As of today I’ve been on this earth for an amount of time that officially places me in the demographic of Advanced Middle Age, squarely on the Cusp of Elderly. I know this because I was once a media buyer for an ad agency, and I’ve crossed into the No Person’s Land where I can no longer be called “young” by any stretch of the imagination. The fact that I still feel 18, and behave accordingly at times despite arthritic joints, belies the sordid, inescapable truth: I have to face reality, admit my age, and make peace with it. This doesn’t bode well. I live to defy all odds.
I’ve never been one to lie about my age or dread birthdays, because I never really cared how old I was, or thought that anybody else did, either, apart from those Savage Marketing People (of whom I used to claim membership). To be honest, it still doesn’t really bother me, except that society now views me differently, as if I’m a dried-up, old hag whose ability to contribute to said society has evaporated along with my youthful glow. I for one know and believe that age is wisdom and power, because I’ve been privileged to have been mentored and shepherded by older folks who told me the truth whether or not I wanted to hear it. I benefited from their candor, their humor, their refusal to roll over and play dead, and I learned that life at any age is only as rewarding as you make it, despite circumstances. Being “older” affords one a certain type of liberation, the ability to speak one’s mind and be heard, if not always respected. Well, sometimes not heard, either.
But I can attest that being more mature as a result of numerous decades spent making mistakes means that I no longer get really pissed off about stuff I can’t control, and old age is right up there with the big zero control items. Case in point: tonight, after months of planning and anticipation wherein I resolved to spend this numerally significant birthday with a flair, I trudged in a downpour to see a sold-out play, gleeful that my Uber-planner gene had kicked in early enough to procure tickets.
Haha, The Universe strikes again: as I arrived at the theater and noticed the lead actor walking AWAY from it, I experienced that dreaded “oh, shit” feeling that I’ve come to know all too well… apparently rain and leaky roof tiles forced the play to cancel tonight. The immature, much-younger me would have cursed, stomped around, vilified the house manager and caused a horrible scene. Thankfully my age did get the better of me, which resulted in my best behavior and acceptance of the circumstances out of my control. The free drink from the house didn’t hurt, either, but I realized as I sipped that good, free Chianti that I’d arrived: maturity does have benefits, and for me that translates into an ability to at long-last control my emotions, quick temper and impatience. I’m still a work in progress, but perhaps there’s hope for me, yet.
That lack of control over the rest of the universe is often what sends us into a fiery rant. And I’m not saying that I “get it” or have all the answers. For those of us at the lower end of the Old Scale, we can still shrug off impending old age and infirmity, as if we’ve got our lives right where we want them, scripted outcomes and all. But my chaplaincy work revealed, painfully, that there’s an age and illness threshold that once crossed, spirals the participant into a complete lack of control over his or her own affairs, and that invisibility, as far as society, and family, is concerned, is tragic.
Right now I can console myself with the fact that I have a bionic foot and can once again walk unassisted, when my knees-that-need-replacing cooperate. But at some point in my inevitable future, my mobility or independence may come to a screeching, altered halt, and I know from my own post-op experience that if you can’t drive, climb stairs, run your own errands or find the means to get cheerful and willing assistance, life can become rude, harsh and desolate. Elderly people are routinely abused, abandoned and forgotten like yesterday’s Twitter feed, and we should be ashamed of ourselves for allowing that to happen.
Wow, this quickly descended into a downer, didn’t it! Happy freaking birthday to me! What I’m trying to say is that what I’ve really crossed with this birth anniversary is my Threshold of Inevitability. The Fantasy Train on which I’ve been riding, if even in my own mind, is about to come to the last stop, at a point in time that looms much more threatening than it ever did before. I can continue to limp along with my titanium orthopedic rods and try to stave off Old Age, but there’s only so much I can control, and that’s what we really hate about ageing.
So I’m not giving up, but I’m ready to embrace what my future may or may not entail with a sense of honesty borne of experience. Ok, maybe I can’t embrace loneliness, infirmity or abandonment, but I can wrap my arms around reality, and start assessing what I need to do in order to live the rest of my life in a fruitful, responsible manner. Therein lies the wisdom of ageing: it’s not just shoring up the bank account or the life insurance policies, readying the legal documents and downsizing one’s footprint and belongings…the real task is staring down that late model motorized scooter and plying it with streamers and glitter, so that we can still sparkle.
Peace, to my soul friends of all ages.