Over the Fence: Surprise, you're old!
I saw a T-shirt the other day that said, "It's hard to be the same age as old people." The sentiment gave me pause. It is a peculiar truth that as you are growing older on the outside, your inner self still feels like the teenager you once were. Therefore, it's a surprise to look in the mirror and find a grey-haired, wrinkled, often bespectacled you staring back.
I was watching a rerun of "Murder, She Wrote" recently, when one of the characters who was in the midst of a confession said "Life is not a fairy tale. If you lose your shoe at midnight, you're drunk." Indeed, life is not a fairy tale and if your blood pressure is high, you develop arthritis and you need a hip replacement, you're not a teenager anymore, you're old. If you're lucky, you still have your youthful ideals and you continue, if only by force of will, to summon the energy to meet each day and contribute in a way that makes a difference.
One of the most important things we need to do as we grow older is to remember not to forget. I think many of us do that by studying our ancestry. There is a certain solace in realizing our place in the ongoing continuum of life. Whatever talents and abilities we have come to us through our ancestors. In that sense, we carry them in our hearts. It is up to us, as family elders, to tell their stories and ensure they aren't lost.
There are plenty of bothersome things about getting older. There are more aches and pains to deal with, sleeping well is sometimes difficult, and you keep confusing your grandchildren's names. Also, the prescription for your glasses needs strengthening (again).
On the flip side, there are also some positive things that come with aging. For instance, you are more likely not to judge people and instead accept them as they are. I still remember my sainted mother saying "If you can't say something nice about someone, don't say anything at all." I was a teenager at the time, so it didn't make a big impression, but it does now.
Another positive that comes with growing old is finding that all those material goods you've collected through the years are no longer wanted or needed. You also think about the fact that your skin has headed south, but conclude that your wrinkles are hard-won and a testimony to your experiences. They tell your story. You are thankful that you have lived long enough to have them, as many are denied that opportunity.
As you reach a certain age, you hopefully learn from your long life of accomplishments and failures, your great ideas and your great mistakes. This is called achieving wisdom. I don't say that lightly, because it comes at a price.
On days when I find myself bemoaning the pitfalls of encroaching old age, I think of the words of motivational speaker Sonia Ricotti: "Accept what is. Let go of what was. Have faith in what will be."
There is so much to live for, so much yet to do.
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