Note to self: The downside of growing old is nothing compared to the joy
Posted April 21, 2016
I have an irritated hip, something the physical therapist tells me is a combination of inflammation and twisted tendons and bunched-up muscles, all prompted in part by the fact that I'm getting older.
Consequently, I slept on my face the other day, waking up not with wrinkles that demonstrate the growing number of years behind me, but with actual creases on my face. The kind you get when the skin folds and flattens in place and you sleep through it because you're tired. Horizontal pleats from mouth to ear.
I tell this not to convince the reader that I'm falling apart, but to set a realistic background for this simple fact: I love growing older, in spite of the aches and the creases and the what-have-yous.
I watch my children jostle a bit to figure out where they fit in and what they want to be in the bigger world beyond their childhood and our neighborhood. They are both preparing for their first presidential election and take so seriously the debates, the rallies, the conversations with friends. My oldest is a hard-liner on many issues and favored me with a glare and an "I doubt it" when I observed mildly recently that she'll probably be less sure of some things as she gets a little more time and maturity behind her.
I have changed my mind on important issues and softened on some others. On a few topics, time has cemented views that were somewhat up in the air. I have discovered truths I wasn't sure of when I was younger. My faith in God is stronger now, as is my ability to see that science and God are not mutually exclusive.
I have voted for and against both Republicans and Democrats, have figured out that I can think someone is a political bonehead and still love the person and have felt causes ebb and flow over the years as my passions have been ignited at different times for varied things.
I watch how hard my daughter works in her college classes and I think how much easier it would be to do college now — aside from math, which benefited from being fresh in my mind when I was 18. I would bring to my education a broader context now, more perspective and a greater interest in learning simply for the joy of doing so, instead of learning as a step one takes to pass a test to get a good job and have a nice life. I was a youngster dragged to museums, usually when I wanted to do something else. Today, museums of all types are fascinating because there's so much I've learned — including that there's so very much I do not and will never know. But I can keep chipping away at it.
When I was 18, my hair was nice, my makeup applied, my clothes as stylish as I could figure out — and I worried a lot about how people thought I looked. But I was also too unsure of myself to let my guard down and appear unsure or wrong — two things that happen with some regularity now and from which I continue to grow. Life has to teach you to shrug things off or to put them in perspective.
It doesn't bug me that young people looking at me see my wrinkles and my (trifocal? quadfocal?) glasses. I don't envy their youth, with its built-in uncertainty, though I envy the worlds they've yet to explore.
It is true that growing older isn't for sissies. Growing older teaches one to take chances and welcome change. Sissies would find that difficult.
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