Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.
Honestly, I think I’m 45 years old. The weird thing is my kids are about the same age. Hmm. I asked my husband if he felt like he was 45. He feels more like 50 or maybe 55 (he’s had some minor stress-related side effects lately). If you get technical, neither of us is right, of course. We aren’t defrauding Medicare. But people tell us we don’t look our ages.
No, I’m not about to launch into a sales pitch for some new gunk you can smear on your face. No one swoons when my husband and I reveal our true ages. We don’t look that good. I think we look young because we never accepted the “inevitable” truth that you have to sober up as you age. We’ve looked for simple fun since we couldn’t afford anything extravagant. We hiked (and had romantic rendezvous in out-of-the-way places) and trained our own horses (the first we had ever ridden) and tried snowshoes and steam trains and creative writing. We played a lot and worked together a lot, too. Research suggests that couples who share novel experiences associate the excitement of the experience with their relationship and end up feeling happier. For years, people thought we were newlyweds.
This year people started treating me like I was growing old. That hurt. Me? Old? Surely they have the wrong person. The wrinkly woman in the mirror is just a figment, isn’t she? But I couldn’t pretend people weren’t starting to talk around me—as though I couldn’t possibly really understand. My experience and qualifications were suddenly insignificant. And they stopped considering me when they were planning for the future. “What would she know?”
When I tried to plan, I ran full-speed into a brick wall. Ouch! I don’t have an unlimited future, and I no longer have the luxury of pretending I do. Yes, I realize no one knows how long a particular lifeline might be, but when you really are 45, you assume the road ends miles and miles ahead—farther ahead than you can see. You aren’t always right, but only insurance sales people insist you think about it. My husband and I adopted a donkey as a companion for my horse. Donkeys can live 50 years; 30 is normal. They need equine companionship. (I’ll tell you a donkey love story some time about how our donkey loved my horse.) When my horse died unexpectedly, we were faced with either adopting another equine or relinquishing our donkey to people who could. We weren’t prepared to start training all over again. I’m not good at math, but when you add 50 years to our numbers, the prospects of either my husband or I surviving to bury the donkey weren’t good. We had to give him up—out of love for him. The future and maybe our ability to determine it had walked away and left us behind. We were deeply, deeply saddened.
What do you do when you can’t plan ahead?
Not all plans require a 50-year stretch. Thank goodness. So we started planning for now and not-so-far-into-the-future. And we stopped doing things we were doing to prepare to live many years ahead—stopped working at jobs that took more than they gave and for people who weren’t supportive. It’s actually fun to know you don’t have to be the good kid who pleases the authorities any longer. Job evaluations have typically become rigid and unrealistic, demanding that employees endure lives that are dangerously unbalanced and without happiness. People are expected to be creative and upbeat when they’re exhausted, overworked, and underpaid. My husband and I were dragged away from evenings out together and school plays for meetings and superficial “emergencies” and “other duties as assigned.” I was clogging my heart with globs of frustrated ambitions. But no more.
Another fabulous benefit of aging is bathing suits. Yes, bathing suits. For how many years did we all fret over that tiny roll of extra flesh in the wrong place, worrying that someone would look and say loudly enough to be heard, “Can you believe she lets herself go like that?” Now the little blobs of flesh—or big blobs of flesh, or countless blobs of flesh, as the case may be—are irrelevant. Now the voice says, “Look at that adorable old woman. Can you believe she’s still swimming on the beach at her age?” Ta daa!
And so I fret over Medicare Part B and play the evil queen with my grandkids and make a pilgrim for Thanksgiving out of a toy emu a friend sent from Australia. I know I may live longer than I expect and wish I had been born wealthy, although my doctor just shakes her head when I tell her people live and die and I’m not going to claw my way into an unnatural, really old age with a series of painful surgeries. These pages are a rude gesture to those who think aging people are all irrelevant and pointless. I read once that the only evolutionary reason women live past menopause is to care for the grandchildren. Oh, I intend to do a heck of a lot more than that. I think I’ll just have fun and maybe be naughty for a change. I’ll definitely not be quiet. In the meantime, I’ll share my joy with my grandchildren and anyone else who wants to join us. My daughter always wanted a sister…