Not Drowing, Floating
I was there once; one of those bright, young things, splashing and frolicking in the fountain of youth. But as the years changed it into more like a muddy puddle, that’s when I variously pulled my tankini up and down, tightened my goggles and dived head first into the Sea of Fabulous Fiftydom!
Yes, yes. Growing old is a crock of … what’s the word? Damn, I can’t remember. It’s the droopy elastic in the sexy knickers of your life. It’s like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a brain that can remember where you put the bloody knife (thank you for the interesting definition of irony, Alanis Morrisette). Growing old is a serious business. So serious, in fact, that the very thought of all those politicians fiddling around with my super and my pension and my retirement age and my healthcare – ergo my right to be healthy, wealthy and wise – brings out the grumpy old woman in me.
But, is there any point in worrying about old age? Not according to my late, great Mum who’d respond to any howls of anguish from her darling daughters about greying hair or wrinkles or significant birthdays with, ‘Well, dear, it’s definitely better than the alternative’. When she put it that way, of course, we would feel really guilty and admit begrudgingly that, yes, being dead would be worse than having crows feet or salt ’n’ pepper hair in our thirties. Thanks, Mum.
So, I am here, floundering around in my fifties. I’m at the Heinz end of my sixth decade – I’m 57 (get it?) – and I’m surprised to admit that being a middleaged matron ain’t such a bad thing. In fact, I stand before you to state, willingly and publicly, that it’s actually got its good parts, and I’ll bet my last pair of support stockings that there are plenty of older Australians who will agree. Movies like ‘Peggy Sue Got Married’ and ‘Back to the Future’ tempt us into contemplating how we’d manipulate our own pasts, presents and futures if we only had the chance. But it’s spoilt for me because I worry about upsetting the spacetime continuum (thanks Professor/Doc Brown for something extra to worry about).
I look back and I’m surprised (and very blessed, I guess) that while there are only a couple of things I would definitely NOT do again in my past, so much is filled with things I want to do again, only this time, I’d remember to appreciate doing them. And while I’m sure I could go back in time and find my beloved and we’d fall in love all over again, what if I went back, sorted out a few past problems, reset my future prospects to ‘fabulous’ only to come back to 2016 and discover that the miracles of perfect timing that resulted in my children instead had gone awry and I had different kids? Damn you, space-time continuum. You’ve ruined time travel forever.
I often contemplate who I actually was when I was younger. I think of the little girl I was and wonder what it would have taken for her to know that despite some crappy school experiences she was clever and talented (and not fat at all) and that she could have gone and done anything she wanted.
And if only I could talk to the thirty-year-old me, who thought she was old and fat and really believed she knew everything. She’d learnt a lot in that crazy 10 years leading up to that big birthday – crammed with travel, adventure, study, love, marriage, babies, tragedies, crises, parenthood, home building, great friendships, bad friendships, community work, caring, living! How could there be any more to know than that? Thirty-year-old me thought 40 was really old! I look back at the thirty-year-old me and I want to tell her that she should relax and slow down a bit; that two of her three babies do grow up and are healthy and fabulous; that everything she’s worrying about will be just fine, and most of all, I want to tell her to go and buy up all the Torquay Esplanade real estate she can get her hands on!
As a 57-year-old middle-class, healthy, happy woman in Australia, I have freedom to do pretty much whatever I want. That’s luxury beyond all measure – we only have to turn on the news or read any of our ‘sign this petition’ emails to know that. I’m not rich, but I am, if you know what I mean. We have so much living to do in our world, so much to do for the sheer joy of it, and we can indulge ourselves and others without being punished.
Think about it; we can tell people to get stuffed and leave us alone and we don’t get beaten or put in jail for it. We can indulge, albeit in the ‘vanilla’ versions, of the Seven Deadly Sins and usually get away with it; well, hello there envy, gluttony, greed, lust, pride, sloth, and wrath. I’ll take you all on my next shopping bus tour fundraiser, and we can work on lust on a good Saturday night at home with the hubby! Some of ‘my people’ have made some great life choices and are shining examples of how old age can be done, and done well. Some of the others… well, not so much.
It’s probably best if we just back away, avoid eye contact and think of them as the ‘horrible warning’. Either way, you will hear all about it. Getting older means that sometimes all you can offer is the benefit of your experience. Failing eyesight means you can’t see others’ eyes glazing over. A few noisy, opinionated elders (especially when they’ve got a few Sparkling Shirazes under their elastic waistbands) cannot fail but to set the world to rights.
When you are pondering the rights and wrongs of pretty much anything, be it makeup … movies … mobile phone plans … men … there is wisdom in their experience (just don’t get them started on childbirth, or menopause.) Yes, everything you’ve heard about getting older is pretty much true, but once you’re there and actually in it, it’s not that bad after all. There’s no going back to the fountain of youth, but do not fear growing old. It’s a privilege denied to many.