The aging process begins the second we are born. We start our journey as babies, then, before we know it, people are calling us senior citizens. When the realization hits that you are now in the latter category, it can feel like a ton of bricks falling on your head.
I’ve reached old age and I don’t like it. I can actually pinpoint the exact date I was struck with those bricks. About two and a half years ago my sister and I were shopping and entered a ladies dress store. After casually looking around for a few minutes, I mentioned to her that there was nothing in the store that interested me. In my opinion the clothing seemed to be geared towards “old people”. Turning around, my sister looked me straight in the eyes and said, “What do you think we are?”
That day, after getting over the initial shock of being called old, I came home and observed myself very closely in the bathroom mirror. Was the face staring back really me? When did all the laugh lines become wrinkles? When did my skin lose its firmness and glow? I’ve had white hair for many years and chose to ignore it that day, but I was afraid, very afraid to look at the rest of my body. I stood puzzled before the mirror for what felt like hours. I didn’t feel old, but the evidence was before me, mocking my lack of acceptance. So, at sixty-seven years of age, the truth had to be faced. I was not getting old; I was old. Prior to this day I had never associated myself with other grey-haired people my age, but I now realized , it could no longer be denied. I was one of them.
“You’re only as old as you think”, “You look good for your age”, “The golden years”, are all adages created to make the elderly feel good . Some days I feel pretty good and think, I can conquer the world, but others, when I’m tired and my back hurts, not so much. I try concentrating on the “golden years” because this is the stage when the kids have left the nest, and I have more freedom and time to devote to myself.
Dedicating time to myself was harder than I thought, so I tried to manage the situation on a day to day basis. A part-time job and regular household duties kept me busy during the day, but many sleepless nights were spent fretting about the dreaded aging process. It took a health scare about six months later to send a very important message from my heart to my brain.
I started feeling dizzy, tired, lacked motivation, developed pain in my back and felt a heaviness on my chest. They were classic symptoms of a heart problem. After six months of testing, it was finally discovered that I had a severe blockage and would require immediate surgery. If a heart attack occurred, survival would not have been an option. For some unknown reason, at no time during that period was I alarmed or fearful for my life. Calmness overcame me as I finally came to the realization that instead of loathing and dwelling on the fact I was getting old, I should be thankful I was still alive.
A change of attitude was needed and it didn’t take long. I joined an exercise program at a local gym and to keep the juices flowing in my mind, started writing short stories and poems. I have beautiful gardens that keep me busy from spring to fall, a loving family and a caring husband; so much to be grateful for.
It’s impossible to feel gratitude all the time though.
Eventually, negative thoughts started to creep in. I was thinking about the future, and it scared the hell out of me. The years have flown by and it is true: the older you get, the faster time flies. I wondered how many good years I had left, five, ten, surely not twenty? Would my health deteriorate slowly, quickly? Would I die before my husband, he before me? Would I become a burden to my children?
All these questions were ones I didn’t like to think about, but felt they had to be faced. I knew I couldn’t continue to obsess about these matters or I would drive myself crazy. I chose to put my mind in a happier place and started reminiscing about the past, focusing on happy times of course. I found the best way to relive these memories was through music. I love listening to songs of my teen era, “Doo Wop” and old time Rock and Roll. These songs make me happy, but only for a little while. Eventually I start feeling melancholy. I then wind the clock in my head back to the joyful times of my childhood. Peace and contentment are felt, but again, only for a few moments. I know these memories cannot create a happy present day so why can’t I just live in the moment?
I have come to the conclusion that it’s not the aging process I dislike, but the fact that I am running out of time. Of course there is also fear of the unknown. There are so many things I would like to do and see. I would like to travel more, enhance my writing skills, see my grandchildren happy and settled, maybe witness the birth of a great grandchild or two. However, I know I must be accepting of who, where and what I am TODAY. I’m a good person, content and determined to dealing with the present, and looking forward to tomorrow.