Aging Gracelessly

This was the year I was going to quit dyeing my hair and give into the white hair that has been fighting its way out since my early twenties. To get it started, I got an incredibly unflattering short haircut to let the butterfly metamorphosize into the old lady I was always meant to be. With the extra menopausal pounds, I now look like a potato with a sprig of hair, working my way out to a full pumpkin shape. Occasionally I catch sight of myself in the mirror and just have to laugh.

potatocartoonwitharmsWith all the advice, articles, and products relating to anti-aging, they often fail to mention what an odd ecosystem the aging body is. I watch with bemused curiosity. The random hairs, the delicate balance between hydration and the number of times you have to get up in the night to de-hydrate, your eyeballs sinking in, slowly being swallowed by your eyelids, and how you begin to fade until you look like an old dish towel that’s been through the wash one too many times.

I write this and can already hear the protests about loving yourself and the cruelty of a youth-obsessed culture and how it’s inner beauty that counts. Blah, blah, blah. Beauty has never been an aspiration of mine. I went through the motions when I was younger, but could never really pull it off. I was average and bookish and looked like I was playing dress up when I attempted anything feminine. So I stopped trying. I focused on getting and staying fit and that worked for awhile. Until it didn’t. Injuries took longer to recover from and I started to not want to interrupt a day of reading and writing, with, you know…moving.

peopleachesandpains.jpgYour 50s and 60s are where you get to reap the rewards and punishments of life choices. Every illness, bump, odd intestinal feeling is now accompanied with the anxiety that this is going to be what gets you – a tumor, cancer, some weird infection that incapacitates you and makes you a burden to everyone around you. I mean, it’s going to happen eventually. There are people who use this uncertainty as a launching pad for unmitigated daily joyfulness. I am not one of them. But I stay curious and occasionally have a laugh about some of the more ridiculous aspects of being human.

Still, I feel it’s my duty to make some sort of effort towards health. I’d like to make it until my daughter, now a teenager, is in her 30s. You know, after all the bad boyfriends, fender benders, and years of therapy to undo the damage I’ve done – when there is a possibility that I could call her out of the blue and not hear her eye roll at the other end.

Sochildgirlwomanaging this brings me back to aging. I believe in leading by example as a parent and sometimes I’ve gotten it right, sometimes not. Now, I need to navigate the aging process, the last third of life, the accumulation of good and bad decisions, and whether or not I can still make better ones.

I sense that I’m at a tipping point. Over the last year, I gave up on planned diet and exercise, choosing instead to focus on my creative life. There have been immediate consequences. I’ve suffered insomnia, heartburn, panic attacks, low energy, weight gain, and low spirits. I’m having trouble rallying the troops to get back to good habits. I reverted to childhood – comfort foods, burying myself in books, dreaming of a day when I can feel successful, productive, whole, loved. It’s elemental. All that growth, all that learning, and the moment I stop trying, I become the bespectacled silent girl with a book who loves mashed potatoes and cheese and spends a lot of time daydreaming.

My life coach friend will likely be irritated reading this. She likes to point out progress when I’m in one of my discouraged moods. It’s true, my life is taking a different shape. In some ways, that shape is returning me to who I started out being before the vagaries of family and society became internalized. There is a reason that parallels are drawn between adolescence and middle age. Hormones in reverse. Everything is up for grabs. Suddenly you have to start thinking about potential and possibilities again.

The ride this time is accompanied by a lifetime of lessons. Some of those lessons are about limitations and disappointments. And there’s a lot of here we go again...it’s a little exhausting to think about getting on the right track, making a change, getting my shit together so that I don’t completely fall apart, so I can age gracefully. I hate that phrase. I was never graceful before, why do I have to start now? I’m a mess of habits and emotions aavocadocartoonnd moods. I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in months. Things are wobbly and I don’t remember why I went into a room half the time.

Age gracefully my ass.

I’m going to age just the way I’ve always lived – curiously, awkwardly, and one can always hope, slowly. My life will continue to be the three steps forward and two steps back dance that it has always been. I’m just going to look like an avocado doing it.

36 Comments on “Aging Gracelessly

  1. Completely agree with you!!! I am shocked at how I look, because inside I don’t feel any older. I am just as goofy as ever. But the thing that gets me, is the way people treat you when you get to this age (I am on the downhill slope to 60), and people definitely look at me differently -but honestly most of the time I am the invisible middle-aged woman. EEK – that sounds terrible. But whatever – I just keep plugging along doing the things I want to do. I am not going to let this get the best of me.

    Like

    • I’ve always been a little invisible, but I tend to think that’s a benefit. It’s a super power, like Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak. It makes us more efficient humans – less time spent on the superficial, more time spent undermining the kakistocracy, and getting things done. There is a certain pleasure in being underestimated. And with fewer expectations of us, more time for the things that give us joyful moments.

      Liked by 1 person

      • What a healthy way to look at things. I just hate the fact people consider age as a disability- oh look at her she is old, like, almost as if they were saying oh look at her she has leprosy. Better stand back, it might be contagious.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Age was never something I thought about, let alone angsted over. Then I turned 50 and freaked out. In my defence I was an ad agency creative director — and advertising is an industry dominated by people in their 20s and 30s. They suddenly made me feel over the hill. It took a while, but at some point I stopped giving a damn.

