What's the Big Deal About Aging?

redwood treesWe live in a society that fears aging. That's not news. It's not just a fear, though. It has become a clinical phobia that regularly results in discrimination of all sorts and styles: denial, neglect, abuse, disregard, lack of respect, denigration and out-and-out violence. We abhor it. We tell ourselves it will never happen to us. We've created an "ick" factor around it. But in the end, no matter what we do or how much money we spend, it happens.

The past year has been one long lesson in accepting my own aging. I'll turn 62 this year, a fact that I really have a hard time accepting because I feel like I lost a decade and-a-half when I was caretaking each of my parents in their turn. Life feels short so far, because I have no idea where my late-40's and 50's went. It's hard to feel my actual age due to my health issues as well, but actually, aside from two incurable "conditions" that are a direct result of those hard years, I'm in great health. Ravi ShankarThere's no reason for me to think that I won't live at least 30 more years. There are a lot of people in their 80's and 90's who are still vital and active, and still working toward their goals. Hell, Ravi Shankar died recently at the age of 92 only four weeks after giving his last concert. I remember Maestro Salazar telling me once that his wish for dying was to be in the middle of conducting Beethoven's 9th Symphony when he went. He very nearly got that wish.

It's time for me to stop the partying. After all, I've been doing that for 30 years. I need to concentrate the next 30 on my creativity, not on hangovers and depression from my serotonin being gobbled up. I've out-partied all of my friends anyway. What did I prove? I can't do it anymore and I'm ready to face that and accept it. I'm aging and there's nothing I can do that will take me back to age 32.

So can we as a society just grow the hell up and get over it? Can we at least try? Seventies songwriter/recording artist Emitt Rhodes wrote,

"You must live till you die,
You must feel to be alive."

How can we really live if we continually and habitually refuse to face the only absolute truth there is? The truth that we have been aging since our conception, that we will continue to age, and we will die. Everything else is just a collective hunch.

Steph Waller is an author and composer. Learn more about her novel, With A Dream, at her website. Read more of her musings at the blog.

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