I’m too old to be young and too young to be old. This quote from Evelyn in Fried Green Tomatoes sums up what I’m feeling these days. I’m not ready to start polishing up my obituary, but I recognize I am entering my third act.
When I contemplate the remaining chapter of my life, I know I want to be the author. When you are a child, your parents write your script. On my own from 18-23, I had no clear direction. I know there are individuals who in young adulthood take control and endeavor to forge their own paths, but I think they are few and far between. I did make the choice to marry at 23, but in retrospect I think that decision was largely driven by social expectations and limited exposure to our wondrous world. Luckily, I chose a mate well. Then we had our sons and when you are raising a family, they become your focus and direction. But now, pushing 65, life has grown simpler. I am lucky to be basically healthy, all our children and grandchildren are healthy, and Mr. Smith still loves me. I’m not naïve enough to think my remaining years will be all champagne and beach sunsets, but I hope to direct them as much as possible. In looking for guidance, I went to the place I always go. Books.
The Art of Growing Old, Aging with Grace by Marie de Hennzel was referenced in several articles I read about aging, so I decided it was time to check it out. Marie de Hennzel is a French clinical therapist, largely focusing on the art of aging well. She is also the recipient of the Legion of Honor, France’s highest honorary decoration. I found her book to be positive and heartfelt, drawing from many of her life challenges and personal experiences.
There is no doubt that we live is a society obsessed with youth. If you feel you have an issue with your appearance, there is more than likely a cosmetic surgery procedure you can undergo. But Dr. Hennzel believes that in order to age gracefully, we need to dwell less on the physical aspects of aging and focus on the positive emotional changes. Accepting that we may be slowing down and acknowledging that this slower pace will allow you new observations and insights is just one of the positive aspects of aging. She doesn’t ignore our inevitable physical deterioration and provides practical life plans for dealing with the fears of becoming a burden on our families, illness and isolation.
I do think my time spent reading this book was time well spent. I will share that for me, it read a bit like a research paper full of academic references and studies. What I was really seeking in a book about aging, was something with a more conversational tone. Like sharing a cup of tea with my beloved Aunt Ruby while she shared her best wisdom for growing older and remaining so loving and kind. I’ll take inspiration from both.
C’est la vie