When I was a child I remember thinking that in the far-off futuristic year of 2000 I would be “old” at the age of 48. How funny it is that one’s idea of what is OLD changes so drastically as we rapidly (and it happens so damn fast) approach the age that we thought was OLD before; we keep on re-setting the bar. I was really depressed when I was about to turn 26 because in my mind, once you passed 25 you were close to 30–that dreaded age. In the movie Planet of the Apes (which came out when I was 14) one of the characters famously said, “Don’t trust anyone over 30”, which was the young people’s anthem during that time period. And how about that movie, “Logan’s Run” where nobody in that society was over 29 because you were “put out to pasture” at the ripe old age of 30. You know you’re getting older when you begin to think of 45 as “young” where you used to think of it as OLD. Each time I hit a milestone I want to believe that I am still young, and in my mind I am. In many cultures, an older person is respected, but not in the U.S. When was it decided that once you turn 50 or (God forbid) 60, you became less valuable than you were when you were younger? As I approached that dreaded age of 60, I felt less and less desirable, valuable, and worthwhile. I literally spent an entire year of my life dreading that number. I admit that part of that was my own prejudice derived from my impression of what an “older” woman was. But the media also perpetrates that age prejudice (except for celebrities—where age doesn’t seem to apply) where they lump everyone into the “senior” category once you turn 60. It’s strange that you could be 59 one day and then the next day when you turn 60, you are automatically deemed “elderly.” That word automatically conjures up people in rocking chairs, whiling away their “golden” years, waiting to die. Elderly implies that a person has no goals or dreams or aspirations. It implies that these people don’t know how to use a computer, or text, or use an iPad, or an IPhone, or other gadgets deemed too complex for their rapidly deteriorating brains. The image that one gets is of dumpy bodies, unable to run, spin, workout much (except the Silver Sneakers class). That whole picture could not be more wrong because just like anybody of any age, there are a great many variations of how each of us age. I for one was very debilitated before my spinal tumor was discovered, but before that I had been a vital and athletic woman of a certain age, and prided myself on it. When I was ambling along with my cane, I felt truly OLD, but anyone with a tumor compressing their spinal cord would have the same symptoms and probably felt the same way. Once the tumor was removed, my recovery was rapid and I returned to my workout regimen, gradually increasing it and one year later, I am almost back to pre-tumor form. But what I know for sure and I wish the younger set would understand, is that no matter what your age, you are an individual and if you were so inclined to be very goal oriented, and vital, you will not stop being so. I wish I could change society’s attitude about aging, but what is most important is changing my own attitude. Until I can look at myself (and the hell with other’s opinions) and feel beautiful (inside and out) nothing will change. I still have a long way to go, but the more I recognize my attributes and stop focusing on my physical flaws, the more I will learn to value and love myself. Like anything, that is a process and hopefully someday I will achieve this goal.
April 20, 2013
Last year in July I was all set to travel to Guatemala with an old friend that I had just gotten reacquainted with again. However he ended up canceling on me after the trip was already booked. He put the bug in me that I didn’t have to live a mundane life, but I still sure didn’t want to go on my own. In the end, I went alone, determined to find a new life, however what I found was something else. I studied my Spanish over and over and it helped to some extent, but I was often lost when people spoke too fast. I was plagued by severe pain all over my body (due to spinal and back problems which I found out later) and a bum right knee. So that limited my enjoyment of the culture tremendously. But even worse than the physical problems was the intense loneliness that engulfed me each day. Each night—except for two—I would dread dinner because I knew I would be eating alone while all the other tables were filled with happy, smiling, and laughing people. I felt so conspicuous and tried to act as if this was something natural for me. But underneath it all, I was so very sad. When I moved onto my next hotel in Panajachel, I was thrilled at how beautiful the resort was, the room, the weather, and everything. But it soon became apparent that I was still in severe physical pain but even more importantly psychic pain. Which brings me to my point: no matter where I go in the world, I am still bringing myself. Traveling or living abroad will not make me any happier than I would be if I lived at home. I know for sure that happiness is within and absolutely know that I need to share my travels with another person. It took going overseas to help me realize that where I live will not make me content. I kept thinking about what I would do with myself every day while that poor Guatemalan real estate agent showed me numerous apartments. Traveling per se doesn’t equal bliss but having a purpose and passion in my life will bring me a measure of contentment, no matter where I live!