Ageing, I decided, is a gift and after all we have no choice about it. I am now, probably for the first time in my life, the person I have always wanted to be. Oh, not my body; I sometimes despair over my body – the wrinkles, the stretchy skin which fascinates my grandchildren. And often I am taken aback by that person that lives in my mirror, but I don’t agonize over those things for long. I forget the number and am shocked to realise that somehow, I am the same age as old people. There is that ‘how did that happen’ moment.
I would never trade my amazing friends, my wonderful life, my loving family for less silver hair or a flatter stomach (though I still strive for that!). As I’ve aged, I’ve become kinder and less critical of myself. Though people often tell me I am kind; I am not really! I am often brutal with myself and others. However, I have become my own friend. I don’t chide myself for eating that extra scone, or for leaving my bed messy, or for buying that silly techno gadget that I didn’t need or that crazy statue that I think looks so Avant Garde in my garden.
I am entitled to overeat, to be messy (though usually I am not. My mother would be astonished to see how I do now put my clothes away!) I can be extravagant and do what I want when I want. I have seen too many close ones leave this world way too soon; perhaps before they understood the great freedom that comes with ageing. Whose business is it if I choose to read until 4:00 am fall asleep with light and radio blaring away in the background. I will dance in the kitchen to any music I like and if, at the same time, I wish to weep over a past love, I will. I travel to the coast when I feel the pull of the sea winds (coming from Liverpool there was always the sound of seagulls and the wind). I walk the shore in a swim suit that is stretched over a fuller body and will dive into the waves with abandon, despite the glances from the thonged bikini set. Though in truth I am more likely to be invisible to them. They, too, will get old.
I take on the most ridiculous physical challenges and refuse to believe that one cannot keep on improving in some aspect of sport – in my case cycling. What I do is sometimes considered exceptional by others, but exceptional behaviour meaning that I am usually the oldest person in an event, seems to gain exceptional respect. I treasure that.
Retirement is just a ten-letter word. I do what I love and will do it for as long as others value that and maybe longer! I trust that someone will drag me off if I become entirely inappropriate but then it can just be categorised as Provocative. I never did know if everything that Frank Farrelly (master of Provocative Therapy) did was deliberate.
I am sometimes forgetful. But there again, some of life is just as well forgotten and I do, I believe remember the important things. Over the years my heart has been well and truly broken. How can your heart not break when you lose a loved one, or when a child suffers, or when a beloved pet dies? A broken heart has given me strength and independence. Rather a broken heart than a life lived safeguarding myself from disappointment.
I am blessed to have lived long enough to have my hair lose all its colour and to have my constant laughter be forever etched into grooves on my face. So many have never belly laughed and so many have died before their hair could turn white. I was overjoyed when I realised that underneath all that dyed brown was this pure silver.
I can say “no” and mean it. And I can say “yes” and mean it.
I have been provocative for most of my life and I have become more so with the years. I care less about what other people think. I rarely question myself anymore or live with regret. I’ve earned the right to be wrong. I like how I am. Time has set me free. I like the person I have become. I am not going to live forever (as Frank said “even if you eat broccoli you die”), but while I am still here, I will not waste time lamenting what could have been, or worrying about what will be. And I shall eat strawberries and popcorn whenever I choose.
When I die, I don’t want anyone to attend a cremation in some dark brown room with plastic flowers. I love the idea of a Viking funeral just for the disapproval and amusement it might trigger, but in lieu of that just light one of those paper lanterns, send it off into the night sky as a metaphor for how we can all reach the stars, and know how much I loved you whether I told you or not.
Adapted by a piece written by an unknown author.
I do however expect to be around for some time yet and here are the opportunities for learning.