I'm having one of those senior 'moments'. It's lasted all week. What to do...what to do?
Every time I think I have this 'age thing' figured out and feel all peaceful again about it, something new riles up the stew. This week it was a photo. Of moi. I just could not reconcile the mental self-portrait I have kept protectively locked inside my head with the (oh-ma-gosh-can-it-possibly-be-true?) photo someone else had in theirs when they snapped my pic last week. I'm in shock. Okay, the spreading hips, I knew about. Even the chicken-waddle chin. But going bald? There it is in living photo-colour: a deeply receding hair line. I've been down in the dumps all week about it. My hair falls out everywhere these days; I knew that. I now shed more than my old long-haired calico ever did; knew that too. But I THOUGHT it was growing BACK IN, replacing itself, keeping up the time-honoured practice of RENEWAL. As it always has. Always DID. Oh, my VERY SINCERE apologies to you brother Paul (and to all men) when I ribbed you years ago as you became obsessed (I thought) with growing baldness. I said you looked handsome, distinguished. I told you it shouldn't bother you. I said, 'For goodness, sakes, what's a little hair, anyway?' I take it ALL BACK! This week I understand.
It's vain, I know, but it's more than vanity. I've really had enough of this growing old 'gracefully' business. I admit not much can be done about it. I admit it must be accepted. What is hard, very hard, is accepting one's perception of self during the dramatic paradigm shifts of age. We go through change of one kind or another all our lives and it's pretty much okay up to an extent. We leave high school for university. We leave university for jobs. We leave our singlehood for marriage. And we leave our free time in favour of the full involvement of children and families. Sometimes we leave our jobs for other opportunities, leave our towns, our homes, even our countries and move on. Throughout it all we are changing, in ascendancy, moving TOWARDS newness, new experiences, enriching our lives. It is all FOR something and we continue to GROW. When we let go of some things, it's to receive something new in return that helps us move along further in our lives.
Then suddenly our hair falls out. And we feel empty-handed. Life's path takes a turn and there is no choice but to stop and view the 'picture' acknowledging something new is afoot here. It's been a few days now and I am almost over the hairless-babe photo-shock. I'm thinking one of the things that makes our acceptance of age-related change more difficult is the prevailing language and perceptions about what is happening at this time of life. We always concentrate on 'loss'. We speak of 'losing' our memories, our eyesight, our hair, our hearing, our mobility, our self-reliance - even our teeth! We 'lose' our children as they leave the family nest and make their own way in life. We lose our jobs in retirement and sometimes along with them our sense of selves, prestige, worth, collegial rapport. And, sadly, we lose members of our own family and our very dear life-long friends. No wonder we feel we are somehow diminished and have arrived at the beginning of a depressing 'end'.
What we need to do, what I am going to try hard to endeavour to do in the months ahead, is let go of what is lost and get better acquainted with what has been GAINED and what is AHEAD in life. There is a lot building on that 'plus' side of life's score sheet besides a spreading butt and hips. There is deeper perspective, patience, experience and depth. There are widening terms of reference in our lives. We have greater clarity, certainty, compassion and insight. We often are blessed with more time. We see things in broader, more universal terms and along a stretching continuum. We have greater humour - we have finally 'gained' the ability to readily laugh, foremost at our own serious selves. And, we have learned by a certain age that we can now no more live like two-fisted cookie eaters than we could as kids. With both hands full, how can we eat? So today I am letting go of all the old self-perceptions - hair and all - focusing instead on the plus side ahead and looking forward to taking a big bite out of the cookie of life.
Thinking this all over I can now breathe again. In. Out. What a relief! Instead of feeling I have to exercise to keep up and be as good as I once WAS; I can look forward and exercise to be all that I want and hope to be in the years AHEAD. I don't need to keep up with anyone, not even myself. I discovered this week that I no longer walk 4 miles in an hour as I did half a lifetime ago, sailing through the streets of downtown Toronto back and forth to work - 8 miles a day. Google Maps tells me I can hike to Wilson Falls and back in seventy minutes. Google I love you darling, but even adjusting generously for a longish lunch break, I accomplishd little better than six miles in FOUR hours. I can report to you though that in letting go of speed I 'gained' a great deal. I saw more - a deer sprinting into the forest from a water break down by the river, a racoon curled sleepily in the high up branch of a pine tree, a pair of old-married mallards floating near the fish hatchery, a porcelain white kitty dining on tall tender grasses and a lazy old beaver floating the river's current. There were wild strawberries growing everywhere. Orange blossoms to breathe in. Bird songs to hear. New trails to explore. And sticky pine resin along the way for aroma therapy. And I enjoyed it all - every life-giving bit of it - and more than I ever have. All at this new slower speed; not only age-adjusted but age-enhanced.
When working on quotes for my greeting card line this week, I came across one that sums this all up for me: "What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly." [Richard Bach]. If heaven's caterpillars can negotiate their rather spectacular change of life, then I will plan to try SOARING through my own. You betcha!
Thanks for travelling with me on my footpath this week ...
BBPP Weekly Health Check:
Mind: Finally getting comfortable with some of the camera's functions. Working with the landscape button and focus and metre modes. They all do make a difference when remembering to use them, which is starting to happen more regularly and naturally.
Body: I dieted dutifully and in health all week long. Walked daily, hiked at least 6 miles yesterday. GAINED 3 pounds and my bp shot SKY HIGH. Oh, well. Mustn't give up. Steady course ahead...
The Artist Soul: There were wonderful connections this week with abundant wildlife on the trails but the best thing of all was drinking in the scent of fresh orange blossoms - my most favourite fragrance on earth. And I found them just steps away from my front door. Heaven.
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