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Saturday, November 14, 2015

What Surprises Us Most About Aging

In late September, I sent out emails with the following request.  I also posted it on both this blog and my Facebook page:

Seeking Contributors 
I plan to do a blogpost w/ the title: "What surprises me most about aging," and am seeking contributions in the form of a list or a full paragraph. I will use first names only when posting, or "pen names," including Anonymous, and will edit for space and clarity those I publish. If you're game, please email me your list/paragraph at 


Now, I'm not sure what prompted this request; perhaps I'd been thinking lately about what surprised me most about aging, and wanted to hear what others had to say. I was pleased to receive the following responses, each of which opens a slightly different lens into what might be new--and timeless--about aging in the 21st century.

From Jerry
1. Time moves so fast. Days are much shorter. Seasons are much shorter. Years, too. A day when I was a kid was a week. When I was 21, it was three-four days. Now it's a very few hours.

2. Life is so short, just as the wise folks said. It seemed long going forward, but looking back, it's zoom. Yet I can remember everything.

3. Didn't expect to be so healthy at 71. When I started writing obits in the news business in the early 70s, most obit folks died in their 60's.

From Terri
Many aspects of aging for women are known, discussed, and were thus expected: flapping upper arms, thinning hair, slowing movement, forgetfulness. But what came as a surprise to me was how hard it would be to lose dear friends. Being warned would not have helped, though I can't be sure. I just know that I sorely miss many who have preceded me and somehow I didn't see it coming. Denial or thoughtlessness or our culture's reluctance to talk about death — maybe a combination of these caused a lack of anticipation.

As a religious, I've experienced sisters dying all my life. Other adults have died all along my life. But in both cases they were older than I. Having contemporaries die is different!

From Sharon
I just turned 60.  I expected it to feel oppressive and limiting, like the weight of a huge medieval door closing on me.  After all, I have spent the better part of the past four years mentally preparing myself for this crushing moment.  But much to my surprise, I feel buoyant and newly energized.  This moment is pivotal, unlike any other milestone birthday.  Something really shifted inside me.

When I turned 50, I said: “Look!  I can still do everything I did when I was 40!  Woo-hoo!”  I was on a single trajectory, looking back and comparing myself to earlier days on that same path.  When I turned 60, on the other hand, I looked forward at an infinite number of paths.  I do not know how many more years I have left with good health, mobility, and clear thinking.  

So how can I make sure that I fill the remainder of this lifetime with what is important to me?  I have been seizing moments with much less fear than ever before.  I no longer weigh the pros and cons of every action with debilitating caution and slowness, to the point of not doing what I really want to do.  I feel like I am stepping into myself, and into my life, like never before.

From Jo
The most surprising thing for me has been the difference in how I experience time. At age 88 anything and everything was "yesterday."  When in middle years people spoke of "30 years from now" that seemed a lifetime away.  But from today's perspective that was a blink of an eye. I'm not just making a rational statement.  I'm talking about an internal feeling, an awareness. The internal image of time has been turned on its head.  

From Mel
The thing that surprised me most about aging was (and is) the recognition that I am as mortal as all those who came before me.

From Anonymous
What surprises me most about aging?  One aspect of my life that surprises me is that my life did not turn out as I'd always dreamed it would: being married, having children, living in a huge mansion, making a lot of money, and having numerous friendships.

Instead, I am single and have no children (but enough nieces, nephews and other children around for the experience).  I have a lower-middle income, live in an apartment, and am a caretaker after work hours for my elderly mother.  I have many acquaintances, but only a few close friends.  I suppose God had a different plan for me, although I do on occasion wonder how things would have been for me today if I had only chosen other directions. 


I'd love to do another of these "What Surprises Me Most" posts, so if you are so inclined, please do email me your response, in either list or paragraph form.

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