Tuesday, April 2, 2013
Life is precious at every age. It is.
When I turned fifty, I started planning for old age. One thing I knew for sure was that I didn't want to pretend to be younger, then all of a sudden realize I was old. I wanted a gradual process. I wanted to practice being old before I had to take it on.
That was the year I began the time consuming, expensive process of letting my gray hair grow in (I colored my hair all my adult life until then.) The process was labor intensive. Every six weeks I had to go in for highlights, lowlights and toners. There were washes of color, there were deep heat conditioning treatments. I swear I spent more time at the hair salon that year than ever before in my life. It was rather grueling.
When my hair guy cut the last of the color out of my hair, it was a shock. Even his jaw dropped. But I was glad I did it almost immediately. Since then, when I see a woman with dyed hair and silver roots, I think, How tacky. But that was me, before the intensive process of letting it grow in.
I started looking at old women. I sought an archetype to which I could aspire. For sure I didn't want to be one of those bitter, angry old women, always complaining about everything. You know the type, right? Likewise I didn't want to be one of those vague old ladies, all doped up, confused, nor did I want to be a frightened old lady, scared of everything.
What I wanted was to be hearty, happy, red cheeked and healthy. I wanted to be an old lady who laughed at everything, one of those who doesn't sweat the small stuff. I didn't see a lot of that archetype, but I knew they were out there somewhere.
I practiced diligently throughout the decade of my fifties. I called it the happy hour of life. I had lots of fun, so much so that I was able to, for the most part, ignore the way in which the aging process picked up speed.
At age sixty, I have a far better grasp on why there are so many bitter, vague and fearful old women because on my birthday, every illusion I had about old age evaporated. Old age is hard. For instance, there are aches and pains that are the result of aging. Even if we do everything right, something is going to hurt. I have a friend of my age who says, "When you're sixty, if you wake up and nothing hurts, you're dead."
There's some truth to that. Given how devoted I am to aggressive self care, I have been kind of shocked to notice how many times my knees (for instance) hurt - not because I've done anything wrong, just because I'm drying up. It happens! On high pain days, I entertain the idea of happy pills as I think the vague old lady archetype is preferable to the bitter, angry old lady archetype.
And the fear - oh my goodness, I deal with it every day now. I've taken good care of myself - I'm likely to outlive many of my friends, my tribe. I do not look forward to grieving for so many people. And what will happen when I'm too old to take care of myself? I have no children, partner or money. I'm screwed! But maybe I'll die before that happens, I tell myself, as if that will soothe my rattled nerves.
For heaven's sake!
Today I was thinking about how harshly I used to judge the unattractive old lady archetypes. Ten years ago, I really didn't get it.
That said, my determination to embody the hearty, happy, laughing old lady archetype is more intense than ever before. I do not want to squander the time I have left in my body by bitching, doping and/or hiding. I want to live fully and wholeheartedly.
I can do it. I will prevail.