Sunday, May 14, 2017

Learning How to Grow Old

[The dawning of 2017's Mother's Day spurred me to revisit and rework a previous post]

There are many days when I am sure I'm channeling my mom. My beloved mom, who died in 1998 at 83 years of age (pictured at 69 years). I feel her near to me and can almost see her in the mirror. I recall Mom said she had the same experience--seeing her own mom when she looked in the mirror.

Those days when I sense my mom so close began to happen more frequently when I reached 70 years of age. 

I recall my mom watching younger women, either on screen or out and about in our town. She seemed to delight in their youth and beauty, agility and energy. There wasn't any sense of wishing for what was past. I recall marveling at that. I certainly hadn't reached the same emotional plane.  

In my 40s (even 50s and 60s) I continued to compare myself to other younger, prettier, more able and capable women. I wanted that young skin, that youthful bounce, those sidelong admiring glances.

Of course, I totally forgot that even the 20-year old me always found fault with herself. So, the decades really had nothing to do with the perception and attitude I carried. 

I can only surmise the end-of-seventh-decade emotional evolution my mom may have experienced. It may not have come to her as vividly as with me.

Almost ten years ago, just before 70 seeped into my psyche and made herself at home, there were a few weeks when that age felt very, very uncomfortable, sounded very, very old, didn't seem to fit any place in my consciousness. 

Then one day it all made so much sense and I began to experience ease in my own skin, an acceptance of the continual changes in my body, acceptance of the fact that it's silly and futile to attempt to look or act like something I'm not. 

Now, as I navigate this 80th year of my life, what I experience most often is an appreciation of the glory and beauty in the never-ending cycle of life. It is as it should be. True, I continue to carry way too much pride and I am certainly not sanguine about the many physical limitations, aches and pains that are a constant in my life. 

I do know that all of "being" is nothing more or less than a process. As the inimitable Groucho Marx (of all people!) observed, "Life is a whim of several [trillion] cells to be with you for a while." 

To know how to grow old is the master work of wisdom, 
and one of the most difficult chapters in the great art of living. 
~ Henri Amiel