Saturday, May 26, 2007

Elder? Me?

I'm taking trips via the Internet (okay, and in my head) this weekend -- sort of little escapes here and there.

One site that will be a source of wonderful procrastination and dawdling activity is Blogher: a community of women bloggers who not only list their blogs in a gi-normous blogroll, but who also comment on various topics and establish community on the site itself.

As much as I love reading blogs, I'm not sure how this one escaped me for so long, but it's a library of stories from real people. I've spent this afternoon browsing through comments and blogs about cats, writing, baby boomers, books, and more.

One thing that threw me just a tad, when I registered this blog and myself on the blogroll, was the categorization option. Old Musings is clearly a "life" blog -- but they offer subcategories: Elder or Single.

Well, I'm not single. I have a wonderful, loving years last Sunday!

On the other hand, I don't feel Elder. (Let's just ignore that Six-Oh decade birthday in six months...)

So I went looking at Elder blogs. Uh huh. Baby boomers. Menopause. Over 40. I guess I qualify.

And yet Tony and I were talking the other day about wisdom and age (and the corollary, that sometimes age comes alone...) I've had occasion this week to observe more closely than usual the arrogance of youth (youth being anyone under 35 or 40...). There's an attitude -- which I'm sure I probably displayed when I was that age-- that is rather dismissive of experience or life lessons, and fairly short on courtesy or patience or evident gratitude.

It's not true of everyone, of course. We discussed that people who have had hard life-lessons in those first few decades usually have a better handle on the fragility and uncertainty of life. If you've experienced the death or life-threatening illness of someone close to you, you see life a little differently and are not as casual about it, for instance.

And then, of course, there are those people, both older and younger, who are pessimistic, self-centered, egotistical, and ... did I mention self-centered? Uh huh.

Aging teaches you stuff, some of it not a lot of fun, some of it amazingly wonderful. Oh, don't get me wrong: I relish where I am, the age I am, WHO I am now, and that all was shaped by what I was when I was younger -- the mistakes, the indiscretions, the paths I chose, the exuberant energy and confidence that I was never going to age like so many older people I knew -- but also hoped that when I DID age that I would be more like some of the other older people I knew, the ones who were the mavericks, the outspoken, interesting ones. I wouldn't go back and do it over again, not this life. I like this age, this person that I'm becoming...

About aging: I've learned that "never" is a long time, and when it comes to body appearance and functions, for instance, "never" is simply not relevant. You're gonna get wrinkles and gray hair, even if you cover it up with Miss Clairol. You're going to lose skin and muscle tone in places that used to be smooth and firm, no matter how much you exercise, no matter how much moisturizer you slather on. Your innards are going to have glitches now and then, and they're simply not going to function the way they did when you were 20 or even 30:
  • feet have been holding you up for many years, supported often by nothing more than a thin rubber sole or hiked six inches in the air for the sake of fashion,
  • your plumbing has been filtering out all those nasty fats and chemicals and additives for years, and eventually even a good, high-quality drain gets clogged or leaky,
  • organs and glands and hormones meant to help reproduce the species have a finite number of productive years, and then some stuff shuts down, or gets tired, or just plain breaks,
  • the vast memory cells in our amazing brains have lots and lots of days and years of experiences stored up, and sometimes the communication pathways aren't as quick as they used to be -- or all those "better living through chemistry" recreational experiences of our wild and crazy youth have altered or erased them...
It's gonna happen.

I didn't/couldn't/wouldn't really understand that when I was in my 20s and 30s either.

So when we look at these young adults who are working to make a living and a life, making mistakes, feeling immortal, having fun, trying to be responsible for themselves and maybe even kids of their own (or not -- sometimes personal responsibility doesn't ever quite kick in), I suppose it's another stage in that great wheel of life: one that our parents saw in us, one their parents saw in them, and so on back through the ages.

I hope that in my case wisdom will come with that Elder thing too: I think it is, bit by bit. What I hope also is granted to me in abundance is patience: patience to deal with that young arrogance, that youthful surety that they OWN life and that they will never be like those OLD people.

Time'll get 'em. Just like it's getting me...and you. One day at a time. I bet my parents are laughing...

I'm reading Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.

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