    Ageism is real, it’s discriminatory, it has some very serious consequences and the activist in me fights it every step of the way. Ironically last year I bumped into a former colleage I hadn’t seen in close to 20 years. He is now a co-publisher of a new Canadian magazine changing the conversation about aging. I’ve done some writing for them and It’s been a real eye-opener.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know that the -isms are out there. I imagine you’re an activist by getting in there and doing the work, without getting distracted by all that nonsense. I always assume people afflicted with that kind of bigotry are just a little stupid, so I don’t find it particularly intimidating or anything that will dissuade me from my path. I also think demographics are simply on our side for changing attitudes – we’re living longer (except in the US recently) and people don’t just fade away after retirement age.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I definitely don’t get distracted by the nonsense. I’m lucky because I’ve been freelancing for 9 years and I’ve found that as a freelancer age doesn’t matter — unless it matters to you — which it doesn’t. The articles have appealed to me because they have given me an opportunity to dig into the issue deeply and educate people (and myself) through my writing — and that is a form of activism — or at least it’s how I see it.

        When I was doing research for the articles I was shocked at the volume of thinking and writing on the topic — and how serious it is.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, yes, yes. My life too. Although I long ago became too lazy and stingy to dye my hair. you won’t be sorry
    and you’ll look great – trust in nature on this one. And yes, hanging around long enough to make sure your kid is fairly launched. But in the end, I find a weird comfort and freedom in the knowledge we eventually just get to let go. Morbid?

    Like

    • I am a little challenged right now, adjusting to the idea that in a few years, the kid will be out the door. Between the passing away of elderly parents, the kid growing up – even my elderly cats on the brink, I wonder what having that kind of time will be like. I suspect I’ll make the most of it.
      This hair thing is in that awful phase – where my hair is full of bizarre streaks and ends that are still dyed. But it’s coming in a silvery white, which I think I’ll like once it’s grown out. I’ll have to get another photo done before the year is out, so I don’t look like I’m trying to pass myself off as a brunette still!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. great post Michelle. thanks so much for your honesty. yes, life is such a difficult balancing act. like you, i’ve always done a lot of exercise, but there have been consequences in older age. however, i’m a great believer in daily exercise. small steps. just a short walk in the sunshine for example. i’m sure you know this. i’ve been a gym junkie for a zillion years but have worn out a couple of joints. two replacements. but i’m back on the tennis court. AMAZING. a physio has helped get me back. as you know, exercise is the best way to lift the spirits. i wish it wore off the extra kilos, but seems almost impossible to lose weight as we age. thanks for being so open about your struggles. you’re an excellent writer.

    Like

    • Thanks, Libby. I really want to get back into running, but the extra weight is tough on my knees. I’m a believer in movement, but it hasn’t been translating into action lately. Fortunately, I’ve always enjoyed strength training. I just have to ease back into things, make sure I’m stretching regularly and have enough recovery time between workouts, while recognizing that I can’t do the same kind of workouts I was doing ten years ago. I always think the key to aging, to really anything, is adaptability and resiliency.

      Liked by 1 person

      • yes, easing back into things with regular stretching and enough recovery time between workouts. that’s the key. like you, i’ve always enjoyed strength training. strength training, yoga and cycling. am easing back into things myself after a second joint replacement. all going well, but i am impatient and have tendency to overdo things unfortunately. your adaptability and resiliency keys are good advice.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. This made me laugh out loud several times — one of your usual gifts to me. I suspect aging may be the most radicalizing extended experience of human life for which we are fully aware, at least until it robs us of full awareness. Nothing can prepare you; openness and curiosity, always important, become crucial. Humor, too. So I’d say you’re in good shape for what lies ahead.

    Like

    • I have mixed feelings about it. Having spent a lot of time in the last two years visiting a nursing home, it’s tempting to fall into a depression thinking about aging. Who knows where this country will be down the road in terms of health and elder care? I think we almost have to remain shortsighted about it, or it causes too much anxiety. From what I’ve seen, there are several critical things to aging well: adaptability, a social network, and keeping active in mind and body as long as you can. After that, it’s a roll of the die. Well, this turned out to be a rather serious response…still, thinking about myself in the shape of an avocado makes me laugh every time.

      Like

  6. I can relate to so much of what you wrote. Having lost a lot of close family over the last few years, it is a slap in the face that reminds us our time is limited. I am embracing taking each day as it comes and doing all the things I enjoy. I try to walk about 2 miles a day–it is a start. I have also embraced cooking more, but differently. That challenge of making healthy food taste great. So far so good. My New Age friends all tell me I am a crone which in their belief is an older woman who has come into wisdom, personal power and freedom. That’s a better definition than how some people refer to a crone. So, I am picking the definition I like! 😂😂 I am loving following your journey.

    Like

    • I’m in that space where I still have relatively good health and I know it’s something not to be taken for granted. I’ll admit this gray Minnesota winter with just enough snow and ice to make walking a hazard is getting to me. But I can go to the Y and I have workout equipment at home, so no excuses. That daily habit is awesome once you get into it. It’s the getting there that is tough. One day at a time!

      And I actually used the word “crone” in my first draft of this post. Apparently my first instinct was correct!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hey stranger! Thanks for the compliment about the writing Lyle. I grew up in a family where when anybody went on vacation, wills were discussed and property divided and discussions were had about one’s remains. I thought everyone did this until someone pointed out that we were weird, hence the dark humor about it all.

      Like

  7. You need something that combines exercise, aging gracelessly, and books. I say full body fluorescent green body paint, then streaking the neighborhood randomly delivering books to complete strangers. The brisk winter air will get you moving in no time, and you”ll have plenty of experiences to write and read about.

    Like

    • Ha! I like the multitasking approach. With the ice and snow, my gracelessness will likely end up putting me in the hospital. And green paint will be hell on the hospital linens. But books? Books I can do.

      Like

  8. It’s not easy, that’s for sure! I’m on the cusp of the hair dilemma- it’s so expensive to keep the color! But sometimes, I’ll see an older woman who rocks it and I’m like “Go you!” Ugh, getting older……

    Like

Share Your Thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: