Why do we grow old?
I’m not exactly sure why that question occurred to me while driving to work the other morning. I haven’t been thinking about it, obsessing over it, or even wondering about it.
I think it must have been something I heard on the radio that triggered it, a song which provoked a memory, which in turn produced a curiosity.
I’m not talking about the physical body growing old – the answer to that is sadly obvious as I push into my mid-forties. A sedentary job makes my bones pop and creak while my mind protests what my body is trying to tell me.
Rather, I wonder why our minds grow old?
I vividly remember being curious about everything when I was young. Beyond that, I was fearless when it came to asking questions, never caring if someone thought it was a stupid question. I simply wanted to know an answer.
But, with age comes responsibility and the only thing I’m truly curious about these days is the damage to my bank account. Oh, and if I have enough laundry detergent (I never knew four people could make such epic mountains of dirty clothes).
Yet inside my brain is this curious little girl, with big blue eyes and a pony-tail. Dressed in blue shorts and a dirty white t-shirt, skin tanned from hours of being outside, she remains perched on the arm of her Mamaw’s chair. She’s still asking questions, still full of wonder about the curiosities she sees every day.
Someone captured this particular moment in a polaroid, and I carry it with me every day, in my purse. And, not just because my Mamaw is beloved by me, missed by me, cherished by me.
But because I am still that little girl.
Sure, I’ve gotten bigger and older. I certainly can’t climb trees anymore, or play with my brother’s Tonka toys (I was a bit of a tomboy until puberty struck). I can still ask questions, though. I can still be curious about stuff. I can’t break a hip while asking a question.
And, I think this is why I love being outside so much. My indoor-life is my forty-something life. It’s full of chores and other things that have to be done. But outside?
Outside, I’m allowed to be nine years old again. Life slows down outside, an afternoon seeming to stretch out into forever. There are no worries, no responsibilities, no time constraints to be found outside.
That’s the true measure of youth. Life was slower, lazier, yet still full of vibrant energy. We had no concept of time, the annoying tick-tock missed by our young ears.
To put it simply, we lived in the moment.
Right now, my rose bushes are bursting with buds that are just beginning to open in hues of red, yellow, and lavender. My salvia plants are already like frozen fireworks of bright purple. I, myself, am bursting with excitement about the impending display of color that will happen in the coming weeks.
So, today, I will be nine years old again. Today, I will be outside and will marvel at what nature is doing.
My mind is still young, still curious, still full of life. And my bank account can afford to buy this nine year old some more flowers.
Life is good. Now, get outside and play.