Pretty Darn Good
I’ve just returned from a wonderful, peaceful and relaxing time at the ocean where the only requirement was to arise each morning, walk gently through the new day, with absolutely nothing needing to be done; no tasks, no chores and no place to go. Sitting on the beach watching the waves break at my feet, systematically and relentlessly repeating themselves every few seconds piqued my imagination and forced me to think about the continuity and unending flow of life. I was comforted thinking about all the years that had gone before and those yet to come. And then, I suddenly felt very old. I made a conscious decision to honestly search my soul and focus on discovering my true and innermost thoughts about this process of aging. I had this unexplained desire to understand where I was in the moment and how I would or could face this last chapter in my life..
I hadn’t previously thought a whole lot about it, but as I began to search my thoughts I reached an amazing discovery. As I pondered how I felt in the very core of my being - not surface stuff like aches and pains - but deep down in my heart - I experienced an epiphany of sorts.
Certainly my life had been filled with many things; some good, some bad; some happy, some sad; some disappointing, some uplifting. But in spite of all those things, I hadn’t been aware that time was moving as quickly as it did. The last time I looked, I was twenty years old, blond and blue-eyed and I weighed a mere 120 pounds. I awoke one morning and the “me” I saw in the mirror was someone else. I didn’t see it coming and suddenly it was here. I still didn’t feel old but sure enough, I was.
Old age, I decided, might be a gift. To be finally close to knowing who I am, probably for the first time in my life, is a startling revelation. It’s refreshing to realize my physical body has little if anything to do with it. After so many years of worrying and fretting over appearances it finally just doesn’t enter into the realm of what’s important. It makes no difference whether I’m tall or short; whether I need to lose 5 or 50 pounds; whether my skin is taut or wrinkled; whether my hair is perfect or my clothes are fashionable. It certainly makes no difference whether I’m rich or poor because there’s not much left on which I want to spend my money. I have all the material things I need. I’m getting too tired and feeble to travel afar and many of my old traveling companions are gone. I’ll still hold my stomach in when I have my picture taken and I’ll still try to look my best to “impress” others but I no longer despair over my body. I no longer count on my bras and underwear to provide support. Comfort is what I most desire . Perhaps I should burn my bra now even though I never thought of it in the 60’s when it was the “cool” thing to do. I’ve worn my last pair of high heels and fashion boots. I choose to sleep in and old t-shirt rather than a black negligee or nightgown. I no longer agonize over how I look. It is what it is and it makes little difference in the total picture. As the saying goes, “I’m comfortable in my skin.”
I certainly would never think about trading my loving family or amazing friends for a flatter belly or fewer age spots on my hands and face. As I've aged, I've become more accepting and kinder to myself. I’m less critical and like myself a lot better. I'm freer to eat what I want and behave the way I feel. I’m pretty much completely honest with myself and others and don ‘t hesitate to say exactly what I’m thinking. People have every right to shake their heads and comment “don’t let her bother you; she’s old and says whatever comes into her head.”
I’ve become my own best friend. I don't always make my bed, and I sometimes buy some silly, stupid thing just because I like it. I’ve earned the right to be lazy, messy and extravagant. I’ve seen too many dear friends leave this world too soon before they’ve felt this unbelievable sense of freedom that comes with age.
I can read deep into the night and not get out of bed the next day till noon. I can live in the past and remember the good music, the special teacher in 3rd grade, my first boyfriend and first kiss. Yet I often can’t remember what I had for breakfast that morning. I can rejoice or weep at those memories. I’ll forget a lot of things in my past but then some of them are best forgotten anyway. Sometimes I’ll even remember the important things and either laugh or cry over those memories. Over the years my heart has been broken and then miraculously, somehow been rejuvenated. I’ve lost loved ones and seen great suffering. This has served to strengthen and enrich my compassion. How can you not feel and learn from the suffering and pain of those we love? Broken hearts are mended by understanding and acceptance. How can we know pure joy if we never experience deep sadness?
I am blessed having lived long enough to have grey hair. The lines forever etched in my face are either hard earned groves or delightful laugh lines. How many people never have the opportunity to laugh? How many die before their hair turns grey? As I get older, I sincerely don’t care what others think of me. I don't question myself as much and know I've earned the right to be wrong.
Being old has set me free. I like the person I have become. I won’t live forever, but while I am still here, I will not waste time lamenting what could have been, or worrying about what will be. For the first time in my life, I don't need a reason to do the things I want to do. If I want to play games on the computer all day, lay on the couch and watch old movies for hours or don't want to go to the beach or a movie, I have earned that right to say “no.” I put in my time doing for others, so now I can be a bit selfish without feeling guilty.
How many of us put off things we wanted to do because we had no time? How often have we turned down our favorite dessert because we’re watching our weight? How often have we said to our kids “later, honey, I’m busy now?” Life has a sneaky way of accelerating as we age. Days get shorter and our lists of “things to do” get longer. And then one day we awaken and realize we may not have the time or the energy to accomplish everything on our list.
So, I’m going to get up off that couch and take a ride on a merry-go-round. I’m going to watch the sun set at night and rise in the morning. I may even try para-sailing. I’ll listen to the song birds sing and the wind rush through the trees. I’ll count the circles in the lake made by the rain drops splashing on the water. I’ll call an old friend just to say “hello” and I’ll have ice cream for dessert at both lunch and supper. I’ll kiss my husband of 53 years and tell him I love him more today than I did all those many years ago.
I feel sorry for the young. They face a far different world than mine. We feared the law, respected our teachers, listened to our parents, prayed hard and I almost never felt the need to use gutter language. “Father knew best” and mom was our best friend. We relied on our parents, teachers and God to mold and form our young minds and knew nothing about mind-altering drugs.
Life was much easier. We weren’t faced with 30 plus choices of cereal or cookies or fruit at breakfast. We ate what we were served and if we didn’t finish it we believed it would be sent to far-off lands to feed the hungry. We expected our President to tell the truth when he spoke to the American people and we certainly expected our priests to keep their zippers up. Arithmetic wasn’t considered fun; it was hard work learning those times tables. We ate together as a family at dinner and talked about what was important to us and learned key lessons about the importance of leading good and fulfilling lives. We cleared the table and did the dishes. We did our homework and went to bed without having television violence and trauma uppermost in our young minds. Our lives were slower, more serene and incredibly simplistic and peaceful.
I am grateful to have been born in a kinder, gentler world. I read somewhere (and now that I’m old I can’t for the life of me remember where it was or who said it) but it’s a great line that I wish for all us old folks – “We’re born kicking and screaming and everyone else in the room is smiling. May we live our lives so that when we die, we’re smiling and everyone else in the room is crying.”
The above is but a mere compilation of all that I've seen, experienced, discovered, read or learned from others. Old age is not too bad!