Sunday, January 11, 2009

What Changes, What Stays the Same?



I'll be 56 on February 13. Never one to wait until my birthday actually arrives, I prefer to start worrying about it six weeks in advance, apparently, because I've been thinking about it a lot. Already.

Ever since I turned 50 I've been asking myself what I want for my old age. It's an interesting question that can be posed at any age, though by 50, with the clock ticking faster and faster, it seems prudent to focus on what's ahead very specifically rather than philosophically as I did when I was younger.

I've been taking special notice of old ladies lately, trying to project upon them my own self in fifteen or twenty years, asking myself, Is this where I'm headed? Is this what I want? (I guess technically, with my gray hair, I could be called an old lady. Maybe I should say older ladies.)

So many older ladies are all shriveled up with bitterness and anger, full of regrets about their lives, judgments about themselves and others, scornful about everything that's not as good as the good old days. Others look confused, vague, unable to connect with the world as it is right here and right now. Needless to say, I am not interested in either bitterness or confusion in old age.

My goal is to be robust and jolly as an old woman, lighthearted, clear. I want to be one of those old ladies who laughs out loud without apology, says what's on her mind whenever she wants. Especially, I want to be kind and forgiving in old age. Kind to a fault is what I want to become.

Some days it's easier than others to cultivate these qualities, all of which are rather foreign to me. In early adulthood you could never have found a more intense woman than I was. I was anxious, angry, fearful, and heavy hearted. But I have lightened up as I've gotten older, and it's true that kindness comes more easily than it did even just ten years ago. I'm headed in the right direction.

In extreme old age my goal is to be clear as a bell, translucent even visually if possible. In that way, at the end, I hope to slide effortlessly out of my body when the time comes. Doesn't that sound nice?

49 comments:

lacochran said...

You're already kind and lighthearted and radiant when I've seen you. :)

runmotman said...

great pics , a lot of nice photo ops where you live ; plus when the time comes wouldn't you love to be reincarnated as a fly on the wall in D.C? of course , that will be many happy years from now .

c james. said...

Kudos to you for revealing your real age. As a guy, I could never understand why women (and many men) get hung up on revealing their real age. I think empowering to tell your real age.

Nowadays, with so much attention put on being healthy, eating well, etc, people look younger than their real age anyway. I say, tell your age, because people will be impressed that you look younger than you actually are.

To me, the only thing about age and life that's "scary" is that at this point (nearly 39 years old), I probably have less time left on this earth than I've already lived. Guess I'll have to do a lot of cramming so I can pass the final exam.

Haru said...

Hi!Nice to meet you!(^^)

This your blog made me want to think of my previous life.
One year,one year,I should review what changes,what stays the same,I thought.I will hold one day dear,too.

Happy birthday!!(^_^)/
,though early.(^^;;

janis said...

My Grandma Kitty taught me you are as old as you feel. You can be young and adventurous till the day you die. Which is what she did & I hope I will too.

Also I have a friend who celebrates her birthday all week. She is hilarous, as she will tell people, It's my birthday week, be nice.

Reya Mellicker said...

A fly on the wall in DC? Actually, as a massage therapist, I am privvy to many gruesome details about life down at the Capitol.

As a fly though it would be interesting to finally understand fly vision (holography) and also I would finally get why flies land, then fly in a circle, then land again.

c james - Lying about my age would only work if I believed the lie. And I can't do that, can I?

Coffee Messiah said...

Hey Happy early Birthday ; )

Just be, that's the way to go really.

Right behind you in july, but don't fancy anything other than not ever turning into a sheeple ; )

Cheers!

femme ala fleur said...

Two great thing about aging, we get to choose how we grow old, and wisdom, if your open to change, allows us to let go of some ridiculous hang-ups, like going out with perfect hair and makeup and focus on what's really important . Reya, I am 52, and have been told I look like I'm in my early 40's. I never gave aging any thought until, well mid-life changes began to show themselves in my mid forties. That's when my lifestyle got a complete makeover. No way was I going to age like the women in my family. Many of them were in ill health and unhappy. For our generation, aging is different. We do get to choose and it sounds like you are choosing. WOOT with the best of them and give no thought about it. Have a terrific birthday.

c.james, a bit of unsolicited advice stop looking at the glass half full. Unless you have a terminal disease you have an opportunity to live beyond the age of 70.

