When my grandmother was in her eighties, I remember her saying, “When I look in the mirror, I see this old woman, and I wonder how that happened. I still feel like a young woman”. I, who was in my twenties at the time, would laugh sweetly and say, “Ah Nona, you are 76 years old!” I did not have a clue what she was saying. At that young age, I thought people would feel their age; feel on the inside the way they look on the outside. Now that I am 56, I get it big time!
I saw my old school friend, Cathy, last weekend. We have known each other since grade 7 when we were 13 years old. We were laughing together the way we have always done saying things like, “Can you believe how old we are?” and “Haven’t the years flown by quickly?” Cathy asked me how old I feel and I said, “It depends on the day; 36 some days; 16 other days; never 56!”
Aging is a hard thing to absorb. We feel it at the milestones in our lives; when our children leave home; when our children get married; when our parents start to lose their health. We feel it when our bodies start to let us down; when our eyes start to go; when our joints start to stiffen; when we injure ourselves without knowing how. Aging is a gradual process that happens silently while we are busy living our lives.
Inside, I don’t really feel the same as the 36 year old me. I have more confidence now born from experience. I have less patience for political debates and gossip. I feel more despair about the world, but strangely, more hope. I no longer feel that a political revolution is going to save us from ourselves; but I feel that a spiritual revolution is happening that will, just maybe, pull us back from the brink before we destroy this beautiful little planet.
But, there is some something within me that feels just the same as I did when I was 16, 26 and 36. I can contact the emotions of that scared 16-year-old kid instantly. Inside me lives that girl who was abandoned by her mother; the teenager who felt so insecure; that girl who felt unliked and unloveable. But the 26 and 36-year-old women also reside with me; the young woman who worked for the labour movement; the woman who worked on environmental health issues for the public health sector. I still feel passionate about my work. I still believe that we can make the world a better place. I still feel excited about working for change.
Most of the time, I am unaware of my age. I feel ageless and full of life. I wake up excited about each new day. So, when I see a photo of me that portrays me as this over-weight middle-aged 56-year-old woman, I am a little shocked, and find myself thinking, “Nona, now I get it!”