You really can talk yourself to death. Fast. Here's how to avoid that.
Melissa is 65 this year. She's my closest friend, and she had long been into body work. That's how we met, in fact, when I hired her for Thai massages during the sometimes brutal training for Kilimanjaro in 2013.
As with many who were in body work, quarantine nearly did her in. She found ways to survive, but ultimately had to eke out a living until the world calmed a bit. Sort of. These days, she is doing what she loves most: a combination of massage work and elder concierge.
Melissa, who is gay, loves old folks. She has the gift of gab, loves to listen to their stories, and appreciates the infirmity that she can help relieve. When we spoke yesterday morning she was getting ready to deliver a woman to chemo.
Melissa and I talk about aging a lot. These days as she works with elderly folks regularly, she's been listening to the undercurrents in their choice of words. I'm going to do a separate article on that, but one story she told me yesterday morning stuck with me.
She had taken a woman of sixty to and from an appointment. All the way there and back, the woman, who was hunched over her cane, spoke constantly of being elderly. Melissa first thought she was in her eighties. In that regard, she was right.
Melissa knows better than to say anything, but it got her thinking. That's in part why she called me. Melissa knows that our conversations will wash off the doldrums, just as her observations and wisdom are like the soul's car wash that scrubs under the chassis of my own shit thinking.
The woman's constant babbling about being elderly really got Melissa down. Was SHE elderly? After all, she was five years older than this woman.
Hell no. Her tiny charge has been drinking the Koolaid we're being served about how we are creeping towards being elderly beginning...what, forty now? Is that the new number? Soon it'll be thirty?
Whatever floats your boat, Sparky.
Well, several things. First, Melissa and I laughed this off. She's strong, funny, powerful, in shape and focused. There is nothing elderly about Melissa, for she operates from her authentic spirit. That means she is forever youthful, even as her hair has gone stark white (and gorgeous) and her body, as has mine, has begun to wrinkle in new places.
But what is between her ears isn't elderly. That's why she's my friend.
Medium writer Nancy Peckenham told us about how she spent time with much older folks, and that time allowed her to completely reframe her understanding and appreciation about aging. Her own, and others. The same thing happens for any of us who spend time with the aged, and consider how we ourselves might enter this sacred process.
However, how we hold that space for others and ourselves, our attitudes about the aged, clearly carve out the road ahead for ourselves. Melissa's itty bitty biddie had decided she was going to attack herself for being elderly early on. That constant self talk is aging her swiftly.
We do that, you and I. We mock, attack, demean and hate the elderly as a culture. Yet that's where you and I are headed in no time at all. Is it any wonder that by the time we slip our feet into the soft sheepskin slippers of the elderly at barely fifty, we're already primed for I'm Too Old for This Shit?
Both Nancy and Melissa speak to the richness of life as folks age, and how you and I can put aside so many things which simply don't matter any more. They don't, either. What does is the friendly community we have built, the richness of our inner lives and the options we've given ourselves as we move towards our final shoreline.
What Melissa's client had already done, and I see too many of us do it as well, is decided she is elderly, with all the stories that go with it about disability, decrepitude, inability. We can talk ourselves into a lot of things, and this is one of them.
"I'm stretching out middle age as far as I can," Melissa told me. We laughed.
Hell, I have no recollection of Middle Age at all. At 68 I'm too busy back in training to hike Kilimanjaro again, but first I gotta do my PT for this shoulder surgery I just had.
Melissa's going to return to traveling, too. Lots of us post-fifty, post-sixty are focusing on what's next rather than what was.
In case you missed it, you might want to scan this article:
Ware's book made the rounds and still does for good reason. However I am not seeing enough of us take note. We kill ourselves for work, work doesn't kill itself for us. We burn years and decades trying to be what we aren't, and life doesn't burn itself trying to be what it can't be for us.
What's your gift to yourself this year?
We are sliding into silly season yet again. In a few months, 2022 will begin. What promises will you break to yourself? What happiness will you set aside for another time, then realize that another time won't come again because now you're too old, too "elderly" to realize a dream?
Are you not worth the positive attitude, health and vibrancy which are our birthrights? Sure you are. But they take work, and an investment in rewriting the aging script pounded into our heads.
End-of-life wisdom includes being wise enough to take care of our bodies, minds, souls and hearts so that when we do have more time, and many of us do, we have options on how to live it.
Being in contact with older folks is a great teacher. As with all groups, there are those who go all in. We choose whom we admire, and we often emulate those whose lives offer us a better version of what we have. In this regard, at least, we have many options. We can choose role models who are living well and ignoring the numerical assessment of their persons.
Or you can wear the heavy burden of being elderly early on, give up, and watch TV reruns. Eat crap food, cripple yourself and spread like a puddle. And die in your Barcalounger twenty years before your actual demise.
Or you can train for old age. It's an endurance race, a serious marathon. I plan to cross the wire standing, if possible, and keel over in mid-stride. May or may not happen. But those who train for it sure have a better journey than those who don't.
Let's get out and play. If there is anything that keeps old age at bay, that's the Rx.
And, just saying, a bunch of close friends who remind you that aging starts with attitude.