Saturday, May 28, 2016

Aging gracefully

Growing up I was more likely to be referred to as disgraceful, or I would have been had anyone been aware of the things I got up to, but I almost always got away with it, whatever 'it' was, I guess I was so quite and reserved, my rebellious nature was hidden and I either went totally unnoticed or no one expected me to do anything at all, let alone some of the things I did (a few of which are mentioned in my book).

 'Doing orchards', as it was referred to when I was a child, which was a euphemism for stealing fruit from the trees of our neighbors. Skipping school - not just occasionally, for almost an entire year. Making pipe bombs, for no other reason than to see if they really worked, and they did, and surprisingly I was never injured. I am glad to say that I was never a bully. In fact then, as now, I was cursed with an overdose of empathy and compassion - a fact that was confirmed in later years, by my therapist (also explained in my book).

As I believe growing old is the opposite of growing up, I decided I should do that gracefully - not exactly the opposite of disgracefully (no wonder English is so hard to master). Though, to be honest, I am still waiting to feel grown up, but I truly believe that is an illusion. All we ever do is grow old, from the moment we are born. I was disgraceful, now as I finally reached 'old', I will accept it gracefully. That is not to say I will become boring, heaven forbid! However, to the casual observer, just as I appeared totally harmless and well behaved as a child, I appear aged and boring as an old woman. Because, no mistake, in years I am old, however boring? Never!
"The great secret that all old people share, your body changes, but you don’t change at all." - Doris Lessing
And so, in my 70th year I came to the conclusion that I would always feel like that bold and rebellious child inside, that I would never feel grown up, that grown up is an illusion created by children. Time to become graceful.
"Acting our age is something that requires an enormous suspension of disbelief." -
 Will Self
In the past 8 months, since my 69th birthday, I have lost 25 pounds - for health reasons and because you cannot be graceful if you are 35 pounds overweight, yes, 10 more to go - I have stopped getting manicures and pedicures. I now keep my nails short. I stopped coloring my hair, though I have been somewhat surprised to discover that it only has a few flecks of grey ... yet.
This I have done in order to accept the advance of time. I have never, ever considered having 'work' done to me. That is, cosmetic surgery, other than having teeth straightened or replaced (which I seriously do consider to be a health aid rather than a vanity), I don't agree with liposuction or botox, but I kind of feel that the whole painted nails and artificial hair color really does come under the same heading - trying to appear to be something I am not. I want to be me, to be who I really am. And I want to stop spending money and precious time, most of all time, on the stupidity of trying to avoid the inevitable and the obvious.

I am embracing not only who I am, but also the advantages that come with old age. It is like being camouflaged. I am still the same person I was when I was young, but I am hidden inside this old body looking out, and once again I have become invisible to most people. I am no longer part of the dance, so I get to enjoy it so much more. I never did like performing. I am an observer.

Last year we took care of planning for the inevitable (see this blog entry) and so all of our 'affairs' are in order and our final curtain has been arranged. Perhaps that helped to make me accept the advance of time.

I have been very lucky, my life is good; oh I most definitely went through some bad patches, and a few very bad patches, but I came through having learnt the lesson and gained some wisdom (again, all in my book). Of course I have some regrets, but you cannot honestly regret anything that is an integral part of the journey you chose to follow, after all that is what it comes down to - it is a choice. You may argue that some people are stuck in situations they have no control over, I argue that somewhere along the line, they make choices that led them to be in that situation. You have got to be the change.
"...be the change you want to see in the world" - Mahatma Gandhi
I did write a blog on the advice I would give my younger self, but I am not sure I would have taken that advice then, I didn't have the wisdom gained from making the mistakes - and learning from them.

As always, I searching the Internet for information on what aging gracefully really means. I found a lot of discussion, but very little conclusion. It means different things to different people, just like happiness. (Remember that song? )

If this is middle age, perhaps old age is not hearing the phone ring, 
or not bothering to answer it?
My current definition, because I fully accept I may change my opinion as I continue to gain wisdom from experience, is to stop fighting the inevitable and live for the moment, however many moments are left to us, make the most of them. I don't want to spend a precious 45 minutes every 5 weeks waiting for the color to process in order to hide reality - for what?, or over an hour every three weeks having my nails done - for what?. Those are moments I will never get back, and from which I gain nothing.