The long summer nights seemed to go on forever. I laid on the cot put out for me, clothed only in a small child’s tee shirt and panties, feeling uncomfortable sweat rolling down my body from my hair to my toes. Humidity took our July summer nights on an East Texas oil lease and made the 104 evening temps feel like 120. The house was not only thick with summer heat, but also from attitudes of the residents. My fears didn’t grow merely from the heat and the mosquitoes which accompanied us on our trips to my grandparents (once they counted over 102 mosquito bites on me when a screen was left off a window at night), but it was mostly fear of the woman we called Maw-Maw. She daily raged into the front room, after my younger brothers and I did something we shouldn’t, with wild gray hair pointing to the sky, a long apron choking her waist, and frantically swinging a broom. In my eight-year-old mind, she might as well have been yelling, “I’ll get you, my pretty!!” The scene had everything but flying monkeys.
Unfortunately, I cannot tell you I learned how to age gracefully from the women in my life. Both grandmothers and my mother were embittered by family alcoholics, abuse, and pain. They all were the stereotypical “mean old ladies.” People you want to run from because they suck the air right out of you. However, it is their role modeling and emotional abuse which sent me in a different direction; because, I so did not want to be anything like them. We all go through hard times; it is what we do with those lessons which chart our course.
I dreaded any trips to either of the grandparents’ houses; anger seeped out of every crevice. The women in my life chose to become victims and allow circumstances to destroy them. Anger can be a very selfish emotion, especially when you use it to harm those around you. If I feel this selfish anger rising inside of me, I look in the mirror, see my mother, and then hear her words. That usually snaps me back into reality.
I really am not a fan of the phrase “Aging Gracefully.” We are all aging from the moment we slide out the birth canal…the word aging does not sit comfortably with me. However, I choose to “LIVE OUT LOUD,” with joy and contentment. I decided a long time ago to not be a victim. Despite any challenges which may come my way…and they do come…I choose to live one day at a time with joy. There is something to laugh about every day. There is something to rejoice in every day. We now know from medical studies those who laugh and enjoy life will live longer, even with terminal cancers. Dr. Terry Grossman writes, “Other studies have shown that laughter can decrease stress, increase pain tolerance, reduce depression and improve quality of life.” It is never too late to bury anger and replace it with a rock solid determination to enjoy yourself however remaining days you have on this earth. Now, I realize some reading this will be turned off by my “Pollyanna” attitude and think with disgust, that there is no way I understand your circumstances.
Trust me…I do understand. You can sit there embittered and dry up, or make a choice today to LIVE…really live. Life goes so fast. We can try every anti-aging product on the market, but, let’s face it; nothing stops the process, no matter what we do. My pastor recently honored his mother on her 90th birthday in a sermon. She was sitting in the audience. I found myself at first very jealous that he grew up in a household which was fun, joyful, educational, challenging, and all about serving others. But, at ninety years of age, I saw an independent woman who still lives in her own home, drives a car, shops, lunches with girlfriends, and loves her freedom. She is the fun grandma with a door wide open and a welcoming place where her grandchildren love to go. Not a mean old woman, but a vibrant youthful one. I want my grandchildren to love coming to my house. I want them to feel safe and secure sleeping there. I want to be the captivating Glinda pointing their hearts toward home and not the mean old Wicked Witch of the West embittered by what life did not give me. I choose to LIVE OUT LOUD for however long I am here…turn on the air conditioner in summer…and avoid mosquitoes whenever possible!
There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.
I am joining in with other bloggers from the amazing group called Generation Fabulous! We have launched a website where you will find a great group of writers bringing compelling work just for the thriving woman over 40!! I hope you will join us to read all as we address the topic “What Does Aging Gracefully Mean to You!” Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!