We don’t just get old and die. Most of us will get old and stay that way a long, long time before we die. I was weeding my lovely flower garden this morning when I recognized that I needed to stop and rest my back. It was hurting like blazes. I’ve been saying for a while now that I have a “bad back”. But no, that’s not it at all. I’ve just gotten old! Granted, at seventy I’m still on the young end of old, but I am old nonetheless. This is the new norm. This is “old”, whether I like it or not. I can accept it or be angry about it, but I can’t deny it any longer.
There is a great deal of wisdom in accepting certain things. Loss of eyelashes is a big thing for us girls, or loss of our waist lines, or losing the color in our hair. We really do begin to look like that velveteen rabbit with our saggy arms and double chins. I won’t even talk about “thickening”. But I’m finding that it’s not so bad if I am willing to accept the changes that come with age. I know all of the forty-something’s out there will chastise me for giving up and not continuing the fight to keep that muscle tone at all costs. What they don’t know though is that along with the visual changes there are other changes; priorities, energy levels, preferences among others, that go along with getting old.
The outer is no longer very important. What I look like or what I have isn’t as important as what I feel about my life, my loved ones and discovering what is mine to do today. More of my attention is focused on understanding the inner realms of soulfulness rather than scrutinizing all the extra liver spots or grey hairs. My looks are just not the priority that they once were. You hear people say, “Oh, Sally has really let herself go.” Well, maybe not. Maybe Sally is doing work on herself we know nothing about. I do still fill my eyebrows and perhaps put on a little blush when I go out in public, but at home not so much. A bra? Not unless I have to! There are certain freedoms that come with being old.
Then there is the energy issue. I have X units of energy to burn in any given moment, plus some reserves in case of an emergency. But I don’t have the strength, resilience or stamina I had even five years ago. If I know I can do something physical for about an hour before I need to stop, then I am going to manage my time differently. If I have a big project I break it down into workable time frames and set doable goals; this much garden gets weeded today, more tomorrow. In the past I would plow through the workload from morning till it got done. Sure I was really tired at the end of the day but I was satisfied with what I had accomplished. That was before I got old. It’s different now. I need to remember to respect and honor the body I have now, not compare it to the one I had five years ago. I’m not sick, not broken, just old. I need to find satisfaction in smaller accomplishments.
Tom and I don’t care to be out in large crowds anymore. I used to love concerts and events and places that might be crowded like beaches and malls but it was worth it then for the sheer fun of it. Now we are content to sit on our sun porch and take some social media time or get caught up on current events. We will enjoy a game of Gin or two in the evening or just sit holding hands watching dusk descend on a tranquil pond as the doe’s bring out their babies for a romp around the shoreline. I wistfully watched a Neil Diamond concert date come and go this spring without even regretting not going. (Of course, if John Denver were still alive, I would have been there on a stretcher if that was the only way I could have gotten there.)
Everything changes when you’re old. Life becomes at once more challenging due to limitations that are beginning to emerge or health issues that can be debilitating; but, at the same time, it can be so much more sublime if I don’t resist those changes. The Golden Years span a brief period between the beginning of retirement and the end of our capacity to care for ourselves. It is now that time for Tom and I; and, it’s all good, just different.