Nothwithstanding yesterday's post about the hard decisions we face in our old age, I never expected to feel as alive and vibrant and spirited and vital as I do at this time of my life.
There is little if anything in our culture that would lead me to believe I would feel this good about being an old woman. The media relate to old age almost entirely via health, poor health - and mostly about dementia.
There are more news and feature stories about Alzheimer's, for which no prevention or treatment exists, than reports on all other elder health issues combined.
The New York Times publishes what is now a long-standing, daily blog about and for elders titled The New Old Age. Day in and day out over several years now, it is exclusively about being sick or frail or demented or all three at once as though there are no other states of health in “the new old age.”
Someone ought to tell The Times that 80 percent of old people live independently until they die.
Then there are the politicians. Elders are a big topic for them because we are more frequent voters than younger people and our numbers are ballooning.
But the pols see us exclusively in economic terms, wringing their hands over how expensive we are, a bunch of greedy geezers who they would rather starve than allow a Social Security cost-of-living increase.
Is it any wonder nobody likes old people?
The only positive words about us involve freaks who jump out of airplanes at age 85, reported by the media either as a joke or as an object lesson to all other old folks to get off our duffs and climb Mt. Everest.
As regular readers know, I think about these things a lot and frequently rail against them in these pages. But that doesn't stop me from being amazed at how good old age feels.
This is the most interesting time of life I have known. It seems to happen when I'm not paying attention that a lot of former imperatives fall away, making life easier and far less fraught with shoulds.
I am done improving myself. Self-help be damned. I am what I am and so I shall remain.
My ambitions these days are about how I might be able to contribute to my community and not the next better, higher-paying job. I'm not competing for work or recognition or awards anymore and that takes off a load.
My concern about myself has shrunk to little more than a daily mental checklist on well-being rather than how I compare with others. I have less to prove to them and to myself.
I've almost learned that there are good days and bad days, good and bad moods, and that's all right. Each is as much a part of living as the other.
And, as I've mentioned here before, I have lost my younger sense of urgency, the need to do, do, do. I still find it odd that as my days dwindle down, I more frequently say, “I'll get to it tomorrow.”
I still don't understand that but it sure feels good and for a bonus, I suspect it helps keep my blood pressure in check.
There is time now, finally, to be. Time to follow my interests and instincts, to investigate those avenues – internal and external - I was too busy for in the past. Or not. I get to choose and the freedom I've arrived at to do so thrills me.
Whatever the rest of the world thinks about being old, from my vantage point of 72, it is unexpectedly better and more exciting than I ever guessed it could be.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Deb: Lessons in Mothering