October 27, 2001

On Aging


My undying gratitude to Charlene of Are We There Yet? for inspiring this entry - been awhile since I did an opinion piece and this topic is one of my pet concerns.

The following appeared in Charlene's weblog (Make Mine Merlot) on October 26:

Elsewhere in Journal Land: Krissy over at Awakenings has a new format. We had quite a IM conversation over the new picture. It makes her happy. It makes me sad. I think it's a matter of age. When you are young, growing old seems romantic in an odd sort of way -- you know -- the idea of growing old with someone you love. Well, when you are getting old, the idea sucks. No really, it sucks big time! Now, don't get me wrong. I really don't think that I'd like to go back to another time in my life -- but I might like to have my body from another time. Anyway, the whole idea of growing old bums me out -- hence my feeling about the picture. Check it out and then check back and let me know what you think.

(I didn't ask permission to reprint that - if you have any objections, Charlene, please let me know and I'll merely link to it. But you did ask for feedback so here it is:)

The photo in question (follow link above to Krissy's page) depicts an elderly couple, nicely dressed as if for an occasion (and both in bright RED to boot) who are standing together, laughing hysterically.

At first I thought the woman was Krissy, the author of the journal but Krissy turns out to be a twenty year old. I don't know if the people in the photo are relatives of hers or not but I do applaud her use of the picture.

The photo makes me happy too, and it is not a matter of age but of outlook.
Yes growing old sucks. My head isn't that much in the clouds; I do face that reality.
Growing old means an increased chance of getting sick - getting REALLY sick.
It means you can't do what you could do when you were twenty. In just about every field of endeavour, mental and physical.
It may mean you don't feel as needed as you once did.
Note: I didn't say you were not needed, just that you might not FEEL needed.

I remember one day a few months ago, sitting in the lobby of my father's apartment building, having a conversation with an elderly man and his wife.
The man was telling stories (I forget what about but I remember being fascinated) and after awhile he said that the worst thing about being old was feeling useless, and shunted aside by society.
My words, I don't remember his exactly but that was the idea.

Sure there are ways that older people can be involved but many of them are busy work things, designed to keep them active, occupied, and yes, healthy, but they aren't geared towards contributing to the rest of society (beyond the welfare of that individual, anyway).

Our culture loses much by valuing youth over experience.. but I'm beginning to stray off the main point here.

Granted, growing old sucks.

I disagree with Charlene about the vantage point of youth though.. I didn't think aging was at all romantic back then. I didn't really think about it much, since it wasn't going to happen to me.
But it is.
If I thought about it, I thought I would feel different, being older.

Wrong.

I still feel eighteen and probably always will.
With age I've learned to accept some things, wrap my brain around others, make peace with the unthinkable at times.
But the ME inside is exactly the same.

Now, I'm reminded of the Serenity Prayer, where you ask for the serenity to accept what you cannot change, the courage to change what you can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Growing old cannot be changed. Being "bummed out" about it is a waste of time and energy.

Maybe I'm in denial. Maybe.
Or maybe I'm just accepting what I can't change - it's not like I have much of a choice.
Die or get old.

So yes that photo makes me happy.
It gives me courage to face what's ahead.
It speaks of the human spirit and its indomitability.
I hope that when I'm that age (IF I'm that age) I can laugh like that too.

I mentioned above that as we age we lose some mental and physical abilities; but I also think that we have the opportunity to compensate for this loss with potential emotional and spiritual gains.

I for one like myself much more now than I ever did.
I am pleased with whom I've become and whom I'm becoming.
In short, I am much happier at fifty than I was at twenty, thirty, or even forty.

It's not that my life is better or easier - I had problems then and I have problems now.
The difference is in how I see it and how I feel about myself.
Maturity? Maybe. I really can't explain how I got from there to here - perhaps that's another entry some day.

The point I'm trying to make (rather obliquely) is:
there are trade-offs.
In this case the trade-offs aren't a matter of choosing a path but of nature.

We lose some qualities as we age, but gain others;
we lose our parents but gain children and grandchildren;
we lose the freedom of youth but gain a body of work or experience that we can be proud of - a legacy.
we lose some spontaneity but gain forbearance and understanding.

It is up to us to recognize, celebrate, and cultivate the things that are gained rather than bemoan what is lost.

Came across another survey response today, by following back a referral link from my stats.

I was unfamiliar with this journal and glad I found it - I like the author's outlook, which seems to be reflected in the journal title:

connected - journal of a contrary individual

If anyone else has survey results that I haven't acknowledged it's because I haven't seen them; please let me know, either by email, or if you're shy, by referral link.
Thanks.

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