Creativity and Aging Well

Several years ago I read the Harvard study on aging which defined the differences between aging well and aging poorly.  It wasn’t about how many miles you could still run or the number of crunches you could crank out, rather it centered on attitude.  Crabby, complaining curmudgeons, even if they were in the best physical health, were found to be aging poorly while those folks who embraced life, met new people, shared their wisdom, and found joy in every day, despite any health challenges, were said to be aging well.  It came down to attitude.   At the ripe old age of 61, I believe attitude plays a big role in optimal well being, but I’ve found another factor that contributes to a life well lived: creativity.

The glorious thing about life is the ability to create.  Whether it’s quilting, painting, sculpting clay, or taking pen to paper, creating something with your own hands and your own mind fuels purpose and provides reward.   Think about the emotions that swept over you when you discovered you were becoming a mother or father; consider the swelling of pride when you prepare your food using vegetables from your own garden, or the joy of snuggling under your own handmade quilt for warmth. The things you create come from your heart. The things you create tell the world “this is who I am”.  

Last night I was at the home of a friend, a quilter, although in truth, she is an artist of the highest caliber. Deb takes the time to sketch out her ideas, dyes and stains her own fabrics, pieces things together carefully, and “paints” with needle and thread.  Her pieces are complex, vibrant, and stunning in their beauty.  Before I learned Deb was raised on a ranch in Montana, the wildflowers and animals throughout her designs told me she was a child of nature. At exhibitions her work routinely takes first place, the greatest testament coming from her peers. It might take her a year to bring one idea to fruition and when complete, she gives it away, taking her reward in seeing the pleasure on the recipient’s face.  As we explored her quilt room together, I admired more than her designs. I admired the light in her eyes and the flush of joy in her face as I praised her work.  She is my age and for a moment, I wished I was more like her.

On the way home, Tom reached over and squeezed my hand. “When you were talking about your experiences on the ranch, talking about your book and writing, I watched your face. You were beautiful.”  In that moment, I understood. Creativity, no matter what form it takes, is the spark that lights one’s soul and makes us luminous. Creativity is the key to sharing one’s soul. Deb may use need and thread while I use pen and paper, but we are actually cut from the same cloth. We both find pure joy in creating and even greater joy in sharing our creations. 

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