times of my halcyon years. I am amazed how I can reflect on “thrilling days of yesteryear” and find such memories are far more delightful the second time around. As I relax in my workshop after a tiring day on the “pore farm,” I can reminisce with a clarity that is without comparison. In these recollections, the roses smell sweeter because they have no thorns; the old girlfriend is much lovelier because she thinks only of me; embarrassing encounters from my youth no longer exist—memories photoshopped to perfection.
Mr. Marshall displayed keen insight in his recognition of where true happiness lies. To be comfortable in one’s own place and time, regardless of life’s infirmities or inequities, is an incomparable gift in life.
Larry M. Jones is a retired Navy commander and aviator who raises cattle and hay in the Brock/Lazy Bend part of Parker County. Comments may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.