Monday I groaned to my tolerant spouse, “I just don't have the energy and strength I used to have. This energizer bunny seems to be running on rechargeable batteries that don't hold a charge!” He lifted one eyebrow. “Could it be that you are just a few years short of 80!” So who said 80 is old?”
I can remember laughing at my parents when they fell asleep reading or watching TV. Now if I stay awake through a favorite program I feel as if I have climbed Mt Everest. I can remember when I needed to go places and do things to avoid boredom. Now I am content to stay at home and read, knit or quilt. But then aging really is just like the motto on one of the Office of Aging T-shirts. “Age is a case of matter over mind. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter.”
Aging is a little like gardening. In the spring, we have grandiose plans and intentions but the longer the summer stretches on, the more our enthusiasm wanes. Spring's perfectionism gives way to an increasing tolerance for weeds and procrastination. A bountiful harvest is met with groans. In spite of our best intentions to stay fit, our get up and go, gets up and goes. But then, now when I don't get as much done, I don't care.
There was the day I thought I was smart and well educated. Now I there's so much I don't know that I only read what I enjoy and do what I find interesting. And I have to admit that it wasn't that long ago that I turned up my nose at invitations to join the exercise program at Fairfield's Senior Center because “that's for old people.” What did I think I was, anyway? Middle aged?
But being over the hump has it's advantages. Unlike my grandchildren who are obsessed with what others might think, how they look, and making a mark on the world, I've been there, done that. Trying to meet others expectations simply creates resentments I don't need. Sure, I've gained a lot of insights during my lifetime but if others aren't interested in what I've learned, that's their loss not mine.
They say old age is not for sissies which is all too true. But aging has some distinct advantages. Having always been fashion and cosmetically challenged, looking professional was hard work and frequently was brought before the fashion police. (My daughters and a friend.) Today everyone is satisfied when I look neat, clean and reasonably presentable. Besides, I've discovered getting older is a great excuse for releasing my inner eccentric!
It's pretty cool being able to smile when someone is rude because I can't hear what they're saying. It's a relief not having to worry about where I put something because I know I put it in a safe place. I've always had trouble remembering names but now I simply claim “senior moment,” Admitting that my sense of balance is not what it used to be allows me to substitute strolling for power walking allowing me to see so much more that way! And what a blessing that without my glasses I can shower without having to observe the competing parts of me racing for the floor.
Truth be told, even with the challenges and set backs of aging, I still find so much to do and enjoy that I don't have time to be bad tempered, judgmental, or begrudge what I can no longer do. Aging, I'm learning, like everything else, is best enjoyed by being present to the moment and grateful for each day, each experience, each friend, and the many blessings coming to me.
Joyce Shutt is pastor emeritus of the Fairfield Mennonite Church