What I (Mostly) Love About Aging
(Picture courtesy of my daughter Marley...who clearly inherited her math skills from me)
Today, I turn 48.
I know!! Don’t ask me how the hell that happened, but it did. I’ve officially reached my late 40s. The big 5-0 is on the horizon. And you know what? Mostly, I freaking love this whole ‘maturing’ thing! No, that is not sarcasm. I’m being totally honest. Because at 48, I don’t have time or patience for anything but the truth.
Aging, to a lot of people, is viewed as negative. Something to be regarded with dread, fear, contempt, pity, even defeat.
Just so we’re clear, I am NOT one of those people. In fact, those people kinda make me twitch. If you happen to be one of them… The ones who turn 35 and think that they’ve reached their peak. The ones who on their 40th birthday, start talking about being over the hill and doomed to deteriorate. The ones who go around referring to themselves as old-timers, geezers, grannies, past their prime. The ones who start every second sentence with, "At my" or worse, "At our age" (to which my response is always, "Speak for yourself.") If you’re one of those folks, then not only does your attitude towards aging make me slightly twitchy, I also feel sad that you see it that way.
If you ARE one of those people, maybe keep reading, o.k.? I won’t promise, because it kind of depends on your willingness to shift your perspective, but maybe I can give you even one small reason to embrace getting older.
These days, 40, 50, 60 or even 70, isn’t old. At least it doesn’t have to be. We all know, are related to, or at very least have heard of, those folks who live productive, active, meaningful lives well into their 70s, 80s and beyond. If you really have no idea what I’m talking about here, watch, and you’ll see what I mean.
Like anything, we have a choice about how we approach aging. And personally, I choose to approach my own ‘maturation process’, with a combination of reverence, curiosity, humour, determination, and even enthusiasm.
Are there days or moments when I look in the mirror, or see a photo of myself, curse gravity and think, “Whoa – how’d that happen?” You BET there are! But mostly, I’m o.k. with it because I earned every damn one of those wrinkles, lines, sags and bulges. They mean I’ve been here long enough to know a thing or two.
Here are five things I mostly love about aging….
I have a growing awareness that I only have so much time left on the planet - in this particular incarnation anyhow. This awareness gives me the kick in the pants to wake up, get real, and quit wasting time on meaningless and superficial tasks, experiences, work, relationships, etc. I have shit to do people! We ALL do! So why are so many of us willing to fritter away loads of our precious time doing the equivalent of gazing blankly into the distance whilst picking lint from our belly buttons? Or, if you prefer a different metaphor, like hamsters on a wheel that we can’t, or won’t, get off? Is spending your life exhausted, angry, resentful, sad, empty, numb, in denial, asleep to your true potential, or waiting for some imagined time in the future when you’ll be able to start living (like after retirement maybe), really what you think you were born into this world for? Do you actually think, "Life's a bitch and then you die?" Call me optimistic or delusional, but I’m pretty damn positive it isn’t! When I started to acknowledge the limited time we have in our lives, I got a lot more serious and purposeful about how and with whom I choose to spend that time. The cold hard truth is, none of us knows how long we have. So, what are we waiting for? Life is happening NOW. In this very minute. Not at some unmarked time in the future, or in some distant memory of the past.
I care less and less about what other people think. Seriously, if I could get back all the time I spent giving shits about other people’s opinion of me, I’d live to be well over 100. Actually, that IS my plan, but you get my point. Most of us, if we’re being honest, worry incessantly about how we appear to others. The thing is, most people are so wrapped up in their own lives and their own concerns, that they really don’t give a flying fuck about how our hair looks that day, or how much money we made this quarter. And if they do have time or head space to concern themselves with such things, then they're clearly leading very boring lives. So, why the hell do we concern ourselves with their opinions? Waste. Of. Time. Now that I know this, I give way less shits about other people liking or approving of me, and way more about whether I like myself. Major liberation.
I know a whole lot of valuable stuff that I didn’t know before. There truly is something to be said for life experience. That is, if you use it to gain wisdom. I know a lot of humans my age or older, who never learned a damn thing from their experience. Or at least it appears that way, because they still make the same bad decisions and have the same crappy attitudes they had when they were in their 20s. Getting older, doesn’t always mean getting wiser, but if you choose to learn from your experience, you’ll have gained so much perspective, knowledge, and sagacity, that you’ll not only feel like you can handle whatever comes your way, but you’ll also be able to pass your wisdom onto those who seek it.
I appreciate and savour things more, and don’t take things for granted like I did when I was younger. I want to remember experiences, people, feelings, events big and small. To help with this, and to help keep me sane, I try to practice mindfulness as much as possible. Nobody is mindful 24/7, but being more present, rather than ruminating about the past, fretting about the future, or obsessing about what people are currently thinking about me, allows me to fully engage with whatever I’m doing and whomever I’m with. It also allows me to make better decisions that are in alignment with my values and who I wish to be. Being fully present, makes me feel more alive and grateful for whatever I’m currently experiencing. It also helps me take better care of myself and be more conscious of the fact that this body of mine is the container that allows me to be here and to participate in life. If I don’t look after it (physically, mentally, emotionally), I’m not doing myself or my loved ones any favours. It’s a work in progress and I know that there are never any guarantees, but why not tip the odds in my favour?
I no longer freak out about little things. There was a time when the smallest thing would throw me for a major loop. The car would break down, my union would rumble about striking, the cheque didn’t arrive when it was supposed to, my favourite glass broke, I walked in the door to a mess, someone budded in line at the grocery store, and I would Lose My Mind! I wasted tons of precious time being angry, incensed, anxious, upset. After a whole lot of ACTUAL major crap going down in my life, I realize how utterly ridiculous those over- reactions were. Now, the stove breaks, the kids spill juice on the rug, my favourite sweater gets put in the dryer, my husband loses his job, and most of the time, I hardly bat an eyelash. What is the point of freaking out about things that a) have already happened, b) we can’t control, c) aren’t going to be changed one bit by our freaking out? Now, when something undesirable happens, I ask myself, ‘In the grand scheme of things, does this really matter?’ or, I remember that, I’ve/we’ve been through way worse and survived... And I have the wrinkles to prove it.
“Aging is an extraordinary process where you become
the person you always should have been.” ~ David Bowie