Monday, March 29, 2010

About Aging

Last month, close to Valentine’s Day, I celebrated my 45th birthday, so I’m officially between two milestone ages: 40 and 50. Now, I don’t know about any of you, but I’ve never had a problem disclosing my age. When people ask me how old I am, I tell them. I’ve never lied about my age, or taken offense when asked. And I’ve never been able to understand why so many people, particularly women, are so sensitive to growing older. Or why they get offended when someone asks how old they are. I mean, what’s up with that anyway?

It’s not that I think getting older is fabulous; it really isn’t. Sure it has its fine points like better credit (unfortunately, sometimes worse), some equity (hopefully), a vast accumulation of skills, knowledge and wisdom you can share with the younger people (or force on them), deep and mature relationships, cheaper car insurance (unless you’ve got a very bad driving record), a healthy amount of respect at service counters (although that’s certainly debatable these days), more confidence (you don’t mind running over to the drugstore without makeup on) and less concern about what other people think (you literally stop giving a rat's ass about a lot of things).


So getting older certainly has its advantages.

But for the most part it kind of sucks. Especially the way the body falls apart. For example, the eyes start to go at some point; mine certainly have begun to decline. Even though I’m still not in need of wearing glasses on a daily basis, not even for reading, my eyes are getting noticeably weaker. I now carry a mini magnifying glass with me everywhere I go so I can read the fine print on products like shampoo bottles or pain reliever medications, which at this age is one big blur. I also hold things out at arms length to be able to read smaller writing that, up to just a few short years ago, I used to hold close to my face.

Then there’s the body’s metabolism, which begins to drag its feet as soon as you hit 40. Up until my late thirties, I burned calories at a greater rate than average, which allowed me to eat whatever I wanted without gaining a pound. Now I have to watch what I eat and exercise regularly to maintain a healthy weight. At the age I am now, I literally have to kick my metabolism in the ass so it can continue to be an efficient fat-burning machine. If I don’t, it spends the day napping. And that totally sucks.

And of course, as a woman, I get to look forward to menopause and a whole slew of wonderful symptoms that it may arrive with, such as (but not limited to) hot and cold flashes, dizziness, depression, mood swings, anxiety, memory lapses, itchy skin, sore muscles, weight gain, mental confusion, aching joints, bloating, gum problems, indigestion, nausea, gas pain, headaches, hair loss (or hair increase in facial hair – the horror!), night sweats, trouble sleeping, fatigue, irritability, concentration difficulties, muscle tension, tinnitus and disorientation. Now, isn’t that a wonderful period in my life to look forward to; a period that is lurking in the near future, ready to pounce?

Anyway, so there are definitely pros and cons to getting older. That still doesn’t explain why so many people are self-conscious about their age. Or why they feel the need to lie when they’re asked how old they are. What difference does it make? Does it change anything? Can you stop from growing old? Does it affect the way others view us? Are we treated differently when we tell people we’re 35 as opposed to 45? Are we afraid of losing our youth? Or unwilling to? Is it fear or vanity that encourages us to behave this way? Do we live in a society that discourages us from aging gracefully?

I personally have not been bothered by any milestones so far. When I turned 30, I embraced it enthusiastically because it was such a grownup number to be. When 40 rolled in, I was very excited about it. I was now part of that renowned club that so many fear joining; the club that includes that wonderful thing called ‘midlife crisis’. From my perspective, that crisis is an opportunity to do something completely zany and out of character - and get away with it. For example, during a midlife crisis I can get a mohawk, dye it green and pierce my nose, and all the while my loved ones will just sigh, shake their heads and utter “She must be going through a middle age crises.” Isn’t that cool? (Not that I’d ever do all that; the amount of attention a hairdo like that would draw is more than someone as shy as me can handle. But you get my point.)

So joining the 40s club and going a little nutty sounded like fun, although it’s been quite uneventful to date. I’m as stable and responsible as ever (if not more so), and there doesn’t seem to be a midlife crisis in sight. What a gyp! I suppose it could happen in my late 40s, maybe even in my 50s. But I think it could get pretty ugly (especially for my family) if the midlife crisis joins forces with the menopause.

All this to say that I’ve never been bothered by a birthday, or been unwilling to reveal my true age. It’s just a number, after all. What’s important is what you do with those years.

In the words of Abraham Lincoln:
“And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.”

How do you feel about getting older?

4 comments:

  1. Right now, since I woke up this morning with my back aching (for no particular reason), I would probably say growing older really sucks. But on my good days, when everything is in reasonable working order, I feel like 52 isn't so bad after all. As they say, growing older sure beats the alternative.

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  2. Oh so refreshing to hear voice of reason on aging! I too am free about disclosing my age, since it's a number that other people attach meaning to, not me. I see no shame in growing older - that's time's work, my job is to have as much fun as I can in the time given to me.

    But the inevitable signs of aging have become noticeable in the last few years. Probably the first sign was slower healing - if I work out hard it takes longer to recover, if I'm skiing I have less stamina. If there's even a small injury - I'm sidelined. I actually have back pain now, as well as other odd aches and pains, and I exercise regularly! My metabolism is already not what it was five years ago, and it's all downhill from here. If I drink just one glass too many, I suffer. The pluses so far have indeed all been mental - I'm calmer now, less prone to wild mood swings and my own brain been overactive. I have more patience, with others and myself. I have acquired new hobbies like gardening and winter sports(!). I pause more now and really enjoy random moments, rather than paying more attention to the chatter in my head. Overall - it's all a neat part of the journey of life, it's not good or bad, just different.

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  3. Age happens whether you want it to or not, you can't ignore it as it won't go away, so why not own up to it, and be proud of that number, I tell people how old I am and then they don't believe me! Happy belated birthday to you.

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  4. I agree, Beth. I find that I have more aches and pains as I get older, especially on days where it's really cold and humid. This should inspire me to move further south when I retire! Great excuse, no?

    But I also find that exercise helps me to feel better. It strengthens my muscles and helps me to be more flexible; that makes a world of difference in the way I feel.

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    Tatiana, no doubt about it, the signs of aging start to show themselves as the years progress. And like you, I do find that there have been a lot of mental pluses over the years. I'm not in a rush anymore. I don't worry about things I used to. And I make time to enjoy the things that make me happy.

    And what a perfect way to say it: "...it's not good or bad, just different"

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    Thank you, crafty gardener! It's just another number to me. What's important is enjoying the time we have here. And since it's not that long to begin with, why waste time worrying about things that are not important?

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