Learning to Love Growing Old

August 14, 2013

As I sat and contemplated the theme for my blog for ElderCare.com today, I could not get away from a disturbing thought--my birthday is less than a month away. All my life I have loved my birthdays--time to eat my favourite food, drink good wine and party with family and friends. No more!

Quite the contrary this year! I am dreading it! It is so unlike me, and the fact that I am feeling like this is disturbing me just as much as my birthday itself.

I am actually quite uncomfortable being so transparent and public about these feelings, but I am hoping that this reflection might help me sort it out. Writing has always been very cathartic for me, teaching English for over 4 decades can do that to you, and if you are reading this right now it means that I was courageous enough to share my ramblings.

My first thought is that this hideous number, that will soon be part of my identity, is one that has great import in our society. You are eligible for not one, but two pensions from the government. Most people reaching this age are usually retired (more about that later).

You are now inline for other 'senior' deductions, ugh! Some are an insult and some are quite nice (GO train to Toronto from Oshawa for $6) But along with these financial benefits come that nasty label. With luck, you sometimes have the happy experience of needing to show proof of age…it tempers the status somewhat.

They often say you can't escape your genes, but I would like to add that you can't escape your memories of growing up. One of mine is a real roadblock for me. I had loving parents and a great and stable upbringing, but one of my lasting impressions, I am sure common to a lot, is that when my parents were in their 60's they were 'old'…and I am there!! What do I do with that?

This could go on forever, but I will mention one more 'issue'. As a younger person I was athletic, lithe and felt very vital. With the passing years I have not sustained an acceptable fitness level…but no excuses. That is the fact. Some arthritis, bad knees….and the list goes on. This certainly does not enhance my mental health as I drag toward this milestone birthday.

Another word or two about retirement. It is not Nirvana. It is a tough tradition, especially when you loved your profession. It becomes so much of your self--identity and that which makes you feel like you are making a positive contribution to society. It gives you a framework, a touchstone…the sides of the road. All of those things are good, but have an expiry date.

I hope that there is someone out there who is nodding in agreement or at least feeling empathy for my angst.

So, I just reread this piece a couple of times…easier to sort feelings out when in print. Although my points are from the heart and represent how I am really feeling, there is not a lot of forward thinking here, or proactive planning. This is something that I have always been known for, and if it is lost, it is not because I am turning 65, but rather because I am mired in the above stated emotional issues.

What I have not described are all the wonderful positives aspects of my life: three great kids, and three amazing grandsons. I have thoughtful friends, money enough to take some vacations, and a 14 year old 'cog"--a cat who think he's a dog.

I am not sure when this number began eroding my self confidence and feeling of contentment, but it has been a gradual insidious rise to power. It has negated the pluses and elevated the negatives of my life and left me in my present apoplectic state.

So…here are some possibilities: join the local recreation centre, play with my grandsons more, take a trip on my birthday and drink more wine. By George, I've done it! A solution.

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