This year, I find myself quite unexpectedly in a festive mood. I think I’ve managed to truly detach myself from the materialistic aspects of “the season” and now I can appreciate all the magic and the true meaning of Advent, the expectation of the returning light. And oh how I crave light. Winter’s darkness can be cosy, yes, but to me it’s mostly oppressive. Solstice morning, the sunrise which proves that light is coming back and the days are starting to get longer, is one of my favourite mornings of the year.
I’ll write more about the year past when it’s time; today, I have something else to talk about. But before I do, I want you to take a moment to admire the fluffy featheriness of the birds at my feeder! I get robins, blue tits, sparrows and the occasional crow. By now, I know the regulars and their habits and favourites, and they’re beginning to lose their fear of me.
Before I find my stride and keep talking about birds for the rest of this article, I’ll try and arrive at the subject I actually meant to discuss. If you’ve known me for more than five minutes, you will have heard me talk about it before; I’ve written articles about getting older and the wild woman over 40. To paraphrase, I don’t buy the bullshit our society puts out about being “old” when you’re 30, 40, or even 70. It used to be true, but these days we live so much longer and it’s insane to spent 3/4 of our lifetimes feeling old.
The problem is that we’re ageist. I know the title of this article is a little provocative, but the thing is, I’m ageist too. It’s so ingrained in us, we just can’t manage to escape. Although the more progressive and conscious of us have managed to become sensitive of racism, sexism, and all manner of -isms, we’re still raving ageists, and nobody seems to even notice.
Don’t believe it? When’s the last time you’ve said: “Haha, well I’m getting old!” as a joke? I know I have, and quite frequently. We happily divide living people into “generations” as if that were a thing, as if someone born one year is somehow completely different from a person born the next. It’s a lazy way of not engaging with individuals, and realising how amazing they are, and how much we all have in common, from 8 to 108 years old.
Don’t get me wrong, please: This is not about denying that age and differences exist. They do. What we need to do is re-interpret the differences and the changes as we age, as positive, something to be desired rather than be ashamed or afraid of.
People will point out to me so-called proof that ageing is, indeed, an issue. I say: Of course things change, I just refuse to interpret the changes as a. universally bad and b. an inevitable result of getting older. Here are a few examples:
- “Joints do get creaky and injuries happen faster.” Yes, they are, but I argue it’s because of use – wear and tear – rather than age. No, it’s not always the same thing. A ballet dancer might have completely ruined their ankles or knees by the time they hit 30. I dance by just jumping around to good music, so I lived to 47 before my knees started protesting earlier this year. The point is, wear and tear is independent of age and it can also be slowed down if we use our bodies wisely and look after them – which we, sadly, don’t do enough but can learn. I’m starting to, slowly.
- “Science tells us that cell regeneration slows down with age.” True, but there are many stories of people who made miracle recoveries from things they technically shouldn’t have been able to bounce back from. Medicine can’t explain it, not by a long road. In most cases, recoveries are attributed to attitude and mental strength, so here’s something you don’t even need your body to work on.
- “We get grey, wrinkly, and saggy.” So? I’m objectively a lot less attractive than I was at, say, 20, and yet I feel about 400% prettier and sexier than I did back then. Funny, isn’t it? I may be less firm than I used to be, but you know what, so are the guys I fancy these days. No big deal.
My point is, it’s all so bloody subjective, there’s no point trying to tie it down to a number. And if it’s subjective anyway, isn’t it about time we used this to our own advantage? Why don’t we go and define age as marvellous? I’m honestly so much happier than ever. I’ll be 50 in just over two years, and I can’t wait to be 60, 70 and 80. I’ve plans to build up my body and especially my muscles so they can support my joints better. I aim to be in the best shape of my life by the time I hit my 50s.
We’ve expanded our life expectancy, now we have to learn to make something out of it. Otherwise, in the words of a wise person, instead of living longer we simply die longer. And that was never the idea.
All right, I’m hopping off the soap box. Here’s another bird to make you smile:
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