I have a mental image of a long line of babies-waiting-to-be-born standing in an endless line, like new army recruits, ready to be issued their lives. And part of the process includes agreeing to a "The Gift of Life" contract which at first glance seems all glowing promise. Not being able to read yet, they just nod in agreement without having the vaguest idea that the "gift" must be paid for at some future point, and that payments are on an automatic deduction basis. Having agreed without really realizing what we agreed to, we step into the world. Things generally go marvelously well for the first thirty years or so, when the smarter among us begin to be aware that withdrawals are beginning to be made from our account. A lost friend here, a relative there.
The pace of these withdrawals accelerates very slowly at first. By our fifties, the occasional illness or physical ailment is added to the repayment schedule, and equally slowly even the more dense among us become peripherally aware that this isn't quite the free ride we thought we'd signed on for. Our bodies, taken so much for granted and subsequently often badly treated, begin to show the signs of the wear and tear we've inflicted on them. Hair thins and recedes, skin wrinkles and sags, muscles lose tone. The person looking out from our mirror becomes less and less familiar. Attempts of the vain to fight these signs of aging become less and less successful and consume more and more time (and often money).
There are those--the blessed ones--who have the ability to simply accept these changes and account withdrawals with grace and dignity, and there are others who fight the realization that they've seriously misunderstood the contract literally tooth and nail. Many refuse to even acknowledge the existence of the contract, the fine print of which clearly tells us will extract a greater and greater toll with every passing year.
Humans, as you may have realized, are a truly strange lot. We have a knack for putting our hands over our ears, squinching our eyes closed and chanting "LaLaLaLaLaLa" when faced with something we do not choose to acknowledge. Most people somehow convince themselves that they are immune to "getting old" until they it is impossible to deny the fact that they are, indeed, doing just that. Suddenly they're 65 or beyond and realization shocks them as though someone had snuck up behind them and yelled "Boo."
I...like, say, you?...was absolutely, totally convinced that I was never going to get old. Not ever. A classic case of "don't bother me with facts, my mind is made up." And then, to my abject horror, it was made clear to me that yes, I am going to get old. I am getting old. And even if I could manage to convince myself that I wasn't, everyone around me is letting me know it. Offering me a seat on the bus, having people wanting to help me on with my coat, being asked by a grocery clerk if I needed help with two small bags of groceries, being increasingly, infuriatingly eased out of the mainstream; being in a group of "younger" people and knowing I am no longer considered one of them. And realizing, with shame, that that is exactly the way I used to react to people much older than myself.
And I'll wager your reaction to this blog, if you've not already given up on it, is that it is uncomfortably, unnecessarily "depressing" or "morbid" (a fascinating word which means "an abnormal and unhealthy interest in disturbing and unpleasant subjects, esp. death")--proof of our not wanting to even think of things which upset us.)
The thought of growing old does upset most of us...some, of course, far more than others. It's an area in which other animals have the advantage over humans in that they are spared even the concept of what growing older means.
So if I've upset you, I apologize. I only hope that, by urging you really think about this Gift of Life, you might better appreciate everything you have for as long you have it. No matter what your age, enjoy every minute of every day to the fullest, and never forget that life, whatever its cost, is still a "gift" of inestimable value. Treasure it.
Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to check out his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1 ).