We live in a culture that doesn’t hesitate to talk about any and everything yet despite all that we willingly talk about and share sometimes with complete strangers, many times we aren’t really talking and there are certain topics that frankly scare most us shitless, they include death and aging.
Death is scary; it’s the great unknown, the absolute equalizer because no matter who we are, at some point we are all going to die. If we are fortunate we will get old and then die, but aging is scary, so we keep moving the goalposts as far as what aging is. Back when I was a wee lass, older people were easily identifiable, now today’s 50 year woman can look as good as a 25 year old on the outside so we think we aren’t aging. In fact we flee from it. Back in the 1970’s Gail Sheehy wrote Passages: Predictable Crises of Adult Life and for decades it was wildly understood that middle age started at 35, now we can’t decide if 40 or 45 is the start of middle age. Funny thing is despite the fact that we changed the parameters, internal changes affect enough of us that even if we are still “young” we sense that shift internally even if we don’t talk about it publicly.
I on the other hand have no problem talking about it, the gift of losing a parent early in life is that you realize growing old might not be so bad. A few days ago, a dear friend asked me if I were struggling. The truth is I am struggling, but it’s not a bad struggle, in fact it’s a struggle I suspect I am not alone in but who wants to be Debbie Downer?
The beauty of growing old is clarity, clarity that at times results in an internal struggle, this past year I have and continue to struggle with reconciling who I really am with who I think I should be. I am realizing that some of the goals I set early in life are not nearly as important as I thought they were or in other cases am making peace with my personal limitations and accepting myself as I really am, not who I think I should be. Probably the most public example that I can share in this space is around my writing/blogging/yapping work. I may want more as a writer but my true gifts don’t lie in writing no matter how much I want them too. So I struggle with realizing this passion, this hobby may never be what I want it to be, but it still has incredible value. It’s hard at times to redefine ourselves.
The thing is life is an even greater struggle when we fight against what is, when we refuse to see reality and instead live in the land of what ifs. For me accepting reality is not about giving up and retreating but it’s about making peace with what really is, even if it disturbing on some level.
One of the truths I have come to accept in my life is that struggle is part of life, to struggle keeps us on our feet and sometimes makes us move much faster than we like, but to struggle is to be human. The only time the struggle will end is when we stop breathing. So yeah, I am struggling, struggling to find myself in a world that frankly doesn’t have much love for an almost middle aged Black woman.