My ride into the City of Elderly is speeding downhill, as I skid only mildly gracefully into 64.
The road hasn’t always been a smooth one, and I’ve got more than a few lumps and bumps to show for my efforts as I careened off life’s cliffs, picked myself up at the bottom, bloodied and bruised, and climbed back up.
To my way of thinking, you have to be a complete fool not to learn something positive from each bad experience, so I look for the lesson. The introspection has been interesting and often enlightening, and I’ve gotten pretty darned smart, if I do say so myself. But the one thing that I’ve found to be the most difficult to come to terms with is the idea of actually being “old.”
What is “old” anyway? Is it a number? A look? A state of mind?
I’m told I don’t look old (I love those people!), despite the decision to let my hair go naturally, and heck knows I don’t feel old! But yet, officially, I am old enough to retire and be considered a senior citizen.
Sigh … When did this happen?
For the most part, I’ve never felt younger, but I’m a more gentle, wiser and more contemplative version of my former self. I like that.
Certainly I take better care of myself, nourish mind/body/spirit, and still dance like a maniac around the kitchen when the mood strikes. I throw myself into all things with a vengeance, and despise being idle either in mind or body. The difference is I usually pay for it with aching everything instead of with a hangover. Where once I thought, “Yeah! Let’s do that again!” I now ask myself what the hell I was thinking!
Now that I’m a wee bit past the age my mother was when she died, and just a dozen years shy of my grandmother’s when she met her maker, I’ve wondered why we have to be so close to the end of our existence as a human being before we master the fine art of being alive.
Why does it take us so long to figure out who we are, what our purpose is, what we want to be when we grow up, how to accept and to love and to forgive – ourselves, as well as others. I can’t answer the question in a definitive, informative way, but I can say that I’ve answered it for myself.
I know that before I had experienced heartache and failure and the occasional self-loathing, I couldn’t learn another way. If I hadn’t learned another way, I wouldn’t have grown emotionally, and if I hadn’t grown emotionally I’d still be asking the questions, and that kind of thinking isn’t good for an “old” person.
So, bottom line is: If you think you’re old, you are. If you believe yourself to be the best you’ve ever been – smarter, wiser, kinder, prettier/more handsome, funnier, more interesting, etc. — then you are.
I know I am. And I’ll bet you are, too.
Dianne Eason is a resident of Gloucester and a caregiver to the elderly.