Friday, September 21, 2007

Growing Old Gracefully

I spoke this week to a large group of students, mostly Seniors, at Wake Forest University. Talk about feeling my age. I spoke about writing, of course. I did my "thing" and it went well. But as I looked out over the sea of baby-faces, I began to think about aging. That someday, all those smooth and unlined faces, straight backs, perky boobs, and bodies filled with boundless energy ... are going to be middle-aged. Like me. It made me sad. But ONLY for a moment.

Growing old gracefully is a gift. I am now, probably for the first time in my life, the person I have always wanted to be. (Not in body, but in mind.) Sometimes I see my mother when I look in the mirror, but there's nothing I can do about that.

I've always been, uh, a bit of an oddball. A drama queen. A pain in the ass to some. Maybe it's the artistic part of me that was always screaming to get out! Come out of the closet, if you will. But now ... as I've aged like (I was going to use the old cliche and say like a fine wine) but it's more like stinky cheese. Anyway, I have to say ... I like me. I like the way my life is turning out.

Point is, I have found out over the years who my friends really are. I wouldn't trade them for anything. Not even a flatter belly or a firmer butt. Although I'm anal as hell, I've learned to forgive myself quicker. And others. I've learned patience. (Oh, yes, 'tis true.) And though I still hate stupid drivers, I get over it quicker. I've become my own friend.

I stopped beating myself up for eating ice cream after 7:00, and I love 80s music. I'm not ashamed of that anymore. And bluegrass. I love bluegrass. I choose who I want to be with, talk to, and have in my life. I don't want to be around people I don't like. I don't have to anymore. If somebody doesn't like me, I don't lament about that anymore, either. I shrug and go on.

There's a freedom that comes with aging. Whose business is it if I choose to read or write until 3 in the morning. Whose business is it if I sleep until 10 am? I also love Mozart and Frankie Valli. So what? I've never owned my own home. I can admit that. Sure, it's a goal. To own my own beautiful home. Entertain. Fix things the way I want. Have what I want for dinner and when I want it. Walk around the house naked with my husband. Who cares? (I hope my kids aren't reading this.) But then again, get over it. Mom still has sex, guys! It still happens after 50, maybe not as much, but it happens! And it's better than ever!

And if I choose to weep over lost dreams in the middle of the day ... I will. And if I walk the beach in long cotton cover-up instead of a bikini, who cares? Even despite the pitying glances from the size twos, so what? They, too, will get old. My husband still loves me.

I know someday I may become forgetful. But there again, some of life is just as well forgotten. Sure, over the years my heart has been broken. Some folks have a tough time believing what I've been through. And some things, may never be told. They're too painful. But broken hearts are what give us strength and understanding and compassion. A heart never broken is pristine and sterile and will never know the joy of being imperfect.

I'm glad I'm not perfect. I'm glad, oh, so glad I don't have to work at that "perfect" game my old church used to force down my throat. I am so blessed to have lived long enough to know better.

My hair is turning gray under the beautiful color my hairdresser so skillfully applies. The laugh lines are carved into my face from decades of smiles. But I have a dear friend who never laughed after the age of 13. She never got to see her laugh lines.

As you get older, it is easier to be positive. You care less about what other people think. I don't question myself as much anymore. (Only to my husband, poor thing.) But I've even earned the right to be wrong. I guess, after looking at all those young people, I've decided I like being older. It has set me free. I like who I've become. I am not going to live forever, but while I am still here, I will not waste time lamenting what could have been, or worrying about what will be. I will eat ice cream every single day. (If I feel like it.) So there.

What do those kids at Wake Forest really have to write about at this point in their lives? Not much when you think about it. I used to wish I were 21 again. Not anymore. It feels too good to be free from all that. Too good. I don't want to spend my life jaded, waiting, to wake up one day and find, that I let all these years go by ... wasted. Love that Carrie Underwood song.

Blessings to you and yours.

1 comment:

Dena said...

Excellent post, Pam!