Feeling My Age

Feeling one’s travels in time.

Photo by charlesdeluvio on Unsplash

Feeling my age? What does that really mean? Yet we use this term frequently. I catch myself saying that I don’t feel like 70. How would I know? I have never been 70 before. Maybe this is what 70 feels like.

What are we referring to, actually? 

At times I think that it may be the internalized image that we have of whatever age we are thinking about. I remember, when I was younger, what I thought the age 70 looked like. It was old. Now I question how much I added to that image from my own internalized ageism.

I am working on listening to my own version of 70. My own feelings about where I am in life, this age that I have been lucky enough to get to, and how I am doing right this moment. Easier said than done at times.

There is another part of feeling my age. I notice that I don’t jump out of bed as I did before. Never had a second thought about that before. Now checking how the joints are doing and what I need to move first, then second, and well, you get the idea.

I now think about how to step into my slacks. And to make sure that I am close to a piece of furniture in case I need assistance with my balance. When did that sneak up on me?

I look at my hands, seeing the age reflected there. I have never been the type to get manicures. I use my hands way too much for that, and use them for messy things like painting. Now I see the veins being more prominent. I remember looking at my mother’s beautiful hands as she aged. I see the wrinkles and crepiness. I laugh at the creams they advertise that will supposedly remove crepiness. I’d have to take a long bath in that cream, probably every hour. 

There are external messages that also contribute to feeling my age. Standing next to a young woman that I volunteer for (she is the primary zookeeper at the zoo where I volunteer). Hearing the teasing and flirtation from some men coming toward her and feeling completely invisible next to her. I remember when those comments would come toward me, and I took them for granted. When did that happen? 

Walking down the street and feeling more invisible. There can be pros and cons to this, but it is still a bittersweet experience.

Helping other members of the art association that I belong to hang some art, and watching the younger members quickly jump in to step up on the ladder before I can get there. Feeling some relief at that.

Watching myself walk more slowly down any hill, not as sure of myself as before. Aware that falls can come easily and before you even know what’s happening. 

Forgetting why I walked into a room, or what I was just about to say. And at my age, now wondering if this is a beginning sign of the dreaded D word. Dementia. Is this the beginning of it? What is normal aging? None of this feels very normal to me. 

Feeling my age emotionally. I am closer to the end, whenever that may be. These days I go to retirement parties and funerals, not so many weddings and baby showers. 

Feeling the need to declutter and travel lighter. Feeling the need to plan for my final arrangements. What an interesting way to put it, final arrangements. Planning your own funeral, burial, and who to give what to if they want it. 

Thinking about whether to get another pet. I am older, and I would need to make arrangements should the pet outlive me. And do I have it in me, if the pet dies first, to handle another loss that felt so devastating? The loss of a pet is the loss of a piece of your heart. And it goes on and on, at least for me.

Feeling my age. For me, this seems to include feeling everything more acutely. Being more sensitive to all that is around me. The earth, its creatures.

 Thin-skinned now seems to refer to more than just the skin covering me. As it bruises and tears more easily, so does my spirit when I feel the pain of anything around me. But this bruise of my spirit is a bruise that does not weaken me, but rather strengthens me to feel it all, to be able to contain it all, and to offer more empathy, understanding, and compassion. To feel all of life fully. Dark and light. Bitter and sweet. And to be wiser, at my age, to know that one must feel it all in order to live fully and passionately. 

Feeling my age? Oh, yes. In so very many ways. Some I seemed to grow into consciously. Some caught me, and still do, by surprise. 

I am grateful, albeit wistfully at times. 

I am grateful to have lived long enough to reach this stage of life with its lessons. I am grateful to still be breathing and be on this earth. I am grateful for all the poignant, achingly beautiful aspects of ageing and of life. 

Feeling my age. Oh yes. Wrinkles and sagging and slowing down…oh my. And wisdom and humor and gratitude. Oh yes. 

Redefining Resilience

Living fully, feeling it all, setting boundaries.

Photo by Nils Rasmusson on Unsplash

I was talking with a young friend the other day. She was bemoaning the fact that she seemed so much more sensitive to everything these days, and that she thought that getting older meant being more resilient.

I replied, “You are resilient.” 

And I went on, giving words to my own thoughts lately, about the true meaning of courage, resilience and growth.

To live this life takes courage. To live as fully as possible takes deep courage. To weather the storms of life, to feel the pain and the losses and the grief, takes courage.

It has been my experience that I become even more sensitive to everything as I continue on this path of aging. 

I feel the pain of others more. I feel the pain of the creatures that are slowly being killed to the point of extinction. I feel the pain of the earth and how much we have, and continue to, destroy her. I feel the sadness of people going through their own version of hell. Wars, violence, indescribable pain and sadness. 

I feel the pain of grief as it becomes my ever more frequent companion with the losses that keep coming. 

And I am still here.

