Aging—Who Me? By Pat Clay

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For each of us aging will be different. For me, the revelation that I was aging was stunning. I say revelation because I had never thought much about age. Each milestone along the path to 80, was met with a shrug and a comment such as “it is only a number.” Now, there are fewer milestones left in my future and the number just gets higher.

I ask myself, how does it feel to be me at this age. On a day like today, a glorious September sunshine, gentle breeze, trees beginning to turn, fall around the corner, it feels great.

However, in the last several months I have felt different—sometimes sad, sometimes angry.

The most painful aspect of aging is how others view you and treat you. I have begun to notice that my thoughts and opinions were no longer sought, and when offered, were either ignored or discounted with a dismissive statement or a shrug. Have I become irrelevant? Am I becoming the little old lady who sits in the corner at gatherings and smiles vacantly? My immediate response when hurt, is to retreat into myself, which I began to do in social and family gatherings. For some time, I was not aware that I had essentially shut down.

I thought how in past years, I had treated my aging family members.  Had I responded to their aging in the same manner that was now occurring to me?  Shamefully, I had to admit I had. How they must have been hurt.

How to counter this process of aging? I began to take classes, joined a book club, found a friend to enjoy the ballet and symphony season with and reached out to “old” friends and new.  As time passed, I gained back some of my self-confidence and feelings of self-worth. Perhaps, I still had value.

Now, it is amusing to see or hear the surprise or disbelief of a younger person, when they realize that I am aware of a current event or have a thought that is valid.

The physical challenges of aging continue to confound and anger me. It seems just yesterday I could squat and get up without any effort. I could hike with the best, walk up a hill or stairs without becoming winded. I could hear a “pin drop” and see at long distances. What happened?

It seems others noticed my loss of physical strength, mobility, and stability before I did.  Frequently I heard, “let me get that for you, let me carry that for you, wait I’ll help you,” ARRGH! I didn’t feel as if I needed help. Unfortunately, I did and do. As an independent person, it has been a shock to acknowledge I may need help, occasionally.

I continue to work on accepting my “limitations” graciously allowing help from others when offered and even seeking assistance when needed.

To age gracefully and to accept kindly offered assistance will be my goal. However, I probably will continue to struggle to remain in the game so to speak, when confronted with physical, emotional or cognitive challenges.

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Pat Clay is a retired nurse who is pleased to present her thoughts and feelings on aging.
She moved to Salt Lake City six years ago and since then has taken several writing classes and recently joined a writing group. When Pat is not writing, she enjoys gardening, all manner of the arts, reading and trying to keep up with her dog, Tuki. Pat is currently working on a memoir.

Do you have a personal essay or a poem on aging you'd like to share? If so, I'd love to read it.  Send it my way! Together, we can continue to build an online community - a forum to share our stories on aging.

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