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Aging Mindfully

While walking with my friend Keri last weekend, I told her I’m struggling to accept the fact that I’m getting old.

“We’re not old,” she said. “We’re sixty-three and that is not that old.”

The key phrase that jumped out at me was “that old.”

Old, yes, but not “that old.”

I told her I’m trying to embrace aging.

Trying is the key word here.

Until now, I’ve been in outright denial about it.

The pandemic, however, has done an excellent job of reminding me that I am in the “vulnerable population.”

I’ve decided to try harder to gracefully glide into the golden years even though 63 is “not that old” and it doesn’t feel that golden.

My friend Stacy has been telling me we need to “age mindfully.” I’m not even sure what that means but she has been dealing with aging parents and believes we need to be realistic about what’s ahead and have a plan for how we want things to go when we hit certain, shall we say, “milestones?”

A Psychology Today article defines aging mindfully as “aging in a way that doesn’t deny the negatives of getting older but doesn’t blow them up either.” Instead, the author recommends turning the mind to the benefits of aging with “realistic positivity,” which is defined as “seeing and accepting what is—both inside ourselves and in the world—and then shifting our focus to what we would love.”

If I’m going to have to age, which apparently is inevitable, I’m going to opt for the realistic positivity approach.

You may think this is not a revolutionary thought but coming from a woman who thinks she’s a solid 10 years younger than I really am, this is a big step.

I blame others for making me feel old — like the CDC with all that vulnerable population talk. (Aren’t you so sick of the CDC? We went along for years hardly knowing it existed and now, we can’t get through a day without hearing several mentions of it.)

And I certainly can’t forget what I’ve labeled “The Parable of the Irises,” which is a story about that time I ruined my shoulder while GARDENING from pulling out stubborn iris bulbs.

My doctor kindly pointed out that the chances of tearing a rotator cuff are commensurate with your age. If you’re 50, you have a 50 percent chance of it tearing. If you’re 60, you have a 60 percent chance, and up it goes as you age.

So, there’s a helpful piece of aging trivia for you.

I’ve done some deeply embarrassing things during my age-denial phase.

Like the time I ran into someone who claimed we went to high school together.

“No way,” I thought. “We are not the same age. We absolutely did not go to high school together.”

And then — I can’t believe I’m sharing this story — I said these words: “Oh, maybe I went to high school with one of your kids.”

Yes, I did.

I said that.

As soon as the words fell out of my mouth, I felt completely embarrassed and all the blood vessels in my body felt like they were on fire. I wanted to run and hide and never come out again.

My family slinked away in utter humiliation, slowly backing up as if they didn’t know me.

I wish I could say I learned my lesson through that experience, but that would be a lie.

I have been going to a water aerobics class (good therapy for the shoulder) and I told Doug that it’s a class full of oldsters – people who are there to soak and socialize, not exercise.  Then, one day, a lady asked how old I was and after I told her, she spritely said, “Oh, so you’re just six years older than me!”

I think this is called age dysphoria, a condition when people don’t identify with their chronological age.

Scientists claim that 60 is the new middle age. We know that can’t be true because how many people do you know who have lived to be 120?

So, maybe I can blame the scientists, aging experts, and the media for my age denial because they’ve contributed to this idea that I’m much younger than I really am.

Since I’m choosing to age with “realistic positivity,” I need to see and accept “what is.” That is going to require some work.

I also need to focus on what there is to love about this stage of life. The truth is there are so many things. One of them is apparently not caring about what other people think which frees me up to write things like the time I thought I was the same age as my classmate’s child.