Someone once said, “Time sneaks up on you like a windshield on a bug.” I’m not sure who said it, but it’s true. One day you wake up to find time staring you in the face.
When my mom was in her mid-fifties, she told me she could not believe she was so old. She didn’t feel old. She said she didn’t feel any different than she did when she was in her twenties (which happened to be my age at the time). Yet, she had an older body, with new aches and pains, and an older face staring back at her in the mirror. Just wait, she said. When you’re my age, you’ll know what I mean.
So, here I am . . . over 50 . . . and I can’t believe it.
Seriously . . . I don’t feel old at all. I still ride bicycles and roll around on the floor with my dog. I wear jeans, paint my toes, and dance with the broom when no one is looking. I would never cut-and-perm my hair short and curly as a poodle, like my grandmother did. I don’t wear dentures. I don’t need meds. My face and body are my own without enhancements. And I no longer feel the need to color my hair, now that it’s faded to a pale ash blond I’m happy to live with as is.
This is not to say that someday I might not go darker or nip-and-tuck a little bit here and a smidgen there. I firmly believe you should strive to be the best you can be; and whatever it takes to make you feel good about yourself, is OK with me.
Aging gracefully is all about making the most of what you have, improving as you go, taking care of yourself, and enjoying life. Otherwise, you risk the alternative—you let yourself go, fall apart, shrivel up, and just get old.
I never thought of my mom as old.
Her mind was sharp. She played Jeopardy and Scrabble with a vengeance, and her energy level often outlasted my kids who easily fell asleep while she read stories to them. She had daily routines she followed religiously. Up early. In bed by ten. Stretching exercises. No soap ever on her face. Cold cream to remove makeup. Moisturizer. Rubber gloves when doing housework. Hats while gardening. She always took special care to protect her skin from the sun even before it became the thing to do. It was all worth the effort. At 50, her complexion was clear and smooth. There were some lines and creases at the corners of her eyes, but they came from the way her eyes scrunched together when she laughed, which she did often. Her dark hair curled gently to her chin. Her smile was serene, like a Mona Lisa.
My mom clearly loved life and herself . . . and it showed in her youthful spirit.
Still, when the clock says you’re over fifty, no matter how great you feel, you have to deal with the middle-age pigeonholes people automatically try to put you in.
Ours is a society that frowns on aging. If you want to stay relevant, you have to stay young. You have to act young. You have to look young. God forbid, you should have a face that shows your real age. TV commercials, geared towards older people, paint a whole other dismal picture. Incontinence. Erectile dysfunction. Hearing loss. Little old ladies who fall and can’t get up. Sure, these are real issues, but the message is clear—it sucks to get old.
For me, being old is still years away. It’s a state of mind, and I’m not there yet.
I don’t agonize about getting older. It doesn’t keep me up nights worrying I’ll find a new wrinkle in the morning mirror. I try to eat right, take care of myself, maintain a positive attitude, and keep busy. I simply live my life as I always have, taking in the scenery and enjoying the ride. Joan Collins once said, “Age only matters if you’re wine.” I like to think, like fine wine, I’m aging well.
My mom aged gracefully. It was so gradual, so subtle, I didn’t even notice until the very end just how thin and frail she was. Her habits had never changed. She still took care of herself, cooked her own meals, worked in the garden, and played with her dog who was quite a handful. Aging didn’t seem to bother her. About the only time I saw her wince was when someone called her “ma’am.” She told me she hated when young people did that.
It’s funny how the older you are, the younger “old” (as you once thought of it) seems.
My mom was near eighty—still sharp and independent as ever—when she made me promise to never poodle perm my hair like my grandmother had done. “It was awful,” she said. “My mother was only 50, and it made her look so old.”