19/09/2009

HOW TO GROW OLD

I remember I read this essay - HOW TO GROW OLD by Bertrand Russel - when I was 15 ,at school with my English teacher. It was an ironical text about how to grow old the right way keeping up strength, will and mental energy.
Why am I thinking about that now? Because it was my birthday some days ago - I know , I didn't tell you anything but I was not in the mood to celebrate, completely alone at home, husband and sons still at the seaside... I realized that every year more I wish to forget my birthday. There's something wrong in that: we must face reality, not escape it, that's something I'm sure of. And once we face it, we must try to handle it and finally accept it. Now, I know many women my age or even over, would think I'm mad because we are still "young", but it is really saddening to reflect on the passing of time. Then, don't tell me that turning forty-something is like turning 30-something! That's lying and you know.
This is why I decided to re-read some pages from that old book I had completely forgotten.
Do you want to read some lines with me?

"In spite of the title, this article will really be on how not to grow old, which, at my time of life, is a much more important subject. My first advice would be to choose your ancestors carefully. Although both my parents died young, I have done well in this respect as regards my other ancestors. My maternal grandfather, it is true, was cut off in the flower of his youth at the age of sixty-seven, but my other three grandparents all lived to be over eighty. Of remoter ancestors I can only discover one who did not live to a great age, and he died of a disease which is now rare, namely, having his head cut off. A great-grandmother of mine, who was a friend of Gibbon, lived to the age of ninety-two, and to her last day remained a terror to all her descendants. My maternal grandmother, after having nine children who survived, one who died in infancy, and many miscarriages, as soon as she became a widow devoted herself to women's higher education. She was one of the founders of Girton College, and worked hard at opening the medical profession to women. She used to tell of how she met in Italy an elderly gentleman who was looking very sad. She asked him why he was so melancholy and he said that he had just parted from his two grandchildren. 'Good gracious,' she exclaimed, 'I have seventy-two grandchildren, and if I were sad each time I parted from one of them, I should have a miserable existence!' 'Madre snaturale!,' he replied. But speaking as one of the seventy-two, I prefer her recipe. After the age of eighty she found she had some difficulty in getting to sleep, so she habitually spent the hours from midnight to 3 a.m. in reading popular science. I do not believe that she ever had time to notice that she was growing old. This, I think, is the proper recipe for remaining young. If you have wide and keen interests and activities in which you can still be effective, you will have no reason to think about the merely statistical fact of the number of years you have already lived, still less of the probable shortness of your future.
As regards health, I have nothing useful to say as I have little experience of illness. I eat and drink whatever I like, and sleep when I cannot keep awake. I never do anything whatever on the ground that it is good for health, though in actual fact the things I like doing are mostly wholesome.
Psychologically there are two dangers to be guarded against in old age. One of these is undue absorption in the past. It does not do to live in memories, in regrets for the good old days, or in sadness about friends who are dead. One's thoughts must be directed to the future, and to things about which there is something to be done. This is not always easy; one's own past is a gradually increasing weight. It is easy to think to oneself that one's emotions used to be more vivid than they are, and one's mind more keen. If this is true it should be forgotten, and if it is forgotten it will probably not be true". (...)



After Bertrand Russel's words, I'd like to share with you a very short poem by Nazim Hikmet, which one of my friends/colleagues used in her wishing card as a consolation for my sad thoughts about age and the passing of time. She is great! Once again -it's not the first time - she chose the most perfect words to cure my negativity:

The best sea has yet to be crossed.
The best child has yet to grow up.
Our best days have yet to be lived;
and the best word I wanted to say to you
is the word I have not yet said
.


(Nazim Hikmet 1902-1963)

Translation from the Turkish Richard McKane



I am there, like Frederick's romantic wanderer, standing high on a sea of fog, astonished at the sublime vastness of nature and life but also melancholic at the thought of how fast everything comes to its end... anyway confident that our best days have yet to be lived!

12 comments:

Luciana said...

Oh MG! I've liked BR and the poem! I hope your depressive thoughts go away, because they are not good at all! I hope you'll cheer up! That kind of thought comes to everybody when a birthday comes and for more people say my friends and I are yooung we've been talking a lot about how close is the line that changes the fact that you're growing up to the fact that you're growing old. But don't be sad, you ARE very young and will live long! I hope you'll get better soon!

Elvira said...

"confident that our best days have yet to be lived!" I hope you're right!! I sometimes wonder.

"one's own past is a gradually increasing weight." Indeed, that's why it is better to bury it instead of carrying it on our shoulders (this reminds me of Hey Jude, haha!).

And it is not the same to be in one's forties than to be 55 years old!!!!!!!!! Soy un poco vieja. :(

Happy birthday anyway!!!!!! Baci

MARIA GRAZIA said...

@Luciana
Thanks, darling young friend! Enjoy your weekend!
@Elvira
If not the best ... very good days have yet to be lived...Let's try to be confident, Elvira.
Tu éres la màs "genial" de mi "blogger friends":
Edgar Lee Masters said "Genius is wisdom and youth" and You've got both!

R.A. FanBlog said...

I can be a birthday scrooge and I'm still in my twenties! (For me, it has nothing to do with age and everything to do with being the center of attention.) I think everyone should be able to celebrate their day the way they want... whether it's a big cake and party or, if you're like me- simple pleasures and a few family members. Happy belated day of becoming older, wiser and looking forward to many great days to come! :) ~Nat

Elvira said...

THANK YOU, dear friend!!! You're the BEST!!!

Más besos

PS The same AS (When I reread it I saw my mistake!!)

MARIA GRAZIA said...

@R.A.FanBlog
Well, Nat, I've started disliking birtday celebrations lately. Then my last ones have been usually alone at home because of my job with the rest of family at the seaside. Then on this occasions I tend to start thinking and ... that's it. The reason for my blue mood, I mean. Thanks for being so kind, Natalie! It was 10 days ago, now I'm full immersed in the beginning of a new school year and haven't got very much time left to think about it. Teaching teenagers can help!

lunarossa said...

Happy Birthday, dear MG! I agree with you about birthdays. But I think if you had been with your family and/or your friends I'm pretty sure that you would have felt better. Life is so short that it's important to live it in full, especially when the years are starting to pile up! I'm sure you're young and beautiful inside and outside as I can feel it from the enthusiasm and positive thoughts you express in your writing! Wish I can meet you soon! All the best. Ciao. A.

MARIA GRAZIA said...

@lunarossa
I'd love to meet you too! Seems we share a lot from what I read in your blog. Thanks for being so kind! Un forte abbraccio.

Mulubinba said...

Happy birthday for 10 days ago Maria - mine was 2 weeks ago. I feel my birthdays are getting more irrelevant and feel less like celebrating. I don't feel much older until my joints start complaining after activities I used to easily be capable of. I still have very elderly parents alive and I think watching them start to become frailer and a little depressed about their frailty has been a wake up call for me. I also lost a friend from cancer this year at 48 years which has made me think I need to make the most of life. I love the poem from Nazim Hikmet - thanks for posting.

MARIA GRAZIA said...

@Mulubinba
Thanks,M. for your kind words. I'm sorry I've brought sad thoughts to yor mind, too. Let's try to be more positive and look forward to our best days yet to be lived. Let's start tonight! Hugs.

Mo said...

What a great book and poem. I have so much still to do I need to live for a very long time.

MARIA GRAZIA said...

@Mo
May your wish come true, Mo! All the best. MG