Next month is my birthday, and I'll be turning the big 50...which has caught me a little by surprise. I don't think of 50 as old and, in fact, I don't feel a lot different than I did in my 20's or 30's. Sure, I don't have as much sustained energy as I used to, and am experiencing some of the physical changes associated with aging...but I have nothing to complain about. I think what takes me the most by surprise, is that people are now seeing me as a *ahem* older woman. Women my age, and older, tend to be rather invisible in our society, are often overlooked by the media, and tend to be treated with less respect simply because of their age...which is something that bothers me. But I'll expand on these observations at another time. Youth is an ideal that many people covet, believing it's synonymous with beauty, success, and vitality. But youth is more than a number or an surface's a mindset. And it's a mindset that can be had at any age.

Recently, I was reading about an informal study on centenarians (people 100 years and older), and experts found there was one common characteristic in this age group. Do you think it was healthy eating, or exercise? No, the common characteristic these people had was a fun and youthful outlook on life. Essentially they remain a child at heart throughout their life. This study wasn't implying that this was the only factor required in living a long life, because eating healthy and exercise are very important. But having a youthful outlook goes a long way in maintaining physical and emotional health. People who are positive, and fun-loving are more adaptable and experience less stress...and less stress is definitely a good thing.

Being a child at heart is something that comes easy to me. I love to have fun, and I love to least when it's appropriate, or that would just be weird. ;-) My adult children still think it's somewhat of a novelty that their mom likes to play Wii and Xbox, and I'm proud to say I've passed along my dry and, at times, corny humor to them. I also like to sing along with my favorite songs, and occasionally start dancing when I hear upbeat music ... but I do this in the privacy of my home, when no one's around otherwise, again, that might seem weird.

But there's more to being a child at heart than having a sense of humor, and wanting to have fun. It's also about being curious, and having a sense of wonder. For as long as I can remember I've loved to learn...anything from art, languages, physical science, metaphysics, psychology, cooking, you name it. And beyond this desire to learn, is a sense of wonder and gratitude. I never tire of watching a beautiful sunset, hearing the laughter of children, or seeing the return of new life as spring arrives yet again. Seeing the new leaf buds on our lilac and maple tree appear, catching a glimpse of Sandhill cranes by the river, and finding a beautiful stone on the ground as I take a walk, are examples of small miracles to me. The things we often take for granted, such as good health, the taste of delicious food, spending time with loved ones...just Being...are things I appreciate immensely. Maybe it's because of the hardships and abuse I lived through as a child, that I feel this way...I'm not sure. This appreciation and wonder may simply be something we're born with, but I do know it needs to be tended and nurtured.

Remember, being a child at heart isn't the same as being childish and irresponsible. It's allowing your sense of wonder and hope to shine through. It's allowing yourself to experience joy. Not only is this good for you, but it can be very inspiring to others.

So, if someone tells you it's silly to want to have fun or be playful (within reason), or that having a positive outlook is ridiculous...don't listen to them. I know I won't, no matter how old I get.

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