When I was a child I was impatient to grow up; but, like most children, I never wanted to get old. When I thought of getting old, I conjured up images of cranky people with wrinkled, frail bodies, slow minds, and little interest in life.
Those images must have come from fairy tales that I loved because I knew very few folks like that. My childhood was filled with interesting, active folks and even the ones that I considered old were fun to be around.
My fraternal grandma, with whom I spent a great deal of time, was spry, happy, and very active for all of her 90+ years. Nonetheless, I never wanted to be old and I often prayed that phrases such as, “You’re only as old as you feel,” “Take care of yourself and you’ll be young forever,” “Age is just a number,” were true.
Now, I no longer care if they are true or false. I count myself lucky to have lived long enough to get old and to realize that my dreaded childhood images old folks were not accurate. At last, I understand, appreciate and enjoy the freedom that comes with aging and I’ve discovered that being old suits me just fine.
I really don’t worry when it takes me a little longer that it used to to remember things. I know that I’ll eventually recall the important stuff. Meanwhile, I have the freedom of not remembering things that used to upset me and forgetting how to hold a grudge.
I don’t see as clearly as I once did and surprisingly that adds to my sense of freedom. I know the wrinkles are there on my face; but, because they don’t come into sharp focus, I have the freedom to ignore them. This lack of sharp focus works with the frustrating habits of family and friends; if I don’t work at bringing these things into sharp focus they don’t seem to matter as much.
My hearing isn’t what it used to be, so I’m free to pretend not to hear when someone says “you have to keep busy,” or “take things slow and easy,” or “act your age.” Another plus of aging is that folks expect my mind to be little foggy; this makes it easier to look blank and pretend not to understand what I find disagreeable.
When it comes to taking advice, I do so only if the advice is something that I intended to do anyway. I’m quicker to question the wisdom and judgment of others and slower to question my own. Since I know my wants and needs better than anyone else, I’m more qualified to determine what is best for me
I’m not as demanding of family and friends as I used to be. Sure, in the past some of them have broken my heart; but, my broken heart always mends and the process of mending adds strength, understanding, and compassion to my soul. So, I willing give my friends and family permission to be imperfect and in so doing, I allow myself the freedom to be imperfect, too.
I offer no apology when I choose to read, watch TV, play computer games, or write my column until 4 AM. As for sleeping ‘til noon, dancing with myself to those wonderful tunes of the 50, 60 &70's, or crying my eyes out over a lost love, I do those things whenever the mood strikes. I don’t need anyone’s permission, nor do I worry about what they think.
I’m lucky enough to wear proof of my youthful laughter etched into my face. I know many who died before their faces were etched with that evidence of their living. So I view my laugh lines as reminders of my life experiences – of past fun and triumphs.
I have a news flash for those who cast pitying glances my way as I walk along the beach: I know that my one piece swim suit isn’t very attractive and that it doesn’t quite hide the sags, bags, and bumps that are part of old age and I don’t care. Also, I have a message for those who laugh and whisper “Hope the old girl doesn’t break anything” when they see me attempting to body surf. I pray that you live long enough to get old and I hope you find the freedom to enjoy it as much as I do.
Do I like being old? Hell yes, I do.
I’ve seen the alternative and dying young isn’t a very appealing option. Aging has given me great freedom to be exactly who I want to be and to really like the person I’ve evolved into. I know that I’m not going to live forever; nonetheless, I won’t let that knowledge encroach upon my freedom to enjoy life while I’m still here.
I won’t waste time fretting about what should have been, what could have been, or what the future may or may not hold. I’m gonna enjoy the freedom aging brings; I’m gonna cherish my existing relationships; I’m gonna encourage new relationships; I’m gonna respect your choices and hope you respect mine.
Last, but not least, when given the option to sit it out or dance – I’m gonna dance.