I love being around my grandchildren, for children are still allowed to react to the nonsense in life, and it is such fun listening to them relate their experiences. I admit that sometimes I don’t fully know what they are talking about, especially when they are telling a funny story, because they are laughing and talking at the same time.
Although it seems like what they are saying is pure piffle, you find yourself giggling with them, not because of the story, but due to the joy they find in the story. Their lives are full of sparkling moments that enrich the soul, bringing happiness and joy to them and everyone around them. But as we age, people expect us to lose this sense of joy and become sensible people.
Inevitably, we reach an age where we are taught to stop being childish and to get serious about life around us. Getting serious means losing the desire to participate in the absurd, ridiculous, and irrational moments in life, all ingredients for a happy life.
So, three of the most destructive words to say to a person is “act your age.” They seem to indicate unwritten rules on what is acceptable ways for people to act across the age spectrum. I saw a older woman dancing with children, all of them laughing and having fun, when another older woman came up to her and said, “You are embarrassing yourself! Act your age!” To my immense joy, the lady spoken to responded, “I am acting my age!” And she simply ignored the rebuke and kept enjoying herself.
But, generally that is not how the story ends. Many people develop a sense of shame and guilt, and they sit down and behave themselves, not wanting to chance being labeled as abnormal or deviant. The effervescent woman with the lively and merry tales, when cautioned to act her age, over a period of time becomes a vacant shell of whom she was meant to be.
Recently, I saw some numbers written on the stones of a sidewalk that looked as if someone had been playing a game of hopscotch, and I could not resist hopping on one leg from one square to the other. Oh, the joy it brought me, as I remembered days of playing the game with friends when I was younger! No one was around to chastise me (yes, I checked afterwards!), and it was a moment of spontaneous joy. I was just glad that I did not put my back out and end up having a “Bengay night!”
As we live into our ninth or tenth decades, it is important to rethink the rules of acceptable behavior at certain ages. While I would not argue that 60 is the new 40, I do think that we should not limit people in their enjoyment of life. And as part of a generation of non-conformists (bra-burning!), seeing an 80-year-old hip-hop artist might be disturbing to me, but if he is rapping about the pains and aches of being elderly in America, I would be the first one shouting,”Tell it like it is, my brother!”
Who has a right to tell him that he is too old to enjoy life to the fullest, in whatever ways he wishes? If a 70-year-old woman wants to get on the swings and fly high in the air, as long as she doesn’t push any children off the playing apparatus to enjoy them herself, why can’t she relive those moments of laughter and sweetness? I commented on another blog that I worried that I have forgotten how to have fun, but, thankfully, I am married to a man who glories in not acting his age!
Let’s stop telling people to “act your age,” and just let people do their thing, as long as it does not impede on our lives. Ecclesiastes 8:15 states, “So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun.” Have fun NOT acting your age, and let those little children inside of all of us have the time of their lives.