AGING GRACEFULLY

In America we do not have a tradition of aging gracefully. We get old and rumpled, fat and slobby, rickety of mind and body and spirit ending up, eventually, heaped in a warehouse for old folks who do  nothing but pal around with each other, gossip, play bridge or commit rinky dink pursuits. Basket weaving? Horrors!  The worst, of course, are the  zombies who sit in chairs and stare at walls. Visit the ‘old folk’s wards in your friendly neighborhood hospital and then high tail it the hell out of there fast as your little old lady tennis shoes’ll carry you.

If health is the number one brick in the creation of  graceful  aging  and happiness the second, staying with it, being here now, is the third corner of  this foundation. There’s nothing wrong with remembering the past but you don’t have to dwell there. All of us have sailed some stormy seas, crashed on rock strewn beaches, sunk in deep or shallow water and swum or dug our way out, and the secret to these events is to delete the scary parts.You got here, didn’t you? Forget the cuts and scrapes and bruises. Forget the slurs and barbs of cruel misfortune. Learn from them. “The beauty of the soul shines out when a human bears with composure one heavy mischief after another, not because she does not feel them, but because she is a human of high and heroic temper.” Aristotle, my horse, taught me that.

As you’ve aged- if you’ve been a collector of anything, people, books, animals- clean house.  The closer you get to the end of the line the less you need to carry. Lighten load. You can toss things, trash things, give stuff away. You don’t need twenty-two cats, three thousand books, a half a hundred people. Travel light, at your own sweet pace enjoying every minute of the journey. And know this, you can stop any time you want. There is no law in the book of life that says you have to continue if you don’t want to. Don’t let anyone tell you different. Don’t fear the end of the journey, who knows, it may be the beginning of a new one. Or, perhaps, most probable, it’s the end of the dream. Who knows? No one knows. But whatever it is, it is, and sooner or later you will have to face it. Better to look death in the eye than hide from it.

Think this, no matter what anyone tells you, you’ve acquired a lot of wisdom on the way. Anyone who tells you it is an error to think you are wise is the least wise human of all. “Life is a festival only to the wise.” Ralph Waldo Emerson said.

To age as a woman  in America today can be vaunting.  There is such a senseless value placed on youth. I think many women grow old poorly because they don’t know how to reckon with this folly. Start young. Build strength. Grow old with grace and  beauty.

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