I think that because I work to allow myself to feel as much of what is going on as I can, this makes me live more fully, be more present, and be more present to each moment. To live life fully and look all the pain and sadness in the eye takes courage. To feel the losses takes courage. To feel the joy and the wonder and to know that it is all fleeting and that there will come a time that we are no longer here to feel this, takes courage. 

It is not the idea of no longer feeling sensitive or pain that makes one resilient. It is knowing these parts of yourself and being at home with them. Knowing that it’s ok to feel them all. Knowing that this is one of the greatest gifts of being human. Knowing what to do when feelings flood over you. Knowing that it’s ok to take care of yourself.

I feel it all. 

And I also set boundaries so that I choose not to add feelings that I don’t need. Like being around someone who doesn’t nourish me, or being around those who, from their own wounded place, are painful for me to be around. Can I empathize? Yes. Do I need to take on their pain as my own? No. Do I need to accept pain inflicted on me because I understand where their attack is coming from? No.

I get to say yes to all the feelings. I get to have them be part of my experience in this human body. I get to say no to those that are not what I need or want in my life, when I have that choice. 

Getting older means putting up less with abuse from others.

Getting older means knowing what you want to accept and what you don’t.

Getting older means knowing that you have the right to say no, whenever and wherever you need that.

Getting older means feeling every piece of this precious life with every fiber of your being. Feeling it all to the point that it can bring you to tears of joy. 

Getting older means thinner skin and less boundaries to the pain around us.

More boundaries to what we don’t need to inflict upon ourselves. 

Less boundaries to pure love, awe and wonder at this life.

More boundaries to all that is not that important, things that we were taught to focus on and worry about. Things, that in the long run, really don’t matter as you face the end of your life. 

You are resilient. You survived your childhood, which was not perfect, given that your parents were human too.

You survived each and every one of your traumas, which we all have. It is part of this roller coaster ride that we are on. Everyone has a story.

You survived and have come to where you are now. You are still alive.

And you feel it all. What a sacred gift that is. You breathe life in and out. You are present on this earth. You are connected to others around you. You give and receive love. 

You get hurt. And you make it through. You feel joy. And it passes as well.

If you are an elder, you are facing aging and the challenges that this brings. And you wake up each day and go on. Grateful for the bittersweetness of it all. 

You are alive. You are human. And you are so very resilient. 

The Cost of Worshiping the God of Efficiency

Making things more efficient sometimes comes with a high price

Photo by Icons8 Team on Unsplash

I had an interesting morning today. From going to my doctor’s appointment at my HMO, to the post office, to the gym, and finally home to hide from everything and everybody.

The doctor’s appointment. They have instituted an online check-in program to make things more efficient. So I checked in online, proud of myself for navigating yet another tech process, given that I did not grow up with all this technology. I arrived at the reception area to the office, and sat down, happy that I was already checked in. 

A staff member came up to me asking if I had registered already. I responded that yes, I had registered online. Thinking that she probably didn’t think that I would be doing that, being an older woman. Ha, I thought. We can learn! Don’t make assumptions about us. 

I was then immediately informed that I needed to check in at the front desk anyway, as the system did not always work correctly. Seriously? So much for bypassing that part. I checked in. 

I was called into my appointment.

 I tend to accumulate significant wax in my ears, and more so in the ear that I recently got a hearing aid for. So, I was there to get the wax cleaned out. The staff person came in, way too cheery and energetic for my comfort zone at that hour of the morning (but that is for another story) and showed me this new device that they would use to clean my ears with, using water pressure. I have had my ears cleaned out before with water, and prefer the staff to use the manual technique. Water tends to get stuck in my ears. They let me know that this device is what they would now be using for ear cleaning, and that it would help make things more efficient for the staff, as then some of the line staff could use this device rather than having a doctor, nurse practitioner, or other licensed staff, have to use their time for this. 

I realize that my reason for this appointment was not any kind of emergency or life altering situation, and yet, I felt a bit put off that this didn’t warrant any attention of the doctors or nurse practitioners. I can already begin to feel that way by simply being an elder. 

The staff are still in the process of learning to use this device and seeing how it works, I realize. But today it took three times as long, several visits from the licensed staff to come and check how it had worked, and several tries with the new machine. And I still feel like I have water in my ear. 

Next, I went to the post office to mail something that I wanted to send via Priority Express. Getting to the postal clerk’s window after standing in line, I was told where the Priority Express envelopes were. I grabbed one and filled it out, and then went back and again waited in line. Once again getting to the postal clerk’s window, she then informed me that I needed to fill out another form and she handed me that form. Back to the table I went, filled out the form, and got back in line. 

I was finally able to get the item mailed off. I know that it is efficient to have all the forms filled out in advance, and I am glad to do so. I do think, however, that when the clerk pointed out the proper envelope for me to fill out, she could have at that time mentioned the additional form required. I am glad to be more efficient, but also ask that others be more clear and efficient in their communication. Just saying. 

