Did you look forward to getting older?
Do you remember wondering how it would feel to be grownup when you were in school? How about wondering how it would feel to be old? Well the reality is never quite what you expect. And people aren’t generally very forthcoming about sharing the reality.
I made the cut. I am now old.
I am resigned to having crossed the imaginary line separating regular people from old people. I have no idea when it happened. It wasn’t recognizable at the time. I just know that today, by every one of society;s measures, I am old. So what is it like being old. Well the honest truth is – It sucks!
Three dimensions of aging
The way I see it there are three different dimensions of the aging process. Each of them has it’s own unique impact on life – both your own and the people with whom you interact. The first one is simply your appearance. Fight it as you will, the skin sags, the hair grays (or falls out), the posture slumps. It is easy to stay in denial about this one because it is difficult to look at yourself. and easy to avoid mirrors. The second is how you fell about yourself- your feeling of mastery and control of circumstances and life. The third is the one nobody ever talks about- it is how you feel physically and yes I am talking about pain.
Let’s start with looks.
In many ways this is the easiest one to deal with because you really can avoid looking at yourself most of the time. It is easy to keep the image you formed long ago when you were in your prime. Of course you don’t fool anybody because they see all the deterioration. Gradually, you learn to ignore the old guy staring back when you shave. What really penetrates the denial is a photograph. A photograph locks in the reality that you work so hard to deny. Old people don’t like photographs.
Then there is your feeling about yourself.
All my life I have been waiting to feel like a grownup. It is no different now that I am old. I still wait for the wisdom and confidence that I always saw in my parents and school teachers. It hasn’t come yet. In fact, even at my advanced years I feel pretty much the same as when I was 16 with the one difference being I no longer have to worry about embarrassing hyperactivity in my nether region. Other than that, I’m still not much different from the insecure stripling of 50 years ago. I guess in our own minds we never really grow up.
But what about number 3?
When you consider those first two areas, aging is something that most of us can handle with relative ease. Things are different from your younger years but similar enough that you can finesse your way along. When it comes to the third one, however, the one nobody talks about, it is a brave new world. The world of pain.
To be continued.