My mother used to say, ”It’s better to age gracefully than to fight it!” When I was young, this advice seemed quite sensible. What a good way to look at the natural process of aging! But now that I’M aging??? I wonder just how gracefully I’m doing it.
I find myself experiencing things I don’t remember my mother experiencing. Sometimes I wonder if that’s why she could age so gracefully – she didn’t really know what it meant to age. I get out of a chair after an extended time reading or watching TV and can’t move properly. I limp, while uttering the words, ”ooh, eeh, aaah, ow,” until I finally get rolling. When I get out of my car after a 30 minute ride and have to walk across the road to collect my mail (yes, we still have rural delivery), I can barely get one foot to go in front of the other until I’m on the way back.
In other ways too, aging gracefully is difficult. I find myself in conversations like this: “Well, the most extraordinary thing happened earlier on Tuesday. Actually, I think it was Monday because that’s when I had a doctor’s appointment, and I got stuck in traffic on the way home. No, actually it was Wednesday. I remember telling Fred I’d meet him at the library by 5:00. No: wait. I guess it was Monday because after the doctor’s appointment, I mailed that package I was planning to get out the week before…anyway, I walked into a room and all these people stood up…[pause]…you know I guess it was Tuesday….”.
Get my point? Why do we feel it essential to relive whole segments of our lives just to relate an interesting (or in some cases, not so interesting) event? Or, is it just me? My mother never did that!
Then there’s the situation in which people tell me things I said or did that I’d swear never happened. When this happens, I just figure they don’t really remember and are trying to pin the whole thing on me. Really, I’m sure they’re wrong; I never said or did what they say I said or did. Then, in the middle of the night, I’ll wake up with a start and realize…oh oh…I DID say or do that!
If all that isn’t bad enough, then there’s the situation where I try to change the TV channel with the telephone or answer the remote. I mean…really!!!! But, it happens! Or, I carry the TV remote into the kitchen when I hear the kettle boiling for tea, and spend the next 45 minutes looking for it in the TV room, only to resort to having to change the channel by finding the channel+/channel- button on the TV itself–0h, woe is me…that’s black and dark and can’t be seen without a flashlight!
Oh, and I’m absolutely scared to death I’m going to have a car accident. I’m so confident when I drive that I don’t pay attention. After 44 years of driving, who needs to pay attention? Duh! Apparently, I do. The other day I nearly ran into an oncoming car because I suddenly realized that I had spilled my coffee on the steering wheel (how could I not notice) and I looked down to be sure I hadn’t soiled my outfit for the day and would have to go home and change. It’s happened before, too, when I looked off into a field watching a doe and her babies. For some unknown reason, the car seemed to veer toward a guard rail at the side of the road. I’m not even going to mention the adjusting of my kindle or iPod to find my place on the audiobook I’m listening to!
When my mother advised “grow old gracefully”, I guess she was talking about resisting dying your hair (which I don’t do) or having a facelift (something I couldn’t afford even if I wanted to endure the pain involved, which I don’t). Now I’m beginning to realize that, in today’s world, as with everything else, it seems growing old gracefully means so much more and is so much more complicated than it was when my mother was growing old. It means accepting your limitations: whether they’re physical things you can’t do any more because of the stiffness (I still don’t know why my mother never groaned going up and down stairs or getting into or out of a chair. Wasn’t I noticing or was she holding back – gracefully?) as well as the idea that you must pay closer attention to what is going on around you. What it means today is that you need to be much more vigilant because there is so much MORE going on around you than there was in her day.
Although I still feel like the 15 year old I was in 1964 in my heart, I need to pay attention to the fact that I’m not that person anymore in so many ways–to ignore this fact could be dangerous! So, Mom? I AM growing old gracefully, but the world is moving so fast and changing at such a speed that it’s hard to keep up.