April 22, 2005

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Don't let the clock or calendar unnerve us

“Let me advise thee not to talk of thyself as being old. There is something in ‘mind cure’ after all; and if thee continually talks of thyself as being old, thee may perhaps bring on some of the infirmities of age. At least I would not risk it if I were thee …”

Since reading those words of advice from Hannah Witall Smith (1832-1911), I’ve been more conscious of “thinking young” than ever before. Although Smith’s language is very Quakerly, since that’s the faith she and her husband followed, it is also charming. So is her other advice at www.withchrist.org/MJS/whitall.htm.

Age is relative! The older one gets, the farther away one pushes the idea of aging. When my mother turned 39, I unintentionally said something to make her cry. I cannot remember what that was, but it was undoubtedly tactless. My father suggested that I kiss away her tears, and I did; but that scene at the kitchen table popped into my head on most of her birthdays after that—and she lived into her early 80s.

When I turned 39, I purposely shrugged it off. Nor did it bother me when I reached the half-century mark. Rather than pondering age, I would rather think positively, remembering poet Robert Browning’s words, “Grow old along with me; the best is yet to be.” (I once said that to a gentleman turning 70 and he jokingly responded with “Define best.”)

Growing old gracefully is a reminder of Hannah Smith’s ideas: Don’t constantly worry about age, lest it hit you in the face earlier than necessary—and urge yourself to think young.

If we concentrate on the negative, how can we stay positive? Remember what H.G. Wells once wrote: “Do not allow the clock and calendar to blind us to the fact that each moment of life is a miracle and a mystery.”

However, life is only good if we stay faithful to the Lord, family and friends, and our faith. It also helps to be loving and pleasant, compassionate and considerate, helpful and hopeful, grateful and giving—to everyone, not just those we know who mirror the best qualities. It is much more difficult to be all that to people who constantly complain or test our patience, but that is what the Lord expects.

Here are a few healthy-aging tips, some of them sent by an older friend in a far-away state. However, they are appropriate for anyone of any age. In fact, I have shared these with my 21-year-old grandson.

“Stay close to God. Nurture your spirit. Eat healthily. Be physically active. Limit alcohol and avoid tobacco. Retain a sense of humor. Exercise your mind. Control stress. Stay socially connected. Keep a positive attitude. Plan ahead.”

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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