I thought that I would then go to the gym to work off some of the tension that I had built up in the morning. That didn’t work today, however. I simply needed to be alone and do things at my own pace. Even if that was nothing. I didn’t feel like being on an elliptical machine going nowhere, even though that was an efficient way to get some steps in. I didn’t feel like being efficient. I’d had enough of that for the day. 

I am paying most of my bills online these days. I like the idea of not using paper when possible. But, sometimes, I really would like to speak to a live human being if I have questions. But, once again, it is more efficient to have things dealt with online. Live chats are sometimes available online, but not always. It can be kind of like trying to get a representative when making a phone call and getting lost in the menu hell of all the choices, only to end up back to the original main menu. And screaming representative at the top of my lungs into the phone, to no one there. 

I used to work at a nursing facility before I retired. And I was amazed at how administration was continually trying to make things more efficient. Which often translated to less time with the doctor, so that their time could be used in the most productive manner possible. I am not sure who determines what is productive, but I do sense that the bottom line is all too often monetary. Of course, businesses have to watch the bottom line and pay attention to expenses, but in the medical field, there is more to business than that. 

I understand how crazy busy the doctors are, and how they are pushed beyond what is reasonable. But, I also see that efficiency seems to have a strong correlation with patients not feeling really seen or heard or paid attention to by their doctors. Patients who are often scared, overwhelmed by the system, and trying to get answers to what is going on with them. I did my best as a social worker to get them answers, but I was not their doctor. I was just better at (and less nervous about) chasing their doctor down and being annoying to them. And I would tread carefully when talking with the patients so as not to overstep what would be my place to answer and what would really be a doctor’s place to answer.

I felt that the younger social workers, who were clearly told to focus on discharging patients as quickly as possible, saw me as old fashioned when I spent more time with patients, listened to their stories, and advocated for them to have a bit more time in the facility while we found the best place possible for them. Not very efficient, I know. 

I would, at times, have patients’ families crying in my office, because of how they felt treated by their doctor. Doctors who can be so pushed and rushed that they can forget the kind of trauma that each family is feeling at that moment. They can forget how much impact their words and tone and feelings can have on families and patients. Forget that they have many patients, but these patients have only them as their doctor. All in the name of efficiency and getting a higher number of patients seen. Well, maybe not really seen.

I also begin to feel some of this demon of efficiency creeping into how I feel treated as an elder. Brushed aside more quickly, I think. Sometimes already seen as on the way out and not warranting as much time or energy or attention as those younger than I. I wonder if my doctors see me this way. 

I have to be vigilant if my own attitude turns toward this. It’s easy to internalize these messages of insignificance, not wanting to be a bother, not being a burden. 

Is it more efficient to not spend as much time with elders, since they are closer to leaving this planet anyway? Is it more cost efficient to spend time with those younger, who still are what is seen as productive members of society? As if we elders are no longer productive if we are not in the work force, no longer part of that statistic. 

Is it a waste of time to spend time listening, really hearing, paying attention to each other? 

Quite the opposite, I feel. 

Suffice it to say that you will not see the word efficient on any tombstone or memorial of mine. Thank God. 

Walking Into a Senior Center

Taking my first class at a senior center and realizing this is my new peer group. 

Photo by Philippe Leone on Unsplash

I started a class with some friends the other week. At the local senior center. It’s beginning Qigong. Lots of steps to remember. I’ll see if it’s a fit for me and if it feels like a good thing for me to do. I do, though, enjoy being part of a live group class again, after all the pandemic’s zoom classes. We feel each other’s energy, laugh as we all try to master the moves. Some more gracefully than others.

I am shocked that I belong here now. At a senior center taking an exercise class for seniors. That means me! 


When did that happen?

Suddenly, I am part of the group that I used to look at from the outside in, as an observer. Slowly wondering what it would be like when I reached that age.

I blinked, turned around for a second, and found myself there. The group of others now includes me. 

I am still trying to wrap my brain around this new phase of life that I find myself in it without remembering having stepped over the threshold. I wonder if we should have some kind of ritual where someone carries you over the threshold to this new part of your life. Marriage into the seasoned version of yourself. Walking into your new home of age and wisdom. 

I look around. I seem to see a different version of myself in the mirror than what I see in the others around me. Yes, there are times that I do see the changes that aging brings, but most of the time I still have an internalized image that does not match what I see in the mirror.

How to begin to accept this new status and time of life without taking it as a sign of being less than, of being in continual decline, of being marginalized and all that this brings with it. That is the challenge.

Yes, I am a senior. Yes, I have age related changes, and will have more to come, God willing that I keep living for a while. 

Yes, there are ways that I have become more invisible. That has its good and bad points. I feel free to do more of what I want, since no one is really looking anyway. But there is a bit of nostalgia for the attention that I used to get as a woman. Relief mixed with a twinge of sadness. The bittersweetness of aging. Of life. 

