A few years back I was at a dinner with a friend who is six years my senior. She complained about back pain. She said her bones and back was hurting everywhere. My immediate thought was that she wasn’t doing enough stretching or yoga. My belief at the time was that yoga will save me from such ills when I grow old. Fast forward four years today, I texted her to tell her I know how she feels now. I am at an age where I can’t identify with being young, and I also can’t identify with being old (yet). I realised I am stuck between youth and aging – commonly known as middle-age.
I have never grown old before. I don’t know what it will encompass except the hardening of joints and muscles, weakening bones with various names given to these conditions. I now realised that I have no control over my body. Being young, we are duped into thinking we have control over our body when we could do more physical work and exercises with it. Now, a lower back pain from sitting too long could affect the knee and pull the upper muscles of your body downward. I guess this is what gravity does. I remember the times in my youth when I had joked about how our skin and muscles will succumb to gravity, without thinking about the gravity of the matter literally.
The physical deterioration of the body made me reflect a lot lately. Do I have a phobia of aging? In terms of health, it pours instead of rain when we grow old. I see my father with his body getting stiffer by the day. He is now in his 80s. I have not heard him complain like my friend or myself about having body pains and aches. He has not accepted being old or being ill and has to suffer from it on an ego level. Many people around my age told me aging is a number and a mindset. I don’t know if they are denying aging. I see many elderly in my estate. I think to myself they probably don’t relate to being old in their minds, except the body telling them so.
So, I’m now in the middle of youth and aging and a bit reluctant to go further to find out what else is in store. It doesn’t seem to affect my friends much though they too feel aging’s effects. They are older than I am. They are still pretty much drawn into the things offered by the world – such as food, travelling, learning to invest, being quite involved in their daily work. For me, I am also learning new things to catch up with a world which has changed quickly from when I was growing up – from liberalism to growing nationalism, from analogue to digital. I am not as interested or absorbed by the work I have to do, but just doing what I need to do daily to fulfil my duties. Deep in my mind amidst activities, I constantly think about how I can strengthen my mind on this path we all move towards, which is the end of life.
I’ve read many books on near-death experience to past life regressions. From these books, I understand there is nothing to fear about death but fear itself. Many encounters of death related by those who experienced it briefly, said it is a relaxing feeling. I guess it isn’t so much that death bothers me, but the body’s reluctance to listen to my instructions and the discomfort it causes as I age. This is the frustration of being stuck in between youth and aging. You are not young to enjoy a supple body and not old enough to release the pain body.
The truth is, life is a one-way street. We may fall in love with our body and life, but it eventually becomes an unrequited love. We can’t marry it and sign a contract for it to last forever. For the encounter with death to be relaxing I figured I have to learn to relax with whatever comes my way and in all that I do. I also had to ensure I do nothing to cause regret or guilt that weighs down the mind. If we have neglected to contemplate death while young, then between youth and aging is the best time to reflect. After all, life can be confusing if death is not known.
There is no assurance in our heart as we have no certainty on what happens after death. I think this is what causes fear. But the mind is a powerful tool. A confused mind tainted with wants and guilt versus a trained mind free from guilt or expectations make a difference in one’s life as well as in death.
I dare not say I have a totally relaxed mind that is free from fear. But I decided that no matter what I do in my daily life, I resolve not to take it seriously or personally. Although I feel I am overly focused in work sometimes more than I would like to. How I work now compared to when I was young is that I no longer think far or have any dreams or expectations in its results. My only focus is to learn to relax and not hold onto anything by having expectations of life or anyone. Interestingly, I am happier now compared to when I was younger despite an aging body.
Deep in my heart, I understand there is something that is permanent within all of us, that stays stable despite our ups and downs in life. I only hope that whatever time I have, I will be wise enough to spend time knowing this part that is elusive from thoughts and only accessible by mindfulness.