Another year on, another year older
One of the great myths is that we grow old gracefully.
Absolute rubbish. We lurch from being young, active and viable, too old, useless and invisible in the snap of an eye.
There’s nothing graceful about it.
And once so-called middle age or this business of 50 being the new 40, and 60 being the new 50, makes not one iota of difference. There’s no going back.
Like having a baby where no one prepares you for the number of nappies you are going to have to change, few warn you that advancing age is accompanied by discomfort and some pain.
Take shoes, for example.
For me the first, niggling signal of youth passing was a pair of fire engine red, stiletto courts with killer, chrome spike heels.
One of 23 carefully chosen, sexy, high heels kept in boxes in my wardrobe along with one pair of flat, gold, summer sandals and a pair of tennis shoes.
One fateful day, I kicked the red heels off under the desk to discover putting them back on was ever so slightly, but noticeably painful.
Today I have 23 pairs of flat, sexless ‘sensible’ shoes and one pair of glorious midnight blue Italian stilettos in a soft bag, just to remind me of a past life.
The pain, of course, is the arrival of a bunion - or two as is the usually case, one on each foot.
Genetic, one is told, and even with debilitating surgery, stilettos are out. Forever.
Then there are the little injuries that no longer heal.
You cannot see a mark on my left thumb, but for the past two years it has been prickly and numb.
This is because, scuba diving off Lady Elliot Island I did what you never do. I touched a spiny Crown of Thorns starfish with a bare hand.
The discipline of decades of diving went out the window and I was stuck with a tiny barb that was toxic, painful and obviously capable of permanent nerve damage.
In other words, I was no longer performing as well as I could and as well as I had to in that environment.
Then there’s the revolt of the core body.
Always limber, always supple, and always size 12.
Without warning you have stretched to size 14 and like yeast are still rising.
Then you notice you are walking slower. Not because you are in the mood to amble along, but because your body has slowed down a notch and it takes mental and physical effort to get up to your usual walking pace.
Little things that you took for granted apparently just a few weeks ago, are now questionable, or even downright impossible.
Climbing the fence to get the passionfruit hanging over the top now takes consideration. Can it be done? Or is it necessary to ask someone younger?
And that’s when the penny drops.
You’re getting slower, fatter, older.
And that’s just the beginning.
When you decide it is prudent to cover your arms and legs because of the emerging, and evidently permanent, appearance of brown splotches your wardrobe takes a turn for the worst.
Clothes that disguise.
There’s plenty of clichés out there to make you feel better at this change in circumstances, including the most oft used – it’s better than the alternative.
But as your slim, lithe, attractive body slowly deteriorates and the vision in reflections is a wrinkled, rounded stranger, life becomes a Kubler Ross moment and a study of her famous final stage of growth.
The new challenge is how to make the last quarter of life as fulfilling or even more so than the past stages.
Contact Bridge one is told is a game that holds the secret of healthy living well into old age and this has been revealed by medical research from the University of California, no less.
Trouble is it appears to be played by old people with nothing else to do.
For me there’s Rose Hacker who died in May 2008 aged 101. She was at that time, considered the world’s oldest newspaper columnist.
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