What we think of as being old ISN'T being old, it's being stiff

When I was about 12 years old, my mother took me to a concert by the comic pianist Victor Borge. He was great. He played beautifully, truly trained as a real concert pianist, but he was more. Borge was also a consummate comedian. As such, he'd do things like turn the music upside down and play it backwards. He'd play Chopin's Minute Waltz three times while boiling a 3-minute egg on stage. I never saw his equal in combining musical excellence with the capacity to bring the audience practically to tears of laughter.

Years passed. I began a career as a public relations writer for social service agencies after college. Then I was diagnosed with cervical cancer at 32. THAT got my attention. I asked myself, "What's wrong with the way I've been living my life that I've got the Big C?" That diagnosis 42 years ago led me to look at everything I could think to look at: my values, attitudes, beliefs, occupation, relationships, where I lived, how I lived. As a result, almost everything in my life changed. I went back to school to become a massage therapist. As I continued to study, I encountered Trager Myofascial Release, an approach which increases consciousness of and through movement. I became a Trager Practitioner for 7 years.

The late Dr. Milton Trager M.D. was amazing. Though in his eighties at the time I studied with him, Dr. Trager moved like the mime Marcel Marceau. Though his face was aged, resembling photos of Albert Einstein, Trager's body seemed ageless. He moved with unparalled grace and lightness.

Around that time, I saw a 15-second public service announcement on TV for The Arthritis Foundation. It featured Victor Borge. Borge sat at his piano, playing with flowing fingers. He then played the same couple of measures of music with rigid fingers. How different they sounded. I will never forget his words: "What we think of as getting old IS not getting old. It's getting stiff."

Anything we can do to keep moving, to keep flowing, to keep laughing and learning and loving helps keep us juicy and flexible. Sometimes people think they need to do a particular kind of exercise or routine. I don't buy that. We need TO KEEP MOVING. So, whatever kind of movement brings you joy, do that. It can be ballroom dancing, yoga, tai chi, softball, bowling, running, rock climbing, going to the gym, skating, swimming. Let the simple pleasure of whatever kind of movement you enjoy carry you forward. My mom used to say, "Move it or lose it," and this is true. Don't rely on a sense of duty to make you exercise. Rather, bring your gladness to it, as did Victor Borge, combining his love of classical music with silliness. Just do it, remembering that what we think of as getting old isn't getting old, it's getting stiff.