On Getting Older – a Bonus Birthday Post!

100 birthdayI’m not someone who tends to freak out on my birthday. I don’t call exceptional attention to it either. But this year I’ve decided to give myself a more significant gift (dinner, fancy drinks, a movie, the pedicure I’ve been talking about for 5 years, Cadbury milk chocolate eggs, 2 days and 3 glorious nights off the anti-inflammatory diet, 3 days without working, 2 days without touching a computer) and to try and articulate some recent thoughts I’ve had on getting older.

My face is not aging very well. No surprise, given decades of smoking and sun. It’s not something I think about obsessively, but get me in front of a mirror with bad lighting and I am likely to experience a wave of panic – holy shit, is that what I look like? followed by crashing waves of worry – if I look like this now, what will I look like in 10 years? am I going to start scaring children? how long do I have to look good, anyway – do I still have to be labelled fuckable at 60? why the hell did I go into theatre, from which my beloved cohort seems to float through their middle ages unscarred and unlined and thin?

I was at the gym during a bad encounter with a mirror a few months back, so I decided to start breaking this shit down on the treadmill. I’m an analyst, right? Let’s analyze.

I look old.

Maybe. So?

So I’m relatively young. I’m going to keep looking older.

True.

So I won’t be attractive [subjective, but go with me].

And?

And … um … my boyfriend will leave me [presumptuous, but go with me].

So?

Then I’ll be alone.

Never bothered you before.

I won’t be happy?

So your boyfriend makes you happy?

No. He doesn’t hurt, but … no.

What makes you happy?

My perception of the world. Living.

And can your boyfriend take that away from you?

Not unless he kills me.

Mm-hmmm

But … what if I lose my job and I can’t find another because I’m old?

What if you can’t?

Then I’ll be poor.

Uh-huh.

I’ll have to sell my stuff.

Maybe.

And live in a crappy apartment.

Do things and houses make you happy?

No.

What makes you happy?

My perception of the world. Living.

Mm-hmmm…

But what if I don’t have any close friends?

… and on and on I went, but by this point it was rhetorical. Could I think of any single event that would ruin my life? Short of death, no. Certainly nothing age-specific. Even a physical incapacity or long illness – they might make living harder, but they still can’t force misery upon me. If I’m lucky enough to live a while longer, I will lose people that I love dearly, and I will be in pain for a while or longer, but it won’t vitiate my happiness. Only I can do that. At my age, a sudden onset of depressive disorder is unlikely (yay, aging!) but even if that did happen, I would hopefully have the grace and luck to correct it by medicinal or other means.

The most honest answer I can give when people ask me why I meditate is that “I want to be okay.” Not that I’m not okay now, but I want to be okay with whatever happens in my life. I can’t control the happenings, so I work on controlling the core okay-ness and keeping those coals stoked whether I’m alone or friendless or poor or incapacitated or surrounded with comforts and love. You can call it happiness or contentment, but to me it’s being really okay: grounded, but awake with the spontaneous capacity for joy and sadness and wonder and gratitude for all of the crazy shit that living has to offer. Aging gives me more time to practice and improve on my okayness, so I really am thankful for every moment I move farther away from my birth.

But fuck, bad bathroom lighting is a shitty thing to do to a person.

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One thought on “On Getting Older – a Bonus Birthday Post!

  1. I know this came out of your subjective experience with the mirror and all, but from my more objective perspective, you do not look old! Really! You are fabulously young and cool. Happy birthday Zoe!!!!

    Like

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