Have you ever woken up and wondered, what did I do right?
Having a wonderful life is not an easy adjustment to make when it comes on the heels of having a terrible life. How can everything possibly be going well? How does one stop thinking, “when we get through this, everything will be okay” when there is no this to get through? Everything is okay.
I admit that I am developing whining about aging into an art form. I also admit that I have a terribly good life. As much as I complain about being 60, I know that there are those out there who know they’ll never see 60. I thank God I’m not one of them. For over forty years, I’ve said, “I could get hit by a bus tomorrow…” But I haven’t been. And the only way I will get hit by a bus tomorrow is if the driver loses control of the school bus that stops near my house, skids down my hill, across my front yard, and into my house. All the way into my house. And tomorrow is a weekday.
I need to carry a block of wood in my pocket; I am so aware of my many blessings that I should be knocking on it every few minutes. While I bemoan the lot of the poor and hungry, I sit very comfortably at my laptop in my nice warm house. I know there are people sleeping outside tonight and that the weather will drop to the single digits by morning. When I complain that there’s nothing to eat for breakfast, it’s not because there is no food in my house. It’s because there’s no food I’m in the mood to eat.
Although I’ve heard and read much lamenting the plight of the middle class, I know that I am more than lucky to be part of that middle class. The economy may be lousy but it’s a lot less lousy for me and my peers than for an awful lot of people. I may suffer the physical decline of aging, but I also have health insurance so that my medical needs are met. My vision isn’t wonderful, but I’ve had cataract surgery and can afford to buy new glasses when I need them. I can go to the dentist when I need to, and I can have yearly physicals. Thanks to insurance and the fact that my husband has a decent job, my prescriptions are affordable
Compared to my life ten years ago, I am not living the good life; I am living the fabulous life. All my basic needs are covered, and I’m not worrying about paying the rent, where my next meal is coming from, or if I can put enough gas in the car to get me back and forth to work until my next paycheck. As a matter of fact, I don’t even work; I’m “retired.”
Believing that if you have food on the table and a roof over your head is grand, that having the basic necessities is lucky, and that life is a good thing is probably why I haven’t quite recovered from not feeling that way in the past. It’s just too good to…believe? last? be taken for granted?
“Remember when you were a little kid and your parents would take you for a ride…you’d drive past unfamiliar woods and be terrified that they were going to leave you there?” Sometimes when I’d be in a group of people reminiscing about their childhoods and their childhood fears, I’d ask that question. The answer was always “no,” and their expressions usually disbelief. How does a five-year-old develop such a fear of abandonment? That fear has been a constant companion, and refuses to recognize it’s no longer needed. I grew up thinking that all kids felt that way. My parents were middle class when being middle class was a positive thing. Spiritually, however, and emotionally we were poor.
That poverty is no longer a part of my life. I have a satisfying, if sometimes difficult, spiritual life. My personal life is so fulfilling that if I were any happier I’d probably be under suspicion. I’ve somehow adopted the attitude that the past is a room that is best left closed. Along with that and not caring what others think of me, I’ve pretty much attained my peace.
So why all the complaining? I have smoothly sailed into my sixties, my life is better than it was going into my fifties, forties, thirties, and twenties. Truly, my life for the past ten years has been a dream realized. I don’t just know this intellectually, I know it with every consciousness of my being. Maybe I have to complain about aging—oops, I mean maturing—because there was always some threat in my life and, though there isn’t now, I’m staying in practice in case one shows up. Some part of me cannot accept that my life is golden, not just golden-aged.
Confessing all this, however, does not mean that I understand and accept aging. It does mean that I can appreciate the privilege of doing so. How many times have we heard that it’s so much better than the alternative? Being a little old lady in my circumstances is also lots better than so many of the alternatives.
I am never going to be wealthy, and I don’t care. Beauty is decades behind me, and I don’t care. My intellect has peaked and fades—that’s life. Only…it’s so hard to think “I am 60.” Maybe that’s what the belligerence is about. Although not omnipotent, I have been able to change so many things in my life. But age is inevitable and irreversible. I can’t fight it, I can’t negotiate with it, and I can’t really ignore it. Since I don’t want to go gently into that golden era, perhaps I need to kick and scream. A path that includes complaints, sarcasm, and humor isn’t all bad…considering the alternatives.