Sometimes you just have to write…
Getting old in inevitable. We all are doing it, and, as the old saying goes, it’s better than the alternative! Nowadays people in the Western world live longer and healthier lives than ever before, which, of course, is my intention as well.
I’m 51 years old, and I’m already seeing the signs of aging. I have an accumulation of lines on my face, my skin has gotten thinner while the rest of me tries its best to get fatter, and I’ve already passed through menopause (but that’s a whole different blog post!).
My parents died relatively young: they were 62 and 64 years old, so they never got to enjoy the retirement they’d been saving for. My father hoped to teach university engineering students, and perhaps write a textbook or go back to school himself. My mother was eager to travel more.
To some extent they both got to do what they loved, at least a bit. My father taught navigation to sailors and boaters for many years. They both travelled when they could, but not nearly as much as they wanted to.
Perhaps because of their relatively early deaths, my husband and I travel as much as we can. We don’t wait until later; we do it now. And we’re fortunate to both have jobs that allow much more free time than the average American has.
At the same time, we’re planning for retirement. We just signed on a lovely, tiny house in downtown Groningen that we’ll move into when our kids are all grown and out of the house. Our plan is to volunteer somewhere, to make ourselves useful somewhere in the developing world, as long as we are healthy enough to do so. My husband is a dentist and could train dentists and dental assistants; I’m a teacher and could train teachers. Then we’d have this little house to return to for vacations, and when we’re no longer able to work.
But, just like my parents, we can plan all we want, but anything can happen.
The topic of youth and age is also on my mind because of the host family I’m staying with here in Washington: a retired couple. He’s quite a bit older than she is, but they still seem to manage to keep active. He loves to tell jokes, often terrible puns that are nevertheless funny. They take walks, and she is an avid photographer and painter.
I’ve also met various relatives of theirs, also retired. Their conversations tend to be about their friends, relatives and acquaintances, both current and past: what they’re doing now, memories of them from the past and so on. The fact that many of them have died doesn’t seem to upset them very much.
What strikes me most is their positive outlook on life. They enjoy whatever they’re doing, whether it’s cooking or walking or looking at the beautiful view from their window. There are things they regret, things they wish they’d done, but they don’t seem to dwell on the missed opportunities. They’re sometimes frustrated by their physical limitations, but again, they just seem to get on with what they can do, rather than dwelling on what they can’t. In many ways, they’re more alive than many younger people I know.
That’s what I want. If possible, I want to make myself useful in some way, because that makes me happy. But I also want to just enjoy whatever I’m doing. Right now I don’t do that enough, and that has to change.