08 February 2013

Aging Part I

Photo lifted from www.improvephotography.com
When I was 50, a precocious boy, son of a friend, pronounced me an old woman. His explanation: simple mathematics. If life expectancy was 72 [which it was at that time] then youth was 0 - 24, middle age 25 - 48, and old age, 49+. Hard to argue with that thinking.

Now, approaching [six months away] my 65th birthday, he might imagine me ancient.

Psychologists tell us that at every age we feel we are younger than we are. With one exception: new parents, whose sleep deprivation and stress make them feel older than they are. I remember that well. Fortunately, it passes, as most things do.

These days, at heart, I feel 40. Certainly no more than the 50 year-old accused of near-senility. This may relate to the current life expectancy of 81 for women, or perhaps to my fortunately good health, and the almost constant presence of the California sun. Perhaps it has something to do with having daughters who enliven my life with their journeys, so that I draw on their energy. Perhaps because I still listen to rock & roll and dance 2 or 3 mornings a week with Jazzercise to loud country and techno music that gets my heart pumping. Perhaps because I still study Spanish, almost daily, challenging my brain. Perhaps because an increasingly Zen view of life keeps me present, without much looking back and only occasionally peeking ahead, because at this age, too much focus on the future can be dreary.

I'd like to believe Shakespeare that the best is yet to come, and there is much to look forward to, but the reality is that much of the best has passed, and that's okay. There are many pleasures to age, not the least of which is a sense of solidarity with one-self.

Each year, at the start of the year, I take a good look at my budget to ensure that I can partake of my passions without compromising my financial future, and this exercise also keeps me young at heart, because I imagine a vista of 25 or 30 years ahead, maybe more, although 90 seems like more than enough living to me, and in so doing, see almost as much adult life ahead as past. Because, in truth, I didn't really grow up until I was in my thirties. Perhaps that's why I still feel so young.

Still, whatever the reasoning, come summer I will be officially a senior, to just about everyone but Social Security, and I look forward to the rewards of that status. I just heard I can take classes at 24-Hour Fitness for free - that alone will keep me young - and there are many financial discounts to enjoy. My now fully silver hair looks good, my energy level is great, the pleasure I find in friendship and travel, arts and literature, never greater.

Some time soon I think I might have a grandchild and that, I know, is a game changer. Definitely a reward, and a joy I look forward to.

I do not deny age. I only wish to continue to appreciate the benefits and avoid, as long as possible, the ravages. Like the surf, there is an ebb and flow to our lives, and, with each season, a bit of sand is washed away, but the beach always looks good at sunset.