Thursday, June 1, 2017

Body Talk - Aging

I used to be prejudiced toward older people. Maybe I still am. I didn’t realize the prejudice existed. I thought I was cool and that I calculated people's value equally.

As I aged, the bias turned itself against me. I loved my flaming curly red hair, but at age 52, I felt the call of wild: “Go natural.” I cut my hair into a boy-like cut and waited for the salt and pepper. It wasn’t there. My daily mirror checks exposed a crop of white hair. I called myself Quetip. I was one white-topped woman. One day a child pointed at me and asked his mom, “What is that grand mama doing?” I hold nothing against being a grand mom—really, I love it—but something snapped. That day I stepped out of my youth and became an older adult. I entered the youth of my old age.

I remember climbing the steps of the pyramids outside of Mexico City. I was greeted by an elder who said, “Welcome to the end of your youth.” I was 40 and wasn’t ready to give it up! I thought, “What does he know?” 

Twelve years later, I gave in. I was maturing. I noticed subtle changes in the way people looked at me. Maybe it was a projection, but people looked through me or past me as they hurried through their lives. As a younger woman, one who was often center stage, I was used to being noticed, but now, I receded to the sidelines of life.

My sister had a heart attack and I raced to LA to assist her recovery. When she returned home, she carried an assisted living package – a walker.  All of the sudden walkers were cool. I checked out the older passersby as I strolled through the streets of LA. I stopped and talked with people about their walkers. Behind these walkers were interesting people, not old folks. Again, my prejudices made themselves known. I previously looked down on people using canes and walkers, but now my contemporaries were using walking aids, wheel chairs, and scooters. As I awakened from a silent fog, I wondered, “How many filters and preconceived notions lurk in the dark corners of my mind? What thoughts do I look through that determine how I view others?” There’s not an answer; it was a moment of recognition: the mind has its secrets.

I’ve settled into my older years and continue to uncover and heal my prejudices. People don’t look at me the way they used to, but I’ve discovered that the transition from younger to older is not only about who I think I am; it’s about letting go of an image that I believed gave me some kind of advantage in life. No longer do I hold the success images of youth. I have less money; my wrinkled face watches the jiggles as I walk. Things hang off my body that previously stood at attention, but there’s a softness replacing the vigor of youth. There’s a knowing that I never was those things. I was never a body. I was never young or old. I was never my thoughts or beliefs. They were just an operating system. I was more, always more, and knowing that certainly makes my life EZier and EZier.