“So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” Psalm 90:12
The sun was starting to rise in the sky as I popped in my Air Pods to listen to a podcast. As I was listening, I skirted around my kitchen, completing some daily tasks. I found the podcast so profound that I could hardly contain what I had learned. As Terry entered the kitchen, I took out my Air Pods and bubbled off some thoughts I had based on what I had heard in the past hour. After a few minutes of nonstop talking, I realized I had overwhelmed my slow-waking husband. I stopped and said, “I’m done.” Terry responded to a few of my thoughts, ending with “I think I’ve used up all my words for the day.”
Childhood summers in the early eighties were hot with window fans providing scant relief. Lunch menus included Wonder bread peanut butter and jelly sandwiches congealed in a gummy mush to the roof of your mouth, adding to the already sticky atmosphere. The drink of choice was often the sugary fake fruity Kool-Aid we made in a plastic red-orange Tupperware pitcher. Occasionally, my mom would splurge on assorted flavors of bottled Springtime Soda. My siblings would argue over who got the orange or the grape sodas, but I was always drawn to the cream soda. The vanilla fizzy drink was a welcome change from Kool-Aid. Drinking water in the eighties was unheard of, only when you were desperate, and the Kool-Aid canister was empty. I was the generation that grew up on MTV, jelly sandals, Scratch-n-Sniff stickers, and a growing consumption of soda. As my siblings and I entered our teens, soda quickly replaced Kool-Aid as our drink of choice.
As an adult, I no longer drink Kool-Aid and have the occasional soda in the form of ginger ale. I prefer coffee in all forms and tend to drink too much of that. I am trying to increase my water consumption and have found sparkling water a good transition. I like water, but the cucumber melon or black cherry sparkling water feels a little more exciting than plain old tap water. I love the little bit of flavor and the look of the carbonation bubbles as they dance in my glass. It somehow feels special.
In a recent podcast, I heard a woman share that her son had learned a new concept in a book. He was excited about what he had learned and said, “it made my brain fizz.” In my mind, I pictured a cartoon image of a boy with thought bubbles inside and outside his head, exploding with new ideas. The picture made such an impression on me, I thought about brain fizz for the next day.
Like the son, I, too, enjoy “ideas that make my brain fizz.” I have always loved learning, but when I started college, the concept of becoming a lifelong learner was starting to resonate with me. It led me to working in a residence hall that incorporated what was learned in a Freshman Seminar class to the living environment. It continued in my home education journey where I became curious along with my children about the natural world, history, and the arts. And as a middle-aged adult, it shows in the variety of podcasts, books, and documentaries I consume. In past week, I have learned that our bodies have brown fat, that keyhole composting is a good way to get rid of citrus scraps, and that Peru used to have sixty different varieties of potatoes. I am also currently doing research on childhood trauma and reading a poetry collection by Amanda Gorman that is opening my world to the power of chosen words.
I believe that keeping your brain active is an important part of aging well. Research has shown that, for both men and women, curiosity helps maintain the health of our central nervous system. It also increases longevity. Although diets, such as the Mediterranean diet and eating more fruits and vegetables, can aid in the ability to be more curious, I believe it’s more than a particular diet and steady consumption of kale and asparagus.
As we age, it’s common for us to get more sedentary, both physically and mentally. We are encouraged to take short walks to help us physically, but I think we can find ways to exercise our minds to increase the fizz in our brains. For me, it looks like reading a wide variety of materials including literary fiction, poetry, the natural world, history, and memoirs. It also includes me listening to different points of views, hearing the stories of others, and pondering big questions. It involves me searching scripture for both meaning and historical/cultural context. It also involves me learning new skills or crafts. I find the more I explore my world, the more I want to explore. It becomes contagious like the dancing carbonation bubbles in my fizzy water.
In preparing for this blog, I found this interesting article, “What We Need to Cultivate Our Curiosity”, on the Aging-Well Project. The article is not only adding new books to my TBR list but is also encouraging me to turn off my GPS when I explore new areas. One day this week, I plan to explore the downtown Carlisle on foot, with no agenda in mind.
Walt Disney said, “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” As I age, I want to keep moving forward physically, mentally, and spiritually. I believe cultivating curiosity will keep my brain fizzing and affect all three of those areas, leading me to new places that I can’t imagine.
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