Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane Widler Wenzel co-author Rainy Day Thought. Diane generally posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments are always welcome and appreciated as it turns an article into a discussion.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Philosophy of Aging

In my late 60s and a lot closer to 70 than 65, I generally spend little time thinking about my own aging; but for some reason I've been more aware of it this winter and spring. Adding to my awareness have been more articles I notice on it.

Were there this many articles on the subject before the social media grew into a powerful factor for information? Maybe. I don't know, but I do see more than when I turned 50 or maybe even 60. It's analyzing a lot of the feeling about what age brings. Some would say it's shallow when it's about what we look like. So they can say it.

On a personal level regarding my awareness about aging, this winter I seemed to jump to old more than middle aged. I don't know if that's reality or simply my attitude. For a long time, when it came to my physical being, I didn't see that much change-- like from my mid-40s into mid-60s. I have a possible theory on why it might be now, and it would relate to hormones-- the same thing that makes for big changes in early teen years and then a kind of leveling off. If my theory is right, my 70s may not see the fast changes I notice now-- unless there are health problems to throw the whole calculation in the air. I would expect then more changes again in my 80s as more of  the body wears out-- like kidneys, liver, etc.

So 60s are the gateway to old age. 70s, you are fully in it. 80s, you are entering the second act. 90s, make ready for the curtain to go down. Some plan to live into their 100s but average people don't. They are fortunate (or not) to make it to their 90s especially if they are in good health.

My basis for how I see it is not so much my own aging as I am only barely through the early part of this old age chart, but more what I have observed with others. Middle age actually lasts a long while and begins in our 40s (for some even their 30s) and lasts until early 60s for what it is like and how things appear. Not to say there are not subtle differences all along the way. Genetics and lifestyle, of course, play their part in all of this for appearances and health.

So we have gradual and faster aging which is pretty much what we have in  puberty. It's hormones. I won't say it's all hormones because the body is also wearing out and that is a fact of life regardless of how some want to deny it. Denying we are old won't change the fact that we are old. What it will do is deny us what old age can mean, what it should mean.

I see aging and yes awareness of it in my BB when he comes back to Tucson and cannot do what he could the last time here. He looks up as though-- I used to leap to that fence. I don't know how much animals understand that kind of rather abstract concept; but he, of the white muzzle, and slowing of his movements, does seem more aware than I would have expected. Even though he wants out down here, I cannot let him have the freedom he once enjoyed as there are predators here that would take advantage of his slowing down.

We as humans though, we can assess our experience and our reality, we can learn through books, listen to the stories of others, calculate, observe, project, and think abstractly. We can use all that to improve our days, plan for the future, or we can deny what is out of fear or ego.

To me a major philosophy of aging should involve simple awareness of physical reality. Denying our own by saying 60 is the new 30 is silly talk. Someone 30 is not closer to the end of life or when that happens, it's the unexpected. Sixty is moving into a new territory where change in the body is going to be part of  life right up until life ends.

What I am trying to adjust to more than fear of dying or physical weakness right now is what some would say is shallow. It's what I hear others talk about (and what the article above was about) that invisibility that some say comes with old age. That writer was enjoying that (but she's in her 50s if I remember right). I won't like not being noticed. Well I no longer have guys honk as they drive by or yell out something as I walk past, but they do still see me. Being noticed gets me service, lots of smiles, and an acknowledgement I am here. I don't know what it will be like to feel invisible. I don't think I will like it.

But what's the alternative? If I get bent out of shape over knowing I don't look as good as I once did, if I fret over why people don't still treat me a certain way, who's the one going to be miserable? I am working to adjust to the coming change, and I admit for me it's not always easy.

Before somebody says old women can be beautiful. I agree, but what they cannot really be is sexually exciting. Sorry but that's just a reality and it's the rare old lady that still will have a man's libido turning on (unless he's her mate anyway). I think virility and sensuality are more a product of those young and middle years. The beauty of old age is a different sort and won't have a horn honking as a man drives by. 

It's not that I'd ever want to be young again. Young might look better (although I have always felt women reach their peak of beauty around 35) but young had so many drawbacks for the need to gain experience, to get a handle on who we are, what we can do, build our life. It's a time of finding our power. By its very nature, young has a lot of strife and chaos attached.

Those middle years, however,  I liked them a lot. I loved the period from when my kids were launched, where I could see them doing well, where I still felt strong and had power to draw people to me. Good years and for anybody still into them-- enjoy. Those really are power years. Yes, I would hold onto them as long as I could-- but not at the cost of denying reality.

That's the key to old age, I think-- alertness, awareness and acceptance. Pay attention to bodily signs as catching problems early is a big plus in solving them. Be aware of what is real versus a fantasy and finally accept what is without wishing for what cannot be.

