And didn’t you vow never to be like that when you got older?
Come on, fess up.
So now, it’s us.
A few days ago I was at lunch with my friends, one who is eighty years old and the other in her late fifties. We’re all writers, so we talked about writing for a while, and that was fun, but then we started yakking about our aches and pains. And it hit me. Oh, no, I sound like those old people!
Yeah, like I’m not.
But the truth is, we got comfort from each other. We weren’t trying to belabor or celebrate our problems, or one-up each other with our aches and pains. It was comforting to share what we’re going through, because so many of us at this age are having weird, unpleasant things happen.
The problem is, no matter what we look like on the outside, somewhere in our minds we’re still sort of young-ish, and thus we cannot BELIEVE the crap that’s happening. I mean, we are incredulous. Next time you see a group of older folks talking about their health or surgical complications, look at their faces. Guaranteed, you’re going to see at least one that reflects this sentiment: “I almost died!”
My husband, who ran a car dealership and loves everything about cars, is big on automotive analogies. He says if you’re a car with 150,000 miles on you, things are going to happen. Some of the seals will give out. Some of the lines are going to start leaking. The frame squeaks. The leather cracks.
It’s inevitable and unavoidable. The question is, how are you going to deal with this shocking new development?
One of the things you can do is talk about it. And that’s not bad. Actually, for women, that kind of discussion generates oxytocin, a healing chemical released in our bodies when we bond and commiserate. Often in a group, fear and commiseration turns to acceptance and even humor. The best dark humor is that cooked up by older people, I am sure.
(One evening, after saying goodbye to guests who stayed far too late, I was helping my 90-year-old Mom clean up. We were exhausted, but just happy they’d finally left. All of a sudden a car pulled up out front. We thought they were back! As I peered out the window, Mom hollered, “Oh, my God. If it’s them, tell them I died.” )
When you get older, you’ve been through the mill, and you develop solid coping skills. One of them is the “organ recital.” Regardless of how cliched, boring, and unimaginative it may look to young people (or older people in denial), it can serve a useful purpose, as long as it’s kept in proportion. Remember to change the subject after a while, so as not to become tedious. Expert communicators recommend the following stalwarts of good conversation: how stupid the presidential races are getting, how stupidly they make clothing these days, and how stupidly everybody drives now that they’re all texting.