I'm feeling it in this instant, just as I’m writing to you. Admittedly, I’m staying in beautiful Coffs Harbour. Our first family holiday for about 18 months and I’m enjoying the peace of the early morning. (Barry and the boys just left to go white water rafting.)
The sun’s just come up and the air is freshhhh. I think the birds have broken out of jail or something because they sure are happy right now! But there’s one standout birdcall among the million others. The haunting melody of the common magpie. Who'd have thought that old bird had something to contribute?
I wish I could prolong these moments. They fill me with creativity and something that feels a lot like love.
So I’m going to talk to you about something that I’ve been thinking about for a very long time.
I wish all the people could stop panicking about ageing.
Most of us begin complaining about ageing way sooner than any kind of age-related health issue crops up. The ‘problem’ of age has more to do with how we think about it and the myth that EVERYTHING is better when we’re young.
This is SO not true.
LIFE SHOULD BE ABOUT MORE THAN OUR BITS
I love ageing, said hardly anybody ever. But we definitely say the opposite — all the time! It’s terrible, it’s a travesty, it’s shameful.
We associate age with what our bits look like. (I’m not trying to be rude, although I will say more on those bits shortly!). What I mean is that we segment our bodies into individual parts, and furiously lament as each and every ‘bit’ changes. Saggy, spotty, spongy, wrinkly, grey…skin, hair, tummies, arms, eyelids. Even our brains are part of this litany. Forgetting things lately? Must be old age! Hahahaha ergghhh :/
I’m not denying that our bits change, but have you not seen a seriously beautiful face filled with a million wrinkles? Oh my! Beauty is engraved on this face.
It’s the panic and shiver of revulsion we allow ourselves when we think about body parts that are not smooth, spot-free, rounded and taut that disturbs me. And worse still, those beliefs translate into a society-wide shaming and invalidation of older people. It also translates into how little we value what they contribute and our rage about having to put up with them on our roads or in the aisles of our supermarket because they really get. in. the. way.
I once read an article that explained in graphic detail the changes that occur with age to those other bits (you remember the ones I hinted about earlier? Yes, those.). It made me very afraid. Not because of the ‘changing’ part, but because the article came from a source whose target market is women in their 20s, 30s and 40s. No, the article had nothing to do with health education. It was designed to freak out the people even more. It was like, QUICK! don’t forget about these bits! You can add them to your list. And eew, how gross hey?
SOCIETY'S CRAP ATTITUDE & HOW IT'S LIKE AN OVERSEAS HOLIDAY
The loss of attention you receive also brings emancipation.
It’s a powerful thing. It means you can spread your wings in other ways. You get to choose what to put your effort into. Nice.
You can even admit to things when you’re ‘old’ that you would never have mentioned when you were young! The thing is, you’re no longer expected to be COOL when you’re old.
For instance, I 'confessed' something to my entire gym class the other day that I would never have done in a million years when I was young. They had noticed me working out to something on my iPhone. No doubt they were thinking: older woman/earbuds/gym.... Hmm, an old woman who can do technology. That's different ;) I wonder what music she's listening to? And wham, I hit them with ABC radio's Conversations with Richard Fidler! Should have seen their blank faces.
And I’m happy to admit to you that when I went for a beach walk in the middle of writing this today, I had the Piano Guys version of Bring Him Home playing on loop. Probably listened to it 50 or 60 times in a row. I even considered posting it on Facy so you could be transported like me, but held myself back and only sent it to a close friend (Kylie and I watched Hugh Jackman together in the Les Mis movie…). Here it is. You're gonna LOVE it. Maybe.
What’s even better about the oldness is that when you periodically do attain coolness, you surprise people and then you get even more cultural and social capital. Cool!
But the best thing to me is that ageing can be a bit like going on an overseas holiday. Not because you’ve forgotten where you are but because you can be anyone you want to be. You can speak in your own ‘language’ and it doesn’t really matter who else is in your vicinity because it’s unlikely that they speak your dialect or are part of your tribe anyway….Or even better, you might unexpectedly meet someone who does belong to your tribe! And then it's like a coming home too.
Also, you can watch without people noticing. Although your eyesight might be dimmer, your insight is sharper. I mean, you actually see stuff. Your eyes are finally opened to the wonder and the BS around you. It can be quite entertaining.
And all this is brought to us courtesy of the fact that people aren’t watching and don’t really care what we get up to.
But wouldn’t it be great if we could all just live this way all the time, AND we didn’t just dismiss old people?
You will develop more confidence as you get older, but the sooner you can be yourself, the better. Dare I say hurry up you lot, get old!
PHOTO: Quality time as a family. (L-R) Braden, Barry, me, Jamie.