Getting Better

As my 92-year old mother often tells me, it’s hard to be old.  I may be almost thirty years younger, but trust me, I know what she’s talking about.  I’ve never been a vain person (or had reason to be), but never before has looking in a mirror resulted in quite so much shock and dismay.  It’s been years since I could read a book without a pair of reading glasses, but now I also need the glasses when I go shopping, because otherwise I can’t read the price tags and expiration dates.  And when I first started walking shelter dogs over twenty years ago, I was happy to walk any dog that needed to go out, no matter how strong or rowdy.  These days I gravitate toward the dogs that are smaller and calmer, desperately hoping that someone else will get to the mastiffs and rottweilers before my walking shift is over.

There was a time when I took my pants to the tailor to have the waistline taken in, because my waist has always been one size smaller than my hips.  Nowadays, I take my pants to the tailor only if I need them hemmed…..and that’s not because my hips have gotten smaller.  I could go on, but the list is too depressing.  I know all these physical changes are a normal part of aging, but that doesn’t always make them easier to accept.

Still, the part of aging I find hardest isn’t the loss of my youthful vigor or looks, but the loss of the many people, both family and friends, that I have known and loved.  I know I’m lucky to have my mother still in my life, as many of my friends have become the oldest generation in their immediate family.   But I still miss my father and my grandparents, and all the other people who passed away before I was ready to let them go.  Loss of loved ones is a part of aging that can be very hard to accept.

Thankfully, there is an upside to growing older, and that is that once we’ve reached the point where we have more years behind us than we do ahead, we’ve also had the time to learn a few things.  We’ve figured out just what a precious gift good health is, even if we can’t read the small print anymore.  We treasure our friends and family even more because we know they won’t be with us forever, and we also know how much we’ll miss them when they’re gone.  If we’ve been paying attention at all, we finally realize just how precious and fragile life really is, and that so much of the stuff we spend our time worrying and fretting about doesn’t matter in the least.

The good thing about aging is we often become more honest with ourselves and with others, daring to share our true selves with the world and allowing those around us to do the same.  We know how important it is to support each other through hard times, and we learn the value of overlooking so many of the things we’ve allowed to divide us.  If we let it, aging can actually bring out our best selves, which is always a good thing.  Even if we can’t actually see it in the mirror……

95 thoughts on “Getting Better

  1. Such a true post. My mother is 94. She was so vain she had a face lift in her 40’s. She always felt she looked “old.” I think it helped me to realize that everyone ages. Period!The neck thing is what surprised me the most!!! But I’m not wearing turtlenecks!

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    • I know what you mean! I inherited my father’s neck, which means it’s very droopy even though I’m still in my early 60s. But as you say, we all age, and just accepting it is the best thing. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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  2. Beautifully written, Ann. I agree with everything you wrote. Because aging is on-going, just as I get used to something – another challenge comes along. But gratefulness is what I hold onto. I appreciate the little things and health is the most important.
    How wonderful that you have your mother and her perspective to guide you!

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    • Thanks, Judy! Aging is ongoing, and it does seem as if the minute we get used to something, then something else changes. But at least it does make us appreciate the good things more… And yes, I’m very grateful my mom is still with us, and going strong!

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  3. All so true Ann. I try not to look too much at the body changes, and not wearing my glasses certainly helps! I absolutely embrace the honesty ideal as I age. I think there would be people I knew years ago that would be surprised to meet me today. It is not just the physical that has changed, but there has been an evolution in every aspect of who I am.

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    • It sounds as if you are aging very wisely, Deb! I think the best thing that can come from it is if we discover our true selves, and fine the courage to let others do the same. The physical changes are for the birds, but the emotional changes are actually for the better, I think!

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  4. Great read …. the ageing process takes us along lots of new paths, and like all journeys, we often do not know what is around the corner. So theses days my mirror of choice is a rear-vision mirror, where I can look back at the past and I try to avoid that mirror on the wall which reminds me of my own ageing.

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    • Thank you! And yeah, I tend to look in the actual mirrors much less than I used to, and I’ve never been vain. But aging really is a journey, and not always a bad one either. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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  5. They say that youth is wasted on the young, as they have the energy but maybe not the wisdom. But I suppose it’s a fair tradeoff, could you imagine being old and breaking down and not having the wisdom that can come with age?

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  6. Ann you are so very fortunate to still have your mother with you!! I sometimes forget that I’m “old” and my 16 year old self thinks I can do things (physically) that my almost 65 yr old body just won’t do no mater how much encouragement the inner child gives! As far as looking in the mirror – I long ago accepted the increasing wrinkles and grey/white hairs cropping up and taking over. I have fallen in love with myself and that is a much better thing than the uncertainty and angst over appearance I struggled with as a teen and well into my twenties…

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    • It can be challenging for sure, especially in terms of strength and endurance. But you’re right about accepting it, and even being proud of our age. We’ve earned those wrinkles! Thanks for your comment!

