How did I get to be so old so fast?
On the occasion of my 64th birthday, Beatles lyrics invaded my brain.
When I get older losing my hair
Many years from now
Will you still be sending me a Valentine
Birthday greetings bottle of wine
If I’d been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I’m sixty-four
When I first heard the song, I was a pre-teen just starting to experience puberty. I couldn’t even image what 64 must feel like. Now I’m living it.
The shocking part is how quickly I’ve arrived at an age that I used to envisage as unfathomably decrepit. Now I consider centenarians to be just a bit old. 70 and 80 year olds are no longer really not that old. My Dad lived to age 96, so I likely have a few good years left in me.
While I wouldn’t say that my body and brain are totally spent, they certainly show well-earned signs of wear and tear. I can’t even imagine myself maintaining the required concentration to put in 12 hour days as a corporate litigator. My career change 15 years ago, which landed me in the health guru business, is a much more comfortable station in life. I can set my own hours and have successfully ratcheted down the stress level a few notches. Yet I still have to contend with my Type A perfectionist personality. I’ve hardly turned into a slacker. In fact, sometimes I think I work just as hard in my own business as I did as a high powered attorney, albeit at a much reduced salary.
I’m not the denial type. I know I’m on the downslope of life. New Yorkers like me favor direct-speak. With the exception of terms such as “old bag” and “battle-axe,” any other phrase that pops out of a young innocent’s mouth about my station in life is inoffensive to me. In fact, I often refer to myself as an “old lady,” only partly in hopes that the listener will dispute my self-assessment. I’m inclined to just lay it on the line. I’m now in bragging rights territory now.
Like any other life stage, aging is a mixed bag. It has its upsides and its downsides.
Here are a few of the positive things I’m experiencing as I drift into the sunset:
- I’m OK with Me. I’m much more comfortable in my skin. Perhaps that means that I’ve achieved some measure of emotional maturity. I spent my adolescence and early adulthood trying to figure out if I’d ever make anything of myself, taking many a wrong turn, and soldering on with the “fake it till you make it” strategy. I had to work hard to project the image of the perfect person I wanted to be. Doing so required me to be on my guard 24/7. I no longer live in fear that people will figure out that I’m not a multi-talented genius who never makes a mistake. In fact, in the trial and error of running my start-up business, I fall on my face many more times than I hit one out of the park. I no longer try to hide my many shortcomings. Nor do I shy away from taking full responsibility for my missteps.
- I Don’t Care What You Think of Me. I have to admit to a head start on this liberating feeling. As a New Yorker, being PC was never really in my repertoire. Still, in my younger years I was more guarded in the way I expressed myself and was not above a bit of pandering to get in someone’s good graces. Until I met my husband, I felt like I was charting my path alone even when surrounded by friends and colleagues. I’ve never cultivated a gaggle of girlfriends or joined in “girls’ night out” male-bashing drink-fests. And the older I get, the less inclined I am to spend my precious time cultivating negative or needy “friends.”
- I Don’t Want More Stuff. I don’t have the urge to buy more things just because I can afford them or because I’m tempted by the novelty factor. Don’t get me wrong. I have more dresses and shoes than a fashion runway model wears for a big show, but I don’t want more material belongings. More stuff does not increase my happiness quotient. Uncluttered spaces are more soothing.
These positives are counter-balanced with some negatives:
- Aches, Pains & Injuries. Aches and painsare the reality of aging. I feel lucky that most of mine are transient and more annoying than worrisome. Who knew that you could get a contusion without even remembering that you hit your arm on something? I’ve come to peace with the notion that continuing my gym workouts means periodic injuries to nurse, along with a never ending series of adjustments in pursuit of pain avoidance. I resolutely refuse to give up, sit on the couch, and blob out. In general time seems to go at break-neck speed these days except when we’re talking injury healing. Then it proceeds at a snail’s pace.
- Fears about Incapacities. I worry about what is going to happen to my health in the future. No one gets out alive and I don’t expect to be the single exception. Every time I sense that something is awry with my body, I immediately jump to unwarranted worst-case scenarios. Every ache and pain is a potential candidate for a permanent limitation that I’ll have to learn to live with forever.
- Worries about Being Left Alone. My husband and I are lucky enough to have a fairy-tale marriage. But, in some ways it’s a double edged storm. I know I won’t find another soulmate and since he’s seven years older than I, he’s likely to predecease me. On the rare occasions he travels without me, I dwell on the lonely feeling, a preview of coming attractions. This is not a happy prospect.
All in all, I’m far from enamored with aging, but I take solace in the fact that I live a healthy lifestyle and that’s the best I can do. Hopefully, incapacity is not right around the corner when it arrives I’m sure I’ll find a way to cope. Or perhaps I can find some way to just die peacefully at a very old age in my sleep.
I’m sticking with my mantra: “Healthy, Healthy, Healthy, Healthy, DEAD.”
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