Youthful Exuberance Softens the Corners of Aging


Exuberance, joy, laughter and optimism come naturally when we are young. The experiences of those feelings are forever stored in the reservoirs of memory. Wisdom earned through the trials of time gives us all the more reason to hold in a tight embrace the uplifting and awesome moments as they occur. Time and tragedy take their toll. Calling upon our youthful sense of enthusiasm we can often soften the corners of aging.

Sometimes we never know how heavily our woes are weighing on us until the weight is lifted. Life is busy. If we are fortunate, we stay connected with that which brings out our exuberant youth despite the curve balls inevitably tossed our way. We proceed with our hearts and minds open to all the adventures, possibility and goodness that are muddled in with the more challenging bits of life. But as adults, most of us don't do that most of the time. I am no exception.

For at least four generations, skiing has been the chosen winter activity of my extended family. Grandparents, parents, children and cousins all ski together in an extended slalom turning posse. We laugh and smile and all make the same amount of noise and trouble on the slopes. Yet moving down the mountain surrounded by loved ones and cradled in the bosom of Mother Nature also elicits a sense of awe. I see it in each family member scanning the majestic view from the lift. I hear it in each of their "oohs" and "ahhs" as we make arcing turns one behind the other through quiet glades of trees. Skiing is a balance in our family of reverence for nature and communion. Both together make for a potent sense of belonging. It also keeps us playful and light. As I grow a bit in years I hope that our improvised races with ski poles, skiing mini "whoop-dee-do" trails through the trees, tucking on the long stretches to race and noting the awesome beauty of our surroundings will give my children a sense that not only do youth and spirit continue as we age but embracing them also assist us along our journey. We carry them inside of us.

We have just come off a long weekend of this sort.

But this time it was just a bit different. This time everyone was smiling and laughing but there was a palpable angst overhanging the group that we studiously avoided mention of in any conversation. We were together to remind ourselves that life is good, and playful, and all right. Even when it feels so very much the opposite.

On Monday at lunch my brother took a long awaited phone call. His fight with cancer has gone on for just over a year and the results from his post radiation tests were due any day. He left the table to take the call and stood alone on the snow just 25 yards from us. At the first sign of his fist pump in the air with his phone still pressed to his ear we leapt from our chairs, clutched him and each other and began shouting and jumping. Stealth tears of joy slipped down a few cheeks behind sunglasses. Each of us at the table likely felt the relief easing in to the spaces we did not realize were holding our anxiety. The release of tension and exuberant moment was not lost on even our jaded teens or the tables of unfamiliar yet friendly faces around us. There were iced tea and water toasts and assurances of adult beverages at the end of the day.


Our post lunch run down the mountain had me grinning beneath my facemask from ear to ear. My brother, an extraordinary telemark skier by any measure, was leaping out of each deep knee bend, becoming airborne then landing low into his next carved turn in obvious glee. With each spring out of the lunge he would shout, "yee-haw" at the top of his lungs. We all followed suit with squeals of delight. With each turn we released onto the trail a bit more of our stored up anxiety. With each holler we were reminded of our youth and the importance of calling upon it and keeping it, if not at the surface, then certainly not too far below. It was a potent reminder that we need to keep close at hand the playful and joyous aspects of our youth to temper the rough patches that present themselves as we grow in life.

As a family, we let a lot of our woes go as we hooted and hollered down the mountain. We are ready to hit life again with renewed optimism and enthusiasm about both now and the future. Perhaps most important, we are reminded of the power of youth and spirit as a means of nourishing us through life's challenges.