Do you still wear what you think you should wear, act how you think you should act or live how you think you should live just because you have reached a certain age? If so, you are missing out. Perhaps you need a little dose of aging disgracefully.
I have always wanted to age gracefully, accepting the gray hair and the extra lines that come with it. I don’t want to go through every phase of the ageing process kicking and screaming. However, this does not mean that I want to quietly surrender to it either. I still want to stick out my tongue at it and defy its limitations.
I have always loved the poem by Jenny Joseph ‘When I am old’ that talks about wearing purple with a red hat that doesn’t go. The poem captures that sense of liberation that comes with no longer caring about what other people think of you. Wearing purple with a red hat is not that daring today. These days older women go skydiving and swim with sharks.
I haven’t died my hair purple or learned to spit but I do seem to have developed a thirst for adventure. I recently took up mountain biking and when I race along with the wind in my hair, I feel the exact same delight I remember feeling many, many moons ago when I was young and carefree. When I went segwaying along a wilderness path recently, I gloried in the ability of my body to balance as I maneuvered over bumps and navigated through ditches. I followed my younger sister into icy cold sea water – there’s nothing like an icy dip to invigorate you and make you feel alive. Perhaps my adventures may seem very tame to some but for me they are out of my comfort zone and enough to put a spring in my step.
Life is precious and unexpected and it can throw you many a curved ball. Just when you are making plans, life happens. At the age of 60 today, we still have a good chance of living another 20 odd years. Unfortunately, we can’t know what our last years will be like. Even if we make every effort to stay healthy and try to minimize the risk factors, we may still have to face some harsh realities. We can give up smoking, drink in moderation, eat healthily and exercise regularly. This goes a long way towards reducing risks but it does not guarantee that we remain healthy in body or mind. Some of the healthiest people I know have succumbed to diseases like cancer. Life sometimes forces situations upon us that are hard to bear. However, if we focused only on our eventual mental and physical decline, it would make most of us want to jump off a cliff. I would rather focus on the joy of living instead and face each phase of ageing with as much of a sense of humour as possible.
I recently went on a day trip to visit some open gardens with my mother and some of her friends. One of them is an old lady of 93. Her body may be frail but her mind is still as sharp as a tack. She calls her walking stick Alfred and introduced Alfred to everyone we met. At one stage she shouted “Old age is a bugger, isn’t it!” as she struggled up a rise in the path. Her wit and enthusiasm allowed her to get away with jumping queues and getting special treatment everywhere we went. I felt sad when she said this would most likely be her last visit to the gardens. She was simply being realistic and it seemed to make her all the more determined to enjoy every last moment while she still could. She was a great example to me of the fact that it is your attitude rather than your age that defines you.
So gobble up all those free samples, run barefoot across the park, skinny dip in rock pools and tick off some of those adventures on your bucket list while you still can.