The Regret of Aging

Post Date: November 29th, 2014


A funny thing happened to me at this week’s yoga class. At the end when we were getting positioned for final relaxation, I began to cry, then silently sob. I knew at that moment that I was grieving my 63-year-old body.

The body where my childhood diagnosis of mild scoliosis now means that a thoracic vertebra twists out of alignment if I sit with my right leg crossed over the left for too long. The body whose hips hurt to the tune of six ibuprofen a day with all the walking on uneven surfaces in Istanbul. The body that two weeks ago developed sciatica.

The body without a bladder, gallbladder, uterus, ovaries, appendix, omentum. The body that has collected enough diagnoses over the past three years that my application for long-term care insurance was denied.

These signs of an aging body are hard to accept when, to my point of view, I’m getting healthier. I’ve lost 30 pounds since retiring 18 months ago. I started walking and doing yoga. I’m well rested. I’m careful that most of my food is organic and locally grown. My triglyceride level, stubbornly high for two years, has dropped dramatically.

Yet I’m mourning my former strength and resilience. I used to be able to do unwise things and be none the worse for wear. Now I can’t indulge in foolish ways. Even so, my body continues to age. I wonder what it will feel like ten years from now. Twenty. Thirty.

At a time in life when wisdom is vast and spirituality deep, I can’t find a different way to think of aging as anything other than gradual physical limitation. The question is when, not if. How sudden or gradual. What degree of pain.

I see the fierce resolve of my 80-year-old aunt who is homebound with grievously painful legs and buttocks who nonetheless continues to write because she keeps herself free of pain medication. I see my determined 90-year-old mother-in-law struggle to get in and out of cars yet manage her life in her own home except for needing transportation. I saw my own mother’s strength of character as she lived with and died from Parkinson’s disease.

I have that strength of character. My hope is that I can approach the limitations of aging with grace, not rue. It is an emotional growth frontier for me.