Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes


Staying ahead of our real age

Posted on July 20, 2008 by jimparedes

I recently attended a birthday lunch hosted by a good friend here in Sydney. Menchie Montierro turned 47, which according to some lifestyle experts – if a person reasonably takes care of herself  in today’s world – would only be equal to 37.

Why, because, presumably, the current generation is better fed with proper nutrition, and unlike the generation before it, is generally non-smoking. Furthermore, it benefits from more inoculations, fluoride, mega-vitamins, and was ‘saved’ just in time from the dangers of lead paint and sweets that destroy teeth and bodies and a host of other ills uncovered by new medical discoveries.

If you imbibed all the stuff that’s good for you and avoided smoking and the other bad habits that have been declared dangerous by the medical world, and you exercise – Congratulations! You are ten years younger than your birth certificate says.

But even if biologically, one may be younger than one’s real age, a lot of people still feel old after they pass the 40 mark. It’s probably because the world is being configured more and more as a young people’s playground. All of the marketing tools of advertising, media, and even lifestyle gurus seem to believe that the main market these days is the ‘youth’ market. Everyone else is part of the secondary, or worse, the ‘fringe’ market.

And yet, as you talk to people old and young, you realize that there is an irony here. While the world belongs to the youth, the young everywhere are in a rush to get older, and the old who are nearing ‘older’ are anxiously trying to do their best to delay getting there for as long as they can. The young want the status and the authority that comes with age, while the elders want the free spirit and the youthful energy that fuels not just the raging hormones of young people, but also their dreams and aspirations.

There are some things we must keep in mind at all times that should serve us throughout our lives, regardless of how old we may be. This article is about the habits we could develop starting at any age if we want to live out the rest of our days in a happier, healthier and more well-rounded way. Here a few tips to stay ahead of our real age, not just biologically but in all other aspects.

1. Say ‘yes’ to the unknown.
Let’s face it, the world is changing at such a fast pace that we are almost always finding ourselves in a new place. As Yogi Berra said it, ‘The future ain’t what it used to be.’ I can still remember life without the internet, cell phones and a host of other stuff. As a young man in my 20’s, I thought I was way cool since I had a beeper on my belt and a CB radio in my car. I thought then that I was a very contemporary dude living in the cusp of modernity. But alas, the essence of modernity is that it is perpetually in a transient state. Post-modernism will always barge into our comfort zone and rearrange the furniture, or even throw them out and bring in new ones.

To resist change is futile. We either ride it or get left behind. And riding it means giving an affirmative response to new things that appear on our horizon. There will always be an unknown quantity in our lives. So the more we embrace the unknown, the more we grow into complexity and the better we become adept at embracing even more of it. Many times, I find familiarity in new things or what used to be ‘the unknown’, and this happens every time I embrace and accept something new. Once I stop resisting, it immediately becomes a part of me. Once we integrate change, it’s hard to imagine life without it. The unknown, I believe, is just another aspect of ourselves waiting to introduce itself to us.

2. Eat, drink and take in only what’s good for you.
A lot of people I know who are not yet what to me is ‘old’ already suffer from a host of illnesses like gout, kidney stones, liver damage, emphysema and a host of other serious health problems. Though some of them may blame the genes they were born with, I suspect that a lot of it is caused by believing too much in the invincibility of their youth as they indulged in mindless consumption of food and substances even when they knew these were not good for them.

At my age (47 or less, biologically speaking), I am grateful I had the discipline and the common sense to stop smoking early in my twenties. I also did to not get into the habit of binge drinking, indulging recklessly in drugs, or eating a lot of stuff that was not good for me. I never really ate a lot of the bad stuff like chicharon, lechon, fatty stuff. I always know when I have had enough. I even went vegetarian once for a year and a half, but stopped when I felt that my muscle mass was shrinking in spite of exercise.

Yet, it is not impossible for me to get sick suddenly since my genes make me prone to certain illnesses. But as much as I can help it, I try to stick to a good, non-toxic diet. People like to argue that we only live once, in order to justify the awful things they put into their bodies. I argue back that if indeed we are only to live once, it is better to enjoy life with a healthy functional body.

