Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Facing mortality

Jane Fonda has written a blog about crying. It seems she cries all the time lately--at happy things, at sad things,  pretty things, kind deeds, sad stories, stories of courage, a baby shower--you name it, she cries. She thinks her emotions are more accessible as she ages. From the comments, it's apparently a part of facing your mortality. Since, to my surprise, at 76, she is a year older than I am, that got me to thinking.
I don't think I'm either facing or denying my mortality. Sometimes a question flits through my mind: what will I be like in ten years at the age of eight-five? Will I still be able to write? Can I live alone in my own home? I certainly hope so for both of those things, because right now I don't feel any diminished vitality. Oh, yeah, there are some things I can't do as I used to...and trying new yoga poses reminds me of the stiffening of age. But I do it, and I'm undertaking a new walking program. Funny--or sad--I'm amazed at how short of breath I get. Yoga doesn't do much for cardio.
But somehow, while aware of my mortality and, as I'm fond of saying, hearing time's ever-winged chariot at my back, I am nowhere near thinking about diminished capability or even moving into a retirement community (a question asked a lot).
Unlike Jane Fonda, I don't cry much, but I do think my emotions are more accessible, and I am better at recognizing them for what they are. Sometimes deep emotions, sometimes blind emotional reactions, occasional reactions based on fact. Yes, I know I'm liberal and I'm intense about the current practice of medicine and saving dogs--those are my subjects, and I recognize my prejudice on matters dealing with them.
But what has surprised me in my seventies is how much wiser I feel. Oh, how I wish I could relive my forties and fifties and do it better--because I know I would. I understand myself and others and life's situations so much more than I did forty years ago. What they say about age bringing wisdom is true--I think it brings a certain clarity of vision.
Sometimes I wonder how I managed to raise such wonderful children with my limited sight. I don't remember spending time doing homework or listening to them read or any of the things I do with grandchildren--mostly Jacob--now. But somehow they grew up just fine to be well educated, well adjusted people who I love and who make me proud.
And, to my surprise, I suspect I'm happier than I've ever been in my life. I'm single--something I never thought I'd enjoy. But I do like my space and my freedom. Yes, I sometimes long for the intimacy and the thought that there's one person in whom I can confide my deepest thoughts--but I have children and friends who will willingly listen to me. I remember that after Jordan's wedding, when we'd had four party-packed days of family and fun, I called a friend and said it was one time I wished I was married so I could relive those days. She, happily married, said, "Why didn't  you just call me? It would be a lot easier than having a man around." So true.
I am also happy with my house, my dog, my career--a new career in my seventies. When it occurs to me to wonder how many more books I can write, I bat that thought away because right now I feel like I can keep writing forever. I'm excited about a book that I'm going to self-publish, and I need to dig in and write the sixth Kelly O'Connell manuscript.
Upshot of all this meandering? Yes, I'm aware that I'm in my golden years and who knows how much time I have left. But am I worried about it? No. I'm healthy and happy, and I'm just going to take it day by day. Without crying.


babs hogan said...

I see you as vibrant as ever. You're more productive than many twenty year olds.

Judy Alter said...

Thanks, Bab. I figure working and being involved in life is the way to keep that winged chariot behind me.