By Donna Cordello
I recently overheard someone talking about the older woman in the black SUV. When I realized she was referring to me, I just about fell over. I still like to blast rock and roll when I’m driving in my car. Yes, I’m the nut bag at the red light bobbing her head and dancing to the music. I still laugh out loud with my friends, hold hands with my husband and sing karaoke with my kids. I’m not old! In fact I feel exactly like I did when my waist was the size of my arms.
Only problem is, my body doesn’t get it. In fact, some days, it completely ignores me. My body thinks I’m a lot older than I really am. And, honestly, it’s like I went to sleep in my teens and somehow woke up with gray hair and arthritis.
I guess I’m at that awkward age where I’m going through mental pause, which is that special time in a person’s life when you realize your mind and body are no longer in synch and probably never will be again. Because even though in my mind, I’m the same as I always was, my lifestyle reminds me that I’m not.
I go to bed at the same time I used to get ready to go out. I can’t drink coffee after 4 o’clock. I have to take antacids if I eat spicy food, I need glasses to read a menu. I can’t parallel park as easily as I used to. And I can’t remember the last time I actually slept through an entire night without getting up to go to the bathroom.
I don’t know what happened to all the years gone by when it seems like I just got here. I go to more wakes than weddings. I have a doctor for every different part of my body — and I spend more time in their waiting rooms than I care to admit.
I know it’s said that you should age gracefully and I’m trying. But I have my setbacks like when I see another person the same age as me. I tend to take notes and compare. Are they healthier or in worse shape? Are they content or miserable? And then the shallow me studies their looks. Depending on who I run into, I’m either doing a happy dance or running out to buy another anti-wrinkle cream.
‘In my mind, I’m the same as I always was, but my lifestyle reminds me that I’m not. I go to bed at the same time I used to get ready to go out. I can’t drink coffee after 4 o’clock. I have to take antacids if I eat spicy food, I need glasses to read a menu. And I can’t remember the last time I actually slept through an entire night without getting up to go to the bathroom.’
Some of my friends are replacing their parts, especially their hips and knees. Others are complaining of everything from bad backs to bursitis. And the things that we never thought much about in prior years are the same ones that give us trouble now. For me, it’s something as simple as doing yard work — which leaves me walking crooked for days afterward.
I’ve also become sensitive to commercials that target elderly people and I think, “Jeez, is that what I have to look forward to?” There’s one on television now about pretty panties that are actually diapers for incontinence. I don’t care if they have imported lace or soft leather — you’ll never convince me that wearing a diaper is sexy.
I also hate the commercials for pre-planning long term care, rehabs and finally, choosing our resting places, as they so gently call it. Maybe someday I’ll be ready to buy an urn or coffin, but for now, I’ll just stick to going to the mall.
And don’t get me started about all the products for men to enhance their sexual performance, as they grow older. Did you ever notice that the female partners in those commercials are much younger? Probably because women the same age as the men don’t have ‘all night marathons’ high on their priority list. And what’s up with the couple who are soaking side by side in two bathtubs outside? Who does that?
Some people my age try to hide the year they were born by pretending they are younger. But that never made sense to me. If anything, I’d pretend I’m 10 years older. Then, you’re sure to have people tell you how great you look!
Sometimes we try to defy aging with breast enhancements, tummy tucks or face lifts. While I could probably use all three, I’d wish for something else — like replacing my flat throbbing feet. It might not improve my looks but it sure would improve my well being.
I realize that getting older is a privilege that others may not have had and I am thankful with each passing birthday. But instead of having an “I hope” list, I tend to have a whole lot of “I hope nots.”
I hope I don’t live too long or die too young. I hope I don’t lose my mind. I hope I don’t shrink four inches and walk hunched over. I hope I don’t end up in a wheelchair or need portable oxygen to breathe. I hope I don’t die in a hospital from a debilitating disease. I hope my family doesn’t have to watch me suffer or, worse, that I have to watch someone I love suffer. I hope that I’ll always have both my hair and my teeth to brush. But I realize all the hoping in the world might not be my reality, so for now, I’ll just concentrate on enjoying the rest of my ride.
I find it’s better to use humor when it comes to growing older. For example, people are usually surprised when they discover that my husband and I both have pacemakers. Actually, he got his first and I wanted to prove that I can do anything that he can! I tell people we are a magnetic force.
But when I first got it, I wasn’t joking about it, which proves that over time, I guess you just get used to anything and everything that comes your way. Truth is, most of the time, I don’t ever think about having a pacemaker. In fact, the only time I remember that I have one is when I have to go in another line at the airport.
I’ve also gotten used to knowing what I can and cannot do. Don’t get me wrong. I can do anything. I just think about the consequences before I do them, like if I have too good of a time, do I really want to suffer a three- day hangover? Or if I go to bed really late, do I really want to go through the next day at work like a zombie? Or if I eat too late, do I really want to pop Tums all night long? I have to think about stupid things that never concerned me before.
One thing is for sure. I’ll savor the good times and get through the bad, just like I always have. I’ll love fiercely, laugh till I cry and, no doubt, have times when I wipe away tears. I’ll cherish my family and friends and be grateful for all of my blessings. I’ll work and be productive as long as possible. Or maybe, I’ll be able to just relax in my pajamas on days when I feel lazy.
I’ll probably have regrets about the bad choices I’ve made along the way. Or maybe wish that I could have done more with the time I’ve wasted. But, I’ll never regret that I didn’t go skydiving, white water rafting or climbing a rocky mountain — because I never really wanted to. I’ll try to be the feisty old broad you want to be around and not the miserable one you try to avoid.
I guess the hardest part about aging, especially for a control freak like me, is that I cannot control it! So I’ll try to do everything humanly possible to accept the wrinkles, aches and pains, and everything else that goes along with getting older. But it could be a real challenge for me. Because no matter how I look at it…..aging sucks!
Donna Cordello, 61, is a freelance writer with local , national and international publications. She lives in Penfield and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.