Yesterday as I studied my face for any improvement in my facial droop (a neurological issue which affects my face, vision, swallowing, speech and breathing) … I also took a moment to reflect on any signs of aging that might have appeared.
I remember many years ago a family member who had turned 30 and was ridden with angst about the aging process. She declared she was not going to lose her looks and ‘let herself go’. I think her plan was to defy the aging process for as long as possible!
To a lot of people out there, the thought of losing the youthful bloom sends panic through their being and ripples through their self confidence.
I noted that my eyes had started showing signs of my years, but at 46 I can’t help but see each year as a victory and that I have survived all that has happened so far!
I thought that approaching 50 would panic me. I thought I would ‘feel’ different as well as look different… But I was wrong.
My illnesses have already prepared me for a lot of the pain of aging. The loss of independence and social contacts that comes as we grow older has already impacted me early in life. That all happened when I was only 38!
Feeling frail and worthless had already been thrust upon me as though I was pushed into the deep end of the pool and expected to swim or drown.
Now, as I grow older I feel as though there is a real dignity and honour that comes from being an elder. A survivor.
I look at youth as an important stage of life and a time of discovery, but I also feel the same feelings about growing older. Each decade bringing me more changes. I don’t feel as though being young is more important than being older, and truthfully I wouldn’t want to be 20 again if someone paid me!
I feel I have exchanged my youth for wisdom, confidence and peace; and I relish it.
I think that the importance of being an elder at this point in time is imperative. There has been no greater time in history when the ability to show wisdom, understanding, empathy and tolerance is in greater demand.
Having already felt the losses of health, independence, friendships, career and predictability, probably the thing that I don’t think time can ever prepare me for will be the loss of loved ones.
As time goes on it is only natural that I will lose more loved ones from my life and that is the price I will pay for being older and wiser.
It won’t be any easier to farewell loved ones no matter what age I am but I will not be alone, many others will be facing these same challenges too.
The other thing that being ill and disabled made me confront is my own mortality.
Whilst many people my age were not even thinking about the end of life, I sat alone in my room and asked some very deep and probing questions indeed. I had to. Because with these illnesses I have come to accept that it may be only in death that my suffering will finally be over. That the battle will be done forever. So, can I be at peace when that time comes? Can I reach peace when life has been taken from me so early in my journey? …
I think yes. Here is why.
There are many cases of people who have died early. Many tragic stories of accidental death and terrible events where people have been cheated from long and action packed lives. However I tend to think more about how they lived than how they ultimately died, or how soon they were taken.
Many people live (and die) whilst holding on to regrets and never really accepting who they are. Sadly, they spend most of their lives constantly seeking change and perfection. Never at peace with themselves and the true nature of life.
If my time was up tomorrow I truly believe that I have made a peace with who I am. Liked the things I have done. Enjoyed some interesting times and people and I truly feel anle to accept how life has played out for me. Especially since I know it can’t be erased.
Each step has been important to getting to the next step.
That doesn’t mean I want to die tomorrow or that I think I have given up on living and hoping that there may be a cure in my lifetime… Who knows.
I think I am a life that has lived and survived as much, and as well, as possible and I will be able to think back on more good things than bad.
Oddly enough a lot of people have said that it is more sad that I don’t have children than the fact that I become this ill… Perhaps having children is something they identify more easily with?
Still… There are a lot more grey hairs to come and a lot more wrinkles to appear as time marches on. I hope each year will remind me of how far I have come and how much I have shared with those I love. I feel determined that each year will always find me able to love and be loved, and that is really the way I wish to be remembered.