Thursday, November 26, 2009

Young at Heart

Are you familiar with the phrase, "Young at heart?" Are you as young as you feel? Are you older than you feel? I hope so. Here's to hoping that you feel about 20 years younger than you are! When I examine the idea of being young at heart, I'm reminded of a great song.

Most of us spend our lives ignoring our own mortality, and we spend our early years convincing ourselves that we're going to live forever. Occasionally, we encounter things that give us stark reminders of our own impending doom. Ever have a close call? Have you ever looked back on an incident in your life and thought, "Wow. I'm lucky!"? Our ability to ignore these things helps us perpetuate our contentment. Any psychology majors out there want to chime in?

It's amusing how we look forward to various milestones in our youth (becoming a teenager, driving, voting, drinking/gambling) and then the newness wears off as each box is checked. The pendulum of reality begins swinging in the opposite direction at some point, and we begin to dread new milestones (30, 40, and more). I disagree with this idea, to some degree.

I often tell my father that I'm still a punk kid. I feel like a punk kid on most days, and I occasionally act like it too. Some days I feel really old, older than I have a right to. Most days, I surprise myself. It's a neat feeling to say, "I'm 40 and I still feel 20." Does that make me young at heart? What really leads to that feeling? What sparks the imagination and keeps us arguing with our own mortality?

I know that we have a natural defense mechanism that allows us to degrade bad memories. The bad things that tell us we're going to die, or that a fire is hot, tend to get a little less bad over time. Some things don't. Some memories are so vivid that a mere smell or sound can bring them back as strong, or even stronger, than they once were. How does our brain sort these things out? If we can't get over bad things, most women probably wouldn't have more than one child! Just a guess on that one, but my wife agrees with that theory wholeheartedly.

What sparks your imagination? Do you feel young at heart? What keeps you that way? What makes you wake up one day and say, "This is an awesome day?" Is it knowing that people care about you? Is it knowing that there are more things out there to discover? Is it a hobby? A passion? What gets you fired up like that? What keeps you feeling younger than you are? What keeps you carrying moonbeams home in a jar? I know we've all had those moments, days, weeks, or even months and years. Or would you rather be a fish?

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