Reya Mellicker said...

I like that - it's my birthday week, BE NICE! Shouldn't really start saying that till Feb 6 though.

deborah said...

I can, I believe I am three years younger than I actually am--so as time goes by we become closer in age.

Works for me, as does that kind of constant re-evaluation, who am I, who do I wish to me, what do I truly need/want, what can I contribute. . .all those thing you ponder so eloquently here.

All my love to the brilliant photographer, writer, thinker and youngster--or at least, younger.

reyjr said...

THANKS for the Moon widget! :D lol, I know it's not yours but I copied it off your blog...

And advance Happy Birthday! :D

Auntchris said...

I think it was Oscar Wilde who once said "Youth is wasted on young people".
As a 50 year-old girl, I totally agree.
With age comes wisdom.
Let's all enjoy our wisdom.
Those young whippersnappers can only say oooooh and envy us.

Purest Green said...

When I am old I want to be like my Tante Emma, who was round and robust and jolly and rode her bike well into her 80s. And I want to be slightly mad, but in a good way.

Your blog is lovely - great photos. I love that you are so bold with angles.

Have a happy birthday!

Gary said...

Yes, that does sound nice. I look towards the 'older' ladies that I know and no one is a better example of patience, happiness and love than my dear old mom. At 68 she is strong, both mentally and physically, open and so, so giving. I have watched her change over the years to become more secure in herself, more self confident and at ease. I truly admire that woman.

Knowing you now I find it somewhat interesting to read your description of your younger self. All of the qualities that you hope to achieve seem to be in place already; at least from my perspective. Yet, I do think it is healthy to ponder this journey and remain ever changing.

Poutalicious said...

Happy birthday, Reya, albeit early. I enjoy your photos very much and thanks for sharing. I believe you know the secret...not growing old on the inside.

Barb Mann said...

Hello, my dear; love your blog. So what changes? Sad to say, no matter what everybody tries, it's the body, and you just have to learn to live with it and keep it functioning as best as possible. What stays the same? The brain! No really, I'm turning 60 in, uh, 6 weeks, and I still feel like the same person inside as I was earlier. Except I'm more tolerant, forgiving, and hopeful. That's the gift of aging.

ArtSparker said...

Good post. I suppose it is an equivalent question to "What will I be when I grow up?". I'd add, to the recipe, love your bones - they're alive. Yoga stops the infrastructure from turning brittle. Also, I always figure I don't actually get older in the even years (except the decades), just the odd ones.

The photo at top made me think of "My Blue Heaven", and the one at the bottom has some jolly-looking owls in the reflections.

Merle Sneed said...

I think age makes you more of what you already are. You will be an intelligent, lively and vibrant old woman...in twenty or thirty years, that is.

Until then you will have to be content with being an awesome 50-something.

Reya Mellicker said...

Purest Green said I want to be like my Tante Emma, who was round and robust and jolly and rode her bike well into her 80s. And I want to be slightly mad, but in a good way.

Me, too! She sounds wonderful. Yes yes yes!!

Washington Cube said...

Translucent and sliding out? You'd better believe that sounds nice (having seen the flip side of it.)

Bee said...

Reya - This post really sung to me, as it is my birthday today! Like you, I fret about it for weeks beforehand . . . I suppose that is part of my "path" to acceptance.

Your words about becoming translucent were truly beautiful.

powerpuff-sweetie said...

Hi there,
your blog really made me smile, i really enjoyed reading it.
I carnt believe you like in DC.
Happy birthday by the way.

keep it happy :)
x

Carolyn said...

Hi Reya,
I was reading your blog and listening to my Sunday morning radio ritual when I realized the story on the "Vinyl Cafe" was reflecting what you had written. You might enjoy the podcast or listen to it when it replays on CBC Radio on Tuesday evening at 11p.m. (www.cbc.ca/radio/)
I just turned 60 and live in a community that is quickly becoming a retirement community and I am not sure I am ready for that. I appreciate yours thoughts and your photography is very nice.

Z @ DGH said...