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  7. I’ll be lying if I say I’m not aging. Okay, maybe not in the digits that you are but will soon be there. However, with each passing year, I do realise the pain the loss of loved ones cause especially those whom we aren’t ready to let go of yet. This post of yours was so true to life that it made me realise – what I’m losing today maybe someone else’s loss tomorrow.
    Cheers to life!

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    • Yes, I think there are parts of aging that are rather universal…we all experience them. The good thing is, it dos make us value life more, ours and those we love. Thanks for reading and for your insightful comment!

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  8. This blog captured so many of the things we all struggle with as we age. Nice to know I am not the only one that sometimes looks in the mirror to find a totally different person looking back at me. The search for any hair that is not grey compared to just a few years ago when I was shocked to find the grey amongst the red/copper ones. Time changes all perspectives. I didn’t know turtlenecks were an neck hiding technique…I-have always worn them, guess I was a trendsetter before my age.😂

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    • I’ve always liked turtlenecks simply because they’re so warm in the Winter. But I guess, like scarves worn around the neck, they can also hide a saggy chin and neckline (which I do have.) So as far as I’m concerned, that means wearing one is a win/win! And yes, I think the way we picture ourselves and what we actually look like become further and further apart as we age. I know some people say they embrace the wrinkles and grey hair, but the best I can do is accept them. If I had the choice, I’d rather not have wrinkles and grey, I admit that!

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  9. This was so tenderly written, Ann. Life does change quite a bit as we grow older, and as you say, sometimes it changes in ways we care a little less for. But another thing you said makes sense too – when life changes – when clothes don’t quite fit, when the hair’s not all there like before and the colour is changing, when we can’t work nonstop all through the day as we once did or read without our specs… – they’re all signs that it’s time to change the roads we’ve always walked, to try new paths, to begin to look at life from a different perspective, even live more unhindered! If we could only do that, I think we’d handle aging a lot more beautifully and gracefully.

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    • That is so very true! I think aging is harder to accept when we stubbornly keep on trying to live our lives exactly as we always have. That just doesn’t work anymore, and only results in frustration. But if we’re brave enough to try new things, or even accept new identities, then we realize that it’s not so bad after all. Being a grandmother has helped me with this, because I honestly feel that the gift of grandchildren more than makes up for the things that aging has taken away! And that’s true for many other things as well, because aging does open up certain doors that were closed when we were younger. Thanks for your sweet comment!

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    • I do too! If we could really see a part of ourselves in other people, and keep our focus only on the things that truly matter, people would be so much kinder and more tolerant. And boy, would that help make our society better!

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  10. Such a good perspective. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the physical challenges. I had my annual physical yesterday, and when the doc asked if I had any concerns, I had a long list of complaints to talk about. You’ve given me a great reminder about the positive side of aging!

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    • Yes, those doctor’s visits get more complicated, don’t they? Sadly, it does seem as if our good health is another things we lose as we age, slowly but surely. I take inspiration from my mom in that department: she has a curved spine, really bad feet and arthritis in her hands. And yet she’s still very active and enjoys life, and will tell you that “I’m in great health for my age!” I think it really is about attitude, sometimes even the physical aspects. And thanks for your kind comment…I think it does help us to focus on the “upside” of aging!

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  11. Meaningful post Ann. The funny thing I find is that even though we are obviously getting older, we still feel the same as we always did. Oh, there are the aches and pains and there are moments when you realize you can’t do things as fast or as long, but you are still the same you. I am with you on losing friends and family, many at too young an age. In addition to the sadness in the loss, that does tend to give one a sense of their own mortality. My saying about getting old is “Its better than the alternative.” At this point I am still happy to age gracefully or otherwise. Stay well and enjoy the wisdom that comes with age. Allan

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    • Yes, that’s one of the mysteries of aging…how does our body change so much, when the essence of our spirit (or our soul, or however you want to define it) stays essentially the same? Yes, we gain knowledge and hopefully wisdom, but our personality stays with us our entire lives. I think that is why we are sometimes shocked when we look in the mirror or try to do something that is now too hard for us. And I agree, aging is much better than the alternative!

