A musing on aging gratefully

Yesterday I turned 75. Turned 75. That’s like referring to oneself as if you’re a tuna casserole that’s gone off.

I don’t feel a day over 75 – oh, right, I am a day over 75. I don’t think of myself as being old-ish. Okay, okay! Old! Even in middle age – 45 or so – I thought anything over 50 was ancient. The older I get, of course, the older young becomes.

Once, when told she didn’t look 40, Gloria Steinem reportedly said, “This is what 40 looks like.” This is what 75 looks like, wrinkled, a touch pudgy, and grey-haired.

I prefer to think of my hair as snowy, shot through with silver, but what do I know? I’ve never been one to gloss over reality, but I did go through the coloring my hair phase to take a few years off my appearance. Why? God knows. It was a pain in the butt and dried out my already-thin hair unmercifully. Plus – get real – my skin still looked papery and wrinkled.

I like being a grey goddess, a woman of a certain age who isn’t taken with the idea of forever young. I know, I can hear you laughing. A goddess I have never been. Wrinkles and grey hair don’t bother me. Not having something worthwhile to do bothers me. I want to be productive. I want to interact with others, not just my generation, but every generation. I still have lots to learn, and I even have a few things to teach.

Life is about the things you can do; it is not about the things you can’t. I will never be the great American novelist. I have neither the discipline for the talent. That doesn’t keep me from writing. It doesn’t keep me from sending in freelance articles for publication in hopes of being paid. It doesn’t stop the flow of words that demand to be put into a story.

Age does not stop us from wanting approval and feeling sad and rejected when we don’t get it. It must never stop us from loving what we do enough to get it out there and do it. Einstein didn’t stop because he got old; he stopped because he died.

Studies show that people who stay active doing the things they enjoy, live longer and are healthier than those who sit on the sidelines waiting for the next thing to happen, and expecting whatever it is, to be bad.

Life does get harder for many of us as we age, no doubt. Overcoming that isn’t easy, but making the effort is the difference between a life well-lived and one of despondency and loneliness. You don’t have to be the life of the party, just show up and participate. You have something to contribute. We all do. Getting old is not a card any of us should play to get out of living our best life now. Stephen Hawking didn’t and neither should we.

I am grateful for every day I’ve lived, even the ones that brought me to my knees, where I learned to lean on the Great Comforter and on my friends. I count every day a blessing, a gift, something to be opened with joy and anticipation. Seventy-five and counting! Thank you, Lord.


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