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Aging with Grace

The other day I reminded a friend who is the mom of a 17-year-old that teenagers have to act out because they have so little power, even in their own lives. They don’t have money, they can’t make the rules, they don’t have their own spaces, and the road to any real control feels a million miles long. From my perspective at 67, that road may be long, but the journey goes very, very quickly.

I’m feeling old these days. Not particularly out of shape or creakier than usual, but just very far into the numbers. And honestly, when I look back at times in my 30s, 40s, and 50s, it all blurs together into memories that might have happened a decade ago. More than really feeling old, I wish so much time had not already passed. I grieve the loss of those years more than the wrinkles, the insomnia, and the need for glasses.

Even though I don’t relish being thought of as the elder stateswoman in the group, part of me wants to be the

best elder stateswoman anyone has ever seen.

I am realizing also that it makes me sad to give up the idea of being young. For years, regardless of the ages of my friends, we all just seemed the same. Now, more and more, there is no pretending that we really are. One of my closest friends will turn 50 next year. Half a year later, I will turn 68. Sometimes I feel like most of the greatest times of my life have occurred in the 18 years between those two ages. This is not to say that the lovely days of my life are over, because they certainly aren’t. It’s just that I find myself humming “Young at Heart” way more often than I used to.

It’s this odd sense of time flying by that gets me. I remember exactly what it felt like to turn the corner onto the street where I lived at 24. Like it was yesterday. I can still picture the big wooden desk in my office where I had my first full-time teaching job when I was 36. And, although I met Jodi 17 years ago this fall, I feel as if I’ve known her about a year. There is nothing to do and everything to do with feelings like these. Time flies. Period. And the only way to slow it down is to stop thinking about the past, quit wishing I were younger, and simply be in this moment as fully as I can.

This could be the secret to feeling younger. I don't want to start letting myself off the hook from a morning run because "I'm old." When I experience a new idea or a new song or a new author, I want to feel lucky and inspired instead of out of my league. I am a pioneer, among the first of my friends to get this far on the path. I want to keep remembering that it’s my responsibility to do this bravely and with grace.

When I spend time with young people, as I did with one of our new friends on a recent weekend, part of me feels self-conscious because I am literally old enough to be her grandmother. Even though I don’t relish being thought of as the elder stateswoman in the group, part of me wants to be the best elder stateswoman anyone has ever seen.

Since we are the age we are, this is really just a philosophical exercise. My goal is to stay on good terms with myself about the process. I move my body so I can keep moving my body and I use my brain so it will stay with me as long as possible. There’s no controlling it all, of course, which is the lesson we learn all along this road. Just pay attention, we remind ourselves. Stay here in this moment, and remember to be grateful.

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