Greetings Reya and all those who (like me) appreciate and so enjoy your photos and thought provoking commentary,

I have much I hope to accomplish in the next year and a half but I'm eagerly looking forward to attaining 50 in June 2010. I like Tante Emma too, I hope I'm like her when I grow up. My Granny is 102 so c james I sincerely hope 'almost 39' is not more than halfway through your journey. My daughter (and my Dad) have been trying to convince me that I'm old ever since I turned 40. I think my daughter is just jealous and for my Dad I think he wants company in his feeling old which is funny 'cause it's his Mama that is 102.

Much Love,
Z

Rose said...

We live the first part of our lives learning how to live the second part.
I have been enjoying all your posts. Hope your hand is feeling better too.

Neas Nuttiness said...

I just dropped by from a recommendation from Blogs of Note on Blogger.
Your photos are magnificent!!!

Chlorista Twist's Warped Reality said...

Hello! I am 10 years behind you and find your words so honest and balanced. In ten years, all my children will be adults and I will be what? My hopes are similar to yours and my goals are as simple. Peace Out, Chlorista

crone51 said...

Ah. I am 57. I share your goal of wanting to become more kind. It is a struggle for me as I tend to be a cranky old cynic in many ways and sometimes I feel a bit beaten down by my years, you know? But that's only sometimes, and really not very often and frankly almost never in the summertime and actually I am in a terrific mood right this very moment!
But kindness.. what goal could be better than kindness? Reminds me of a line from one of my favorite movies as a kid " Harvey" :

Elwood P. Dowd: "Years ago my mother used to say to me, she'd say, "In this world, Elwood, you must be" - she always called me Elwood - "In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant." Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me."

Translucent. Yes. Although I am not sure if I want to slip out quietly or leave some fireworks exploding as I make my exit. I may have to choose immortality instead ( hey, sounds like a plan!) if I can't decide.

Robert said...

Happy early birthday Reya... and sooo wonderful to see you in these photos! :-) So how will you be celebrating???

Another Original by Tamara said...

What an absolutely great post. You have captured the struggles I am sure, that many of us face as we mature. I remain grateful for each new day. Sometimes its hard to focus on the benefits that come along with our advancing age. It's nice to feel good about who we have become. It's also important to remain humble about it. Usually, our good fortune is a gift from a higher power or simply a result of luck.

Thanks for your enjoyable blog. Your pics are unique as well. But sorry c james, I am not revealing my age.

andrew crvz said...

i can feel what you want to become and i believe you already are. just the thought of wanting to be 'Kind to a fault',, yes you are :)

happy birthday!

UN JOUR DANS VOTRE VIE said...

....if that is not aging gracefully...I don't know what to call it..

Its ME said...

Happy 56 and more to come ahead when I invite you to blog too at Healthy Wealth , http://theinnozablog.blogspot.com

Ronda Laveen said...

I will turn 56 12 days ahead of you. I will cut a trail for you to follow. For many years, my family has celebrated their birthdays for a week. It is quite plesant and enjoyable. I'm thinking now, since I am past the half way point of my 5th decade, that a "Birth Month" celebratory binge is in order.

RE: massage therapist privvy info
As an MT, I know how much I hear. I almost can't imagine what you must learn so close to the Capitol...good thing client info is privileged.

Crone51: Immortality isn't a choice. It simply is. Love, light...realize this.

bitsofafrica said...

Hi from Africa,
I love being in my 50's, and will be 56 in May. The older I get the happier I seem to be, don't know if it is suddenly realising what is important in my life and going for it, or is it that my red hair has finally faded to blond. Whatever life sure is good and the wrinkles I get from the sun are only kisses.
Enjoy your birthday.
Regards Brigid

Lover of Life said...

I agree with you on growing older. We have to age consciously or we become "hardwired" with those qualities we don't really like about ourselves.

Pam said...

From one February girl to another, I think you're doing great on the kindness and the wisdom side of things. Acceptance is a wonderful thing in ageing. I refuse to battle or turn it into one. If I am 55, I don't really want to look 45. I am 55 end of story.I am in the process of letting the grey take over my hair - I find it an interesting process. It's about loving ourselves, our body and life's process.Thank god animals don't have the ability to make idiots of themselves like we do, but along with everything else in Nature, go along with the natural course of things.We accept the aging process in everything else in Nature but not ourselves. It's a sad state of affairs realy, tied up entirely in ego -never a good thing.Cultivate the inner,just as you say.My daughter in her profession has seen many people depart this life, and she says bitterness and regret, when she encounters it,is not a good way to go - we should all be working towards a great exit I think!.Great post.