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  12. A beautiful post, Ann. Hugs to you for inspiring a “pause” in our day to reflect on our loved ones we miss and giving thanks for those precious memories they have left imprinted on our hearts, which is far more everlasting than any of the aging our bodies will have done. And I am certain you will have left many behind as well…

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  13. Mother died at 102 years of age, and for years had expressed surprise that she had a daughter who was a pensioner! While in hospital in her late nineties following a bout of pneumonia she was approached by someone from admin who wanted her to sign a ‘do not resuscitate’ form…without explaining the real meaning of it. Mother declined. The woman persisted, telling mother that she had no quality of life anyway, so why not sign. Mother blew her backwards bow legged for making the ssumption that because one was old one had no life worth living. Mother certainly did…she had friends and the families of friends, she had interests she followed, and though later restricted in mobility still managed to get out and about if there was something she wanted to see or do. Age certainly did not wither her!
    I appreciate your take on ageing…..yes, indeed, we can overlook the things that divide us from other decent people, but I would also suggest that the experience we have gained allows us to see – even without glasses – that there are some pretty indecent people about as well – usually in power – and plenty of snake oil merchants too and we should make our voices heard when they raise their heads.

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    • Good for your mother for facing “agism” squarely in the face and fighting back! People are so wrong to assume that just because someone is old, they have no quality of life. While it’s true my mom can’t do some of the things she used to love (sewing, driving, etc.), she is still enjoying life. She plays bridge, is active in her church, sings in several choirs, and helps so many others who live in her retirement community. She absolutely has a good quality of life!

      I also agree that aging lets us see things more clearly, and that our tolerance for lies and bullying goes down, which is a good thing. When I wrote about overlooking the things that divide us, I was referring more to how quick we are these days to adopt a “them and us” attitude, based on differences that really shouldn’t make us become “enemies.” I also believe there is a difference between overlooking abuse and overlooking differences. Thanks for your comment….it is always good to get the chance to clarify!

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  14. This came at a really good time for me. I’ve been seeing my aged mom in the mirror now, not just in my face, but my body as well. And I do miss her. Even last night, I was missing my grandmother, who died in 1961 when I was only 12. I hope this “life flashing before my eyes”doesn’t portend my demise is coming soon. Anyway, your message was right on.

    >

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  15. Well said. One time I transferred all my photos to new albums, going all the way back to high school. I found it depressing to note how many people had come and gone from my life. Some people had moved away or moved on, others passed on. I also feel sad when looking too closely in the mirror. But I also find I can be myself and do things I want to do, and not feel pressured to do things that aren’t right for me or I don’t want to do.

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    • Yes, as we get older, the losses start piling up. I attend high school reunions (since I went to a very small high school and really did know all my classmates), and it seems that each time we meet, there is one less person at the gathering. It can be very hard, especially when we lose close friends and family. But as you say, the good thing is that we do get our priorities in order as we age, and become more comfortable being our true selves. And that really is a good thing!

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  16. You are so right about the perks of getting older. We better understand the fragility of life. We have lost so many people that we have loved. It does make us all the more aware that every moment of our lives counts. We don’t want to ‘waste’ these precious moments; we know how quickly time passes. It is a gift to be grateful, to celebrate life to the fullest. With age, our bodies may not be as strong as they once were and there are aches and pains that we have to contend with. Still, I think we appreciate life on a much deeper level than we did when we were young. We have a great deal more wisdom now; that makes a difference in how we live and the choices we make.

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    • I honestly believe it would make a world of difference! We waste so much time and energy trying to impress others, or worse, trying to get others to see that they’re absolutely wrong if they don’t agree with us, all the time and about everything. Thanks, Margy!

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    • No, it isn’t fun at all! There are big challenges we face as we age, especially physically. Outliving so many friends and family is also hard. Thank goodness that there are some tradeoffs that help balance things. It sounds as if your friend does a great job go living life to the fullest!

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  17. Your post is much appreciated today, Ann. I also notice the signs of ageing in the mirror (I try not to look too often.) I seem to have developed jowls and a loose neck, neither of which I’m very happy about. Like you, I need glasses for nearly everything these days. However, besides my disability, my physical health is pretty good, and I count myself blessed for that. Mind you; I’m also on a cocktail of medication resembling a tube of Smarties (not sure if you get those over there). Still, if it keeps me well, I’m grateful for that. As far as wisdom is concerned, I certainly have learned a lot along the way during my journey through the years. I’m not sure if that’s wisdom or simply experience.

    I’m so glad you still have your dear mother with you and that she still has all her wits about her. My Mum would have been 92 this Christmas. I still miss her a lot, naturally. People say I look like my Mum. Apparently, I sound like her, too. I like the amusing phrase, “sometimes, I open my mouth, and my mother comes out!” X

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    • I think that it’s hard to like the physical changes that aging brings on, for all of us. Some do a better job of accepting, or even embracing them, than others. But all of us can be grateful for the gift of wisdom and clarity that usually also comes with age, I think. And lately, I’ve begun to realize that is also a gift! I’m so sorry about your mother…and yes, I’ve also experienced that shock of sounding or acting just like my mom! I see it in my husband too…sometimes he reminds me so much of his father.

