A friend said he grabbed life by the horns and got gorged a couple times. I think I know how he feels, gored or not. Medical science tells us that the human body can live well beyond 100 years, depending on our lifestyle, of course. What we do in the first half of life shows up in the second half. Good or bad, we reap what we sow. That’s an old law that we can depend on. This familiar saying has a legitimate point: “If I had known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.”
Our bodies are “temples of God” as the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17. A major part of spirituality is to take care of these gifts. I believe it is God’s Will that we live a happy and useful life for as long as we can. I am told that “centenarians” are the fastest growing segment of our population. But living to a hundred and above can be punishment unless we live in harmony with the body, mind and spirit.
If we can get through the midlife “crazies” as it is sometimes called, the second half should be a little easier. Midlife is also called the crossroads of life. This is the time when our bodies change, and may go against their values and have “flings” or “affairs” in order to try to prove something. C.S. Lewis once wrote, “There is a shadow side of me that bothers me and is itching to express itself.” A lot of folks scratch where it itches.
I believe all of us can have peace of mind, but it’s tempting to chase rainbows of success, power, prestige and the approval of others. We look for it as Ponce de Leon looked for the fountain of youth. We look for it in pills, alcohol or whatever. The last place we look is within the center of our being, and we fail to realize that happiness has always been an inside job.
Having said all of this, let’s look at a few more ways we can enjoy the second half of life:
• Start enjoying a simpler life. I recommend the book “Blue Zones” by Dan Buettner. He studied five different cultures in various parts of the world where there is a large number of centenarians. In Sardinia, Italy, one woman had made it to 122. She said her secret was a sense of humor, olive oil and port wine. In all five of these places, Buettner concludes that each has a unique path to longevity, showing how their history, traditions and genes have produced centenarians, and that each one revealed people interacting with each other, shedding stress, healing themselves and having an upbeat attitude about toward the world. He also said “faith in God” and worship played a major role.
• Moderation in all things. My late father-in-law had one main sermon: Have moderation in everything you do. It’s the “extremities” that get us into big trouble. The longer I live, the more I realize his point.
• Find your purpose in life. Someone said if we could find the “why” of life, we could put up with almost any “what” or “how”.
• Eat until you are no longer hungry rather than eating until you are full. I’ve tried it and it does make a difference. A big difference.
• Exercise the brain. Have something to get out of bed for. Learn a new language or take up a musical instrument. Create a personal mission statement. Finish this sentence: “This is what I want to get out of the rest of my life: _______.”
• Take time to meditate and pray. A thankful heart is seldom an unhappy heart. “Be still and know that God is God,” says the Psalmist.
• Learn to let go. All of our losses don’t come at one time, thank goodness. But they do come. We lose parents, siblings, grandparents, spouses, etc. The main downside to living a long life is outliving the people you love. It’s the hardest thing we have to do, by far. We were in Shreveport recently, and I ran into an old friend—William “Wishy” Nolan, a retired minister. He gave me a book he had just written and I will quote the prologue:
Lord, help me to hold to and let go at the same time.
To release my fears,
To hold to faith.
To dump my gripes,
And hold to my joys.
To let go of petty things,
To hold to great things.
To release loved ones,
To hold to memories.
Lord, help me to hold to and let go all at the same time. Amen.