I am now no longer a part of the work force. I need to remind myself that I have my own brand of productivity. Writing. Painting. Things that bring me joy and that are sometimes, to my delight and surprise, enjoyed by others. 

I am free to be more myself. To find who that has been all along and now has the freedom to come out and play more. I call this coming back home to myself. I just didn’t realize that it would take this long to get here. Or that I would be this old. 

I say more of what I think. Not only is my skin thinner, so are my filters. And it’s ok. I don’t care what others think nearly as much. I am still aware of not wanting to hurt anyone intentionally, but I am also no longer willing to sacrifice who I am at the cost of my soul. I have had enough of that.

I move more slowly. That seems to have creeped up on me as well. I get out of bed more slowly, bend more slowly, see that I am less flexible than I used to be. I laugh at myself when I catch how I carefully step into my clothes. Things I never gave a second thought to before. 

I am aware of dangers of falling and take more precautions. Falls can lead to fractures which can be the beginning of a slippery slope. New things to think about and to be conscious about.

My neighbor and I both live alone. We keep an eye on each other’s homes, making sure that we still see signs of life. Are the lights still coming on and off? Have we seen each other that day? It’s a bit funny, and important. I have known several people who were found dead in their homes after several days. I want someone to be aware if I am not around anymore. 

I have longer visits at the mausoleum when I go visit my mother there. Realizing that I will at some point be among their ranks. Not in that particular place, but among that new peer group. I think that I had better start the conversation now.

 I try to say yes to invitations more often. Being an introvert, I need to pay attention to when I need alone time to recuperate from too much stimulation, but I also realize that the time to do things, to experience things, to try new things, is now. I don’t know how many nows I will have left. 

I appreciate each moment more. I am in awe of things that I was too busy to notice much before. I can sit outside and be delighted in watching the birds and squirrels enjoy the peanuts that I leave for them. Giggling when the jays call me in the morning letting me know that I am late with their breakfast. Running outside to keep the birdbaths full and fresh. It has become part of my purpose. To nurture and nourish nature as it nurtures me. 

I treasure what I would have thought of as brief, but not meaningful, interactions with others. Now a random connection with a stranger, an encounter that goes more quickly to deeper levels of thoughts and feelings, is such a gift that keeps reverberating inside of me for quite a while. It is so very meaningful now. It nourishes me with the warmth of the connection that I feel. It can sustain the lonely places inside me for a while. 

I cry more easily and more often. I have always been sensitive, for which I am grateful. These days, the feelings can flood over me in a moment when I am triggered by something. And I let them be. Such a precious part of being human, these feelings that we can have. I thank them. And I do my best to simply let them flow through me. Why would I want to push them aside or deep down inside? There is time enough later to be dead. 

I am still here. I am still alive. And I want to be as alive as I can be. To live as fully as I can. To cherish each moment. Each sacred breath. Each connection, both to parts of myself that I may have neglected in the past, and to others who are on this path beside me. 

So, yes, I am now at the senior center. Laughing, dancing, moving, living. Still here. Still alive. Still so very grateful for it all. 

Observing the Humans at the Zoo

Sometimes it’s as much fun observing the humans as it is the animals! 

Photo by Zahra Jentges on Unsplash

I am lucky enough to be a volunteer at our local zoo. I am on the Behavior Observation Team with the elephants. I never tire of watching them and my two-hour shift sometimes becomes a three or four hour shift. It’s meditative, calming, soothing, quieting.

It’s not nearly as calming when observing the human guests that come to the zoo. 

We are an interesting species. For the most part, wonderful to behold and watch and be part of. As I continue to age, I find myself observing and noticing more and more, now having the time to stop and really listen, really hear, really look. And we can be such a wonderful species. 

For the most part.

We are funny. And inspiring. And completely befuddling.

Inspiring. The 92-year-old volunteer who answers questions, engages the children and families alike with his brightness, cheer and lovely spirit. Although no longer able to walk easily, he now has his zoo scooter that he gets around with. He stations himself at the elephant exhibit and is a delight to watch and listen to. He has been a volunteer there for 30 years. He talks about enjoying each moment, as he never knows what may come next, being 92. All said with a twinkle in his eye. 

Encouraging. The grandmother, who when answering her grandchild’s question of why the elephant had walked further away, asked that child “You know how you need to be alone sometimes and get away from everyone and get some space? Elephants need that too.” Such a moment of teaching wisdom and empathy. 

Delightful. Adults becoming children once again, totally mesmerized by the animals before them. Smiling, laughing, mouths open and facades dropped, even for a few moments. 

Funny. Listening to parents, who are dealing with excited children. Children who may be tired, hungry, overstimulated, or cranky. 

Funny. A mother yelling “You need to watch the elephants for at least 30 seconds!” when her child wants to run quickly to another exhibit. “30 seconds and no less!”

Funny. Dad, with an attitude of disbelief, sighing “I did not bring you to the zoo to watch a squirrel!” Yet the child is completely fascinated with the squirrel that comes close to him, ignoring the elephant right in front of him in the exhibit. 