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    • You’re right about aging being a privilege, and I think that those of us who are lucky enough to live in a society where the average life spans are pretty long sometimes lose sight of that. Thanks for the reminder, and kudos for the positive attitude!

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    • Boy can I relate, but for me, it was “FaceTime.” Because my face is really up closes to the phone when I use that, and I’m always distracted by seeing just how much I need a face lift. (Not that I’ll ever do it, but I admit I need one.) On Zoom, the trick is to sit back from the computer just a bit….. Ha! And thanks for your kind words about my mother. I do realize I’m lucky to still have her in my life. It truly is a gift!!

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  18. Amen to all you wrote Ann. Life is indeed precious and fragile and we only get one chance at it (maybe) so it’s up to us to make every day count, regardless of the grey hairs, the fading eyesight and the lapses of memory. In some ways, despite the obvious physical changes of ageing, I’ve never felt younger!

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  19. Such wisdom in your words, Ann. I have more time behind me than ahead of me and the mirror reflects the years. Yet there is some peace and freedom as you pointed out at the end. And I don’t miss my youth as much as I miss those who have already gone. You are so fortunate to still have your mother, and she is right, it is hard being old! But cheers for the years!

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    • That’s a good point. And I agree, if I could choose between being younger myself or having my loved ones who have died back, I’d choose having them back. I think the loss of so many loved ones is absolutely the hardest part of aging. Meanwhile, we just make the most of the years we have left!!!

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  20. It is true that the older we get the more we realize. We realize that life isn’t forever and that we need to grab on to it and appreciate what God has blessed us with. We realize that our looks aren’t always going to be our best asset. We realize that people come and go in our lives so we need to cherish the good moments with them. It was a good post Ann, thank you.

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    • Thank you so much! And yes, I do think that aging teaches us not to be quite so preoccupied with our looks (which is the opposite of what society teaches us, sadly.) But all those sags and wrinkles make us realize that we do indeed have other gifts to offer the world….and that’s a great discovery. Thanks for that insight!

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  21. Why does it take ageing to make us be and show the real us, quit worrying about certain things, and instead saying things like they are? By the time we find this voice and the younger people get over their shock to enjoy a few years with us the next thing we know it’s time to greet the sunset.

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    • I’ve often wondered that myself. Wouldn’t it be great to have the vigor of youth and the wisdom and compassion of age? I guess that’s where that old saying, “youth is wasted on the young” comes from. Thanks for the comment!

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  22. Well said. Aging is a process and in our culture that focuses on the instantaneous we’ve been trained to not look at the long haul. I know that I’m more mellow about people than I was when I was younger– and definitely more honest with myself about who I am. Take me as you find me, that’s my approach to aging.

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    • That’s become my approach too, Ally! It’s taken me a long time to get there, but I finally have, and it really is worth all those wrinkles, sags, and reading glasses. Wisdom is a long time coming, but eventually, it shows up!!!

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  23. My mother’s has been saying the same for more years than I care to recall but it’s only now in my mid-sixties that I’ve suddenly begun to fully understand what she’s referring to and I think somehow because our mothers are older than us, that can make us more aware of ageing too. Conversely, spending time with my daughter (single and only 26), I feel young again – except when I have to ask her to slow down because I can’t keep up or ask her to read out those labels I’d otherwise put my glasses on to decipher too!

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    • Oh, yes, that’s a huge issue at our age! We care for our parents and we also care for our adult sons and daughters…. In one relationship, we feel a bit too young and in the other, we feel a bit too old. If we’re lucky, we get the best of both worlds. But the trick is to be lucky, I think!
      Thanks for you comment!

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  24. The image in the mirror does often take me by surprise, but it doesn’t matter so much anymore. Wise words, Ann, and a good encouragement to be more honest and share our true selves with those close to us. Losing loved ones does give us a different sort of perspective on life, on what’s important and what’s not. I don’t have much desire to go back. Being young is far too stressful. 🙂 Thanks as always for posting!

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    • I agree about youth being a stressful time! There seemed to be so much pressure to look good all the time, have a terrific career, a super-active social life, and beautiful home. Now I really don’t worry very much about any of those things, and I live mostly according to my own sense of values and principles. That is a very definite positive about aging. And I agree, the loss of loved ones is probably the biggest negative, even though we can learn from that too. Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Brenda!

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  25. The part about loss got me teary. I agree, definitely not a good part of getting older. Like with my momma, I really thought I’d have her 20 more years. That would’ve put me in my 70’s, which is still very young, but she would’ve been in her 90’s. This losing her young nonsense getting older tricky. The trickiest part for me has been the missing- like you mentioned about your dad and family. Growing older has many benefits for sure, but the missing of those we’ve lost, can be quite difficult. Lovely writing, as always. I do so enjoy your posts.

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