Let’s face facts. There is precious little that is good about getting old. We put on a brave front of course, we claim we are just excited as all get out to play golf and lounge on the veranda. We are lying.
Youth is wasted on the young. Every older person knows this. It’s one of the ironies of life. You don’t get how to “do” living until you are near the end of life. One of God’s little jokes.
A very young person, with a very old soul, said something profound today on a piece looking at the effect of being “short” on children’s development. The kid was short, thirteen, and only five foot. His dad was a giant, being nearly 6’8″ but his mom was only five foot. His dad had spent a lot of time infusing him with lots of self-esteem, making height merely a fact, and not a defining one.
The profound statement? He said, “In the end, the only person you have to live with is yourself.” Meaning that he was not pushed to be what others expected of him. He only had to satisfy what he expected of himself. Profound no? True? Yes.
That may be the only thing that’s good about aging. We finally release all that crap about living up to other’s expectations. We, as children try mightily to be who and what our parents express as “good.” We try, some of us try for years, well into adulthood. Others of us, at some point, take the opposite tack, trying to be exactly other than our parents desire. In that we are usually as untrue to ourselves as when we struggled to be as they wished.
We try to be as our peers suggest we should be, and then as our teachers, then the opposite of that, then as our bosses, as our romantic encounters dictate, and, well, you see we seem to always try to be what others expect. Sometimes we impose upon ourselves standards we perceive as good or proper. We become Martha Stewart.
I guess age makes us tired at some point. We no longer can manage to lift the banner of what is expected on a given day, and we start to be authentic. Younger folks call us eccentric. Yeah, eccentric all right. No, I’m just tired of pretending that high heels are a shoe of choice. They are what they are, torture devices, and as an adult finally I see them as they are and discard such violent pain as fashion.
Of course, not all of us have that aha moment. Some of us, for whatever reason stay mired in being what is expected. No doubt financial considerations can apply. Keeping a job can be essential and so meeting workplace expectations may still override our general disgust at putting on the facade each day.
We are like aging entertainers who enter the safety of bedroom and pull off the girdles, the wigs, the eyelashes, and all the other accoutrements that serve to uphold the “image.” We are left a sagging weary body, now encased in an flannel pj’s and ragged robe. We shuffle in our slippers and we rub aching muscles.
Not a pretty picture? No. But some of us remain caught in the illusion that somehow we can stave off the inevitable. Sooner or later we become caricatures of ourselves. We can be found all over Florida and Arizona.
Others of us, well, we see it all for what it is, and we say enough. I’m getting old, I’m into comfort not only in the confines of my room, but out in the big world where all those kids reside. But I’m at peace. I’m me. I’m sagging, and greying, and I’m pudging too much. But I’m not concerned about that. I have better things to do. I’m not out to snag any trophy spouse any more. I am not vying for some top plum job in your corporation.
I, you see, have only to live with me. And, there I will not make any more compromises. I don’t need to. We are fitted in her quite tightly, and there is no room for all the wigs and girdles. I have room for books and yarns and recipes, and walking sticks, and binoculars to see my bird friends up close. I have room for wonder and awe, and peace, and quiet, and music and beauty, and thinking.
I have room for opinions, and I don’t care if you don’t share them, though I am happy to have a civilized discussion on points where we differ. I am unafraid to stand up and be counted. I would have no qualms in telling a Dick Cheney or a Dubya, a few choice remarks should our paths cross.
As I said, youth is wasted on the young. I have all the ideas in the world, but far less time than I used to to execute them. I suffer fools less willingly. I have no truck with stupid at all. I try to be kind, because I know how much it can mean to another, yet I can’t have stupid people wasting what time I have left. So, I may appear from time to time, short, and direct, cold in fact in my laser assessments. That’s what you call eccentric. You smirk, shake your head, and of course never think it will happen to you.
News? It will. You should be so lucky to get to my age. That’s what I say. What brought this forth? Oh, nothing, just in six weeks, a new birthday. . . . and a six figures prominently. Who would have thunk I would be . . .well, I can’t even say it quite yet. But damn, I’m authentic. Just ask me, and I’ll tell you. You bet I will.