Funny. Guests, often men, explaining facts to others (unsolicited) about elephants, that have no basis whatsoever in any truth. I have to admire the authority that they speak with. It can be so convincing, even if totally inaccurate. 

Befuddling. Parents yanking their children away, while the child may be completely mesmerized by the animal before them and want to just stand there watching. Parents trying to get to see all the animals, without ever really spending time with any one of them. Quantity and lists of things to do winning out over the chance of being in the moment and allowing their child to be in that precious moment of connection as well.

Befuddling. Parents making up stories about animals when their children ask, rather than daring to admit that they don’t know, but can find out.

Endearing. A young man, who has given himself a day at the zoo, comes up to me shyly asking questions. Shy about even having given himself such a day. Opening up when I not only answer his questions, but make suggestions about things to see and areas to go to. Smiling when I encourage him having done this as such a great thing to do for himself. Because it really is. He lingers a bit, takes it all in. Smiles as he leaves. 

Encouraging and inspiring for the future. The zookeepers who come to so deeply love the animals that they care for, and try so hard to do their very best for them. Knowing that a zoo is imperfect, yet also knowing that good work, rescue work, education, and conservation work is being done by this wonderful zoo. Young souls caregiving the precious creatures that we share this earth with. Not paid nearly enough, yet loving their work. Young caregivers of these beings that we are in danger of losing. 

This gives me some hope for the future of our planet. As an elder, I won’t be around to see what happens, but I have hope that these young caregivers can be warriors for the planet and its many inhabitants. 

This journey of aging helps me see the lessons in everything. Even a day at the zoo.

To realize that we are a species that has its own patterns of behavior, its own quirks, its own rhythms. 

To realize that we need to take time to really see, hear ourselves and each other. That we don’t know everything and that that’s perfectly ok. That we are separate from and yet part of all of creation. That we need to be part of the story and the work of rescuing our earth and its creatures. That we are separate, and yet not so different, from our non-human cohabitants of this earth.

We are all connected. And spending time really being with each other, taking our time, quietly observing and listening, may be the thing that we need the most of all. 

Buried Treasure

It has been deep inside of you all along.

Photo by Ashin K Suresh on Unsplash

I recently heard from a friend that she felt that she had “lost it” when responding to an emotional situation.

What an interesting way that many of us have learned to think about this part of ourselves. This emotional, tender, vulnerable part of ourselves. This part that we can be so careful to hide and to push down, in many situations. To carry on without deeply acknowledging what may be going on inside of us.

How sad and what a loss that this can be.

As someone who feels her way through much of life, I do see the value of containing the feelings enough to be able to name them, express them where and when we feel that they, and we, will be safe enough, really heard, really seen.

I can become flooded with emotions at times. I have learned to speak enough of the language of containing them in order to best survive, thrive, and protect myself when necessary. To pause and use thoughts to be better able to name these feelings so that I can express them as best as I can. 

This containment and control can be taken too far. 

 I wrote back to this dear friend. What I responded with was that I did not think that she had “lost it”. Rather, I continued, I felt like she had found it. Found and experienced that deep and sacred part of herself that responds from the heart. That reacts to and connects with the pain and the heart of others. That part that makes her unique and wonderful. That part of her that I treasure as such a gift in our friendship. 

That part of us has often been buried treasure. Buried, as treasures often are, by storms and the passage of time. Buried where they are not easily found. Buried deep and waiting. 

I learned to try and completely bury this treasure inside myself as well. Unsuccessfully, for the most part, thankfully. 

This treasure is what makes us human. What helps us connect on this very bittersweet, human journey that we are all on together.

How important it is to be able to share this part of us with others. To help us all feel a bit less alone for a moment in time. To look with our hearts rather than our brains. And then invite our brains along, but give them a rest as the sole master. To let our brains know that they can step back at times, that they can stop and allow other parts of us to take the lead for a while.

For me, thus far life has been best navigated by this entire team inside me, by all parts of me. By my brain, which helps me figure my way through. By my heart, which helps me feel the love, pain, connection and loss that is part of life. By my gut, which helps warn me with deep instinctual reactions when something, or someone, may not be safe for me at that time. 

Aging, with the experience and wisdom that it brings, has taught me to be able to recognize this precious treasure within me. I gratefully open it and allow it to fill me. I acknowledge it as one of the most beautiful parts of me and I honor it as a sacred gift. 

I am so grateful that this treasure did not get lost. That it waited patiently for me to come home to myself and find it, recognize it, and allow it to come to the surface.

This treasure has reminded me that my feelings are such tender gifts, to myself and to others. That my writing from my heart can perhaps, at times, be a guiding light to encourage others to find their own buried treasure. 

Are you ready to go on a treasure hunt?

 I’ll be right beside you.

The Silenced Sensuality of Seventy

There is so much more inside of me at 70 than is realized, seen, or heard.