In some ways my life right now is as exciting or more so than it's ever been; but those pesky changes, they are more and more obvious. I have dreams, plans, but they take into account reality-- I think.

I used to have a theme song (one of a couple actually) which said a lot about what I felt. It's by the Eagles-- Take it to the limit. As I got older, I felt myself do that time and again. One more time I can pull it all together and present an image to others that is all I want it to be. I can do it. (for anybody who says they don't need an image, well good for you, but I enjoyed that feeling, that ability. It was fun for me) Today I am feeling less and less that I can do it.  That doesn't depress me. It just is what it is when someone is on the border of 69.

I need a new song... Maybe Bitch... Yeah, I like that one-- Or am I too old for that one too? ;)  Good-night Irene? I am waiting awhile for that one! I hope.

Photo from webcam and at Tucson house on April 23-- it's 100 F. outside...


Taradharma said...

great article.

My period of invisibility began when I gained weight in my 30s. As a young women, I got lots of unwanted attention from men because of my 'good' looks, and as the woman writes in the article, it was annoying and sometimes downright scary. But when I became "unattractive" because of fat deposits on my face and body, I was able to go through my day without being harassed. It wasn't something I noticed at the time - but looking back the change was startling.

As Ms. Judd says, we (all of us - men and women alike) have been so inculcated by the Patriarchy that we objectify women daily. I buy into it: maybe a boob lift, a tummy tuck? I've seriously considered those options. But if I took that money and invested for my older age, now that would be really taking care of myself.

Thank you for an important and thoughtful post.

Rain Trueax said...

Yes, there is a lot of pressure to use surgery to do this or that. It's profitable for a certain sector. Unless the surgery relates to health, which it can, it does make you wonder how much of it could have been more wisely invested in something that really lasted. Physical beauty does not no matter whether it's weight or age. Where it comes to age, it just fools the person into denying where they really are.

Anne said...

I just turned 80, and Jerry and I have been together for 6 years. When we look back on the beginning of our relationship we both feel that we were still young at 74. He was still building houses, we were still hiking long hikes. Now we know those things are in the past. It will be short hikes and building closets from now on. Somewhere between 75 and 80 we got old.

robin andrea said...

I'm going to be 60 in two weeks. I do notice that I am not young anymore. It's a funny thing, to look in the mirror and really see my gray hair and know that this is what people see when they meet me. I feel young inside. The mirror reminds me everyday of what is true.

Rain Trueax said...

We are the lucky ones to even get this far. We should make the most of the experience that so many are denied. From what I observed, Anne is right about how this is a gradient. It won't be the same for us all but there is a cycle there. I begrudge it with my beautiful black cat, as I did for the one I lost almost three years ago to it. I enjoy the energy of our two younger cats, how they can leap so far, bound around, but it's reality for all living beings that we are on a path. What I think about old age is there are some things that we can do to make the most of this time that is more introspective than may have been the case earlier. Pretending what it is though won't make it that.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

I'll be 81 in June...And I felt good and NOT old at all, up to almost 74...Then I got sick. That has made all the difference. Chronic illness which has curtailed my life in almost everyway has made me feel old....Other parts of my body have been effected---The Domino Effect, if you will...So, EVERYTHING has changed for me. Afing and how we look and feel us different for each person--Genes and such play a big part, too.
As far as I'm concerned, aging with a chronic disease really sucks! As I said, it has changed everything, and not for the better.
In a way, I almost don't care how I look--It is how I "feel" that has become paramount.

Anonymous said...

Completely I share your opinion. Thought excellent, it agree with you.

Hattie said...

You have a fascinating point of view, and I find it valuable. I'm old and know that at my age what counts is not how you look but how you feel.
But I must say you look pretty darn good!

Rain Trueax said...

I see the point of feeling good being far more important. I am just admitting there is another aspect to old age and it's a reality too-- how we look. I had a male friend once who told me, some years back, that he didn't think a woman over 50 could be sexually exciting. I totally disagreed then and now. But just not sure it can be pulled off in one's 70s. Maybe the key to that is not wanting to pull it off ;)

As an artist and writer, I also don't think young people are nearly as interesting nor do they have the great faces that people have in their middle years. Youth and old age have a lot in common in my opinion-- although I know those who covet youth as a way to keep their own maybe.

Lynn said...

A compliment at a party last month still has me glowing. Upon learning my age of seventy, the husband of the complaining birthday girl of sixty-three, looked me in the eye and said, “You’ve done well with it.” Appearance does matter to me. I took his meaning to include good grooming, age appropriate attire, a confident smile. Two Aleve earlier to ease my hip pain didn’t hurt. I feel I'm right where I should be.