Until now, I haven't given ageing a second thought. Why should I when the world around me hasn't paid it any attention for a while? Long ago, ageing meant relinquishing one's youth after retirement, if not before. Elderly ladies became automatic members of the Blue Rinse Brigade, reflected not only in the colour of their hair, but also in their style of dress.
These days, older women are treating hair as nothing more than an accessory and stepping out in clothing that they wear well, regardless of the hemline. They are casting off ageing etiquette, including chopping off long hair, and taking on ageless etiquette.
Until March, my elderly mother-in-law defied age, still living independently and planning ahead in her mid-nineties. My godmother, approaching seventy, goes to aerobics every other day, if not daily.
And it's not just regular folks tossing age aside like an old hat. Celebrities are on the forefront of our ageless society too, prompting marketers to brand 50 as the new 40, even the new 30. I guess that means that 60 is the new 50 or 40, and that 70 is the new 60 or 50.
Though many 50-year-olds look 30-something, they don't really act it, do they? Most of us would agree that these slogans break down to some degree, but we have to admit that the likes of Tina Turner, Cher, Madonna, Dame Helen Mirren, Kristin Scott Thomas and Demi Moore have made it easy for the rest of us to act anything but our age.
So why am I suddenly giving age some thought? It's simple; I hit the big 5-0 this year. And though I continue to soak up the agelessness around me, I can't help noticing a fundamental change.
Make no mistake about it, I don't feel 'over the hill', or that I've reached the 'youth of old age', though the latter adage is a bit more comforting than the former. On the contrary, I'm as excited about life as I was last year and the year before. ... maybe even more. I do recognize, however, that there is likely to be much less of life to come.
When I was a child, I told God that I simply didn't want to be around when I was too old to take care of myself. At ten, I calculated that age to be about sixty-two. Uh oh! I am recalculating daily and hope He is listening.
But to be honest, it is not concern about longevity that is at the crux of my thinking. It has to do more with realism.
When I was younger, it was much easier to treat unhappy experiences as a dress rehearsal. Nowadays, however, it is difficult to take on anything that doesn't serve me or those dear to me; at least the things over which I can exert some control.
There are too many variables that I have no control over, such as natural disasters, accidents and incidents. One only has to look at the news reports to see what I mean.
No, I haven't become anymore highly strung or self-serving than I already was. Less, in fact, since I no longer carry on like tomorrow never comes.
Tomorrow does come and when it does, it is fast and ferocious. For me, it has arrived through the loss of my in-laws, the illness of both parents, and a whole slew of other disappointments in life. On the positive side of tomorrow, I am a grandmother, albeit a step-grandmother, but I now have that role all the same. I have published my first novel, The Barrenness, and the second one, The Blindsided Prophet, is in the making. Furthermore, I have experienced more joys in life than I can slot in here.
It is just that in tomorrow, I refuse to make choices for the Joneses, not that I ever did. But now when I find myself fretting over a matter, I decide not to sweat it, small or large. I do what is best for me. Never mind that others would not make that choice.
In my new reality, I have little time for regrets that don't have to be.
Earlier this year, Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse who spent several years caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives, recorded their dying revelations.
Number one was: I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
Now there's a thought! But why wait until the end of one's life to think it? I say go for it at prime time; the time when one is comfortable and confident in one's own reality.
Gone are the dreaded days when age stripped us of promise. Sure, there will always be people living as if tomorrow never comes. But the rest of us fifty-ish folk can recognize tomorrow for what it is ... our reality.
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