Saturday, January 30, 2016

On Aging

               One of the effects of having a nonagenarian living in the house, is looking at one's own mortality. Now that my mother is 90, I am even more aware of my own sands of time.  Questions persist regarding: purpose, retirement, bucket lists, health and vitality, romance.
              I am going to be 60 this year and I don't know how I feel about that. I was hoping to celebrate something older than I, something timeless. So, my beloved will take me to see Shakespeare's Henry V.
                My girlfriends want various things in retirement. Large houses of women living together. (My first many bathrooms?)  Cabana boys to cool us with palm fronds. More than one girlfriend wants to retire abroad. An old gal living in Paris. Personally, I think I want comfort and community.
                I try to honestly evaluate the prospects for my retirement.  I fitted my house with comfort for the body, and exercise equipment. I wonder where I'll place the investment of my time and creative energy for the next decade.  I am hopeful for work with purpose and meaning.
                 I have a recurring conversation with my young niece with whom I enjoy sharing dance stories. We understand the emotional and physical effects music has on us.    
               "There were elderly people in my yoga class."
               "How old is elderly?
               "That's my age group. I refuse to be elderly.  I heard one woman say she planned to be a Maturian.  I like that. "

                I almost decked the first kid who offered me a Senior Discount.
                My kids said, "Mom, take the discount."
                Of course I'll take the discount, but how dare he think me a Senior?  I was indignant.
                A wise woman discount? A Maturian discount? Yes, that's better.

                Obscure experiences, completely out of context, and not in any particular order, pop into my mind without reason.   They seem to have happened a very long time ago. Some examples:
                I assisted a doctor in sewing up a woman who had been mauled by 3 pit-bulls when she went out jogging.  In my twenties, I almost had an affair with a lion tamer.  I bet on horses and greyhounds and always lost.
                One birthday, when I ran the ranch, after I spent the night in a hammock, I woke up to an owl staring down at me. 
                 I studied Flamenco in Spain, African with an African Dance Co., Tap in Hollywood, Ballet with the Milwaukee Ballet, Modern dance with the prima ballerina of the Metropolitan Opera Ballet.
               I danced on a cruise ship, on short notice. Thank goodness I had a piece ready.  I was 16 and later that evening, my father was freaking out when he couldn't find me. He imagined that I had fallen overboard. I was being a teenager, downstairs where the music was, flirting with the ensign. 
               Like most young girls, mojo came naturally.  I'll tell you what, as a Maturian, it takes work to keep it. 
               I do love the benefit to romance enjoyed at this age.  I love the realistic expectations and not getting bent out of shape when the other person turns out to be human.  I can look like Carol Burnett's washer woman with my sneakers and baggy clothes, and he still loves me. We appreciate each other's best qualities and try not to make too much of our worst.
                How to keep romance alive considering the 300 miles between us and calendar visits on intermittent weekends?  It's a challenge. While we're apart, we send each other 15 second phone videos,  or discuss various subject matter about the latest thing we've read, maybe send a link to an interesting TED talk, or send a joke. Just to keep us connected. I occasionally change his ring tone to Motown favorites. When he's here, it's nice to have help around the house.  He keeps the fire stoked so that we can curl up on the couch together and stay warm.  And there is pillow talk, that quiet sharing at the end of the day, made sacred by proximity, much more personal than phone calls.
               Another benefit of this age is not having to prove myself to myself. I know of what I am capable.  I know my strengths and weaknesses, my likes and dislikes.  And as long as I do my personal best in the world, I can let go of outcomes, let go of self-doubt.
              It is true that the body has limitations. But it is also true that with years of practice I can say, "No". I can reject ideas that don't work for me.
              So, perhaps I like this age. I like the history, including the revised versions that accompany retrospect. I like my self-image and the forgiveness, the slower tempo, the gift of insight and perspective, a certain personal comfort that come with 59 years of living.
              There are a lot of myths around aging in our culture. I don't have to believe them.