Photo by Thomas Kinto on Unsplash

I recently reached the age of 70. And I have a lot of feelings and thoughts about it. A lot.

There are images that come to mind, in our society, of what 70 is, what 70 is like, what 70 should act like.

And my reaction to all these rules and images and messages, as I embrace and inquire into this new age I am now identified and sometimes categorized by? 

I don’t think so.

 I don’t think that I am dead in ways that 70 can sometimes be seen as dead.

I find that I feel a bit of embarrassment and shame creeping in about that. Self-recrimination at having feelings that I now am somehow expected to not have, or at the very least tone down and certainly not talk about. And certainly not write about.

I don’t think so.

I notice the way that older people, especially women, are portrayed in the media. Laughable. Cute. Past their expiration date. To be condescended to, seen as less than (if seen at all). Cute little old ladies who still feel the dance inside of them. Cute? Laughable? Expired? 

I don’t think so. 

Rather than tell you what is not true, let me talk about what my truth is.

I am an endless well of emotions and hungers. I am acutely aware of my aloneness, yet also my deep connection to all that is around me. The lushness of the earth. The connection with animals that is beyond description, yet also deep and rooted in our physical togetherness in this moment in time on this planet.

I have hunger for touch, for deep eye contact, for connection, for intimacy. I can still shiver at a touch. Still feel longing, even if from a distance these days. Still admire someone whom I find attractive, still have fantasies. Still want. Still crave. 

I have desires that I am surprised to find still within me, that surprise reflecting my own internalized ageism. Of course, those feelings don’t wither away and die. Why did I think that they would? 

I thought that they would because our society has images and a list of shoulds about how we age, what we should now do, who we should now be. What we should no longer be interested in. What we should no longer feel.

I don’t think so. 

I am a sensual woman. I have a depth that I long to share. I have love to give and a hunger to receive. I am physical. I am sexual. I am still a woman. The label of old does not negate the label of woman

I want to validate this for myself, even if no one else does. To at least see myself in all my entirety even if not seen by others. I don’t want parts of me to die before I die. I don’t want to be less alive, less passionate, less present to all that is within me. 

I can do this for myself. I cannot control how others see me. I can, however, begin to question the beliefs that I have been fed that do not feel true. Assumptions that are not proving valid for me. 

I am still here. I still have this body, even if it no longer fits society’s image of what is attractive. I am still inhabiting this precious body that has gotten me through so much. That still vibrates and quivers and is filled with life. 

I will reject this shroud of invisibility that I am offered. Because when I accept it, I also become invisible to myself. 

And that, I will not do. 

I don’t think so. 

The Party’s Over

After the birthday celebration, it’s time to face reality.

Photo by Clément Falize on Unsplash

The flowers, cards, dinners, phone calls, and balloons are gone. All were lovely acknowledgments of my birthday. My 70th birthday. 

 Seventy, I say the number to myself as I try to become familiar with it. As I put it on as the new number which I now must identify as my age. The number that I will at times be easily categorized by, right or wrong. No way around it. I am 70.

We celebrate transitions. Birthdays, marriages, births, retirements. We have gatherings for transitions from life. Funerals, memorials, wakes. 

The parties and celebrations bring us together. We acknowledge each other and our personal anniversaries. 

And then the parties stop. The flowers wilt. The cards get put away. The balloons begin their descent from the heights. 

Everyone leaves the gathering and goes home. 

We are alone once more. To face whatever the new circumstances are. 

I face 70. I face being an elder and the changes that this brings. I face all the changes that I already see, already feel. 

And for a while, I think that I will feel a bit adrift and lost. Lost as I navigate this new terrain. Adrift as I feel a lack of direction and purpose as I used to define it in my younger days. 

I recently had carpal tunnel surgery and am still recovering from that. I have had to modify some of my activities as I slowly continue to heal. Having been instructed to be careful not to lift too much weight, I have been somewhat less active than usual. I know that this adds to my sense of things being different right now. 

I have been a bit quieter as of late, staying indoors, even more intentionally alone than usual. Being more still. More pensive. A bit depressed as well, perhaps. All part of the journey, I think.

Feeling the reality of this new number that I now have to claim as my age. Wondering if that also will involve claiming a different sense of self. A different perspective. A new reality. 

I am still the same self that I was, and yet I must also acknowledge the passing of time and the things that this brings. Things that sometimes feel like a curse, other times like a precious gift. Same coin, different sides. The bittersweetness of aging, of life. 

I feel lost, adrift, alone, anxious, sad, and overwhelmed at times. So many feelings. So many. 

I will keep moving through this. One day at a time. One breath at a time. 

Today I will go to the gym. To begin working out again, as my hand allows. And to be around a group of people that have become one of my chosen families. I need to feel their presence around me. I need to feel part of them again. And I need to physically move my body more. To fully inhabit this physical body and nourish and take care of it, as it has done for me for all of these years. 

