Prolific Writer Cecil Murphey Offers Lessons on Aging
By Leah Lancione
Aging is a touchy subject to approach. Although we’re all aging as soon as we’re born, the reality of it is more difficult to face when it’s physically or mentally evident. Many twenty-somethings throw caution to the wind as far as their health is concerned, but give them two or three decades and they’ll start to see the results of poor choices. The point is, whether you’re a boomer, a “whippersnapper” or one approaching those golden years, it’s never too late to start aging gracefully. Best-selling author Cecil Murphey has tackled the topic of aging with gusto, and taking responsibility for your health and well-being is prominent in a number of his books.
In his book Aging is An Attitude, Murphey, now 81, described both his own and friends’ perspectives on aging. When asked why he decided to delve into the topic of aging, his candor is refreshing. He quipped, “Well, I was getting older myself and didn’t like it.” However, instead of slinking into denial and trying to reclaim his youth as so many do, or, alternatively, accepting a defeatist attitude, he came to terms with aging and shifted his thinking.
Strengthened by his faith, Murphey, who was both a missionary and pastor, believes his spiritual walk and relationship with God is integral to his positive outlook on aging and even death. An avid runner and walker and 24-year vegetarian, Murphey fully accepts the charge to treat his body as a temple. “I figure this body is on loan from God. If I take good care of it, it will last a lifetime.”
Murphey admits he’s often told he shouldn’t do this or that because of his age, particularly running, but he proudly responds, “Someday I may not be able to run, but today is not that day.” Fit and vibrant, Murphey takes no medication and has experienced no serious illnesses.
Throughout the book Murphey encourages readers—especially those in or approaching their golden years—to view the latter half of their life as a time to appreciate and reflect on their accomplishments. This entails measuring the aging process by your family and service to God and others. Choosing not to dwell on age stereotypes or preconceived notions about aging, Murphey says he makes it a point to wake up every morning thanking God for his body, health and the talents he’s been given. “I want to be fully aware of my aging and be able to say that I’ve chosen to live longer and healthier,” he asserts. Murphey also pauses throughout the day to look at his life and give thanks. This gratitude helps him have a sober judgment of his life and count all his blessings. This in turn fosters well-being.
Living healthier doesn’t just pertain to the physical body. Murphey bases his advice on countless observations of friends and colleagues, as well as his own lessons learned by experience, and the light bulb conclusion is “now is the time to keep growing.” Murphey explains that after you’ve retired and your kids are grown, it’s important to embrace self-examination. Referring to renowned psychologist and psychotherapist Carl Jung’s discussion of mid-life crisis and how the first half of our lives is spent fulfilling goals like finding a mate, getting married and having a family. Murphey says the second half of life is spent picking up the pieces of our lives in a search for wholeness and balance.
Speaking of living healthier and longer, Murphey co-authored a book with biostatistician Jan W. Kuzma titled Live 10 Healthy Years Longer that cites a decades-long health study that demonstrates how participants (all Seventh Day Adventists), and consequently anyone who ascribes to the principles of the aptly-named “Live Longer Lifestyle,” can live 10 years longer (13 ½ years longer if vegetarian). The results also show that participants did not face the catastrophic illnesses their peers did and appeared to be happier all together.
The sentiment, and possible physiological reality, that a positive attitude can promote well-being, is also echoed in the book Think Big that Murphey co-wrote with renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson. In the book, Carson and Murphey stress that attitude plays a “tremendous role in our well-being as well as our ability to fight disease.” Conversely, Murphey confesses that if you believe you’re “ancient” you’ll act and feel ancient.
Murphey expressed one of the benefits of aging is the ability to let go of past mistakes you or others made that you didn’t feel free to do during your 20s through mid-life because of the many stresses that keep us wound too tight. Murphey admits that the more open and honest he is about his failures and shortcomings with his children and grandchildren, the more they respect him. Maintaining the strong bond he has with his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, the entire family gathers once a month for dinner. Clearly his brood admires his wisdom, wit and fortitude as Murphey proudly declares that one of his grandsons remarked that he’s going to leave everything in his will to his grandfather!
Murphey tackles many of the topics that correspond with aging in a number of his books. In When Someone You Love No Longer Remembers, he addresses worries and anxieties of relatives and caregivers when they cope with a family member’s mental decline. Murphey emphasizes the importance of human connection and touch. Though your relationship may have changed with a loved one as the result of a mental condition, you can still project your love, affection and warmth to them, be it through a simple hug, holding of hands or touch of the face. Your loved one may not, at that moment, remember your name but they will feel your love. That connection is both therapeutic for you and your loved one.
Forging human connection, whether through long-time friendships or relationships with family members as well as with new people, is also an essential part of aging along with continuing to grow and learn as a person. Appreciating the full circle of life, Murphey advises older folks to fully enjoy the role of grandparent.
He also believes there is no such thing as a self-made man. “You have to follow divine rules and learn from your experience. My kids and grandkids say I’m so wise, but I believe it’s just that I’ve learned from my experiences. That’s key,” he says.
If you want to learn more about Cecil Murphey or any of the 135 books he’s authored or co-authored, visit www.cecilmurphey.com or cecwritertowriter.com To follow him on Twitter, go to www.twitter.com/cecmurphey