Moonroot said...

Sounds like a good plan to me. And kudos to you for even thinking about getting older, when so many people are in denial and trying to fool themselves and the rest of the world into thinking that they're 25 forever.

P.S. I'm 45!

Michelle said...

I hope that when I am "older" I can take photos as well as you. You have style! :)

Barry said...

My wife and I went out for a quiet dinner when I turned 50. Half way through the meal they announced there was someone with a special Birthday and a group of waiter and waitresses marched toward my table.

And passed my table to the one behind me where there was a woman in a wheel chair who had just turned 100.

It was great at 50 to be only half as old as the person at the next table.

Reya Mellicker said...

Barry! That is the BEST turning 50 story ever!!

Pam I'm with you. Why not look my age? I haven't done anything wrong in getting older. I just haven't died.

Oh yeah!

So great to read so many comments from other fifty-somethings. Thank you all!

rothko said...

Love this post. I may have told you this already, but C is an Aquarius, too. A great sign, Aquarius. Clearly. But I've found you have to watch out for Pisces!

Anyway, I think you're well on your way to achieving your goals, which is great because you're still young!

mouse (aka kimy) said...

reya this song's for you!! happy birthday in advance! xxxxxmouse

Cheryl Cato said...

I totally agree on celebrating early! My birthday is in late Nov & I begin celebrating early in the month just after my good friends Oct birthday. At my house we're good for celebrating right on through Feb when my husband has his birthday! And yes I agree with Auntchris who repeated "youth is wasted on the young". Happy b-day early!

smith kaich jones said...

I turned 55 in November. It seemed like a big deal, but not really. I have a great role model - let me introduce you to my neighbor. (There are several posts about her at my blog, but it would take you forever to bounce around & find them, so I will introduce her here.) She is 94, and until her very late 80s, was a world traveler - Egypt, Russia, Italy, etc., etc. She developed health problems & traveling became too difficult - I & two other neighbors began to spend more time with her. Her health problems grew, a part-time caretaker hired, & since she lives alone (her only daughter & son-in-law live in D.C, actually) we began what we called "Mary's Salon". 4 or 5 nights a week, we would gather at her house, watch tv, argue the news & politics, she & the others would have gin & tonics, I would have a coke. Sunday night another friend would bring food - for Mary, a party at the drop of a hat is the only way to go. The unexpected blooming of a flower would elicit phone calls for everyone to come over - it's party time! :)

Earlier this year Mary suffered a small stroke & her health is now quite bad. She has full time caretakers - one in particular who has been with her for about 3 years & loves her like a mother - & her speech is seriously impaired. Our hearts are breaking -she has been a true gift to us all. Yesterday saw a trip to the hospital for her as she grows weaker. Today she is back at home.

She will be 95 this month, if she makes it - it is doubtful; she says she is ready to go, she is tired, but who knows? Life is a funny thing. And if she goes, well, this is a woman who has donated her body to science - she leaves her secrets to us all.

This is such a long comment, and seems sad, but I don't mean it to be - forgive me. But life is truly just beginning. Every day is new, and you are the age you let yourself be. Mary always told me the key was the gin & tonic & no exercise! LOL! So happy birthday early! Celebrate - the world awaits!

:) Debi

Donna a.k.a. Scrappy Doo said...

Happy Birthday! Love your blog and pics. "These are the best years of our lives"

lettuce said...

it sounds just about perfect

DnC said...

I generally cruise the blogs of note for creative blogging ideas... I am so happy that I stumbled on yours!

You are a captivating writer, and I like your style. Thank you for being so inspiring - I hope you don't mind if we mention you on our own little blog: dougandcand?

Peace,
Candace

Robbin'sMama said...

I was stumbling around in blog land tonight and came across your blog. I have been lost in it for the past hour. I love your pictures. I could not keep from commenting on this blog. I am 70, and I have vowed to not be a cranky old lady and to enjoy life...and my hair dresser has promised me she will never let me have blue hair.
It is an exciting time in your home town now, history is being made. I envy you for being near it.