I will start deciding what my next painting will be. This is one way that I will continue to express that part of me. Painting parts of myself onto the canvas. Acknowledging that creative piece of me that I now have more time to express.

I will continue writing, to be part of this group of writers, also a chosen family that I am grateful to have. Writing about my experience of this life, naming it, giving it words. This helps me navigate it more. 

I will continue to sort through all the things in my house that it is time to let go of. Declutter my house. Lighten the load. Consciously letting go of things is a new part of this whole time in life. A time of letting go. Traveling lighter. Paring down to what feels most precious and important. Until it is time to let go of that as well.

I will go to my volunteer shift at our local zoo. Continuing to grieve the dear elephant that was recently euthanized, and being there with those elephants that remain, who are also grieving, I know. And being with the staff there who is also still deep in grief. We comfort each other, together. 

I will attend the annual zoo volunteer appreciation dinner this weekend. To be with this other chosen family. Grateful for them and for all of my chosen families.

I was recently contacted by a long lost cousin. What a delightful surprise to be able to talk with her and my uncle (a cousin, actually, but we always called him Uncle Joe). It’s a part of my life that has needed some sense of continuity. And here it came. What a lovely gift from the Universe. As if to add some healing to this part of my past as well. 

This process of healing parts of my past feel even more important as I age. I am grateful for people who remember parts of my past, who hold a piece of my personal history. I have been missing that. 

Life goes on. Gatherings, celebrations and parties continue. 

Do I feel like celebrating and partying right now? No. 

Do I need to be around and connect with these others in my life? Yes. 

And so I go on. Living. Participating. 

Quietly nodding to the passage of time and all of the changes. While I do the best that I can, still being alive. Still able to write, paint, move, laugh, and love. Grateful for it all. 

Being Your Own Hero

Each of us has an inner hero, and it’s time to honor them

Photo by Javier García on Unsplash

I am so moved these days when I watch or hear stories about heroism. About someone making it through adversity and thriving. About someone who has been relatively unknown finally having their voice heard and celebrated. 

That got me thinking.

What is it, I wonder, that so moves me about these stories? What brings tears to my eyes when I see someone who has had a hard life finally come into their own? 

The street singer struggling to survive who has a voice that rivals any opera singer and is finally heard.

The family singer/songwriter who moves people to tears with their song of triumph over their personal battles. 

The bullied child who shines when expressing their talent and hidden powers and gems. 

It is because we all have our own personal battles. Some battles are harsher and perhaps more easily recognized by others. And those heroes deserve all the credit that they get and more. 

In many ways, we are all heroes. We need to acknowledge our own journey of struggle and pain and survival. We don’t need to compare ourselves to others. Everyone has a story that is worth hearing, even if only (and especially) by themselves. 

It’s easy to admire those that have triumphed over such huge obstacles and pain. I don’t mean to diminish them in any way.

I have had the honor (and pain) of witnessing human resilience and the spirit of survival at its most extreme. 

Having been a social worker at the county nursing facility at my last job, I worked with patients from ages 18 to 90 plus. Walking the halls and witnessing their daily pain of being taken care of and having to have everything done for them, these once independent human beings.

 An 18-year-old gunshot victim, now quadriplegic and only able to move from the neck up, learning to use a custom power wheelchair that could be moved by the few movements that he had left. 

Another 30-year-old with quadriplegia, who, weighing in at 500 plus pounds, had been in the gangs and honestly talked about knowing why he was where he was. Now in terror during parts of care that necessitated him being hoisted up above his bed. Terrified of being dropped, with no control over this at all. 

Victims of car accidents whose whole life changed in the blink of an eye. And the pain of their families, having lost who they knew, now having to learn the reality of who their family member now was. Unable to grasp this new reality. In shock. Tears, anger, frustration, helplessness.

I am humbled by what I have had the sacred honor to have been part of. To watch the resiliency of this human spirit tested and in anguish yet surviving. Through the pain. Through the changes. Through the battles. Knowing that there are more battles to come. 

I would tell myself to walk through the halls and pay attention when I thought I was having what I thought was a bad day. To see what had happened to these patients. 

There is truth to that, how important it is to remember to appreciate what we have, to realize how easily disasters occur and how lucky we are to have what we do. How quickly our lives can change. 

And yet, I realize, we must also acknowledge our own battles. Our own triumphs. Our own pain. Because to be alive is to have some struggles, to have our own story, to have our own battles to fight and overcome. 

Not to wallow in self-pity, not to get lost and give up. Rather, to acknowledge our own life path, our own wounds. And the fact that we are still here. Still alive. Still breathing and living and going on. 

I recently turned 70. And that feels like a major milestone for me. It causes me to reflect even more on life and its lessons. 

I made it through some difficulties as we all do. I survived. The pain of my parents’ childhoods and the consequences of that played out in part in me. The insidiousness of self-doubt and trying to please others to feel as if I was worth enough, and never feeling that. Relationships that I brought my issues to, repeated past patterns, and couldn’t make last. Medical scares that brought me to my knees in not knowing what the results of the latest test would be, whether I would have much time left on this earth or not. 

