Body age vs. soul age
You know when people say that they don't feel their age? Usually I notice that people feel younger than their bodies are: a 70-year-old will say that he still feels twenty-seven, or a nursing home resident will remark that she would rather to the pop music station than the stale, tame elevator music that her facility always plays. Every so often, I will hear the reverse: "He's an old soul," adults will whisper worriedly about the kid who walks around the playground solemnly, reading his book and straightening his miniature blazer instead of fighting for a turn on the favorite tire swing.
I believe that soul age is a thing. Whereas our bodies march along through time, and inevitably change over the years (whether or not we choose to acknowledge and embrace the fact), our souls remain more or less a constant. Some of us were born with 12-year-old souls and others of us with 40-year-old souls and still others with 88-year-old souls. Our instinctive attitudes toward life--Do we approach our world with caution and trepidation or naivete and excitement? Do we revel in plans and deep conversation or in experimentation and whimsy?--change subtly but never completely.
I actually think that as we go through life, if we're doing it right, we become even more our soul age. We learn to stop trying to feel the way we are supposed to feel and do the things that we are supposed to do according to our body age and instead to surrender to the unique gifts that our particular soul age offers. We decide that it is okay that we have gray hair but still love watching cartoons and get really excited before Christmas morning, or that we are young and supposedly in the prime of our life but would rather curl up with a soft flannel blanket and read a book than spend a night on the town.
I doubt that it will surprise anyone that I fall into the latter group. Ever since I can remember, I have preferred small group gatherings to wild and loud parties. I have planned weekly menus and made lists because I love establishing and maintaining order and rhythm and routine. I notice specks of dirt on countertops and unopened bills and I worry about them.
But in and of themselves, my inclinations are not good or bad. My natural response to my environment may be more serious and cautious than exuberant and spontaneous, but it suits me. I have a soul age of somewhere around 35 or 40, and when I play my cards right--that its, when I have dinner parties instead of huge costume party blowouts and carve out time to watch the documentary I have been meaning to see rather than the hit thriller everyone is raving about--I am in my element. I feel good, and I am at my best for those around me.
Is soul age merely a function of our personalities or temperament? I don't think so. I don't think that my fondness for intimate dinner gatherings is solely a function of me being an introvert, just like I don't think that those who love taking risks are only rebels at heart. Our soul age is actually something that runs much deeper, that cuts to the very core of who we are.
It is why, until the end of her life, my grandmother wore crystals and angel necklaces and why she rode the ocean waves on a boogie board with her grandchildren during family trips to the beach. She knew her soul age, so thoroughly so that it encompassed her whole person--her dress, her spirit, her laugh, her walk. And she was simply Terry, Mrs. Swihart, Gammy: not an 11-year-old trapped inside of a 77-year-old's body, or a silly old woman who could not grow up, or a spectacle in her Chico's stretch paints and rainbow bathing suit--just herself.