What is Age, Anyway?

When I woke up this morning and climbed out of bed the aching pain in my lower back stopped me from standing up straight so instead I hobbled into the bathroom. As I stood stooped over the sink washing my the sleep from my face I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and was astounded at the middle aged woman’s face staring back at me. ‘Who is that old lady?’, I wondered. Oh, that’s right – it’s me.

I can remember being a teenager and thinking that people in their 30s were old, 40s were ancient and out of touch and 50 and older – well they were just sweet old grandparents. I wondered when it happens, when do you suddenly go from young to old? Watching “old people”, I discovered signposts, clues that I could watch for: not laughing at funny jokes anymore, never smiling and being too serious, never having any fun, not liking anything new, only the “good old stuff” (movies, music, etc.) I’m 41 now and oh how my perceptions have changed! Most of my friends and peers are in their 40s and 50s and we’re all still the same silly goofballs we’ve always been. We’re not misers, we have tons of fun! Our lives are far different than they were two decades ago but we still struggle with many of the same issues and concerns. Age has certainly brought on a whole slew of exciting new physical and mental challenges, though hasn’t it?

For example, although I never struggled with acne in my younger years I now have to contend with both acne and wrinkles. What the heck is that? What do I put on my face, pimple cream that dries it out and makes the wrinkles worse or wrinkle cream that exacerbates the acne? My face is like a war zone with clearly defined borders and boundaries that my skin care regimen dares not cross. And my weight, which has been a constant battle my whole life, has now put it’s foot down firmly and absolutely refuses to be any less than it is. While that’s very noble and empowering from a feminist perspective, my jeans are not nearly as impressed by it. No matter how healthy I eat or how much time I spend sweating at the gym, my weight mocks me from the scale and has the audacity to get bigger. What a bitch.

Everything hurts, all the time and for no reason. Strange phantom pains appear out of nowhere and the cause is unknown. Did I sleep wrong last night, is the weather changing, is the moon orbiting the opposite way, did I sit/stand/turn/breathe somehow differently? Who knows. Random pains show up all the time in all areas of this body now with no rhyme or reason at all and try as I might to come up with an explanation the reality is that there is only one reason – age.

I always imagined that one day I’d wake up and just feel like an adult. I’d be mature and responsible, an actual grown up. That day still hasn’t come. True, I’ve got everything that a grown up is supposed to have: a home with a mortgage, a career, credit cards, kids, pets, etc. I go to work and pay my bills, I take vacations and have adult children. But who I am hasn’t changed at all. I still laugh at everything silly and inappropriate (that’s what she said jokes get me EVERY SINGLE TIME!), I still make rookie mistakes, I’m still the same bumbling dorky girl I’ve always been. But while I feel like a 15 year old on the inside sometimes, when I stop and think about it, I’m more grown up than I realize.

I’ve slown down quite a bit, choosing to go to bed and get up early instead of being the night owl I once was. When 10pm rolls around I’m shocked that I’m not in bed yet and if I sleep in past 8am it feels like half the day is wasted. Getting up and out early feels great, especially when I’m done with all my errands by noon and free the rest of the day! The days of heading out for the night at 10pm and not getting to bed until the wee hours of the morning are long gone. Along the same lines, we have discovered and accepted that we have become day drinkers now. If we decide to have a few drinks, it’s typically in the afternoon and rarely after 6pm. We’re home early, switch to water and still in bed by 10pm so that recovery time is not necessary. The last few hangovers we experienced were debilitating, lasting a full week before we felt like ourselves again. No thank you, not worth it even a little bit.

I’m far more patient and understanding now as I get older. Having lived longer and experienced more, I’m willing to listen and seek understanding instead of digging in my heels and demanding my way. I can relax easier than I used to, better able to let go of stresses and concerns that would have kept me wound tight and worried before. I understand now that life just goes on and on, sometimes up and sometimes down. I’ve had times of prosperity and times of lacking and regardless of the circumstances, I know that what’s most important is not what’s happening around me but what’s happening inside me.

Would I go back to my 20s? No way! While I do wish I’d been a little smarter and loved myself more back then, there’s no way I’d choose to go back to that time. Where I am now is much better even with all the challenges. I do wish that men and women were treated equally in aging though. Older men are considered handsome, wise, distinguished and sexy but as women it seems we have only two choices: old, frumpy, endearing mom/grandma or trying-too-hard cougar/MILF. Why should those be our only two choices and what if neither of those works for me? I’d like to think of myself as somewhere in the middle of those two extremes, neither of which are remotely appealing to me. All in all, I’ve found that even as my body fails and conspires against me I am loving the peace and wisdom that comes with age. I am comfortable in my own skin. While I know that there’s a million things I don’t know, I’m wise enough to realize and be okay with that. I’m able to relax even in the center of the storm because I’ve been through enough of them to know that I’ll get through this one as well. I’m slower to judge and react, opting instead to be still and in the moment, to listen instead of talk. I’m accepting of others and of myself instead of always seeking to change.

Aging is not for sissies, it’s not for the faint-hearted. I like to think I’m aging like a fine wine, that I’ll just keep getting better and more valuable with each year. And while most of the signs and clues of old age that I’ve watched for have proven false, one is absolutely 100% real – old stuff is so much better than new! Movies, TV, and especially music were so much better before! I’ve officially become one of those old people who stops listening to new music because I just don’t get it. And movies and TV – stop remaking the classics and get some new ideas of your own! Darn kids these days, sheesh. Stay off my lawn.

**I don’t hate ALL new stuff, just the majority of it. I’m not THAT old just yet. But still stay off my lawn.**

Copyright 2019, all rights reserved. All images taken by me unless otherwise stated. Memes from the internet, sources unknown.

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