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……