Joni Mitchell's lyrics are running through my head today: "Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you got
Til its gone..."
While I'm not talking about paving paradise and parking lots, I am thinking of how we age and the subtleties of how it happens. Aging is not something I thought about at all in my 20s or 30s, and never a lot even in my 40s, although there were plenty of changes in that decade that had to do with aging and perhaps maturing in one way or another.
And even into my early 50s, an especially wonderful time in my life as Tony and I met and eventually got married, the aging process was noticed, but was not yet a big deal.
As I approach 65, it is becoming more so.
There is almost no brown left in my hair, I noticed during a haircut this morning. It's a mix of greys and silvers with a touch of white here and there. Over the years, it started as a sort of mousey brown and changed to a darker, richer reddish brown, and I experimented with various colors and textures -- perms, weaves, dark, blonde, light, red,streaked... And now it's straight and soft and full and fine. And grey. And it really works for me.
Older faces DO have wrinkles and creases, and I have 'em. And the awful jowly turkeyneck too, something I've yet to see successfully dealt with without a surgeon's intervention. I hated turkeyneck from my 20s. But I'm not doing any surgery that isn't absolutely necessary, lemme tell you. Turkeyneck doesn't qualify as essential repair. And hands -- ooo, those nasty veiny, my-aging-grandmother hands. Moisturize. Moisturize.
Things don't work like they did, from the limbs and joints to the bladder and teeth. My urologist pats my hand and says, shaking her head, "Beth, God didn't mean for us to get old." My joints, several of them repaired with plates and screws, still work reasonably well, but that's if I keep taking the glucosamine-chondrotin-MSM stuff and drinking my folk remedy cocktail of grape juice and Certo. Yikes! I sound more like my grandmother every year!
Health takes more maintenance. Like a classic car, we're in the 'shop' (doctor's offices) more frequently, and the older we get, more tests/meds/effort are required to make sure the parts are running adequately. No matter if things have been reasonably okay up until now: you don't ignore the little stuff any longer because it can easily turn into bigger deals: expensive, complicated deals that can definitely mess with your quality of life.
Oh, food. That's definitely changed. We were talking about fried foods the other day, and I realized that it has probably been decades since I fried a chicken. Mashed potatoes and gravy? A couple of times a year, at the most. If I fix rice, it's brown and basmati, which has the lowest glycemic index load.
Who knew anything about glycemic index back in their 20s or 30s, or even 40s? Who cared? I ate and drank pretty much whatever I wanted, as did most of us. Not any more, although I'm grateful I appreciate fresh veggies and fruits as much as I do.
Now all this stuff isn't gone, but it's definitely changing. We take so much for granted on our path through life, or at least I sure did, always understanding that I'd get older, but not even slightly getting how much change aging brings, and how sneakily it creeps into your every day life, year by year. One year you're bouncing around in heels and cute little strappy sandals, and the next -- well, sooner than you'd think -- your feet are killing you and you're searching for 'comfort' shoes that are at least a little stylish.
I didn't appreciate most of it when I had it, either. I like to think I'd have taken better care of my skin, my body, even my health, and stopped eating or drinking things that were clearly not good for me even then.
So listen up: if you're lucky enough to live long enough, you're going to start to show the results of all the things you've done to your body over the years. Your skin and hair and teeth and organs are going to begin to show that they've carried you a long ways, and sometimes over a lot of dirt road.
Appreciate what you've got in your amazing life machine when you're young and aging is waaaaayyyy down the road, something that parents and grandparents do. Sooner than you think, you'll be there.
It's not all bad, mind you, this aging thing. But that's another day.