Archives for posts with tag: aging

As I very rapidly approach 70 in the next few months, I can’t help but be aware that this age seems really really old to most of the world. What kicks me about it is the fact that you can’t ignore you have more years behind you than ahead of you. But that’s been true for a long time, so this is awareness that I have even less time today than I did yesterday. There are things that scare me to varying degrees as I approach yet another milestone, so I’ve narrowed it down to five. These are kind of in order and I know they’re pretty universal from conversations I have with friends.

5. Fear of the earth not lasting. This is a new one but I sometimes wonder if any of us will survive as our planet goes through its own aging process, exacerbated by our own mishandling of our natural resources. Will the west coast fall off into the sea, will a giant split drop middle America into the earth, will global warming burn us all up, will the toxic pit in Butte, Montana, pollute the waters of the west? This one goes on and on and there’s not much I can do. My fear here is more for future generations because I’ve been able to enjoy earth’s beauty in my lifetime. I guess dying in some kind of global shift won’t be any worse at my age than dying in a hospital bed. I’d probably be smarter to be afraid of being shot since that seems to be just as likely in our country these days.

4. Fear of outliving my money. I’m ok, thanks to Social Security, investments and a part time job. I own my home and am relatively healthy, so how long will what I have last and will I still have some to leave to my kids? I have Medicare and supplemental insurance to help with health costs. But still, how much is enough? You can read all the charts and listen to the experts and you’re still not sure.

3. Fear of either my mind going before my body or my body going before my mind. Nobody wants either of these and it’s not a random thing to wonder about. Even if you exercise your body and your mind, you’re still wearing out. Which part will go first – or next? I find myself walking much more carefully to avoid injuries to bones and parts that many of my friends are having replaced. We’re a generation of bionic elderlies, thanks to modern medicine. Our minds are full, overflowing, with information, so full it takes longer to access those mental files. The wear and tear on our bodies is inevitable. We work with what we’ve got.

2. Fear of not getting everything done. Sigh. There are so so very many things I want to do. Places to go, people to see, books to read, things to organize for my children. Some days I seem to be on frenzy trying to finish all that I’ve planned. As long as I can still go and do and move, I can work on this, but the list is endless. So many beautiful places to visit, so many people I want to see. The Bucket List only seems to get longer. And my checklists are never-ending. Moving along…

1. Fear of losing those I love. I’ve lost my parents, my husband and my son. I’ve lost other family and friends. I can’t control this, but I don’t want to lose any more. I’m pretty stoic about it most of the time, but there are times this becomes the most palpable fear I have. I don’t want to lose any more family or close friends. That’s it. Damn it! And I know this is unrealistic, but it’s there for me to worry about.

Whew! OK, I got those out there in public for all to see. That always makes it easier, especially since I know that others share these same concerns and we can even laugh about it when we’re together. When we’re alone, these thoughts creep in. My cure for the worries to remember how much time I’ve had, how many wonderful memories of places I’ve been and people I’ve known and loved. Most of these worries are because my life is good and I want it to continue. I’m grateful that I have a past worth remembering. I’m grateful for every day I have with my family and friends on this beautiful planet. That’s not a worry. That’s something to smile about.DSC_0639

It Halloween time and all the scary movies are returning. One that frightened me and stuck in my head forever was “The Incredible Shrinking Man,” which came out in 1957 when I was in 6th or 7th grade. The images are so vivid to me of the man who kept getting smaller and smaller until he lived in a dollhouse, terrorized by the family cat and household spiders. The old black and white movie was well done, at least to this young mind. He got so small his wife couldn’t see him anymore and he was lost in the house.

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Yesterday, I was measured at a doctor’s office and seemed to have shrunk. I still think she measured me wrong, but whatever. Good grief, I take enough calcium and eat enough dairy and exercise. Another strange thing about aging. Those movie images came back to me along with the fact that I would be getting smaller as my grandchildren get bigger and bigger – a couple are already around 6’4″ and still growing.

Scary movies have nothing on real life. The good news is that the movie ended on a positive note as the incredible shrinking man realized that he was going to shrink to atomic size but that there was no zero in the universe and he would always be a part of it. As the minister said at my son’s memorial service, “He is now all around us.”

In the meantime, look for the little woman in my family pictures. That will be me. Incredible.

Remember when you were little and everything seemed so far away? You had to wait an eternity for your birthday or summer vacation or Halloween or Christmas or even for school to get out for the day. The clock moved ever so slowly.

Then you get over the hill, so to speak, and you are suddenly on what I call the Downhill Slide. Time is moving so fast you can’t believe another year, another birthday are past. Your children are suddenly grown up and you have grandchildren and they are suddenly grown up and you don’t have time to do all the things you want to do in this life and it’s all moving way too fast as you slide down, down, down.

