When I’m……..WTF?

There’s something so strange about growing older.

I often think about the way statements like “you’re not getting older, you’re getting better” or it’s antithesis “getting old isn’t for sissies” roll off people’s tongues.  The first one comes from younger-than-you-people, the second from older-than-you’s. There’s some truth in both but the problem is  the only way to find out is by  growing older. And that sucks.

Look, I know, it is “better than the alternative”, although if the alternative was to grow younger I would happily choose door number two.  I  get it though. I have a dead husband, you all have dead people in your lives that you wish had the option of growing older.  I feel you.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t complain about getting older myself, or at least write about it in a way to make some sense of  all my feels about it.

And, you know, it’s my blog so…

The main thing, the thing of utmost importance for me to say, is that I feel, at least in my head, 35-ish. Maybe 40. I probably behave more like a 25 year old. These are  distressing thoughts to someone coming to grips with a real number.

I remember as a kid ,  looking at old people (who were probably 35-ish) and not connecting in any way with their experience.  I am certainly more than grateful that as I got into my 20’s I began to connect with my elders, women in particular, and the process became less mysterious. Maybe thats why I still feel young; I know women older than me who do too. Plus I have a number of younger friends that I love and relate to, something that is imperative in this process, in my estimation. But life doesn’t see me as young. I am “ma’am”  I am the one who can’t do this or that.

Example…I am mad about music. I listen to the latest and love it. I love going to live shows. But my days of standing in a crowd for a couple of hours to see a band I love are flat out over. And I worry about things like stairs at a venue. They are no longer for running up and down; now I am grateful beyond measure for handrails.

Example...I love yoga. I took teacher training  and practice regularly, and although  I expect I could cue a full on hatha class, I don’t want to. I  teach yin and restorative. I appreciate, practically, less cues to remember. I appreciate the calm, meditative quality of these practices, the nervous system reset, the fascial release, the pause.  However, I live in L.A and  if you spit you hit a yoga studio, or teacher.  Young teacher. How do fit into that culture? It’s a question that might be answered by the “you’re not getting older, you’re getting better” quote. I have more patience. I’m calmer and more compassionate. I see yoga as service and lifestyle  rather than a money making proposition (although there’ s not much money in teaching yoga). I’d love to have a class; and grateful to have a client.

Example...I love to wander through bookstores, as I did  this past Sunday post Farmer’s Market.  When asked if I needed help I answered no, content to just hang out.  The salesperson was persistent, wanting  to show me a book that “a lot of people” had been buying. I humored her and was taken to a book chronicalling the stages of  a woman’s life. That’s right: the Maiden, the Mother and……the Crone. This particular book was about the Crone. As you can imagine, my day was made.

Back in January I got pneumonia and it changed me in some fundamental, and I think, awful way.  Until then I really felt 35-ish, even in my body.   I felt strong and healthy. But I had never been really sick before, and man, was I sick!  Down all of January and it took me a few months to get back to acceptable physical speed…and I stress acceptable.  Because it’s not where I was, but I guess it’s acceptable for someone my age.    My body has changed, suddenly, dramatically.  I have more chronic pain. I don’t exactly know what to do with these changes.

On top of the physical illness, and while my friends were incredibly helpful and solicitous, there was no getting around the fact that I was alone.  I’ve been alone for a while, but not like this. It messed with my mind, as it brought to the forefront exactly what the rest of my life looks like.  And what if I do get a debilitating disease?  What if I need constant help? It’s frightening. I don’t fear death, I fear getting sick in a way that would compromise my ability to care for myself.  And that seems a logical thing to fear….it will, almost inevitably, happen.

In some ways the “getting better “ is clear.  It’s in  my the ability to be alone, to accept myself (even though it’s hard work), to be honest…etc.  But it doesn’t feel better.  Aging to me just feels like loss after loss after loss, and so many more to come.  People, abilities, my memory (that’s already in full swing!) I just got word of an old friend in hospital. Heart attack, outcome very uncertain.  Aging feels like steeling myself against the onslaught of destruction to myself and to those I love.

It also feels like meditating into those feelings, allowing them and hoping for some relief, a little acceptance (Not here yet, obviously) . It feels like saying yes more, the no’s have to stop. It feels like curiosity writ large…..what’s next? isn’t this interesting? how do I do that?

Yesterday I had my thermostat replaced, and  when asked which of two new ones I’d like,   I chose the easy one. On /off, shows temperature, fine by me. I tend to choose the easy things now, the familiar.  There is so much info in my brain that I just feel I don’t have the cells to pick up something new.  I swear the the next gazillionaire is the person who develops a way to extract all the old song lyrics from my brain, making room for newer info.  But then it’s so fun to  sing along with all the oldies!

I don’t know.   This is where I am on my birthday this year.  Caught between a youthful head and an aging body.  The enjoyment and meaning of life and the slow dissolving into death. The joy of friends and family and connection and a bone-chilling loneliness that I fear can never be filled. I’m not gonna lie or try and make this look pretty. I don’t feel that way. I am angry and afraid and kicking and screaming.

BUT  I am also grateful. I’ve had a great life and I am sure there are many  joys to come, even amidst the indignities.  I’m usually happy, or happy-ish. I have remarkable friends and a lot of things I love to do, and am fully able to do. I’m glad to be alive, glad to be here to experience every moment of it, good and bad. As uncomfortable as this aging thing is, I am so grateful to just be here, now.

The balance between all that is the high wire I’m walking these days. It keeps me busy. It keeps me from writing here. It keeps my lying on the couch playing Candy Crush. It keeps me reading poetry and beautiful books. It keeps me doing yoga and meditating. It keeps me lonely and it keeps me reaching for connection. It keeps me saying yes when all I want to do is say no. It keeps my hopes high but my expectations low.

