Taking Health for Granted

It really is ironic that right about the time when you have the most freedom and discretionary income, that’s when your body really starts breaking down. The mind is willing, but the flesh is weak.

I have come to tolerate routine aches and pains that my 20-year-old self would have been horrified by. And that’s particularly annoying because it’s her stupid antics that have caused me to be able to predict the weather in several of my bones.

I would love to climb more mountains, but I know those days are gone. I want to go to foreign lands and try exotic foods, but I don’t seem to digest things as easily as I once did. I can’t cover the same amount of ground in a day as I did 30 years and 80 pounds ago.

Older people used to warn me that this would happen, but I was too busy being young to listen. If I had really gotten the message that I shouldn’t take my health for granted, maybe I’d have done more back when I could do more. But no.

I don’t know what terrifies me the most: becoming physically dependent upon indifferent caregivers, or staying relatively spry, but becoming the overwhelmed caregiver of my loved ones as life passes us by.

No matter how much you jog or do sit-ups, age is inevitable. Things fall apart. The center does not hold. So maybe I need to stop looking backward with regret. What’s the point?

It’s time to assess what’s possible now, and take advantage of it while I can. Do more. Now. Because 10 years from now, it’s a safe bet that I’ll be even further down the hill.


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Starting Out Silver

Dating in one’s 50’s, or even later than that, is something else again. It’s not for sissies. It adds another whole layer of complexity to things.

In your 50’s, you’re more apt to come with appliances. Glasses. Dentures. Night Guards, canes or back braces, arch supports, bottles of pills.

There are things you can no longer do. Maybe your lower back isn’t up to that 10-mile hike. Or you don’t hear well enough to hang out in that noisy bar. You become less flexible, both physically and emotionally.

Chances are you’ve outgrown a lot of the shenanigans of your youth, too. Getting drunk isn’t as much fun anymore. One night stands are just depressing. And yes, I’d love that slice of pizza, but green peppers give me indigestion.

You also come with a boatload of baggage. You’ve got your whacky adult children, for a start. And ex-husbands or wives. Experiences you’d rather not repeat. You are skittish.

And lest we forget, that first impression of you naked is not going to be as stellar as it was when you were in your 20’s. Gravity has taken its toll. There are surgery scars. There are wrinkles and sags and grey hair, or no hair at all. Some things don’t work as well as they used to.

And, speaking from a purely female perspective, there are a whole lot of older men who are still looking for women in their 30’s. Lord knows why. They won’t be able to keep up with them. But they still expect you to be lean and athletic, with nice tight… skin. In other words, they’re in a fantasy world.

But oh, when you get it right… it’s magical. Age-appropriate partners are much easier to relate to. They get your cultural references. They understand your jokes. There’s a feeling of “we’re in this together.” You’ve each made your share of mistakes and have therefore learned a great deal. You’re hopefully more patient. You have many more stories to tell.

And even better, you get to feel young again. Just when you thought those butterflies in your stomach had moved on, they’re baaaaack! You forgot you knew how to blush. Life seems much more exciting. Hope springs eternal. And best of all, you appreciate things so much more because you never thought you’d ever have those things again.

What a gift!


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This is Who I Am

My whole life I’ve been told that old people tend to be set in their ways. People always sound sad when they say this. Poor old folks. They don’t know how to change. They can’t keep up. They’re stubborn and their minds are closed to new ideas. What a shame.

Naturally, the older I get and the more set in my ways I become, the more my perspective changes on this subject. I don’t see myself as recalcitrant. In fact, I love new ideas and new perspectives. But after decades of trial and error, I also know what works for me, and what doesn’t.

For example, I’ve spent a lifetime trying to look and act the way I thought people wanted me to. The result was that I was always uncomfortable and unhappy with the results. I’m not a girly girl. I never was. I never will be. I’m tired of trying to force myself into the shoebox that society wants me in. So from now on I dress for myself, not for anyone else. Don’t like it? Tough.

I also have a very strong sense of the types of people I want in my life. Decent, caring, reliable people. People who accept me for who I am. People who have outgrown the whole party animal mindset. People with integrity and a moral compass. And those people are usually fairly easy to spot. Am I being unfair to those whom I dismiss? Maybe. But as my expiration date draws ever nearer, I find I have much less time to waste on foolishness and drama.

So am I set in my ways? I prefer to call it comfortable in my own skin. Either way, this is who I am. Love it or don’t.


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Adopting Older Pets

I just love puppies and kittens–when they belong to someone else. The chewing, the accidents, the level of hyperactivity is all just a bit much for me. No, give me a well-established dog or cat every time. I want a companion with a certain level of independence.

Another good thing about getting a full grown dog is you already know just how full grown he is going to be. No size surprises. And with both dogs and cats, it’s kind of nice to have a pet whose temperament is already evident.

And think about it. Here’s your chance to be a hero. It’s MUCH harder for shelters to place older animals with loving homes. Many of them die in these places for that very reason. Would you want to end your life in a cage, surrounded by other howling animals, scared and confused, with no one to love you? That’s my definition of hell.

And think of the huge deposit that would go into your karma bank! Somehow older pets seem more grateful for a forever home. It’s almost as if they know, on some level, that they just dodged the euthanasia bullet. (Quagmire, my hysterically clingy Dachshund that I adopted in his golden years, couldn’t agree more.) Older animals have a lot of love to give.

So if you’re thinking of getting a pet, don’t forget the seniors out there. They’re waiting for you. Calling your name. Crying out for help.


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Getting Older

Today is my 49th birthday. Happy birthday to me. Given that the average life expectancy of the white American female these days is 81 years, I am definitely on the downhill slope. And it’s a rare woman in my family who makes it that far, so I could very well be further down the slope than statistics suggest. Who knows? And that’s a very strange place to be, believe me.

So let me describe the landscape for those young people who haven’t crested that peak yet, and therefore have no idea what’s on the other side.

  • I have aches and pains that will never go away. Ever. Don’t do stupid stuff that will hurt your body. It adds up.
  • I have discovered that the quality of my friendships have only gotten better over the years. Nothing like the passage of time to tell you who your friends really are.
  • With each passing day, I care less and less about what people think of me, and you’ve never experienced true liberation until you know what that’s like.
  • I know myself. What a gift.
  • Looking in the mirror is more of a shock each day. In my head I still look like I did when I was 19, despite the constant contradiction of my reflection.
  • I’m tired all the time. I mean, all the time.
  • No matter how old you get, there will always be someone older who will laugh at you for feeling old.
  • I haven’t stopped learning, and I love that.
  • The older you get, the more people you will lose, so if you’re smart you’ll try really hard to let the people you love know how much you appreciate them every chance you get.
  • When I was young I always assumed that eventually I’d reach a place where I’d be established, and where there’d be no more need for emotional growth. Wrong.
  • I honestly don’t think I’ve become more forgetful. I’ve always been forgetful. It’s just that now I have a valid excuse.
  • I still get pimples. Anyone who tells you that you grow out of that is lying.
  • I’ve discovered that the best things you can do for yourself in the long term are stretch, floss your teeth, and don’t pass up any opportunity to have sex. Forget about eat, pray, love. It’s sex, stretch, floss.
  • For God’s sake, don’t smoke. The older you will pay a hefty price.
  • It’s really important to listen to your inner voice. If you don’t, you’ll usually regret it.
  • The more that happens to you, good or bad, the more perspective you will gain over what’s really important.
  • The older you get, the more society will put restrictions on what they deem to be acceptable behavior for you. So make an extra effort to be outlandish as you get older. Anyone with an open mind will find it charming. The rest of them aren’t worth your time.