(Previously published on Patty Servidio's Facebook blogpage, "On The Lookout", on May 3, 2012 at 10:43 am)
"Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter." ~ Mark Twain
As some of you may or may not know, last month was my fiftieth birthday. I honestly didn't think that it was such a big deal; there were no hysterionics, no gnashing of the teeth. It was fine - actually, it was better than fine. I had a great day, surrounded by family and friends and tons of good wishes, and I got to watch a softball game, which is always one of my favorite things to do. Even though it was so incredibly cold for April, I was warmed with the knowledge that I was here, I was alive, I was doing what I wanted to do, and I was incredibly happy.
Age, to me, has always been "just a number". I don't act like I am 50. I don't look like I'm 50. Then again, what does "fifty" look like?
Acting or being "50" brings me back to when I was ten years old, and I saw older women in the stores who wore what I referred to as "stretchy pants" and "orthopedic shoes". To me, that was "old". I thought that when I got older, I had to "grow up", act "mature", and with that, I thought I was also supposed to yell at the neighbor's dog for taking a crap on my lawn, or yell at kids playing in front of my house, because that's what I saw "older people" do. I had also seen "older people" who were cranky, crochety, and just plain mean, and I didn't want any part of it, so I figured that I would play the female part of Peter Pan forever.
Well, now I am one of those "older people". I finally understand what it meant, when I would speak to someone who was more advanced in years than I was, (usually a patient of mine) and they said, "In my head, I am 19. But in my body, I am 106." Sayings such as these have made much more sense as I have grown older, and hopefully, wiser.
It makes me laugh when my daughter hears some of the music that I used to listen to as a kid, or when I keep an old song on, "just because". She always says, "Oh, God, Mom, you are so old." Like that's a BAD thing. Because she is only 17, the mouth speaks before the brain gets a chance to catch up, and she says the first thing on her mind. I do not fault her for that; I did the same thing, when I was her age. But now, I realize the insensitivity of my words back then. The music we listen to, the "wearing sweatpants"...all of the comments that she makes, actually bring about an internal smile, rather than internal agitation and anger. It's pretty comical; it's even better when I wear things that she wears, listen to music she listens to, and am rather upbeat. That's when I hear, "Come on, Mom, act your age!" What is my age, I wonder, when I hear those words. Fifty...what does that really mean? Have I finally entered the world of the "generation gap"?
One of the funniest things to me occurred the other day, when I had to have a test done, and I was wearing a sports bra. She said to me, "Wow, Mom, REALLY? You're getting to that age where you don't wear a BRA anymore?" I had to laugh at that; I had no idea that there actually WAS an "age" that you stopped wearing your bra. In the 1960's, women actually BURNED their bras in protest. And they were only a few years older than Brianna is now. Have I finally crossed the border between youth and old age? According to Bree, I have. According to me, I don't think so. Not yet.
When I turned thirty, that was probably the hardest year for me. I remember crying for almost a week, because I thought I had somehow aged rapidly, in the matter of a few days. I honestly thought I was going to wake up on the morning of my birthday and see myself as something other than I was. I really made a big deal about it, and when I look back, I realize the silliness of it. But when you are in your twenties, you don't have the wisdom that you have when you mature. All I could think about was, "Oh, God, I'm so OLD!!" It was difficult for me to say the number. Thirty was nothing. Thirty is still a baby to me. But I have learned...
As 40 rolled around, I thought to myself, "Wow, this is a woman's prime time!" So, even though I had some mixed feelings, I found that forty was not so bad, either. My husband, prince that he is, planned a surprise party for me, with some of my closest friends. I also found myself reliving my youth through my daughter, so I didn't feel "older". In my head, I was still 19. But the years of sun worship, as well as a few grey hairs, reminded me of the fact that I could no more turn back the hands of time than catch a wave in my hand. So, I rolled with it. It wasn't bad. It was actually a pretty good age to learn about who I was, and what was important to me. This wisdom that I have achieved with each decade has taught me a few things about the "number" of your age.
