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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Is there a silver lining?

I signed up recently at a new gym and was put through the whole rigmarole of the physical test and analysis. At the end of it, my fitness trainer said that the test shows I have the body of a 35 year old. I actually burst out laughing and said “Tell that to my body!”

I know (and my body knows). Growing old is a bummer.  I wake up to that fact every morning, with the joints in my fingers stiff, sometimes so stiff I can’t hold my toothbrush tightly. Then it hits me again when I make oats for breakfast instead of indulging in something sinful like French toast or nasi lemak.

I’ve been fortunate in avoiding most of the more common menopause symptoms. I don’t know what a hot flush feels like. I’ve been irritable all my life so don’t know any different. I realised a while ago that my sleeplessness was caused more by overwork and stress.

But I do have to admit that my skin has lost its elasticity. I cut my hair shorter to try and disguise the fact that I’m losing most of it. My eyes have definitely weakened and I am constantly turning up the volume on my TV and phone. I feel it most of all in my bones. My knees click and ache after too much walking, and my back is sore when I stand too long, walk too long, or sit too long. I can’t remember the last time when I woke up pain free.

The worst thing is despite my body betraying me, in my heart I don’t feel 50 something, or even worse, approaching 60. I admire fashions that are more suited to 20 somethings and worse yet, attempt some of the looks (and forever relegate the outfit to the back of the closet). I still give some cute hunks who are young enough to be my son the once over (thankfully only on TV or in magazine pages).

In moments of contemplation when I do remind myself that I am beyond middle age (hah, 50 is not the new 30. 50 is 50.) I have to admit that along with the grey hair are plenty of silver linings. I can actually go through days without feeling anxious, about work deadlines, finances, my son. I fill my time catching up on news, tending to my plants, cooking something delicious, meeting up with friends and lolling around because, well, just because I can, without feeling guilty.

My relationships are no longer fraught with anxiety and angst. I’ve made my peace with the fact that there are some people, even close family members, that I will not get along with. I’ve stopped worrying about how to make things right with them. I just hold on to the relationships that are nurturing and warm, filled with laughter and love.

I’ve learnt, and am still learning, to let go. Of dreams that will remain unfulfilled. Of bad choices that used to eat me up. Of grudges carried too long. Of mistakes that are too late to be rectified. Of hurts that I thought would never heal.

Now, more than ever, I count my blessings. I was never a beauty so I don’t feel as much pressure to preserve my looks. I have a roundish face with chubby cheeks and oily skin that will probably look more youthful that those women blessed with angular cheekbones. I have a healthy metabolism that allows me to eat pretty much what I want without piling on the weight. I have enough interests to keep my days filled and lively. Financially I am not well off but am in better shape than a lot of people I know. I am still healthy and mobile enough to travel and do fun things. Most importantly, my son has grown up to be a fine young man with a good head on his shoulders (although he has yet to present me with a grandchild).

Despite being told I have the body of a 35 year old, I still keep schlepping to the gym, because I know I have to maintain whatever there is left of my brain and body. There’s still a lot of living to do, and life is short.

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