To Age or Not to Age!
AGING! The mere mention of the word is scary. The journey begins the moment we are born, and, like it or not, it is inevitable, and we have absolutely no control over it! What we do have control over is our attitude about aging, how we view aging, and how we choose to handle it. We can fight it relentlessly, we can embrace it gently, or we can simply age gracefully.
At the start of adulthood, life in my 20s was about having fun and new experiences and figuring out who you are. It was a decade of firsts. Aging was not one of those experiences, or so I thought. It was the least of my worries. My parents, my grandparents, and my gray-haired relatives were aging, certainly not me! In the prime of my life, aging was not a factor. I was serving my country in the military; I was planning a wedding; I became a parent; and became a divorcee.
I had 2 goals in my 30’s: to be a great parent and to be a homeowner. I achieved both goals and felt accomplished and confident. I felt like a real adult, but not an aging adult. I was far too preoccupied with single parenting to worry about aging. I was worried about how much the electric bill would be each month, whether the car would break down, the washing machine would die, or if one of the kids got sick, and I had to miss a day of work. Life was full of stress, and I didn’t even have time to consider the effect of stress on aging.
Age 40 is considered a milestone birthday, and we’re supposed to evaluate life, so I did. I thought about it briefly. I thought about the goals I had completed and those left to complete. I started looking more closely at myself in the mirror. I looked for wrinkles, crow's feet, smile lines, and all the tell-tale visible signs of aging. I was diagnosed with hypertension, but that was genetic, so I didn’t take much of the responsibility for that, but I should have! My only visible sign of aging was a few gray hairs, which did not give me pause. Seeing my 3 children graduate from high school and college and getting married during this decade definitely gave way to my first significant feelings of aging, but becoming a grandmother made aging official and yet joyous.
My 50s were a decade of triumph, pain, and change. I ended a long-term relationship that no longer brought me joy. I remarried, graduated from college alongside my daughter, and ran a 5k with my son. I saw another son go off to war. I lost both my parents and a beloved sister. It was a difficult time, but at the end of every storm, there’s a rainbow. Through the pain and adversity, I became stronger and more resilient. Becoming the new matriarch of my immediate family, I felt older, but I also felt honored and fully embraced this part of the journey. I found myself in my 50’s.
My 60s have been a turning point in my journey. For the first time in my life, I felt the inevitable, real, true aging. After years of wearing high heels, my feet rebelled against me and the abuse I had rendered them. I fought back and didn’t give up without a fight. Heels had been part of my identity. I remember my first pair of heels. I never had to learn to walk in heels. It just came naturally. I had planned to wear heels for the rest of my life. I continued the torture for as long as I could, but the pain was too much, and I had to give up the stilettos. I couldn’t give them up cold turkey. It was a gradual decline. I had to ween myself off. This sacrifice was truly a defining moment for me in the journey of aging. Giving up heels made me feel less than….less feminine, less dressed, less sexy, and pretty. I felt old! Flat shoes were nothing more than a casual Friday staple to me. I was forced to comply and somehow made the transition. Ballerina flats, sneakers, loafers, wedges, sandals, and boots became my new best friends. They don’t make the statement that heels make, but I don’t need them to. One thing I’ve learned through aging is that fashion is what’s on the outside, but style, class, heart, soul, and all the good stuff is what’s on the inside, and regardless of age, those things will always make a statement.
The most difficult part of my aging journey was yet to come. One very important part of the aging journey is to be proactive about your health, which, fortunately, I have done. I am thankful to have done so because 4 years ago, I was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer. No one is ever prepared to hear the words “you have cancer.” I was scared and confused but not entirely surprised. I lost my mother to ovarian cancer, and through her journey, I felt like God had prepared me. I took a few days to cry and to ready myself for the fight. I completed military basic training; I survived single parenting; I completed a 5k and a 10k, so I knew I could do this too!
I had a partial mastectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation. I was not one of the people who breezed through chemo. It made me sick, very sick. I lost my hair, yet another shock to my personal identity. But like every other difficult time in life, I persevered, and today, I am healthy, cancer-free, and thankful to God.
When you’ve experienced a life-threatening health crisis, your feelings about aging are severely diminished. I know and see that AGING IS A GIFT! The wrinkles, the crow's feet, the smile lines, and all the tell-tale visible signs of aging that were concerns at some point in my life were completely overshadowed by simply wanting to be alive to continue aging. So yes, the process of aging has brought me moments of grief but far more moments of growth. I embrace every single day and appreciate every aspect of the aging journey. After all, consider the alternative to aging!
I work with Senior Medicare Patrol. We provide education to seniors, their family members, and caregivers about Medicare fraud, abuse, and errors. Since starting this exciting second career with Senior Medicare Patrol a year ago, I appreciate the journey of aging even more. I feel so blessed to meet so many inspiring seniors, to hear their stories, and to be able to help them.