Aging: The good, the bad and the ugly

Aging: The good, the bad and the ugly

As I was writing this blog, I was on an airplane at 30,000 feet. I was on it for nearly 10 hours and could actually feel my skin drying from the altitude and lousy air circulation. I see now that I added a few new lines to my collection.

When we landed and I stood up, my knees reminded me of those ten hours as did my back. You see, as a result of aging and working hard, I am able to travel. This is good. Carrying this war torn body around (multiple surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation and life in general) is the hard part.

I wanted to bounce off that plane with the spring in my step I had when I was 20. I dreamed of slipping into a bikini that I didn't have to try on, I knew it would fit - on a body that wasn't full of scars and cellulite and sagging arms that could knock someone over. But when I was 20, I didn't know so much; I hadn't truly lived.

Awhile back a local newspaper put out a request to submit your favorite movie quote. I did and it was chosen to appear: As seen in The Natural, Glenn Close to Robert Redford:

"I believe we have two lives: the one we learn with, and the one we live with after that".

This defined me. It defines everyone in the world who lives long enough to understand it.

It's clearly impossible to have the knowledge of what and where life is about until we've experienced it. Our mistakes and successes mold who we are and only with age, comes these things.

But it's a bitch! When I was young and smooth and vital if I knew what I know now? What a force to be reckoned with I could have been! I didn't know about regrets I would have as I aged; I didn't know what I could have been or become!

I didn't know how my career would develop until it did. I didn't know how much I'd regret not doing what I'd hoped to do until how much I regret it now.

I didn't know if I could be with one person for very long. My mother nicknamed me "her butterfly" as I could never land and stay in one place. Now I've been with my husband for nearly thirty years. Those thirty took work and compromise and understand and patience and triumphs and tragedies I could never have predicted. You only really know until you've experienced these things as a couple and you actually stay together. 

I didn't know what unconditional love was until I had children. My young selfish self wouldn't have thought I would or could die for someone and now I know I would. I never realized the capacity of love and the joys and fears and anxieties I would experience as a mother.

I didn't know that by my age I would have had cancer twice. I didn't know I carried a gene that almost assured me that I would. I didn't know the heartache and fear and anger I would experience while going through it. Or the determination, the resistance and the confidence that I would live to tell.

I didn't know what life would be like without parents. We are born and that's all we know. We sometimes don't realize how blessed we truly are when we have them until they grow old. I didn't understand how painful it could be to reach for a phone to call my mother or father and know they would never answer again. Or to look at a picture of them and feel like I've been stabbed in the heart with the longing to see them, just one more time.

I didn't know that one day I would look in the mirror and see an old woman - I always felt sexy and alive! I never thought the idea of having sex would be so far off in my mind. I didn't know how the libido would die a slow and ugly death after menopause.

I didn't know which friends I would make and which ones I would keep; which ones would come and go and which ones would be there through thick and thin. I didn't know which ones would hurt me and leave scars. I didn't know how much I could appreciate making new friends and knowing that they would always have my back, even at my age.

I didn't know that after menopause I would gain weight I couldn't get rid of. Running around at 115 pounds at 25 you don't think that you'll hit 50 and suddenly the scale will soar - gain five pounds in a weekend and take 3 months to lose it.

I didn't know any of these things and so much more. But, now that I do and if I am lucky enough to have more years, there are so very many things I can do with this knowledge.

These are the mysteries of life and only when we experience them and learn can we start to make changes or start to live.

I'd love to say that I have no regret (cue Sinatra, "Regrets, I've had a few"). I don't believe there is a person alive that can say they've never had any. But I have the chance to fix them. I may not have the energy or the time, but I have the will.

I may not see that young girl I was in the mirror but she lives in my head and my heart. That girl can still listen to loud music and sing at the top of her lungs and not care who is watching me from the next car.

This woman can still dance in her underwear ("doesn't make me Madonna, never will") and laugh and be childish and not give a shit what people think.

This woman can enjoy the fruits of having grown daughters that make me proud every day and know I did my job well. I can look forward to guiding them as they become parents as that only comes from experience.

Life is what we make it my friends. As we all know, we are in charge of our own destinies. We can do our best to learn as much as possible and use that knowledge as we age to enjoy life, to change it, or do whatever we need to feel like it was all worth it.

I guess aging has its perks.

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