I was having this panicky feeling that I wasn’t going to get everything done in this lifetime that I want to do. I’ve been racing to make sure I do what I can, hedging a bet that my body won’t give out before I’m finished. Maybe all this is because I retired a year ago this week. I worked on a lot of projects I wanted to finish at first and still have work to do. I keep adding to my list. There’s still not enough time.

I read an article this week that gave me some new perspective. It was an interview with about ten people who have reached the age of 100. They all looked great and were very active and doing all the things I like to do. They were involved with people, volunteering, living full lives. It made me stop and think because they didn’t seem to be worrying about not getting things done…they were just doing it.

Maybe because I’ve lost people close to me when they were young, I appreciate every year I have. Maybe, just maybe, there comes a time when you stop the rush of the downhill slide and come to terms with it all and find peace. You live out your life on a plateau without worrying about the end. You are just grateful and appreciate all the people and love in the world. So now I’m still on the slippery slide, but I can look forward to knowing I’ve reached the plateau where I have the perspective to enjoy, enjoy, enjoy.

There are a lot of things that can happen to stop the slide, none of them good, but I’m going to just keep on sliding towards that day when I can just relax and do it! God willin’ and the creek don’t rise…

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Just two days ago, a new coworker at my very part-time job said she couldn’t believe my age when I told her I’m 67. She said you don’t look anywhere near that! Very flattering and a tribute to my good genes. And, that came from someone who is probably in her 40s.

Last night, I went to meet some friends for a surprise birthday dinner. Granted, it was early, but we wanted to get a seat in the popular outdoor riverfront restaurant on a beautiful evening. I also had to leave early for my grandson’s football game later on. I told the hostess, who must have been whatever the legal age is to do that job, that I was meeting friends and didn’t know if they were there yet. Her reply was, “You must mean the old couple out there.” Sure enough… She obviously thought I belonged with them.

We laughed about it the whole evening. One friend’s first response was “There goes the tip.” There were also comments like “Old people forget to tip.” It’s all about perspective, I guess. In truth, a lot of us tip better than we did when we were younger because we’ve either had those jobs or our kids or grandkids have and we understand why tips are needed. We had some younger people in our group, too, including two in their 50s and one in her 20s. We are very inclusive.

I guess we are considered old, but aren’t we all unless you’re a newborn? We are all aging every day of our lives. That’s a fact. The difference in “Old People” is that we have a better perspective on it. We realize that we are all interesting, we have more to talk about, we are generally more accepting than when we weren’t so old.

The other thing is that most of us are grateful for all those years and appreciate the time we’ve had and the time we have left. We’ve all lost friends or family members on this trip through life and we know we’re the lucky ones who are still here and still kicking! We might have done some things differently, but our life is what it is. Time is definitely flying by on the downhill slide of life, but we’re enjoying it for what it is.

So, yes, we’re the Old People. It’s shocking to us because we’re not that old inside. Just full of experience, funny stories, wise observations. My hope for you Young People is that I hope you live long enough and well enough to be one of us.

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At my latest class reunion, our 50th from high school, there were definite signs that it had indeed been 50 years. Gray or white or no hair, talk of knee and hip replacements, and wrinkles galore. Even the best preserved had some crinkles here and there.

It’s a shock to look in the mirror these days, if you really look. Who is that? I seem to be in a lot of discussions about our appearance these days. One of the main conclusions of those who look pretty good is that they owe it mainly to having good genes. Some of it has to do with exercise and eating right and generally taking care of yourself, but a whole lot of it has to do with what you were born with, your DNA.

I always thought I’d be white-headed by now, but all I have is silver streaks. My father and his parents had beautiful snow white hair and I thought that’s how I’d look by the time I was 50. I guess I got my mother’s side of the family in that gene selection.

The sun has taken its toll through the years. I look at the spots on my hands and arms with shock. When you use those blowing hand dryers, some of the more powerful ones these days will blow with such force that my skin is pulled away from the bones in a huge wrinkle that is appalling. I have more wrinkles than I would like on my face but it’s generally pretty smooth. My mother always stressed moisturizing and she died with hardly a line in her face, like her mother. Thanks for that.

All the parts are wearing out no matter what you do. Eyes, ears, joints and organs are not quite what they used to be. Dang! Well, that’s enough of that depressing talk. Time to eat healthy and exercise so I can try to keep up with my grandchildren. They’re still growing into their bodies. Wonder whose genes will show up at their 50th reunion?

