I’m beginning to recognize the subtle signs of aging in myself. For so long, I swept the annoying creaks and aches that accompanied my 40s under the carpet. Now, as I reach the latter part of these years, that carpet is beginning to swell with a slew of other fun little physical anomalies: fewer eyebrow hairs, fine “smile” lines, strange hairs in unique places, dark spots on my face, crepey skin, strange vision woes—and then some.
I figure I can look at these creeping changes in two different ways. I can become my mother, who would stare into her uber bright, magnified makeup mirror and be saddened by new lines and creases. Or, I can accept the changes and make accommodations. I choose the latter mainly because I am a “glass half full” kind of gal, but also because I never liked seeing my mom speak negatively about herself. I never saw what she saw. She wasn’t obese or ugly by a long shot. She was my beautiful mom. I remember her standing in front of the full-length mirror and manipulating the dangling skin at the base of her arms or the little cellulite that lived on the interior of her knee caps. After she’d move the skin to the back, she’d say, “See? This is exactly how my legs were! Now look at them.” She’d then humorously wiggle her “bat wings.”
“Mom, you’re gorgeous—you need to stop it!” I would say, feeling helpless. I even sent her Maya Angelou’s essay, “Aging,” which acknowledges the physical changes of growing older, then ends with positive reflections. I was silly to think a short story or my kind words would help my mother embrace the loss of youth. I suppose we all have a different approach.
I am trying with all my might to NOT stare into magnified mirrors which display a wrinklier, redder, spotted version of myself. Rather, I’m installing dimmer bathroom lights, buying “skinny” full-length mirrors, and recognizing what my aging vessel needs to feel its best.
As a devout live music junkie, I’ve been to my fair share of venues. In my 20s and 30s, I never cared about where I slept, sat, the volume, or bathrooms as I frolicked through countless Grateful Dead shows and outdoor festivals. My body just went with the flow.
My body has stopped going with the flow—unless that flow leads to a cozy couch.
I’ve tried to capture that same careless Sandy, but find she now requires quieter volumes, cushier seats, and readily available, somewhat clean bathrooms/porta pots. I don’t complain aloud, rather, I keep grievances to myself and prepare by having a bag stocked with all I need: ice water, snacks, mini fold-up camp chair, tissues, etc. Much like packing for toddlers, ironically. My husband still goes to shows with only his cell phone and wallet. My “bag of comforts” seems ridiculous to him, but he’ll never turn down my water or ample supply of Gummy Worms.
One major adjustment for my body came with the purchase of my e-bike. It took four years of research and wavering before I pulled the trigger. I guess I always had the preconceived notion that one has “given up” when you ride an e-bike. Not the case… at all. Riding my e-bike brings me complete joy. When hills present themselves, I scoff and cruise right up with the pedal assist. I still sweat, I still hit the trails, only now it’s exciting and I no longer have to hop off my bike and walk it up steep inclines while cursing loudly. I can also ride for miles and miles without fear of my lungs popping out of my chest. Yes, my age does have something to do with this, but it’s more about recognizing what my body is capable of and being okay with it.
At my eye exam last year, my doctor said, “You may need reading glasses soon because of how much you read. You’ll know when. Words will start ghosting on the page.”
“Ghosting?” I asked.
Lo and behold, not more than three months later, I found the words on anything I read to be doubling in a phantom-like way. I kept blinking and wondering, What is this? Did someone slip me a mickey? Then, it hit me, and I introduced myself to the ghosts and we all agreed to live together for some time, as long as they didn’t get too greedy. I began ordering LARGE PRINT books from the library and this solved the issue in many ways, considering I don’t like reading anything from a device. However, not all books I’d like to read are available in 100 font size. The ghosts returned, even more annoying than ever. They do not make good eyemates. I quickly purchased a pair of reading glasses and heard the quiet “Nooooos” of the phantoms evaporate into the air as I placed the new frames upon my face. Some friends you just have to let go.
These adjustments and accommodations for my body are ever-changing. Most days, I laugh them off and move forward. Other times, I’ll briefly shake my fist at the heavens as my knees crunch and click with each step I descend. It’s my body, not my mind, that is beginning to betray me, so I’m paying attention and tending to it more than ever. My body responds extremely well to a fantastic massage, deep stretch yoga, or a solid walk. Ultimately, my goal is for this vessel to keep pace with my active mind, because I’m thrilled to be at this point in my life with years of knowledge and experience to share.
On occasion, I’ll reread the essay I gave my mom years ago, allowing Angelou’s closing words to resonate: “Mostly, what I’ve learned so far about aging, despite the creakiness of one’s bones and the cragginess of one’s once-silken skin, is this: Do it. By all means, do it.”
Digital version of Maya Angelou’s “Even the Stars Look Lonesome:” bit.ly/3GyeO2R