Getting old …

I love this song by Paul Simon…

My favorite thing about the song is the perspective it puts on the process of aging.

I’ve been thinking about getting older – mainly because my body keeps shouting at me in unfamiliar ways. I look in the mirror in the morning and there are wrinkles that didn’t used to be there (and I’ve always felt I got good genes – I know I’m lucky to only be dealing with them now). My hair has changed in good (I have waves!) and not so good (where did all the hair go? there’s another grey hair!) ways. These are annoying but not super distressing signs.

When I was younger I used to listen to older people complain about getting old and think, “but this is what happens … we are all going to do it. Why complain about it? Why not embrace it for the new experiences it brings?”

I’ll tell you why we don’t embrace it – and it isn’t because we don’t like grey hair. It’s because it hurts! Do you remember when you could just get out of bed in the morning and feel good? You enjoyed that stretch and how your body felt refreshed and ready for the day? I realized recently that experience is so rare as to be non-existent for me. Every morning I gingerly take those first few steps and my hips and feet shout “OWWW!” at me. A cursory search of google tells me that this is actually a very common symptom of good old aging.

How about those days when you could cavalierly reach for something with no thought? I remember the first time I reached under the bed and pulled something in my neck and went around in pain for days – and I was still in my 30s.

I yearn for the days when I could see – everything up close is just a blur now. Maybe it wouldn’t be such a big deal if I didn’t like to read so much, but I’m constantly dealing with putting my glasses on or taking them off or coping with less than stellar vision from contact lenses. This is not a fun part of aging for me.

And memory … I’ve prided myself on having a good one but I wonder. My genes are iffy in this realm and I can only hope that people will be kind if I start repeating myself. I already find the experience of not being able to spit out the right word a little too familiar for comfort. I hope it is just a symptom of stress and not something more ominous!

I think about my younger me and want to shake my head a little – I didn’t know what was coming or I might have been a little less sanguine. Still, I’m realizing that complaining isn’t going to make the experience better – I’m pretty sure all the emotional angst I might feel isn’t going to bring back my younger skin. So, I resolve to age gracefully (with a minimum of complaining) and be proactive about taking care of the body I have – particularly in terms of moving and stretching and strengthening.

I particularly like this quote from Robert Muller (1923-2010) who said:

“My physical body may be less efficient and less beautiful in old age. But God has given me an enormous compensation: my mind is richer, my Soul is broader, and my wisdom is at a peak. I am so happy with the riches of my advanced peak age that, contrary to Faust, I would not wish to return to youth.”  

(The Miracle, Joy, and Art of Living)

Life goals indeed!

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