It Isn’t Just the Body

Getting older | Riza Kazemi | Flickr
Getting Older – Reza Kazemi – Flicker – Creative Commons

I had a bit of a scare the other morning. It turned out to be nothing but it made me think once again about my age.

These days the news seems to be full of those my age or a bit older – especially the icons of my youth – who have died. Those kinds of stories have always been news, but my younger self only clucked over them in an abstracted way because they were not my contemporaries. The older me finds them disturbing in a “you’re moving up in the queue” kind of way.

As I move up in the queue, I no longer have the luxury of eating what I like and being cavalier about the amount of rest and exercise I get. More than that, I now find myself considering new conditions of my body, evaluating new pains to determine whether they are transitory or some harbinger of an oncoming health concern. I’m fortunate that the ailments I have are manageable using current medicine. But not all ailments are that amenable and the longer I’m alive, the more the odds tip in their favour.

Stories about how younger people are refusing their elders’ treasured antiques made me blink. I had not considered this at all and I’m left wondering what will happen to the things I have collected over the years. I don’t even have to consider whether my children or grandchildren will want them or not because I have no descendants. Everything I own will have to someday be sold, given away, or consigned to the trash.

I have already given or thrown away a great deal out of the understanding that no one but me or my late husband could find anything in them. I have tried to keep only what still matters to me; what I find beautiful and uplifting or what – like my dog Rufus’s leash or my dog Buffett’s collar or the pictures of people long gone from my life – I cannot bear to part with, though I know items like these will eventually be disposed of. They will have no sentimental or artistic value to anyone else.

Growing older has also affected my consideration of new things. My decision to acquire is often coloured less by cost than the item’s possible future with me. And I’m mindful of the burden that will fall on whomever is unfortunate enough to have to deal with what’s left of my life once I am dead.

For the present, I will continue to take pleasure in the art I have, the music I have collected, the full set of china I own and use on a daily basis. I will continue to add things I desire because of the way they call to me and I will enjoy them for as long as I can.

I have seen many articles asking “What would your older self tell your younger self if it could?” I’m not sure that my younger self would listen, but I would tell her not to get hung up on the idea of getting older as becoming physically diminished.

Younger people tend to think of advancing age wholly in terms of the body. But aging is really an evolving condition – one that taxes the mind and spirit, too. You will still need to make decisions that affect not only your present but your future. But when you are older, there is less future to consider. And that, in itself, becomes another thing to consider.