I recently got a glimpse of the inevitable, and I didn’t like what I saw. I tried to turn my back and run away, but my body wouldn’t let me. And that was just the point, the big scary point. My body was sore and achy. I had pulled a muscle in the back of my hip and as a result, I couldn’t move rapidly or easily without feeling pain. Now that, in itself, isn’t so uncommon, but it got me thinking about age. Old age, that is. After all, I had just turned 55, and two weeks later my wife Eileen joined the over-50 club. As they say, we aren’t getting any younger…
In spite of the recent complaints from my hip, I don’t really feel old. My mind hasn’t told me that I’m old. I think of the elderly as folks with white hair who hobble down the street and take their time sitting down, pulling out their glasses or buttoning their coats. Personally, I don’t identify with how they move; rather, I see their slowed tempos as something particular to them. At least I did until now. Which got me worried.
Are aches and pains and slow-to-work muscles a sign of what’s to come? Was this senior moment, manifesting itself in my body rather than my mind, a foreshadowing of a more permanent condition? Might I really become slower and less steady on my feet? I was astounded. How could this happen to me? I’ve always been healthy and active, with a nimble and flexible body. In fact, I consider my agility as one of my defining characteristics. How could I become otherwise?
Now, you’re probably thinking, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Aging is unavoidable and one of its downsides is a slow deterioration of the body’s ability to function efficiently. Now I know this as well as the next gal, but I also know that it’s not supposed to happen to me. Never to me… As I say this, I flashback to my youth, to that feeling of invincibility and the sense that I can go anywhere, do anything. You know that positivism. You probably see it in the teens and twenty-somethings of today. But, I’m not that young, so I should know better. The problem is that my rational mind knows this, but my wishful thinking mind does not.
A new question surfaces: can wishful thinking win over what’s rational, over the hard and fast reality that the longer we live, the older and frailer our bodies get? I want to say yes, as I believe that one’s attitude determines one’s level of happiness in life. That is, if you choose to have a good attitude, you will be more content and appreciative, no matter what happens. No matter if your hair turns grey, your skin wrinkles, your back gets cranky, or your knees wobble when you walk. The challenge, of course, is to accept the inevitable realities of time on our bodies and to embrace them in a positive manner.
Can I face that challenge gracefully? It’s a good question, one to be answered in the years to come…
Postscript: I labored for almost a week on this blog entry, unable to arrive at a satisfactory resolution. I don’t feel as if I’ve finished what I need to say on the topic of aging. On the one hand, maybe that’s a good sign: maybe I haven’t yet reached the point in my life where I can realistically consider old age. That would be the optimistic view. On the other hand, all of this thinking about aging has depressed me. So, to take the weight off my shoulders, I’m sending these words off, into the blogosphere. If you’ve read this far, I’m guessing that you can relate to some of what I’ve said. And if so, I’d love to hear your take on age-old old age feelings. After all, we’re all moving in the same direction.