2 April 2014

Rethinking aging: The fine art of aging gracefully

"It's so hard to get old without a cause; I don't want to perish like a fading horse.  Youth is like diamonds in the sun, and diamonds are forever.  Forever young, I want to be forever young"; so claimed three German lads back in '84.  They went on to ask, "Do you really want to live forever?".

I've always wondered why so many people resort to spending megabucks on Restylane or Botox trying to look younger than they really are.  Or willingly go under the knife - with no recourse whatsoever against the surgeon - and risk looking like the caricature that is Donatella Versace after it's done.

Although I know modern society is insanely-quick to point out the negative aspects of aging (even having us believe aging is taboo), I personally feel that us 40- to 50-somethings shouldn't allow ourselves to get drawn into this sad, cruel hype (we're far too wise for such things); because once we start losing sleep over aging, it's gonna consume us at some point and drive us up the cuckoo's nest.  There's nothing we can do about natural aging anyway because that pendulum on the wall isn't gonna stop swinging even if we made a full-time vocation out of worrying about getting old.

And how many times have we heard the phrase “young at heart”?  Well, "what's wrong with an old one?", I tend to rebuke.  I would argue myself to the grave that an old heart is superior because it is experienced.  It has felt more, loved more, been broken more and despite those terrible pangs of hurt and betrayal, has always meandered its way to recovery - gathering wisdom in doses large and small along the way.  An old heart is a treasure trove; and honestly, I wouldn't have mine any other way.


I am also oft-amused by those who'd swear on the misconception that if we make best efforts to act or behave like young people, do the crazy things they do and spend seven-tenths of our income on collagen, we will regain our youth.  All around us, without let-up, old people are admonished to keep striving.  Go back to work, they say.  Start a coffee shop, join a baking class, take up bowling, learn Japanese, write childrens' books, ride a Harley or like me, start a blog.  Everywhere we turn are people - invariably younger than us - telling us how important it is to stay young AND how to do it.  Keep yourself busy, they say; because if you don't, you'll become... ewwww!... OLD!

I'm not saying these are bad advice (after all, keeping the mind active is a good thing), but what if "old age" in itself is its own time in the cycle of life?  Something as important and interesting and colourful and fruitful and different from previous years as adolescence is from infancy - or adulthood from adolescence?  Wouldn't you want to live it?

As I age, there's no denying the supply of time available to me grows scarcer with each sunset.  I'm not hiding from this fact - nobody can - because life is an un-winnable fight anyway.  I'm well into the final quarter of mine; with another 15 - or if I'm lucky, 20 - years to go.  Hence I'm eager to quickly find a good way to live out these final chapters of my life.  I may be some way yet from achieving this but at least I'm trying.  I've begun telling myself that I really don't want to waste whatever time I have left trying to be something I'm not.  Or pretending I can or like to do things that physically (or even mentally) aren't as easy or as interesting anymore.

What I seek from this stage of my life is to simply be in it, live it and whenever I can, take time to smell the roses.  Or in my case, the bougainvilleas.  I can't wait to experience and understand the uniqueness of being fifty.  I look forward to discovering how this phase of life is going to differ from that before today; to experience the changes and come to know what it means to grow old.  I believe that if I follow the widespread dishonesty (yes, dishonesty) of pretending to be young, I will miss something very, very significant in life.  What a terrible shame that would be.

I won't argue with the fact that growing old is rife with countless emotional landmines - like fear of losing one's independence, contracting an illness or financial incapacity - which in truth, do render "aging gracefully" easier said than done.  But in this regard, ATTITUDE is everything.   It really comes down to how YOU see aging.  I do not fear it because personally, I believe we - the aging - are a select group.  We are fighters.  Above all, we are survivors.  I'm not saying I do not fear dying or becoming penniless because I do; but wisdom, resilience, a mature perspective - even stubbornness - are hard-won prizes of this process we call aging.  What this essentially means is that "growing old" in itself is nothing short of an accomplishment of gargantuan proportions, don't you think?

At the other end of the spectrum, those who find it an insurmountable challenge to accept the fact that they are getting old tend to react negatively when faced with the natural changes that are part of aging.  This adds a lot of unnecessary stress and strain to their lives; and when they fail to manage these, the risk of depression setting in suddenly becomes very real.  That's why I for one tend not to think too much about getting old.  Why should I?  If I'm gonna sit around whining about or mulling over the meaning of existence and how rapidly time is running out for me, I'm convinced I'm not going to age successfully.  Self-denial?  I really don't know and I hope not; but it sure beats the way the guy who focuses only on what's not working anymore is going to live out the rest of his days.


Someone once said, "Accept the inevitable changes that come with aging, rather than seeing them as aberrant crises".  I couldn't agree more.  ACCEPT that your life won't stay the same and that aging changes everyone.  In short, we should learn to anticipate (and accept) the changes which are inevitable.  I consider myself fortunate - blessed even - to have lived long enough to see my hair turn silver and to have my laughs forever etched into the growing number of wrinkles on my face.  So many have never laughed and so many have gone before their hair could turn grey.

As I grow older, I find it easi-er (although not necessarily eas-y) to be positive.  For starters, I care less about what others think of me.  My self-confidence has developed with age; and more and more, I'm questioning myself less and less.  Sure, I'm not always right but who's to say I haven't earned the right to be wrong?

I'm not that na├»ve to think that I'll live forever - neither do I want to - but as long as this ol' ticker graciously allows me another gasp of air through these asthma-strained lungs, I'm not going to waste a second lamenting over what could've or should've been.  I am also learning to be more patient and to worry less about what will be - although admittedly I still have much to learn in both respects.

The key to a successful old age is simply to make the best of growing old.  You might just find it's not nearly as bad as you initially thought it would be - just as I'm finding out now.  You don't have to be perfect in the fine art of growing old; there's no such thing.  I know I'm not.  But it helps if you just gave it your best shot and let the Man upstairs take over.  Just look at Helen Mirren.  Or Diane Keaton.  Or Sting.  Now THAT'S what I call aging gracefully.




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P/S ~ I'm quickly learning to draw inspiration from ordinary day-to-day events and from there, obtain ideas for my blog.  I had a full medical a few days ago - something of a periodic requisite for someone approaching 50 like me.  I'm glad to say that apart from a very minor blip with regards my cholesterol levels, I was given a most satisfactory clean bill of health.  It was this event that inspired me to write this blog post.

3 comments:

  1. brill vincent as alsway! i often tell younger people "i wasnt born this old" it took me time and events to get here, they think we know nothing about life haha, well we lived and are living one and could tell them some tales and embarrass them lol , keep up the great blogs.your friend doe x

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    1. U got that right, Doe sis! Thank u for your kind words.

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  2. Profound and insightful.

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