Teenage years are all about experimentation, self discovery, rebellion, and transitioning from childhood to adulthood. Turbulent and chaotic, these years are tough, because one wants to become independent, yet still have the security of hugs from Mom and Dad or parental figures; teens require validation and approval. It's kind of like they need it like the air that they breathe. But they won't admit it. Teens still have not learned the lesson that parents love you, no matter who you are, what you do, how you think, or what you say. They fear withdrawal of love from the ones they have loved first, which is difficult for them to understand. If ever I had to relive my life, I'd opt for the "fast forward" on this decade, as I liked it the least. Save for my senior year, where I finally exited the shell I had built around me, I would not repeat the teenage years for anything. Now, the 20's are an entirely different animal. Independent of parental guidance, legal, and most likely in college or chilling with friends, this is the age of partying, living life on the edge, and thinking all about making money. Still a bit self-absorbed but beginning to understand the machinations of life, twenty-somethings pretty much enjoy grabbing life by the cahoonies. I remember parties every weekend, celebrating happy hour every Friday night, drinking until I prayed to the ceramic god, weekends away, traveling. Somehow, I managed to fit in college, work, friends, family, without feeling the pinch of not having enough time. That's why I mourned the loss; I thought all fun things were coming to an end.
In our thirties, a lot of us focus on marriage, career, starting a family, or if we have already established things like that, we begin to think about looking for a house. We begin a process that I like to refer to as "nesting". Yes, females "nest" before their child is born - which means that they scramble like squirrels gathering acorns, to make sure the freezers are full for the family when they are in the hospital, that the house is scrubbed down, that all the laundry is folded and put away...it's something internal that drives us, just before we are about to give birth. The age of thirty also brought more responsibility, more work, and the art of learning to balance work, family, friends, and all the other stuff in between. If anybody remembers the game, "Tip-It" (showing my age here, lol), you find you are "tipping" more than staying steady on your feet. But you still have a resiliency to bounce back. You still have energy, though not quite as much as you did before.
I truly did enjoy my forties. It was an age where I began the discovery of who I was in the past, and how far I had come. It taught me what I liked and did not like about situations, certain people, certain jobs. It taught me to stand up for myself and my child in a way I never had before. It taught me courage, because the forties also brought about the diagnosis of MS. And it taught me that respect, support, validation, and love were some of the greatest gifts that one could receive for nothing, but mean so much more than something material.
I've entered the second half of a century. When put that way, it sounds weird, but not old, by any means. I have learned to speak my truth. I continue to learn that process on a daily basis. I am learning how to respect all of life, not just humanity but nature and insects and fish and all of the elements of Nature as well. I am learning that if I say something and someone doesn't like it, that's okay. It's my opinion. Nobody has to like it, or even listen to it, for that matter. It's mine, and I am finally at the age where I am proud of it. And I am proud of who I am. Fifty is fun. And after speaking to a few people who have entered their fifties earliler than I have, I know this fact to be truth. I am comfortable with myself, I like who I am, and I like what I have grown into. When I look back on what I was ten years ago, it seems like an eternity ago, in both ways of thought as well as time. Sure, I need to color my hair more often. And yes, I invest in a lot of moisturizer, because I have noticed a few more wrinkles than I did before. Those are my battle scars, and I wouldn't trade them for the world. And so I say again: Fifty is fun.
Age brings with it a quiet wisdom, a knowing, that actually brings about great comfort to me. During my years of nursing, I recall enjoying my conversations with the elderly. They have so much wisdom to impart on us, and if we take the time to listen, if we stay in the moment instead of scurrying around, we can grasp these sips of knowledge and savor them like a fine wine. And, like a good wine, as we age, we are getting better.
I recall a saying by George Bernard Shaw, which goes like this: "Youth is wasted on the young." I don't agree with this at all. If you knew then what you know now, what would be the fun of the growth process? Where would be the journey? Where would be your battle scars, to prove you endured what you did? Where would be the ability to help another human being who is going through something that you previously endured? Youth is not wasted on the young at all. While I understand the message Mr. Shaw was trying to convey, it implies, to me, that we should all know then what we know now. Where's the fun in that? No guts, no glory, I say, about life.
And so, I leave you now with this thought...where are you on your journey? Are you dreading the passing of your days, or are you delighting in them, learning from each moment?
My choice is obvious; I'm delighting in the process, and I take great pride and joy in teaching others the things that I have learned and continue to learn. Mick Jagger, you were wrong, when you said, "What a drag it is, getting old..." Honey, this is no drag. There is no race. This is beautiful and wonderul, this passage of time, and deserves to be relished. I love it. And I am sure that a lot of other people do as well, if they would only give themselves a moment to listen to the beating of their hearts.
I know I'm listening; are you?