Swimming is my meditation. Strokes forward, head underwater, gazing at the aqua world that surrounds me. Rhythm in my moves, remotely connected to the world around me, aware that people are nearby yet not engaged with them. It’s an activity in which no one expects me to do anything except move forward and back, one end of the pool to the other. All sense of time falls by the wayside as my body settles into a pattern of movement designed to stretch and release all tension and anxiety. It’s life at its best. A blue gem shimmering in the morning light, sunlight streaming through the blue azure sky and white cotton ball clouds.
Despite what the numbers might say on my birth certificate, the Grim Reaper was not invited to my birthday party. I’m sure he thinks that 65 candles are a fire hazard way beyond my lung capacity. What he didn’t know was that I’d been training for this Medicare showdown since I turned 60.
The last time I passed that milestone birthday, I decided that, I’d get awesome, not old. Having wasted most of my life learning how to be a grownup, I wondered how one becomes awesome.
My answer was to create my 60+ year old self into an improved version of me. I would go toe-to-toe and eye-to-eye against aging. It was going to take all my body parts working together to tame this thing. Turning back the clock may not be possible, but slowing down its forward movement was doable.
Fitness magazines touted exercise as a possibility toward graceful aging. As if on cue, Melanie, my 25-year old daughter-in-law, invited me to hot yoga.
Exercise, healthy eating and a variety of potions (which are my secret) keep me alive and kicking as I enter the years that some call “senior.” I realize that I won’t be able to hold aging off indefinitely, but I can probably drag my feet long enough that it will wait for me.
Face it. We’re all looking for the Fountain of Youth. Some of us subject ourselves to botox injections, although personally I’d rather die with my wrinkles than let anyone near my face with a needle. But that’s just me. Perhaps if I were a movie star or some other public figure I’d want my looks to take precedence over my sanity and comfort.
There is so much negative press about getting older, I was sure that when I turned 65 I’d be stooped, gray, surly and invisible. And, while a couple of those adjectives may apply (and I won’t say which ones) I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the benefits and opportunities that being 65 has presented to me.
1. Take the last piece of candy. In my pre-65 days, I would never have taken the last piece of candy in a dish, especially with an audience present. But, I’m happy to report that last night I did both. Snatched up the last piece of chocolate in front of a witness breezily saying loudly:“At least it’s 85% cacao.” No guilt, no shame, sheer bliss.
It seems that making decisions becomes more difficult to those of a certain age. Perhaps it’s because we’ve spent a lifetime making them. Where should we live? What schools are the best for our kids? How do we choose the right car with the best gas mileage? What is the right career and the perfect job? I don’t know about you, but at this point in my life, I sometimes feel as if my decision quota has been reached and I just don’t have it in me anymore to make another one.
My hair will become matted and unruly like a stray dog loping through the streets of Baltimore before I succumb to the ambush of a hair stylist. My nails will curl backward to reach my knuckles before I visit the manicurist. My face will develop craters like the surface of Mars where dune buggies fall into the crevices before I contact my esthetician. Let my shoulders develop lumps like coal from the stress of living before I succumb to the laden touch of a masseuse again. These are people whom I hire to beautify, simplify, liquefy and mollify me, but they just won’t stop talking.
When I got the email announcing “Fall Prevention” I jumped into action, all set for a protest. With so many of our liberties at stake, now they want to take away my favorite season?
I marched into the meeting room ready to chant, armed with an “I love autumn” sign and my protest hat perched menacingly on my head. Imagine my relief when I realized that it was a program to teach adults of a certain age how to avoid falls in their advancing years.
My relief morphed into dismay when I learned that the simple act of remaining upright when a slight wind blows became an issue for me on my last birthday. Each year, more than one in four older adults aged 65 and older will fall.