Recently I had a bout of itchiness. It’s not something I’m accustomed to, particularly waking in the middle of the night wanting to scratch my skin off. I’m sure that’s what caused a weird dream about worms. They were attaching themselves to me, growing from the size of a seed to full-grown wrigglers in seconds. Fast as I plucked them off, new ones attached and grew.
Maybe it’s just another part of being nearly halfway through my seventh decade. The body asserts itself in new and unsettling ways. Sometimes I look in the mirror and wonder who the stranger is looking back at me. Where did her grey hair come from? How did she get those age spots? When did those neck wrinkles appear? And for heaven’s sake, when did those frontal orbs qualify for the old-lady version of the childhood camp song? Remember that one?
Do you ears hang low?
Do they wobble to and fro?
Can you tie ‘em in a knot?
Can you tie ‘em in a bow?
Can you throw them over your shoulder
Like a Continental soldier?
Do your ears hang low?
Substitute boobs for ears, and you get the drift. This body has carried me through life with a minimum of fuss. But as I edge toward my 65th birthday, it sags and bags. It tires out a lot faster than it did even ten years ago. It is no longer svelte. Parts are wearing out.
I figured that was normal until I saw photos of Bette Calman, who lives near Melbourne. They were taken in 2009, when she was 83. She is doing yoga poses I would have considered impossible at 23. She’s tiny, perfectly coiffed, tastefully made up, fashionably dressed, and glowing. She is heading for the final yoga pose positively blooming with health and vigor.
Then last night I met Mervin Watson. At 70 he is fit, vigorous and still winning tennis championships. A while back an interviewer asked how many national championships he had won. He hadn’t a clue so guessed fifteen. Then he Googled himself, tallied the wins, and came up with a corrected total: 34. (Check out these photographs on his son’s Web site.)
So today I’ve been thinking about aging and some of my older Twitter friends, all of whom are vibrant and interesting. @VeryOldGran blogs about current events and her own life. Torch singer @lurainpenny writes her autobiography and Tweeting current events. A retired psychiatric nurse, @stylecrone shows her flair with hats and blogs about the journey of caring for a husband with a chronic illness. Literate, creative @maryltabor writes a stunning, open blog. It has now been published as a memoir, (Re)Making Love: Sex After Sixty. Wanting to put a positive spin on aging, @MarcMiddleton features a parade of inspirational examples of vibrant elders on GrowingBolder.com.
So here’s my thinking about aging, at least today: Life gets better. It’s true life is a death sentence. Aging is not optional. Bodies do wear out. But I’m happier now than at any other time in my life. So are a lot of other people I know. We are living on our own terms, less bound by external demands. We are actively engaged in pursuits that give joy to our days. We eat well and exercise, to keep our joints oiled and moving. We spend time with friends. Our lives have meaning and purpose.
Bette Davis is credited with one of my favorite quotes: “Old age is no place for sissies.” The two artists in this video express it beautifully.