It turns out a ten-part journey to peace with aging was probably a little ambitious. (Catch up on the other pieces here.) Not that there aren’t endless topics, but writing about things of interest to more than only me has become less obvious. Even writing ten things of interest to me is less obvious. I’ve explored the things taking up the most brain space on this topic: wrinkles, relationships, athletic performance, legacy. Mental acuity should probably be on the list, but I feel nimble enough mentally, so not borrowing things for worry.
Part of what’s difficult to identify is what things on my mind are actually related to aging or simply things on my mind. In the broadest sense, everything is related to aging, right? We live, we age. However, the influence of time affects us differently with passing decades. I recently made a statement I’ve heard other people utter once past fifty. “In my mind, I feel thirty but I look in the mirror and realize the disconnect!”
I don’t really feel thirty. I feel better than thirty. Wiser than thirty certainly. More settled; no longer paying my dues professionally, not worrying about paying all the bills on time or wondering when my kids will finish their homework without needing me to sit right there beside them. I understand what to flip out about and what to let slide. I argue way less often…way less often. There are so many advantages to not being thirty.
The other side of the coin…things great about being thirty… are things I’ve already mentioned. Legs look good in short skirts, short shorts. No wrinkles. More available energy, and patience, for a relationship. A faster 5k without hip or ankle issues. Fewer fashion don’ts. No missing my kids. (They were right there in the same house.)
I digress. (For the record, digression has far more to do with my typical conversational style than it does with any change or decline in mental condition or acuity. I digress often.) So rather than push out two more possible ways to random and possibly not very interesting stories, I’ll leave some final, random, and hopefully relevant thoughts as I conclude the ten-part series with this eighth reflection:
- Age is just a number, trite and true. The number can be a good guide…for example, the number (used to be 50, more recently 45) marks the first colonoscopy! But the numbers overall aren’t so predictive anymore. I’m not sure when I’ll decide to retire. I still scowl at AARP mailings. I’m eligible for Silver Sneakers but I’d rather be in spin class with the twenty and thirty-somethings.
- Transparency is good. I find myself to be far more transparent than when I was thirty. Though my adolescent insecurities will always visit me and play with my mind a little bit, I am secure enough these days to be who I am and let you see it. I know how to withhold the truth of who I am to protect myself from whatever it is I imagine might happen otherwise but there’s no need anymore. I’d much rather confess the things I don’t know or show my rough edges and move on. Transparency is more honest and honesty is frankly, an easier kind of life to live.
- I may always have regrets. I originally had on the list for this series an examination of parenting regrets. Ugh, no. Still emotionally draining if I jump in that rabbit hole. My kids are great. I mean great. I am so lucky. A child psychologist I worked with long ago once said we can’t mold our kids into who we want them to be but we can surely screw them up. I wanted to be the perfect parent so as not to screw them up. I wanted my kids’ childhoods to be pure magic. I wanted to have unending humor and patience and energy. I wanted to be entirely consistent and logical and fair and wise and empathic. I wasn’t. I still wish I had never raised my voice, repeated myself over and over when I got frustrated, or gave up during homework hell because patience was not my virtue. And yet, look, here they are, grown up, responsible, happy, independent, thoughtful, excellent men.
- Social anxiety doesn’t rule but isn’t gone. I still am not especially good in social situations with people I don’t know. I still am loathe to be anywhere pressed in the middle of a crowd, particularly a shopping mall. I’ve gotten over worrying about my social adeptness; I’ve learned how to ask a few questions and smile and shake hands and hope the other person can take it from there. I will probably never go anywhere there are lots of people moving around like ants on crack in a finite space. My unease also occurs at concerts or events like the Women’s March or March Against Violence. My attendance depends on motivation. Showing up for something I believe in, yes. Wanting to find new boots or a white shirt, no. That’s what online shopping is for.
- Change is hard. I’d like to make a change professionally. I have deep respect for the work I do now but I’d like to spend the next 5–8 years invested in work for which I have wild passion. There is risk in stepping out of what I know. Risk is scary.
- I am grateful. Every problem I have at this point are the first world problems of a successful healthy white woman. Poverty, hunger, homelessness, addiction, lack of clean water, domestic violence, chronic disease are among the problems I’ve never had to confront in my own life. My city isn’t in the middle of armed conflict. I don’t live in a refugee camp. I’m quite sure the gratitude I remember to express every day is woefully insufficient.
Getting older is desirable, particularly when considering the alternative. It does invite the fear of physical, cognitive and aesthetic changes not on anyone’s list of “I can’t wait til that happens!”, but I remind myself I get to feel those fears only because I continue to be gifted with this journey we call life.
Did you miss a part of this series? Catch up, and see Donna’s other work here.