And this latest challenge of aging. Of watching and feeling my body slowly decline, of wondering what other changes will be coming. Of doing what I can to stay as healthy as I can, yet knowing that time will take its due. And age related changes will occur. I have seen them already. 

And facing, in a very different way as I continue this aging journey, the reality of mortality.

It takes courage to live fully. It takes us tapping into our inner heroes and strength. It takes faith in ourselves, in a higher power if we believe in that, including the part of that higher power that resides inside of each of us. It takes trust in ourselves and our ability to get through whatever we have and will face. To see how we have been a hero in our own lives. And how we continue to be. 

So, I salute the hero inside you. They have helped you make it to where you are now. They are with you still. Celebrate them. Celebrate you and all that you have come through. Celebrate the hero that you are. 

Surrounded By Flowers

And it’s not for my funeral!

Photo by Biel Morro on Unsplash

I turned 70 the other day. I have no idea where all those years went.

I have been quieter in my life, socially, as the years go by. I don’t really get into having big parties or large scale celebrations, preferring to celebrate these major milestones in my own quiet way. Appreciating the friends that I have and their attention, kindness, and acknowledgment.

This was a big birthday for me. Something about the number 70 feels huge. Different. A senior in everyone’s book. Increasing awareness of the road before me being much shorter than the one behind me. The ticking of the clock of mortality.

The night before this momentous birthday, I was amused to notice that I stayed up until the stroke of midnight, watching the age that I claim now turn to 70. No longer in my 60s. I don’t usually even stay awake for the new year to be welcomed in anymore, but I did stay awake for my own new year’s entrance. My new decade.

The day before my birthday, I went to the gym in the morning. I’ve got to keep moving, I know. I came home to find a huge long box sitting at my front door. Perishable was written on the side.

I opened it to find the most beautiful bouquet of tropical flowers, sent directly from Hawaii. I didn’t even know that this was possible, but there it was. My lovely neighbor, who is from Hawaii and has been there on vacation this past week, sent these to me. She and I are now really getting to know each other, since we are both retired and finally able to slow down enough to have the time and energy. She turned 70 last December. We are on this path together.

What a beautiful gift these flowers were. I arranged them and placed them on display to enjoy.

Later that day. There was a knock on the door. I looked out the peephole to see a young woman holding a beautiful vase of flowers. Opening the door, I was able to really see them, and they took my breath away. 18 long stem roses from my ex-husband. (We were married on the 18th of June, almost 46 years ago.) We have been divorced for almost 34 years. We did not have contact for decades. Then he reached out several years ago and that contact has helped heal the rift and pain and sadness. It’s a lovely connection that I treasure. I am so grateful. And these roses from this, my ex-husband who I now have contact with on special holidays, brought me to tears. The healing of past trauma. The reconnection to a love that still exists, albeit in a different form.

Again, I arranged these stunning roses and placed them on display to enjoy.

And then it was my birthday. Waking up to these flowers greeting me. Waking up to now being 70. Looking forward to having dinner with a friend at a local restaurant where the staff feel like family.

Another knock on the door. Looking again through the peephole, I see a man holding yet another vase of flowers. I open the door to receive another beautiful bouquet of lilies, roses, irises. Purple and pink splendor. From a dear friend, the one that I would go out to dinner with that evening. She and I retired from the same place and are both so grateful for this time in our lives. She also just turned 70 last month. Another of this special tribe that I am now a member of.

I found a place for this bouquet. I breathe in all these gorgeous flowers and the love that they represent.

I am overwhelmed with all this beauty and love surrounding me. I often can underestimate my significance to others, feeling alone in this world. Appreciating friends, but also feeling unattached. No family that I am close to. And yet, I see that I do have a family. Chosen family. Family that is formed out of love and history. Intentional family.

Dinner with my friend was lovely. My birthday was wonderful.

Not done yet. A sweet man who I dated for a while calls and wants to stop by. And he did, showing up with a dozen beautiful red roses. I have no words at this point.

I am stunned, in a way, to feel so noticed and paid attention to. I am humbled by the love and affection and being noticed and remembered. I feel significant to these people. And to other friends that I have contact with on the phone who also send birthday love. More tears come. Tears that don’t always have words.

I cry a lot more these days, and it’s all good. I feel everything even more deeply as I continue on this aging journey. I appreciate it all. I am glad to still be alive to be able to feel all these feelings. To have the tears. To be in the moment and feel the joy, and bittersweetness at times, of being alive.

My birthday has passed. The flowers linger and continue to open more gloriously each day.

And I know that they will wither and die.

Isn’t that the lesson? To appreciate the blooming times, as in our own lives, and savor each moment, each opening of our own petals, each precious taste of love and affection? While we are still here? While we can still breathe and feel and savor?

Before the flowers that are sent are those that are for our funeral.