I am beginning to truly HATE the aging process. The journey into my 40’s had been so over-anticipated, until now, that I was beginning to wonder if in fact aging was a good thing! Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.
When I was very young I didn’t really give any thought to aging. I think, like most seemingly immortal youngsters I had energy to burn and a little scrape, scratch, or lost tooth would do NOTHING to slow me down. I never even thought about older people outside of the role of parent, teacher or grandparent…oh and the President, because he could preempt my episodes of “Charlie’s Angels” on a Friday night. Back in the day, they didn’t re-air programming at 2:00 a.m. so that people could tape it and view it later…this was b.v. people (before VCR). Heck we actually had to approach the big giant television god to change channels, volume, adjust color, vertical and horizontal hold…yes those are adjustments on a television.
Aging wasn’t a part of my mind-set.
When I became a teenager the only part of aging I thought about were the body changes that were rapidly altering my existence, along with the dreaded possibility of acne. Body odor became a concern after gym class for those of us in the hygienic crowd or those of desiring relationship with the opposite sex. Let me just tell those administrators right here and now…wearing a polyester jump suit during gym class didn’t help the matter either…and then only receiving 1 jumpsuit…it could only be taken home and washed once per week…ludicrous! What’s wrong with these people, our leaders?
I did have to interact with more adults in the form of bosses, more teachers, parents, and parents of friends. I now viewed them as the “oppressors” or just one more kink in my desire to express myself and my individuality. It seemed conformity was the key to success during this time. As you might imagine, I struggled with that. I remember clearly, at an extended family function at Thanksgiving, I think…one of my favorite cousins had turned 21 and she was a flight attendant and I thought, “Poor thing, she’s so old!” 21 was OLD to me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
When I entered my 20’s, like many other young, idealistic, assured, “pseudo-adults”, I was certain I knew EVERYTHING (that mattered). I knew how to ‘get by’ in college courses that seemed irrelevant and I knew how to blink my eyelashes and feign the helplessness that seemed required by the guys. I knew the answer to everything (that mattered) and could debate with ease (to the death if necessary) all subject matter.
I had the world by the tail and was spinning that ‘bad-boy’ to my own drumbeat. No one would control me again. I viewed those older then me as somewhat obtuse and without purpose. I could see the logic and merit of movies like “Logan’s Run”. I wasn’t altogether certain anyone over 30 had a purpose on earth, other then to take up space. Yes, I actually said 30!
When I entered my 30’s, I felt on top of the world. Well, turning 3-0 was a bit ‘scary’ because of my previous mindset and even seeing how much wiser I had become and incredible joyous that I lived through my 20’s…I was uncertain of what was coming. I had gone from “the Breakfast Club” through “St. Elmo’s Fire” directly into “30-Something”…I hated that! I was always going to be like Demi Moore in St. Elmo’s Fire. I loved her free-spirit (without the drugs of course) and her artistic expression and her ability to be the life of a party! I’m embarrassed to admit that she was my idol. Did I actually just write that? Forgive me Father, for I have sinned…and I enjoyed it.
Okay, so the 30’s. I was going through such a time of upheaval in my life and on my journey. I moved 4 times during my 30’s and learned the art of the chameleon. I did 7 completely different jobs during that time as well. It seemed I was finally settled enough to search for my life’s meaning.
Side note: I am currently still on this search to a great extent and expect to be here for a very long time.
I met my husband when I was 34 so I was certain it was only going to get better. I could still do all the physical things I could always do. I was strong, agile, ABLE to do, lift, open, hold, carry, push, pull, etc.
I worked with a group of women in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. One of them told me this: When you are 35 you can no longer do a backwards somersault. When you are 40 you can no longer do a front somersault. When you are 45 you can no longer sit on the floor comfortable and be able to get up from it in an hour. When you are 50 you creak and crack when you get up from a chair at home.
I wouldn’t let her continue…It was downright frightening, but I was sure it didn’t apply to me. I mentally thought: “Can I still do a somersault? When was the last time I tried?” I figured if I didn’t try, it wouldn’t trip me up! I never did try it.
Something else happened in my 30’s. I began to more fully respect and admire the “elders” around me. Anyone older then me deserved respect if for nothing else then the life experience they had gained and could pass down to me if I shut up long enough to hear about it. They seemed like sages (most of them), and frankly some were beginning to look a bit “Yoda-ish” as well, with the shrinking stature, rounded back and larger facial features and hairs growing from even the most unlikely of places.
They no longer walked with precise steps, they shuffled. They groaned as they moved and they didn’t even attempt to pick stuff up or open anything. I did laugh internally when they couldn’t open anything packaged in cellophane. These were my elders.
The entry to my 40’s was extremely uneventful. I did the big party thing and felt no immediate or new response to gravity. I could still sit on the floor and get up with ease. Well, I did have to use my hand to get up and occasionally I required a moment, upon rising, to balance myself, but it was fairly unnoticed by my peers.
I looked around at my friends and they were mostly younger people. I am certain this is God’s sense of humor. It was almost overnight, that I became an “elder” at my young church. I was one of the oldest people there and they were treating me as I treated my elders in my 20’s. It ticked me off! I was not to be discarded and what I had to say mattered. You may THINK you know it all, but I’m hear to tell you…YOU DON’T, neither do I, but I’m willing to admit it!
The flip side of that coin is the young-set came to me for very serious advice. I wasn’t sure I was able to give them advice in their journey…but of course I did. The difference in me was I STOPPED and thought before I spoke. I drew from my own experience and instead of spouting some emotional response (usually); I gave a more thought out response.
The physical stuff is what’s tripping me up today and what prodded me into this writing. Recently I slept weird on my shoulder or something…and I still haven’t slept a straight 8. This thing tingles, shocks, burns, aches all night and all day! My foot is aching. I can’t always open stupid lids on jars. I can’t always open new bottles of water. I don’t have the hand strength I once did. I don’t have the memory I once did. I don’t have the abilities I once did. It is WAY too early to be declining this rapidly. Case in point: I don’t remember all the reasons I had originally thought to write this!
I now see the merit of daily vitamins and daily exercise. I can physically feel overexertion. I need breaks. I need rest. I need my 8, nightly. It’s no wonder elderly sometimes struggle with hypertension, they are stressed, people! They can’t do what they could do just a few years ago. They need help and they aren’t always getting it…at least without comment or joke. Aging is extremely humbling.
I realize I have no choice but to continue on this journey and while I sometimes look in fearful trepidation at what the future holds for me physically and mentally, I am thankful that I won’t walk it alone.
You can stop laughing now…especially if you’re younger then me! Have a wonderful Tuesday…