Aging has been a popular topic lately among my peers. Many of us are about halfway through our lives and we’re noticing and bemoaning the effects of the years that have gone past. Creaky joints, slow-healing injuries, blobs of fat that appear out of nowhere, and for no apparent reason. Bifocals.
And yes, I can agree, these factors are unpleasant, but in many ways I am enjoying this decade more than any of the previous.
This is partly for practical reasons: I am being rewarded for decades of fiscal prudence and have enough resources to do many of the things I used to only dream about. I have lived long enough to have figured out what I like about my looks and to decide that I should just ignore the rest, since it’s not likely to change, and besides I was always way more critical of myself than anyone else was (and if they were extremely critical, that was a whole separate issue, and not worth worrying about).
I have had enough time to experiment with varying levels of material comfort and have found a nice balance between having enough of the things that make life easier and more fun, and rejecting things that just suck up time and money with little return.
But what the years have really brought, in abundance, is assertiveness. I used to have to work at standing up for myself, but now instead I almost have to work to rein it in. Maybe it’s the result of having experienced and survived a wide variety of things; maybe it’s the result of having seen damn near everything, but I find that I really just don’t care much about being popular. I just care about the people and things I care about, and I am old enough to know who and what those are. Many days I channel the Honey Badger, and it’s not a bad feeling.
It’s not that I don’t give a **** about anything. That would be negative and depressing. It’s that after all these years on earth, seen through a keenly observant eye, I have seen how things work out in the end; how patterns repeat; how some events that seem horrible and crushing while they’re happening later become just another moment in time, taking their place alongside all the other moments – the bad ones and the good ones and that all those moments together are what make up the whole of existence. And further, existence IS a whole. It doesn’t serve to say “well, I like this part of myself, and everything would be perfect if only I could get rid of that other part,” because if you took out the part you don’t like, maybe the good part would change to fill the gap, but in a way that makes it less good. Or maybe the good stuff is dependent on the “bad” stuff in a way you can’t see; maybe the good couldn’t exist without the bad.
I don’t believe that “everything happens for a reason” because I think some things are just horrible and random and very unfortunate and I would never disrespect others’ suffering with an annoying bromide, but I do believe that everything is of a piece and there’s no point in trying to slice and dice your experience, or really, yourself, in an effort to excise everything you perceive as bad, because who the hell knows what you’ll wind up with?
Yes, being old and wrinkly is definitely preferable to being bones and worms. And the best thing is, despite being alive for so long, you still don’t know what’s going to happen next. It could be anything – and it could be great!
Jes, that’s a great point – you never know what’s right around the corner – it keeps life interesting, that’s for sure.