Getting older ISN’T for sissies.  At least I know, as in all things, I am never truly alone.  There are plenty of other non-sissies walking this same tightrope. And knowing that brings   me some  relief.

So I will leave you with my  birthday truth and a piece of music that  fills me with sorrow and joy.   I always expected to wake up on my birthday with this song blasting. It was a shared joke, a way of speaking love. That’s not gonna happen either. But I am moving forward, staying curious about the process and playing this song (which I know all the words to, of course!) full blast, for myself.

 

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16 Comments

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  1. I’m so grateful for your honesty. It’s this kind of post that changes and challenges me.

  2. Same feeling, same words and I’m sure I’m way ahead of you on that tightrope. I try to tuck away most of the negative thoughts about aging as I still think of myself as 35, except when I catch a glimpse in the mirror, ugh I have an old ladies neck! Not for sissies is right Happy Birthday Mish.;)
    Sharon

  3. Ah yes, it’s just like when people tell you to “treasure every moment” of your children’s childhood and you get it but you also mostly want to smack them.

    I’m with you, at 46 I don’t feel 46. People look at me in amazement when I say I’m 46, no way! they say and I appreciate the sentiment but at the same time I earned these 46 years and I’d like credit. I’m beginning to not look familiar to myself, my hands are older looking, wrinkles where there weren’t any, and I like it. Endless youth seems so…exhausting.

    I’m sad to hear you were so so sick. I’ve had a lot of health issues since I got sober- random things that just came up unrelated to drinking I think- hernias, the year they thought I had MS but couldn’t figure it out, skin cancer, a running injury when I first got sober that sidelined me for years. I’m so much more kind and careful with my body now, no more crazy diets trying to squeeze off five more pounds, no more harsh criticisms for my ample hips and thighs, I know how well it works, and how fast it can stop working in this luxurious way I often take for granted.

    Happy Birthday dear friend! Your words are such a welcome gift in my inbox. When you feel lonely know that there’s another sober lady yogi on the east coast who loves you for your honesty and generosity with your words and your heart. I listen to music as loud as humanly possible too, I laugh at myself when I pull onto my street because I’m sure the neighbors wonder what the heck. But I just have to hear it loud. 😊❤️

    • Ah Amy!
      Thank you. Yes to the similarity with the kid thing…omg!
      Bu the message is to treasure it all right… I think of the Rilke quote “let everything happen, the beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final”.
      It’s interesting how the angst of yesterday settled into the acceptance of today.
      It’s just a day, like any other…but with a different soundtrack!

      I miss you on instagram, the daily posts were fun!
      xoxo

  4. I love the comfort in myself I have found at 45.
    I often feel younger as well…I honestly can’t say I have a good idea what I even look like in real life. It’s like at yoga. In my mind i am graceful. Reality? Who cares. Lol I expect it’s not as beautiful as I imagine,

    Let to my own decisions I would probably lead a pretty quit and slow life. But I still have a 12 and 14 year old who keep me hopping. And my husband likes to travel. So I do.

    I looked at myself in the mirror today. I am wearing a cute dress that I like and comfortable shoes. In fact, I have a new rule. If I buy clothing or shoes I must wear it. If I don’t like how it fits or it is in any way uncomfortable I give it away. That’s what this age means to me. A bit of everything. And no time for squashed toes or uncomfortable pants.

    Bug hug to you. Keep writing. You have a lot of deep insight that we all need.

    Anne

    • thanks anne…

      i have a no shopping rule lately. One, because i am usually just in yoga clothes all the time! But also because why buy if I don’t need? I have two big bags of clothes to give away staring at me from the corner of my room. Comfort and ease is what I care about..and especially in shoes. I WILL spend $$ on good shoes…life is too short, right?
      I think that ease does come with age…. I don’t often give a rat’s ass about what I am wearing. And that feels good

  5. Nice post. Thanks for the thoughtful break from my endless self interest.
    Much love….

  6. Susan Boyd Joyce August 9, 2017 — 9:35 am

    Happy Birthday, Michele. Remember that scene in Moonstruck, when Olivia Dukakis tells her husband,
    “Cosmo, I want you to know, no matter what you do, you’re gonna die, just like everybody else.” And he says, “Thank you.”
    And walks up the stairs.
    What a great movie. I love you. xoxoxoxosbj

  7. Hi Michele!
    Happy Birthday!
    I just turned 64 this year, and what you wrote is exactly how I feel!!
    Thank you!!
    xo
    Wendy

  8. gabrielle a dingle August 10, 2017 — 8:54 pm

    You echo my sentiments exactly. Will be 61 next week. I’m in good shape, but fears of aging keep me up at night.

  9. Happy (belated) birthday Michele!
    I will always love you to the moon and back.
    You speak my truth – you always do in so many ways. Young mind- aging body…a knee that gives out mid-step, feet that won’t work heels any more…a body that needs eight hours of sleep, but likes to top out at 4.
    I was in the middle of a pity party when I read your post and you, like you always have, yank me back with the reminder of gratitude. I need to get back to regular yoga practice – I wish you were my teacher. Glad you’re my friend. xoxoxo

  10. This is embarrassing to admit but until recently (the last 4 years or so) I thought that when you get old, you get to a point where all you want to do is share old stories, bounce your great-grandchildren on your knee and pass the torch gracefully. I thought that you were “young” until the day you got “old” and it never occurred to me that there are a lot of years in between until I got in between them. I have no idea how I’m going to navigate middle age but so far I’m going down kicking, screaming and gracelessly. I crack up when I hear Miranda Lambert’s song Gravity is a Bitch (https://youtu.be/WnxfVJd4VzM). There’s nothing like hearing a gorgeous woman in her early 30’s sing about aging! Happy belated birthday! ❤

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