What It Feels Like to Grow Old
Feb. 11, 2020
Life is extremely odd.
I mean, can you think of anything weirder? Than life itself?
One minute we are…somewhere else. The next minute, without having any idea how or why, we are here.
In this body. In this mind. In this life.
We are very small, too. And very young. And very very dependent.
We can’t even raise our head on our own. Or feed ourselves. Or walk. And we stay like that for what feels like a very long time.
Then at last we start to get bigger. And older. We learn from even bigger, older people around us that this process is called “growing up.”
It keeps happening. Every day, we wake up and – presto! – we are another day older.
At some point, we stop getting bigger (at least upwards, although we may still keep getting bigger outwards).
But we still keep getting older. It happens like clockwork every single day.
Then one day we realize we can’t stop it from happening (which is the same day we realize we might want to stop it from happening, because the alternative is….?).
Meanwhile, we keep waiting for the age we feel on the inside and the age we actually are on the outside to match up. We wait and we wait and we wait for this to happen, assuming when it does happen we will feel so….GOOD.
In the meantime, our inside-age/outside-age gap continues to grow.
It gets wider and wider.
Before we know it, we have segued from worrying we will never get old enough to say/do/wear/believe this/that/the other to worrying we have gotten too old to say/do/wear/believe the same.
While worrying, we continue to get older still…at least on the outside.
Inside, however, we feel frozen in time.
We feel frozen in the time we believe we looked our best, or felt our best, or were at the top of our game, or had the most potential, or were simply happy for more than five minutes at a stretch for the first time ever in our lives.
And we stay frozen in that time, at that age (or that age range) on the inside while we continue to get older and older on the outside.
Soon, when we read interviews with celebrities who joke about not recognizing themselves in the mirror (or watch movies about the same) we find ourselves laughing along with them and unconsciously nodding and shaking our head. We get it. We completely understand what they are talking about. Man, oh, man, we can relate.
And maybe, subtly and slowly at first and then more overtly we start to worry a little or a lot that life has passed us by. Maybe we even indulge in something we’ve heard about from others called a “mid-life crisis.” It is normal, they tell us. Everyone has one. So we have one too, expecting some aha moment, some latent wisdom, to be waiting for us when we come out the other side.
Nothing is waiting. Except our day planner, which tells us the exact number of days that have passed since then and reminds us we are now even older by exactly that many days.
And then, one day, we realize this IS life.
We are destined to grow older every single day on the outside while watching it happen, live and in real time, from the inside.
This – absolute oddity – makes us aware for the first time ever that life is way stranger than we ever could have realized.
And this is also when it hits us….
….that we may never grow wise, even though younger-us always assumed wisdom would just happen to us, like, well, life.
We also realize we may never wear purple (which, to be frank, has never looked good on us anyway, even when our skin was firm and plump and glowing and so were our thighs).
And we realize we may never feel completely at home in our own skin – reason being, it keeps changing, and too rapidly for us to ever comfortably settle in before it is gone speeding on ahead of us yet again.
Then, for the first time ever, we finally have that aha moment we’ve been waiting for when we discover the wisdom of the sages has been tucked within us all along in the immortal words of the song very-young-us once learned by heart….
Row row row your boat gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.
A dream? We ask ourselves? Or perhaps a nightmare?
We Zen/Koan the heck out of it and come up with this…gem of pure – wait for it – WISDOM:
We get to decide.
In the meantime, finally, whether we want to or not or feel ready to or not, we grow so old on the outside that we even witness ourselves dying, going wherever it is that very-old-on-the-outside people go even while they are still feeling very-much-not-old on the inside.
And this – this strange, strange, strange state of affairs – (I imagine at least, being that this year I am in my 49th year of life, and thus well on my way) – is what it feels like to grow old.
With great respect and love,
What It Feels Like to Grow Old
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