Although it was hard to get started writing I knew that I needed to write about aging because at this stage of my life, vulnerability has to do with aging. I still stand tall. I’m still strong enough to do what I need to do (although not as much as I used to do). My mind is reasonably agile. I manage a complex job with grace most of the time. My stamina isn’t as good as it used to be but I get through the days OK. But in my mid-60s I’m aware of the vulnerability of age.
I don’t want people to think of me as old. Is this ageist? Probably. Or is it a realistic recognition of how society views older people–as frail, as weak, as not really quite a person? In the grocery store check out line, at the post office, at work, I make sure that my posture is good, that I stride with ease and confidence even if my knee and hip hurt, I speak quickly and assertively.
I may have white hair (I have had silver hair since I was in my 30s) and wrinkles but…don’t make assumptions about me. I get snarky when someone I don’t know calls me “honey” or “dear.” In another part of the country it might be just the way people speak but here in New England I hear it as a patronizing tone used with “seniors.” Ugh.
I broke my ankle a few years ago. It healed well. No lingering effects. Except–there’s a heightened sense of physical vulnerability–a desire to hold the railing when I go up and down stairs, a mild anxiety when there is no railing. I look more closely at the ground when I walk; I move more slowly through the world.
In England, there are road signs signaling, I think, that an older person lives nearby and might be crossing the road–on the sign is an image of 2 bent, hunched figures with canes. Really?? I push that image away. Not me. Not me. But someday it might be me.
Work out, I tell myself. Get in the pool! Go for a walk! All good advice. And I square my shoulders, take a deep breath, and step out into the world.