3. Get educated constantly
More than any time in history, more people past 50 are going back to school to earn a new degree or to undergo training to embark on a new career. I have met a lot of people my age or older who are considering going back to the academic world for personal growth. Whether one does it for career advancement or for sheer enjoyment of learning does not matter. What counts is that one continues to absorb new stuff and apply it to one’s life. And one need not go back to school to do this. All one has to do is to develop the love for learning new things.

One of the most disempowering clichés that grates the core of my sensibilities is the one that says, ‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks’. I don’t believe age is the factor that prevents us from learning. While it is true that our brain cells diminish as we get older, I believe that it is more laziness, or even stubborness that prevents us from learning anything. By all accounts, being lazy or stubborn is not an exclusive trait of the aging. Try talking to young people and you will know what I mean.

4. Be forgiving of yourself and of others.
Letting go of resentments, hurts, traumas and other toxic baggage is a wonderful way to ‘refresh’ one’s life. It erases the slate and one can start anew. It’s like dropping a heavy burden, sprinting towards life’s challenges and feeling the wind on one’s face instead of the fear and loathing that comes with harboring ill feelings. When we forgive, we cut the strings that bind us to the person we hate. We are free.

Dr. M. Scott Peck, in his book What Return Can I Make?, tells the story of a young Filipina, age 9,  who claimed to talk to Jesus. Naturally, in no time at all, she became a sensation and there were hordes of people visiting her and wanting ‘blessings’ from someone who was in contact with God Himself. The bishop in the area was naturally worried and sent a priest to investigate.

The priest then visited the girl and asked her if she would be talking to Jesus soon. The girl answered, ‘Hopefully’. The priest then instructed the girl to ask Jesus what his (the priest) sins were since he would be going to confession in a few days, and to tell him what Jesus says.

A few days later, the priest returned to the girl and he asked her if she had indeed met with Jesus again. She responded affirmatively. Next, he asked her if she had inquired from Jesus what his sins were, and again she said ‘yes’. When he pressed the girl to tell him what Jesus said his sins were, she told him that all Jesus said was, ‘I forgot.’

We all know intellectually that to forgive is the way to go but we all hesitate to do it, or never get to do it at all. Yet when we do, we are staggeringly amazed at how wonderful it is and why we took so long to do it.

On this topic, I have noticed that those who find it hard to forgive others also find it had to forgive themselves.

5. Set aside time for fun.
I am impressed by people who work hard but I am suspicious of workaholics. People who do not have time to simply enjoy or loosen up are on an unsustainable path. Sooner or later, stress and pressure can suck the life out of them and they lose the capacity to feel, laugh or be fascinated by anything. You can tell you are a workaholic not only by the fact that you are always working but also when you equate ALL your self-esteem with what you do. You are also most likely a person who likes to be in control at all times because you are always living up to higher and higher expectations of others and yourself. While it can be argued that these are the people who raise the bar, I say that these are the people who end up neurotic and unhappy.

I think it is important to have the ability to drop everything and slip into fun mode. I subscribe to Gandhi’s view that, ‘There is more to life than to increase its speed’.

6. Follow your bliss.
This is Joseph Campbell’s advice to anyone who wants to have a meaningful existence. ‘Follow your bliss and doors will open where there were no doors before.’ And not only will these doors open, they will open only for you.

Underlying this is the belief that once we decide to pursue what our passion is, the unfolding of life becomes more compatible with what we need to do. Resources appear and the people we need to direct us to the bliss become accessible. Do I believe this? Absolutely. For me, these are not just words from some tooth fairy but   real experiences that keep on happening. A whole lot of my life is testimony to this. In short, what will make you happy is what you are probably meant to do in the first place. I am not talking of a shallow pursuit of mindless kicks but the consciously chosen option to say yes to that which gives us joy and makes life’s pain not just bearable but worth it.

So whether we are staring at the hill, standing on top of it, or have gone over it, there are habits we can still pick up that can give us not just more mileage for the journey but a purpose for traveling in the first place, which is to enjoy the scenery.

*     *     *
Need a growth spurt? Wanna feel alive?

