Most days, I manage to forget just exactly how old I really am. Never mind the fact that I’m always a little bit shocked when I look in the mirror, especially first thing in the morning when I’m not wearing any make up and my face is still puffy and my hair looks like what we used to call a “rat’s nest.” Or that my trips to the mall tend to focus only on stores that cater to women of a certain age, which means that the clothes they sell are designed for maximum coverage and almost always feature a “control panel” somewhere in the mid section. Or that I can no longer read anything without a pair of really strong reading glasses. Or that I am now routinely offered senior citizen’s discounts by clerks who don’t look old enough to hold a job. Denial is a wonderful thing, and over the years, I’ve gotten really, really, good at it.
But every once in a while something comes a long to remind me that my youthful days are now ancient history, and today was one of those days.
My daughter had a birthday today. I knew it was coming, since it lands on the same day every year. I also knew how old she was, since it’s not that hard to count to thirty-two. (Although I admit that up until a few days ago, I was under the impression that she was going to turn thirty-one, so I probably shouldn’t be bragging on my counting skills.) Yet there’s something about knowing that my daughter, whose birth I can remember as if it happened just yesterday, is turning thirty-two that just makes me feel old.
But the more I think about it, the more I realize that what I’m really concerned about isn’t the actual number of years I’ve been on this earth. I’m just trying to avoid behaving the way I have always thought old people did: longing for the “good old days,” afraid to try new things, becoming obsessed with my health, and in general, letting the “young” people do all the important stuff and have all the fun. Which, if you think about it, is just plain silly.
People of all ages are still actively engaged in the world around them, working hard to help others and contributing to their communities. People of all ages are still having fun, still pursuing their interests, and still making new friends. I think that the time has come for me to stop being afraid that turning a certain age means I have to somehow let go of the essence of who I really am and how I want to live my life.
Yes, my body isn’t as strong as it was and I have far more sags, bags and wrinkles than I would like. But I can live with that. It’s just the price I pay for the privilege of having lived for over sixty years, and all that I have experienced and learned in that time. Underneath it all, I’m still me and always will be, no matter what my age. Which means that getting older might not be so bad after all….