Wherever I go, I am asked what it is that keeps me so flexible, fit, and intellectually sharp at my advanced chronological age. I was born January 13, 1933, but most people think I'm much younger. They ask, "Is it proper diet, exercise, social interaction, DNA, geography, training, a quirky sense of humor, teachers, or maybe just karma?" I believe it’s all those things and more. The “more” is what I believe is the vital ingredient to my apparent youth.
The Magical Attitude of Gratitude
It came to me after I left a note of thanks to one of my wonderful Nia teachers, Ken Gilbert. I always thank my teachers, people who serve me, people I meet briefly who make me feel good, even animals and plants – especially roses. It’s automatic. I not only thank people, I usually tell them why I'm thanking them: “Thanks for your smile. It really brightened my day,” “Thanks for correcting that step I was doing improperly.” Every time I thank someone or something, it expands my energy, enlivens me, and usually warms their hearts a little. My husband and I thank each other often: “Thanks for vacuuming,” “Thanks for doing the laundry,” “Thanks for being you.” We didn’t get into that habit in order to stay young; it’s just a habit we got into. Side effect: people see us as vital, alive, and young.
One of the things I’ve had to really work at to be thankful for is when circumstances don’t feel good, such as ill health, death, forgetting something important – like a class I’m scheduled to teach, someone forgetting to keep an appointment with me, being “fired” from a job, not getting a role in a film I thought I was absolutely right for – and on and on. Oh yes, I’ve had to find a way to be thankful for the wrinkles, bags and sags that have crept onto my face and body. It takes quite a bit of imagination to figure out a way to be thankful for a lot of things. My son gave me a good way to do that. He said, “Mom, find the gift.”
I didn't have to look too hard to find the gifts when I started Nia at age 60. I am SO very thankful for everything and everyone I have met and danced with. There is no doubt in my mind that participating in “the Joy of Movement” offered by Nia has kept me young. Certainly, I'm not as agile as I was forty years ago, and I could focus on that instead of being in gratitude for the ability I do have and for the teachers and students who encourage and acknowledge me.
So that’s my fountain of youth: an attitude of gratitude and the willingness to say thank you every day and to every one!