The 42nd run of “Tapping the Creative Universe (TCU),” a  workshop of “creative awakening,” is on once again. If you are in search of a more empowered, creative and joyful life, this is for you. Get rid of your blocks and start living. NOW is the time to do it.

The next session runs Aug. 4-8 and concludes Aug. 11.

It will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. at 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, Quezon City. The cost of the workshop is still P5,000.Please contact emailjimp@gmail.com  or call Ollie at 0916-8554303 or 426-5375 for any other queries or for reservations. Visit http://tappingthecreativeuniverse.com for the syllabus, FAQ, and testimonials and more details.

7 to “Staying ahead of our real age”

  1. JeNNY says:

    Hi, Mr. Jim.

    I never had the chance to thank you 2 years ago for just posting your thoughts on the web. Your blog and Ala’s were like my refuge when I came to US “for good” a couple years back. I must admit that it was really hard (and it’s still is) but whenever I read your entries it made me realize that I wasn’t going through it alone..and that I should always look at the brighter side of the situation..and THAT EVERYTHING’S GOING TO BE FINE. It was hard for me to talk to my family and friends back home because I felt that they wouldn’t understand how deep my emotions were. And it was hard to let other people know that I was crumbling inside for they all knew me once as a very strong person.

    It’s been 2 years now and I’ve made good progress here but I still miss my life in the Philippines. But yeah, I always remind myself to keep looking forward.

    Again, thank you for your (and Ala’s) inspiring thoughts.

    JeNNY

  2. jimparedes says:

    Hi Jenny,

    I am happy that somehow, reading us eases your pain. We will never stop missing home. But I know that with some effort, we will develop a flexibility that will allow us to thrive in any place we are.

    Happiness is not a place, a person, a thing. It is something we decide to awaken to and share with everything and everyone we encounter.

    Cheers,

    Jim.

  3. Sam says:

    Hi Jim!

    Still a great writer. Enjoyed your post so much. Will definitely attend your concert on Sep. More power!

    Thanks,
    Sam
    Fix My Personal Finance
    http://fixmypersonalfinance.com

  4. menchie says:

    Dear Jim, I opened your blogsite, as i regularly do for my soul food. Tonight, I felt great, like I was opening and unwrapping priceless, sizeless and timeless presents 6-fold infinitum! The best revitalising anti-aging treatment for the body and soul – you’ve revealed it so beautifully.

    The best things life are indeed free.

    To share with my co-readers, you will sense that Jim, like all good thinkers and writers, is a most natural person. He is. What he writes is the same as what he narrates in a pleasant conversation. Jim’s consistent human beingness is so believable, you don’t even have to invite him to your birthday lunch to be blessed by his company – his writing speaks so clearly to each one of us like a good friend does.

    Without being patronising, but rather grateful, Jim himself is a gift, and also a deliverer of gifts. And in usually invisible ways, Lydia completes the package. Sabi ni Lydia nung lunch, they owe me a present. Eto na yon, who wouldn’t want 10 years extra of bliss with friends, life partner and loved ones, including thyself!

    To share a few words to readers who have been playing with the thought of attending the TCU workshop – 2 years ago, I gifted myself for my birthday by attending the first Sydney and 30th run of the TCU workshop. At it’s 42nd run, (dami nang nabi-yayaan!) I’m sure that Jim can fill a book with the most amazing life stories we’d like to hear for real. This time but, it is YOUR story, the pages are turning and it’s the only story that will matter most to you. I know, I have my story unfolding in my creative universe, totoo, oo. (And I don’t mind revealing my age at all!)

    More please.
    I love you all!

  5. jimparedes says:

    Sam–we will see you there. salamat.

    Menchie–I am speechless, but I know I am warm with the feeling of gratitude that you and Ed are true friends and fellow travelers in this life. Salamat and big hugs!

  6. witsandnuts says:

    Another great read. I’m living to the idea of staying ahead of real age. But recently I took an online test to know my real age (diet, habits, relationships, health and fitness considered), the verdict was a material overstatement. http://witsandnuts.com/2008/07/23/im-older-than-my-age/

    That one was such a wake-up call for me.

  7. jimparedes says:

    witsandnuts– I know what you mean. It’s never too late though. We just have to do what needs to be done.



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