Updated: Apr 14, 2021
Today is my birthday. I don’t feel any older than I did yesterday, but I certainly am beginning to feel older overall. Settling into aging, each inch in feels like a sharp cut or a blunted blow to the person that you are or the memory of who you once were.
A joint cracking when you stand up after binge watching a British detective series; the stiffness that you can feel when you get out of bed, if you haven’t been consistently working out lately; the need to sometimes hold on to something just to use the bathroom – sitting down and getting back up; watching an award show like the Grammy’s and suddenly realizing that you haven’t a clue who most of the nominated artists are or even like their music; or at work being the one in the office or on the team that has experience with just about every kind of contract, grant, cooperative agreement, IAA because you’ve worked on so many, not because you have a certificate from mindless classroom training. I guess it is time that I fess up and begin to accept my age. I have always been told that I don’t look my age. My full and at one time very youthful face kept my age a secret over the years.
Aging is the painful news of learning about the sudden or not so sudden deaths of former classmates or friends that you’ve gathered over the years. It is the laying to rest of parents, and other relatives. It is the sudden realization that an entire generation of women that raised you and that you turned to for wisdom, strength, and hope for tomorrow is gone and that you are now part of the new older generation to those coming up behind you. It is the thinning of hair, the dying of hair, the buying of hair, and suddenly caring about using makeup because if it hadn’t been for so many Zoom calls, you would never have known just how you look to others. There is no such thing as sucking in a double chin for Zoom and eventually you will tilt your head and lose that angle that you practiced - you will show your age.
I remember the day that I received an invitation to join AARP when my mother was still living and I couldn’t believe that we were both considered seniors. How’d that happen? Denial is a wild thing. To this day I haven’t accepted the offer to join AARP and receive the free cross-body bag or the trunk organizer for grocery shopping, but I may bite the bullet and do it this year. Yes, I see the commercials touting all of the benefits AARP offers. On the low, I even receive and enjoy their new and very relatable weekly e-newsletter, Sisters, and I used to want to work for the organization – excellent downtown DC location, Metro accessible, great benefits, and the opportunity to work on issues that would organize and provide for “old people”. Ha!
In my mind, once COVID is really well past us, I see myself back out riding 20+ miles on my bike on Saturdays, easy peasy, in preparation for the next Seagull century. During COVID quarantine I have tried to be active. I owned a Peloton bike long before the pandemic. I take walks, visit the gym in my building, but the pounds have crept up. I actually have joined a local group of women who hike on weekends. Why do I feel like the granny in the group, with comments being made about my breathing and being asked if I’m okay? “Damn it! Yes. I’m okay." Stop drawing attention to the fact that I’m overweight, stepping gingerly across the rugged terrain or an icy trail. It is not natural to wear a mask and try to exert yourself. Behind this mask I’m breathing weird with totally fogged up glasses and getting disoriented.
Being single and childless probably allows me to feel more youthful and carefree, but at the same time I can be the subject of spoken and unspoken scrutiny about how “abnormal” it is. I have always dated older men. My sister would call them all, “a little long in the tooth”. The question I’m asking myself today is, how long are my Envisalign-ed teeth looking these days.
Aging affords you the luxury of owning the perch that allows you to look at how you have lived your life up until this point and pay forward the rich life lessons you’ve gained through experience to help set up systems for family members and those you love coming up behind you. It is acknowledging and accepting the fact that you are now responsible for insuring that the legacy of your family is planted in good rich soil for many harvests to come. It is about not really having the time for a lot of crap and cutting to the chase, and speaking your mind when it comes to personal relationships, sister-girl drama, business, workplace politics, and even church. It is having had the time to appreciate the social justice battles of the long past fought and won and even having had the opportunity to participate in at least one meaningful fight for your life and then being able to view current and future battles for equity, liberty, and justice through that lens. Aging is about all the good books that you’ve read, all the great music that you’ve heard, all the unimaginable experiences that you’ve been exposed to and how you choose to process them and what you choose to do with them. It is about hoping that your life and the way that are now living it is making a difference, teaching others to never stop trying even when it feels like things are moving backwards. And aging is about the brilliant peace of mind that allows you to finally define yourself for yourself - a woman, a black woman, a feminist, a womanist, a freedom fighter, a believer, a seeker, a finder, me.