On Getting On

Like many people (women in particular), I spent way too many years thinking I was getting old— worrying at my mirror and in the cosmetics aisle—staving off the inevitable.

On my 36th birthday, I began feeling no longer young. After all, that was (at that time) considered the beginning of middle age. The expected lifetime was 72. Do the math. And of course, at 36, I viewed “middle age” as moving towards “old”. Perhaps part of the reason for feeling older and out of touch is that I was freshly divorced and an over-worked single parent of two.

At 40, I was remarried and one of a three person crew building a 1500 square foot addition on my home. But I still thought I was crossing a threshold into “old”, especially after I fell through the ceiling and cracked a few ribs, limiting the amount of weight I could carry up a ladder.

At 50, I was named “Outstanding Alumnus” at my undergraduate school. Certainly that made me feel old, as only people who were near the end of their careers seemed to be given such recognition.

At 60, I was again divorced and remarried, living in a tent with my new husband who was 9 years older. The two of us were building (with our own hands) a log house in the mountains. We showered under a tree from a bag of sun-warmed water and cooked on a camp stove. We were doing things people our age shouldn’t. But, instead of age, I felt wonder.

At 65, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and enjoyed a lumpectomy, chemo, and radiation. I felt old. But when my hair regrew, soft and curly as a new babe’s, and my body returned slowly to normalcy, we moved to Washington, North Carolina where we joined a gym and began life again.

At 70, I published my first novel and was a contributing artist to several art galleries.

Now, at 72, with another novel done, I notice wrinkles when I look in the mirror but no longer search for youth serums. I am at the once expected limit to a lifetime. Maybe there is something wrong with me, but I no longer focus on age or aging. I am grateful for health and an opportunity to produce something that is fulfilling to me and hopefully to others. Life is still an open door that leads to surprises within.

Years were wasted worrying about getting older. I suppose I am there, but am simply amazed by how young it feels.

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