I had to hide a giggle when my 21-year-old daughter announced her wedding song: "You Make Me Feel So Young" by Frank Sinatra. But then, after pondering it a bit, I realized what she and her fiance were doing. They were capturing a moment in their history. One day when the kids are gone and their joints are stiff, they will be able to look into one another's eyes and share a dance with innocence once more.
There was a time when I had to reclaim my own innocence. It was a time after two broken marriages, dozens of troubled teenagers, and hours of therapy. Then there was a period of blindness and homelessness and many years of hiding crippling anxiety and doubt. I felt as old as Methuselah. I was worn out and couldn't imagine where I would find the motivation to take my next breath. I was surrounded by darkness and felt my flame being slowly extinguished.
But it wasn't the angst-ridden teen I wanted to find! I had to reach down and find the innocence. I had to find that girl who still believed she could make a difference in the world.
Then I heard the song, 100 Years by Five for Fighting. I cried tears of gratitude for the eloquent lyrics of this amazing song that reminded me to make time for that girl. In his song, fifteen was the pinnacle age of dreaming and wonderment. For me, it was sixteen. I had to seek out that sweet, hopeful girl with her whole life ahead of her. The girl who believed that she was in control and could conquer anything. The young woman who had never had her heart broken or worried about where to come up with food to feed her children or money to get the electricity turned back on.
The scavenger hunt was on. These are the things I had to do:
Find a quiet place to be still
For me, I went to my room when no one was home and reclined on the bed. I closed my eyes.
Recall a time when you felt completely free from discouragement
What were your dreams? How did you want to change the world? Realize how many of them you've accomplished.
Create the soundtrack
Remember the songs that made you feel the way you did. For me, it included: "Time in a Bottle" by Jim Croce, "Why Can't We Live Together" by Timmy Thomas, and "Hold Your Head Up" by Argent.
What made them work? What made you a good friend? What type of friends did you have?
How can you take all of these ideas, dreams, aspirations, and hopes and re-create the sweet youngster you were. Hint: It doesn't involve putting on size 7 blue jeans and gauze shirts and love beads. It's more about dressing your spirit in those things.
Ask that girl for the directions back
Tell her you'd like to speak with her again and acknowledge that she has a lot to teach you.
You don't have to become young again to believe young again. And before you start thinking that you are too old to still accomplish anything, consider these folksand what they contributed to the world:
At 100, Grandma Moses was painting.
At 93, George Bernard Shaw wrote the play Farfetched Fables.
At 88, Michaelangelo did architectural plans for the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli.
At 85, Coco Chanel was the head of a fashion design firm.
At 82, Leo Tolstoy wrote I Cannot Be Silent.
At 81, Benjamin Franklin effected the compromise that led to the adoption of the U.S. Constitution.
At 65, Laura Ingalls Wilder began writing her "Little House on the Prairie" series.
At 65, Harlan Sanders created Kentucky Fried Chicken.
The one thing they had in common, I believe, is that they still had enough of their youthful innocence, blended with the wisdom of age, to know that they could accomplish great things.
It took me until middle-age to figure out that no one could extinguish my flame without my permission. I discovered, in the darkest time of my life, that I was unwilling to grant that permission. So at 53, I published my first book. At 55, I began writing these articles. I no longer physically fit into those size 7's, but I do in spirit! And guess what. It's all still ahead of me!