“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man’s-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again. ” ~Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart
I am forty-nine years old, and I’ve never felt so young in my life. Many people at my age feel old. Many people younger than I am feel old, while many people who are older than I am still feel young.
What makes someone feel young? I can assure you it has nothing to do with how many wrinkles you have. It is something much deeper than that, and yet something very simple.
Most of us get serious about life around the time we are thirty. We devote ourselves to building our career, building our family, or both. From young people who care mostly about having fun, we become responsible adults. We need to prove ourselves, to make money, to buy a house, and to secure our future.
“Along the way, I forgot to get excited about things. Everything became a project, something I had to deal with,” a friend told me when I asked her if she was thrilled about buying a new house.
When we build our home, our career, our family, and our reputation, there is a part of us that we leave behind. When we enter the world of mortgage, insurance, and pension funds, fun goes out of the window. And when that happens, we lose our fire.
Fire is fun; it’s freedom, it’s joy. Fire is courage and boldness. Fire is passion and excitement. Fire is being spontaneous, taking risks, and saying your truth. Fire is exercising and moving energy.
Fire is fighting for what you believe in. Fire is believing in yourself, believing in life, believing that you deserve to fulfill your wildest dreams. Fire is having wild dreams. Fire is learning new things and teaching them to others. It’s being inspired and inspiring.
So often we are overwhelmed with life’s demands and we forget to have fun; we forget to keep our fire alive and we lose our mojo. Some of us got burnt by our fire when we were younger. Fun led to addictions and other destructive behaviors. We have learned to fear our fire and avoid it at all costs.
During a few wild years when I lived in New York City, a friend once said to me “In our twenties we have to do crazy things so that we have something to talk about in our thirties.”
This is how we live, feeling that from this point onward, life is going downhill toward decay. We feel like our prime years were left behind. We try to reduce the signs of aging to feel better when we look in the mirror or at pictures of ourselves. But no matter what we do, we won’t look like we did in our twenties.
About three years ago, I started feeling old. I’d always looked younger than my age, but I lost in the Botox race, as I did not do any. I lost my passion; I lost my desire to have fun and enjoy myself; everything was very serious.
I hated looking at my pictures. All I saw was the lack of charm and beauty that I once possessed. I tried to convince myself that these were external, irrelevant, and unimportant concerns, but they were not; they reflected something deep that was going on in my life.
Don’t get me wrong. During this time, I was already working at something I loved with all my heart. I loved mothering my son more than anything in the world. I loved my husband and was very grateful for our marriage. But except for my work and my family role, I didn’t care about anything. There was absolutely no time, or ability, to enjoy life.
Then things got even worse. I got sick and was forced to constantly deal with my health and nutrition. My diet became more limited than it ever was; I could not enjoy food anymore. I thought I was going to die. I was already older than my mother when she passed away at the age of forty-four, and it just made sense that I would follow in her footsteps to heaven.
But I was also lucky. I was lucky because there was something inside of me that was stronger than all of this. An inner voice told me that I was still alive and that I should not take it for granted. Every day I got to live was a gift. What was I going to do with this?
Was I going to look back and cry for not being as beautiful as I once was? Or was I going to look forward and make my life the way I wanted it to be? I realized that it was all up to me. I could continue sinking down into my dietary limitations, my home-work struggles, and my aging looks, or I could ignite my fire.
I decided that it was time to make a big move, from Israel to the US, where I’ve always wanted to live. In order to be fully alive, I had to throw myself out of the nest.
Even though my husband had no desire to make this move, I knew it was a matter of life and death for me and that I had to take the lead. It was my truth, and it required taking a huge risk.
During the pandemic we could not even make a preliminary visit, nor could we know for sure if our son would be accepted to school, but we had to take our chances.
Once we settled in Asheville, NC, I bought new colorful clothes. After years of wearing black bamboo jumpsuits, I added some flair to my wardrobe.
I took some courses with great teachers who inspired me. I got back to practicing yoga and became a part of the local yoga community. I got back to listening to music that made me want to dance.
I started writing and publishing my work. I started telling my truth more often. I had some big talks with important people in my life. I said some things I’d never dared say before. What did I have to lose? What does anyone have to lose?
That’s the beauty of being older. You are wiser, more experienced, you know yourself, and you understand life better than ever before. You are mature enough to deal with your fire in a healthy way.
You already know that there is no point in pretending or hiding. You can live your truth, you can be who you really are, and you can work toward the fulfillment of your dreams. And it’s rejuvenating, so rejuvenating, despite the wrinkles and the fact that your body is no longer in its prime.
You can live like you’ve died and came back to life. What will you do differently? Do it. Do it today. Don’t wait.
If your life does not excite you, make it exciting. If life is not fun, make it fun. Obviously, you can’t control everything. The human experience is not always fun, but no matter what your circumstances are, you can always make things better for yourself, even if it’s just a change of attitude.
People, especially those on the spiritual path, dismiss fun, and I am the first one to admit that I do this. There are always more important things to do. It’s so hard to find time to mother, to be a partner, to work, to cook, to write, to meditate, to practice. Alcohol is bad, drugs are bad, and sugar is bad. All the things you used to have fun with in your twenties are bad.
For years I prepared all of my family’s meals. When you eat out, the food does not have your loving energy and is not made with the same organic, local, and fresh ingredients. This is all true, but the pressure to constantly cook had a counterproductive effect on my heath.
Today, sometimes I eat out or order in, and it makes me so happy. I am more flexible, more open, and I am much healthier. It’s all about finding the middle path. If your path puts out your fire, it means that something is wrong.
It’s not that igniting my fire has solved all my problems. The human experience is still hard. I am still facing many challenges, in some way even more challenges. When you change, or say your truth, it’s usually not so easy for the people around you to deal with. But I am empowered to deal with my problems. I feel fully alive and beautiful.
Today I love the way I look. I love the way inspiring aging women and men look. When you live out of passion, courage, and truth, you radiate beauty.
If you are willing to look beyond the anti-aging ads, you can see that aging is a beautiful process. I’m excited to age. I want to get old. My mother did not have the chance to be old. I have so many dreams to fulfill, and I am grateful for every moment given to me to fulfill them.
One thing is for sure: I will never lose my healthy fire again.