Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Bag Lady comes of age

I'll be 65 this Friday. In some ways I'm finally coming of age.

The month started out on a cheery note. I'd gotten my Medicare card a couple of weeks earlier. Last week I signed up for Silver Sneakers - a wellness program provided by my insurance company - and I got into my water aerobics class for free. Before that it was $5.50. It will be the same when I go to the gym. They're not going to penalize me if I miss a day. Apparently any time I choose to exercise, the insurance company is happy to foot the bill.

My two children and Art's six are all grown and I have pretty much come to the conclusion that they are who they are, and they don't need advice from me. Even if I have an answer for them, they probably don't need it. When I was in my 30s I resented the heck out of any suggestions from my own mother. Most of our children are on Facebook, so I have a vague general idea of what they're up to. I know they'll call if they need anything and that I will hear from most of them on Mother's Day and I will see them occasionally. Even though part of me wishes they were all still around - like they were in the frantic, delightful, awful times of their childhood, adolescence and young adulthood - most of me doesn't have the energy for it all. So we relish the time we see them and wish them well the rest of the time.

I am beginning to accept that my body is never going to be as lithe and uncomplaining as it was for the first 45 years of my life, and that the aches and pains typical of people my age are, well, going to stay around. This has been a tough thing to accept. Used to be, if I broke or strained or otherwise injured a body part, it healed right up. Now it takes its sweet time - or heals but doesn't really. Blood pressure rises and joints develop arthritis. I'm not keen on this coming of age thing. Ten years ago we took a trip and hiked ten to twelve miles a day for a week - and all that hurt was my feet, in the evening. Now I'm looking at trips where the distance covered in a day is three to five miles, and wondering whether we're up to it - or whether we even want to try.

My wanderlust is calming down. We have a world map in our entryway, with pins marking the places we've been. They're in North, Central and South America, Europe and Asia and Africa. I think about trips to Spain, Mongolia, Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica and Scandinavia. I know they'd all be fascinating, but the energy required to plan and negotiate these trips can be pretty daunting. I see now why some people sign up for tours. All they have to do is send the money and pack their bags and show up. Maybe it's because we've already been so many places we wanted to see. Our financial planner says most retired people travel for five years and then come home. We're at the three-year mark. I hate, hate, hate to think I may turn out to be a typical retired person in that way.

The days are getting shorter here in the Pacific Northwest, and I have decided, very reluctantly, that I probably ought not to be driving at night in traffic or unfamiliar places. To that end, I've let the Dispute Resolution Center know I won't be taking evening mediation assignments until next spring. I'll miss that. But I can't ask Art to drive me there and then sit for the four hours I'd be mediating. I think it's very unfair that even though he's five years older than me, his vision doesn't limit him at night.

I live twelve miles from downtown Seattle. For years we had season tickets to two regional theaters. We went during the day. Then we decided we were too busy to commit to the dates on our tickets. Sometimes we missed a play due to a scheduling conflict. We said we'd buy individual tickets to plays we really wanted to see. But we didn't. It's too much of a hassle to drive downtown in traffic, maneuver the city streets, and pay $15 to park. The worst thing is that I don't miss the theatre, after decades of being a real enthusiast. Again, it's too much effort!

What I'm seeing is that I have less energy than before. Used to be I was limited by the number of hours in a day and I could fill my calendar for a day and enjoy every event. That's not the case any more. Now I'm careful to plan a day with spaces in it, or with one event that I could cancel if it didn't affect anyone else. If I swim or walk every day, and do my postural therapy exercises, and play brain-enhancing computer games (yes, really! See, and write or blog, sometimes the stamina I have left is less than what's needed for my day's plans. And I'm not sick. I'm just coming of age.

I am encouraged, though. When I talk to other people my age and older, or when I read what they write, I realize I'm not the only one. Most of us have aches and pains, less energy, and less of a drive to be constantly on the go. Fortunately.

