I’ve never worried about aging. Maybe it’s because I’m used to the stiffness and aching joints, thanks to the rheumatoid arthritis I’ve lived with for more than 40 years. My body has always felt old.
So getting older didn’t bother me a bit. Until I got cancer.
Then, I worried that it might not happen. That I might not get any older.
Age doesn’t matter unless you no longer have one.
I get that there is the undeniable physical decline that comes with aging that isn’t all that dreamy. Incontinence, don’t want to do that. Loss of independence. Memory loss. Would rather not. But mostly, today, right now, I’m just hoping for the chance to get older.
The cancer has been gone for years and I’m grateful. But, to worry now about what might happen to me when I’m in my 70s, or 80s or 90s seems a little snarky, a little ungrateful. Not everybody gets that kind of time. To let the time I do have be filled with anything other than gratitude for the hair I still have, (hey, I even have a bonus one on my chin) or the people I am still able to love, the beauty I can still see — just feels a little narrow.
I am not who I was when I was 20. Certainly not in body. I’ve gained weight. I have wrinkles and stiffer joints (if that’s even possible), glasses, and my hair is most definitely going gray now — though it’s not quite the Cruella De Vil, my daughter would have you believe.
My mental, emotional, and spiritual states have changed too.
No, I am not who I was in my 20s and 30s. Thank goodness
The Benefits of Getting Old
Now, I am older and I am also more alive. I am engaged in my life. I live with a greater awareness and compassion. I don’t take it all personally. I’ve stopped trying to impress and I’m courageous enough now, to laugh at myself, admit my messiness and mistakes. Heck, I don’t have this life thing figured out. There are days (Read: years) that I don’t do it very well. I am triggered to anger and anxiety. I’ve gotten a little too good at nagging.
But, I’m brave enough to apologize, now. I no longer lose my identity in my mistakes nor am I defined by my achievements. Though I don’t mind a little smack talk when I’m playing Words with Friends.
I’m willing to try and fail because I know I can handle it now. I have so many times before. I’ve fallen on my face literally (hellooo, movie theater parking lot) and figuratively, and I’ve learned to get back up and start again. I’m able to ask for help now too. I don’t have to do it all alone. Not always. Sometimes I’m afraid. Sometimes I’m weak. But I am more resilient and stronger than ever. Age has taught me that it’s okay to be all of that.
The Biggest Gift
But here’s the biggest thing, the biggest gift I’ve gained from getting older: I say “I love you more often.” I say it out loud. In person. On the phone. I say it by text and e-mail, on Facebook. I mean it. I’m no longer afraid to say it.
I used to be. It seemed so touchy feely and that is so not me. I was always worried that others might be uncomfortable, or perhaps the phrase felt too intimate. Or maybe they wouldn’t share the feeling and I’d feel exposed and vulnerable and rejected. Now I don’t care. Now, I say it when I feel it. No matter. I don’t even need to hear it in return.
I am all of this now, because I have lived long enough to learn how to be all of this. Life has smacked me around a bit – like it has you. But, it has also taught me to be more of myself. To be authentic and true.
Sometimes who I am is passionate (er, my husband describes this a bit differently) and messy and inconvenient and noisy and naggy. Sometimes.
Sometimes my days feel disappointing and hard and scary and sad. Sometimes.
But other times this life is so warm, and inspiring and awesome that I have no words (which sucks for a writer). On these days my physical body can’t contain all of the good feeling so it seeps into my soul and uplifts my spirit.
Aging has colored me gray. It has slowed me up and broken me down. It’s also opened me up.
There is peace in that, and freedom too. So check out my wrinkles and my gray hair and my stiff and achy joints that show up in my drunken, wobbly gait. I am getting older by the day. For sure.
And, I am so hoping that trend continues.
Because if this is what aging is, I’m in. Sign me up for another day. Please. Or another year. Another few decades, perhaps, and I promise I’ll say I love you out loud.