Boogying down the time slide
It’s easy to grow old if you haven’t grown up.
Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional.
Just ’cause there’s snow on the roof doesn’t mean there’s not a fire inside.
This is it. This is the last year of my 50s.
Actually, if you go mathematically, this is my 60th year on the planet. Turning 59 meant that I had just finished my 59th year, so this is my 60th. On my 60th birthday, I won’t be starting my 60th year. I’ll be finishing it.
Get that? I have to rethink it a few times before it permits itself to be lodged in my brain again.
I honestly didn’t think I’d survive to age 16. Then I was pretty sure I’d be dead before I was 21. First it was because I figured I’d off myself. Then it was because I was mixing it up with the big dogs (1970s sex, drugs and rock and roll, baby) and I couldn’t imagine I wouldn’t do something stupid like walk off a cliff, thinking I could fly.
Imagine my surprise when I made it to the precipice of being elderly in decent, if imperfect, health.
Actually, I may already be an old fart – the definition varies. Some senior menus start at 55 – others at 62. Some senior trailer parks require at least age 55 for their “mature living” threshold. You can get a discounted (that’s probably not the right word) Social Security pension at 62, although I wouldn’t get a full Social Security pension until I turned 65. They’re raising the retirement age on that, I believe – but I digress.
So, to some people, I’m already elderly and to others, not quite elderly enough. Interesting. I don’t feel elderly. In fact, I felt a heck of a lot more elderly in my 20s than I do now. Right now, I feel pretty amazing.
I can turn somersaults and walk on my hands when I’m in a swimming pool. I can now officially out-walk my over six foot tall husband – I’m faster, after almost 30 years of trying to get him to slow down and wait for me. I can do the full ballerina bend-over, wrap my arms around my legs and then bend a little farther and put my hands flat on the floor – with my legs together. Definitely not bad for an old fart.
Part of this is the 111 lbs I’ve lost so far from a gastric bypass almost a year and a half ago – in fact, my lifetime total weight loss is now at 217 lbs. And while I am sentenced for the rest of my life to wear a squid suit over my rather excellent muscles (I’ve worked for them my entire life), I look a heck of a lot better in clothes. It’s also that carrying all that weight leaves you really, really strong and when you’re no longer carrying the equivalent of a petite adult, it kind of feels like being Peter Pan.
I didn’t only get my human being card back (the fat bigots have evaporated from my periphery), my intelligence card back, my right-to-an-opinion card back, etc. I got my kid card back, too.
All of this bemuses the snot out of me, which isn’t unusual for me at all. I’ve been bemused by the ordinary for as long as I can remember. Wow! I grew up and I’m not four years old any more! Wow! I studied this topic for 20 years and actually learned a lot about it! Wow! I spent 14 years lifting heavy weights and I got strong! Holy moly, I’m getting older! OmiGOD, my KIDS grew up! That sort of thing. I get the eyeroll reaction a lot over it, but the truth is, it’s new to me. Yes, I know this is how it works, but it hasn’t happened to me before. I had no idea what it would feel like, even though I’ve watched others go through these same rites of passage over and over.
The realities of life are hardly a mystery – and yet, they are.
So this is what it feels like from the inside to be getting older – at least for me. Pretty much the same. I can see it when I look in the mirror, but shockeroo – I’m still me. I’m the same me I was at five, at nine, at 25, at 40. I’ve evolved some, mostly due to extremely hard work. I’ve learned a few things. I sure hope I’m a little wiser, although I’m still capable of stupidity that staggers me (I guess that’s normal, too).
What’s weird is that, as my exterior transforms, people think my interior is evolving into a completely different life form. A bazillion years ago, when I took a one-quarter program in college called “Wisdom of the Elderly,” I was warned about this by wizened and glorious elders who proved to be as vivid, intense, individualistic and interesting as ever – if not more so. The faded, quiet, almost interchangeable old people I had expected were not much in evidence. These folks were simply people just like me, only farther down the time slide. Age is a continuum and they’d started earlier than me, so they’d made more progress.
They hadn’t actually abdicated their humanity. They were, if anything, more purely themselves than they had ever been. They’d had the time to grow, to evolve, to get over themselves and now, they were ready to roar.
And nobody listened. The young eddied around them like bubbles in a stream, not realizing that the rocks they were passing were things of great beauty and profound interest. They looked, saw the outside package and assumed that what was inside couldn’t be worth much.
This was almost 40 years ago and all us juicy, silky, glossy young people have arrived at old farthood. We, the Boomers, who had redefined youth, are now in the process of redefining age. We saw our own parents whose identities, dress, behavior and expectations were defined by their stages of life and we said “Oh, no. No fecking way.”
And so, more than ever, we are simply who we are. The muscular cyclist who just zipped by on that fancy bike may well be 75 years old. The martial artist may be in her 50s (did I mention I got a red belt in mixed martial arts at age 56?). We aren’t ready to stop. We still hunger for life. We’re vivid and interesting and marvelous and we refuse to be set aside as our parents and their parents were.
We’re here, we’re fecking ancient, we’re cool – get used to it.
And with that declaration, I am proceeding to boogy down the time slide because, by gosh and by golly, if I’m gonna be a crone, I’m going to have a fecking wonderful time getting there.