I am aging. There I said it! I’m going on record as affirming that Aging Gracefully is an art and a tall order. I’ve observed a few emerging patterns in my life that I’d like to share.
You receive final assignments. There will be some late-in-life lessons that, Universal Spirit decides to provide you. It’s like, “Hey girl, I know you were prepared to coast, but there are a few more lessons you need to get under your belt. Everyone’s journey is different, but you will know your lessons by your response, which will likely be “What? Aw hell, no!”
Growth is always challenging. Raise your hand and ask for help. I’m learning that no matter what emotions I’m projecting about a situation, the struggle is always about ME. How? I’m perceiving what’s going on, how I’m choosing to “be” moment by moment. You can’t fight a wave, learn to flow with it.
Your new job is staying healthy. We all have our idiosyncrasies. I don’t like going to the doctor, and it’s very disempowering to have the dentist in my face with sharp instruments. If my breath didn’t reek of alcohol, I would get toasted before dental appointments. Real Talk.
Wanting to minimize my interactions with folks in white coats, I get my regular exams, my goal is staying healthy. In the last thirty years, my metabolism has slowed to a crawl. I need high-quality food just like my 2010 Honda needs the best grade of oil. And these here legacy joints require regular exercise to stay lubricated. Whenever I balk about hitting the gym, I remember that I worked 40+ hours a week for 50+ years. Why wouldn’t I commit 40 hours a month to remaining fit? The healthcare industry has realized that active seniors keep health care costs down (and maximize profits), and they often subsidize exercise. Practice the art of staying well.
Your Fashion License. There is an art to aging stylishly. In my fifties, I came to grips with the fact while I could ballroom dance in 5-inch heels, they were damaging my hip joints. Decade by decade, I lowered my heel heights. Now, 2.5 inches is festive, 2 inches is my norm. My rule of thumb is if you cannot keep runway stride in your gorgeous shoes, the heels are too damn high for you—good form over high fashion.
I also have my midriff rule. Once your stomach is no longer stretchmark free, you have lost the bare midriff license. After five children, my bare midriff license expired, but skin elasticity is genetic. I have contemporaries with no stretch marks which can boldly bare their stomachs. I say go for it! It’s not about age; it’s about aesthetics. There is an aura around classy, sexy older women. Patti LaBelle, Cicely Tyson, Jane Fonda, and others have mastered the art.
Get comfy with women.
Where are the men? The data says that the lifespan of American men is 78 years, two years less for African American males. However, whenever I’m at a gathering, the women far outnumber the men. If you are single like me, you may find yourself in a world composed mainly of women. I’ve always had male buddies, and I miss the energy balance that men bring to my life. I s’pose now is the time to cultivate our female friends, because it appears the men are hiding from us. Should we move to Alaska?
Night driving is for Lyft and Uber Drivers. I recently attended a Jill Scott concert with a dear friend. We have both waved ‘bye’ to 70 and decided not to struggle with driving at night and to search for parking. Even sharing the cost of the ride, it was still pricey, but we are “big girls,” and our priority was enjoying a special evening. We have earned it.
Pass the Torch. It sounds cool and conjures the image of an Olympian, but when the time comes for you to pass aspects of your domain along to the younger generation, don’t struggle, do it. Let go of that which you need to relinquish. Be a mentor, not an aging relic standing in the way of progress. Passing the torch is about building capacity in the next generation. Mentorship is an art.
As we consider aging well, remember that while there are considerations, you still get to tinker a bit and have fun. Art is creative!
Susan D. Peters
Susan D. Peters, aka, Ahnydah (ah-NIE-dah) Rahm, brings a wealth of experience gained as an expatriate living in West Africa. Her memoir Sweet Liberia, Lessons from the Coal Pot, received the Black Excellence Award for Non-Fiction from the African American Alliance of Chicago and the Mate E. Palmer award for Non-Fiction from the Illinois Press Women’s Association. Broken Dolls, Susan’s second book, represents her foray into the mystery market and is the first of a series featuring Detective Joi Sommers as its heroine. Her most recent publication is Stolen Rainbow, a short story focused on the post combat recovery of a beautiful marine captain after a devastating combat injury. Her work is featured in three anthologies, Baring It All, the Ins and Outs of Publishing, Signed, Sealed, Delivered … I’m Yours, a contemporary romance anthology, and The Anthology of the Illinois Woman’s Press Association. Buy her books online and at www.SusanDPeters.com.