I think coming of age means having a healthy awareness of who you are and where you are in your life. That you may be special but you're not unique. When I was younger I used to look at cars on the freeway and marvel at all those people with their own separate lives. It amazed me that there were lives out there other than my own. Now I feel comfortable on the road, looking out and realize that all of us, we're all in this together. I'm one of very many. And I like that.

Last Thursday I went to the first handbell practice of the year at a church in Seattle. I'd been told by email they didn't need any regulars - and I can't do it anyway since I'll be in Tucson all winter - but they sometimes needed a sub. And they did! I played a couple of different sets of bells. Not very well, though. I do read music but I'm not especially adept at sight reading - especially when the key signature changes every few measures. The old me would have quit after the first practice. Or called the director and told her I couldn't make it to practices because I have bad night vision. Instead, I brought a copy of the music home with me to mark up and asked Art if he'd be willing to drive me to practice once a week and wait for the hour and ten minutes the practices last. He said yes.

Now that I'm turning 65, I'm filing for my pension. I've finally come of age!


Arkansas Patti said...

Oh to be 65 again!!
You are wearing it well lady and are probably one of the more active and involved seniors I know.
We have to" come of age" with every age. Life is a constant series of adjustments. That keeps things from getting boring.
Hope you have a wonderful Birthday.

DJan said...

Happy birthday! I think you are so incredibly involved in life that you might not have noticed the gradual changes that we all face as we get older. I have the opportunity to hang out with many older people on my hikes, and I see that every single one of us has to deal with limitations. Life is not static, as you know, and you have now become one of us, a bonafide Senior Citizen. Welcome! Come on in, the water's fine. :-)

Olga said...

I wish you a happy birthday. I joined that 65 club in June, but I have really been too preoccupied to notice. My father died at the age of 72 and I thought that he was old. Now that seems far too young. I worked for a school superintendent who always reminded us that "Change in inevitable, growth--optional." I think you are still growing as you change.

Rian said...

All the things you mentioned in your post today; children, energy, aches and pains, wanderlust, night driving, etc. hit the nail right on the head! You are now definitely a part of the 65 Senior Citizen Club. It's a club you may not have been eager to join, but unfortunately you are signed up automatically. And it does have some advantages... as you are seeing.

Out on the prairie said...

I reluctantly call it mellowing with age. I need the arts to stay happy, one thing that keeps me close to a large city.I have been in MO, NE and IA the last 3 days since I can't sit still and have to be on the move.

Meryl Baer said...

Two years to go, but I hear you. I feel my energy limit the most when with the grandkids. The healing thing is so annoying. I find myself being more careful and taking less risk with activities such as bike riding and even walking.
We enjoy travel and try to take extra time for trips so we have some rest time.
On the other hand I know active seniors well into their 80s who still keep an active schedule. I plan on eventually being one of them!

Tom said...

I agree on all points, esp. about driving at night. Just don't like to do it anymore.

Dee said...

Dear Linda, your posting sums up so well what nearly all of us feel and experience as we age. I wonder if you've thought of sending it to AARP for publication in their monthly magazine. I think many, many people would be grateful to find that what they are experiencing is typical for those in their mid-sixties and those of us who are even older. I encourage you to seek publication of this helpful and encouraging posting. Peace.

Friko said...

Everything you’ve said in this post - and you’ve said it very well - goes for me too. And a million or more others.

That’s just how it is and none the worse for that. Different things please different ages. I really wouldn’t want to go clubbing or disco dancing any more. So good bye to that and hello nice comfortable entertainments, particularly sitting with friends over a glass of wine and putting the world to rights.

Happy Birthday, Linda. enjoy what you have.

(Mind you, the not being able to drive at night does rather limit one, I hate it)

Perpetua said...

Happy birthday, Linda and thanks for a great post, telling it like it is at our age. I so identify with the decrease in energy, both physical and mental. Not too much yet, but signs of things to come. But like you I'm comfortable with who I am and am enjoying life as DH and I choose to make it.

Deb Shucka said...

What a sweet and reflective piece. As I'm not that far behind you, it's so helpful and comforting to watch your journey through your words. You make coming of age appealing. :-)