What Does Old Mean, Anyway?

28 May

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.  When I was in elementary school, or high school, or even college for that matter, I would have considered a person of my age old.  Not that I really had a solid determination of old; I think I just considered it something that happens with age.  My parents were old.  My teachers were old.  My grandparents were really old.  I have achieved the number of years that I once considered old…so am I?  No.  At least I don’t think so.  I still enjoy nearly all of the things I liked growing up.  Maybe with the exception of Twinkies–waaaay too sweet–bleh.  But I don’t think my anti-Twinkie palate signifies oldness.

So what IS old?  I’ve assisted people older than me while working my summer job at a greenhouse.  I admit to studying them a bit and imagining myself with their particular challenges of hearing, vision and mobility.  Do those challenges constitute oldness?  Or does the act of coming out each spring for your vegetable and flowering plants and then spending the summer tending, weeding and harvesting keep oldness at bay?  Are you old because it takes you longer to do things?  Does the joy of watching something grow negate the time it takes to plant it in the first place?

And what about the physical differences?  The effects of gravity, the age spots that remind me of summers spent laying in the sun using baby oil as “suntan lotion,” the wrinkles that frame my face.  The older-than-me folks at the greenhouse are also affected by these differences, but even more so.  I find myself repeatedly drawn to commercials featuring young, smooth-skinned beauties selling the latest spot-removing, tone-evening, skin-smoothing, wrinkle-erasing beauty cream, and I confess to wanting that youthful, dewy skin.  What am I afraid of?  Am I THAT vain?  Why can I not settle into “aging gracefully?”

Maybe that’s a good thing.  Maybe taking care of yourself physically and mentally IS aging gracefully.  Gray hair will happen, wrinkles and age spots cannot be undone without spending huge amounts of money that could be spent on plants and garden bling.  Worry is my nature, but I still love to play with friends, snuggle with my sweetie, watch clouds float across the sky, listen to our mockingbird perform his repertoire, and savor the first tomato of the season.

I saw my shadow the other day as my husband and I worked to weed our front yard perennial beds, and realized my shadow doesn’t show those parts of me that are slipping into what I identify with “old.”  My shadow is much the same as it’s always been.  How can I be old if my shadow isn’t?!  My hair becomes grayer each year, and wrinkles deepen.  Kids may think of me as old.  But I’ve decided I won’t consider myself old until my shadow looks old–how can that happen when it follows me to a slot canyon or when it sits in the garden admiring a fresh bloom?  I think my shadow enjoys a  cuppa as much as I do.  Here’s to my shadow and I toasting each other with a morning brew for many years to come, worrying less, and playing more.


3 Responses to “What Does Old Mean, Anyway?”

  1. Vegan Flavorista June 3, 2013 at 7:40 pm #

    Beautifully expressed! I look forward to your posts and reading about your experiences. You are as much a guide for others younger than you as your elders are for you!

    I am just nearing 45 years old and beginning to contemplate my future as a woman of advancing years, or however the pc way is of saying it is these days. Imagining what lies in store for me.

    Should I change careers or ride out my 9 to 5 to collect my pension in 15 more years? So begins my restless soul-searching.

    Time seems mighty precious when there’s less of it to waste, to quote the lovely, prolific Bonnie Raitt.

    Thank you for your honest sharing of one woman’s journey 🙂

    • secondcupofcoffee June 4, 2013 at 4:34 pm #

      Thank you for your lovely comments!

      I will be 54 this summer–young enough to play, old enough to really appreciate the Bonnie Raitt quote!

      When faced with the pension issue myself a few years ago, I stayed with the same company, a school district, but changed my position within it to stay sane and collect my pension. I got my masters and moved from teaching 7th grade to being a school librarian. I wished I had done it sooner–libraryland was a great gig!

      Good luck with your soul searching. 🙂

  2. celestedimilla October 4, 2013 at 8:19 am #

    What a wonderful post! My birthday is around Halloween, and for the past few years I’ve become depressed when see Halloween goodies at the store. It reminds me that I’m almost another year older. This year, however; it’s not bothering me so much. Have I accepted growing older? I don’t know, but at least I’m not letting it get me down this year. I’ll be 48 in a couple of weeks. Yea – another wonderful year to live and love in this world!! Celeste 🙂

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