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My youngest daughter turns 40 today. I’m looking at pictures from her life and wondering how does time pass so quickly. She was just born, wasn’t she? And then all those years become a reality and you see that little baby transform into a beautiful woman, a wife and mother. That’s fun to see and I’m grateful to have watched it, been a part of it. My son, my youngest, will be forever 35, so I’m well aware of how lucky I am, we all are, to get to watch our children grow up and develop their own personalities and talents and see where life is taking them and I’m grateful for every minute of the time we have together. no matter how long each life will be.

When your children are 40, your role is different – thank goodness! I’m a part of their lives, but they are their lives and I’m privileged to enjoy as much as I can with them. I’ve always tried not to offer unwanted advice or be critical and to give them their space away from me. I hope I’ve succeeded in that most of the time. I’m lucky they all live close by so I don’t have to travel or Skype and I can see my grandchildren. I’m forever grateful for that.

Hopefully, your children become your friends at this stage in all of your lives. It’s different from friends your own age, who share memories of growing up together or being together in a certain time. Your children are always your children and you always worry about them and take pride in their accomplishments and hurt for them and with them. But, now, you can enjoy them as adults. One of my favorite things is to listen to them together or with their friends. I don’t have to talk to enjoy the joy of their lives and see how they interact and what makes them laugh. Those things make me happy. Seeing them happy in their marriages, with their children, with their friends, in their work and play warms a special place in my heart. Hearing them laughing together, remembering funny family memories, is the best. When I get to be a part of that, it’s just all the better.

I’m choosing to ignore the obvious thing about having your children turn 40. What does that make me? Inside, I don’t think I feel 40, but I’m constantly reminded that I’m much more than that. Having children who are 40 is a pretty blatant reminder for all the world to see. The good thing is that there are days I feel 16 and days I feel as old as I am and I try to remember how I felt at each age along the way so I can pull it out and weigh it against how I feel today. I can’t go back because then I wouldn’t have all the memories I’ve had since I was 40, all the people I’ve met, all the fun things I’ve done. Even the heartaches are worth the journey.

Having children who are 40 is a milestone for all of us. We’ve made it this far together, we’re grateful for all we’ve learned and shared together, and our lives go on for as long as we have. 40 is a big birthday for each of us – no denying that you’re all grown up now. When you’re the parent of 40 year olds, it’s not such a bad reminder that life rushes by more quickly than we can imagine. No time for pettiness, selfishness, and all the negatives that waste our time and energies. It’s a time to celebrate all we have, all we’ve been and all that lies ahead. Life is all we’ve got and each year is a treasure to spend wisely, surrounded by those you love.

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There’s not much that can be said about aging that makes you feel better about it.  We all do it everyday…it beats the alternative…you look good for your age.  I don’t care how reconciled you are to it, it’s still a shock when you have to check the box that says “over 60,” which implies that everyone over 60 is the same or is lumped in the same group with all your new age companions who may be 80 or 100.  Up until then, you were in your teens, 20s, 30s, 40s or 50s and now you’re one of those old ones.  I just saw a series of pictures of women titled “Beautiful at Any Age” in People magazine that ended when they got to 59.  Really?

I’m in some denial – maybe more than some.  It’s not like I haven’t had to deal with life and death and don’t know it’s coming to me, too.  It’s that the time between now and then is shorter.  I know that any of us could be gone at any minute, but that’s even a harder concept to accept.  So, I’m trying to live healthier so that no matter how long I live, it’s a better quality.  My wonderful young doctor has given me terrific books to read…Younger Next Year and The Program…that explain how our bodies change and how we can program our brains to change our habits.  Today, I heard Dr. Andrew Weil speak on healthy aging.  I loved his idea that what we should aspire to is healthy living with compressed morbidity.  In other words, live well until we die.  I love his thoughts on our society’s lack of respect for the aging.  I can only hope that my children will act like the people of Okinawa when I get old old (I’m just old now) and fight to see who gets to take care of me.  I really know they love me, but that’s asking a lot.

Today, I was inspired.  I’ve been walking a lot, eating well…or at least better than I had been…reducing stress, thinking healthy thoughts, taking my vitamins, breathing deep.  Today, I was going to immediately start buying exotic organic foods and preparing them beautifully for myself and not ever have a sweetened drink again.  I got sidelined when I had to run to Target.  On my way out, I strolled down the Christmas candy aisles and almost drooled at the pre-programmed memories of all those candies and cookies.  I’m not fooling myself that I can write them out of my life easily or completely.  I don’t know if I’m that tough or programmable.  Or want to be.

But…I didn’t buy anything.  I came home and ate edamame for dinner.  That candy still sounds good….