If you tell me, coyly, that you are 70 (or however many) years 'young',(which women frequently do) I cannot help but infer that you regard the word 'old' as at worst an insult or at best, something to be avoided. And that, I must remind you, is an ageist attitude. Same with " …but I am young at heart". Rubbish. Your heart is the same age as the rest of your internal organs. It may beat strongly and you may be full of joy and zest and enthusiasm for living, but that doesn't make you young. It simply means you are full of joy and zest and enthusiasm for living, and so we should all be, whether we are 5 or 50 or 93 or any other age.
“But I don’t feel 70”, you protest. Wait a minute. Stop and think about that. How do you know what 70 – or any other age – feels like till you get to it? I am 72. So the way I feel now must be what 72 feels like. How could it be any other way? “I don’t feel (insert the number)...” is a totally daft statement, in any context whatsoever. Yet one hears it all the time. So where does all this daftness come from?
I was thinking about that this morning, the last day of the year. 2008 is about to be archived.
The years that have already passed lie flat, now, like pressed flowers. They have lost their roundness, their yearness. The are stacked on the shelf of memory, each flat year on top of the last flat year, like a deck of cards. Each lasted fifty-two big, fat, juicy weeks, yet each takes only a few seconds to recall, now. All we remember are the highlights – the few, special moments that make that year distinguishable from all the others.
Not just years are like this but months, weeks, days, individual moments; once they are over they become all flat and thin, too. Unless, like the dried wakame I put in my soup, we soak them a while, plump them out with tears of grief or laughter. Even then, it’s not like the real thing. We are only fully alive when we remain in this moment. The one that’s happening right now.
As soon as moments have passed, they start to desiccate, flatten, turn into thin leaves of memory that can easily blow away in the breeze like tissue paper. So maybe it is because they require so little room in storage that when we look back on all our years of living they don’t seem to take up enough space. Have I really lived 72 (and a half, actually) full, round, action-packed years? And is this latest one really ending - so soon?
Here goes another one into the pile on the shelf.
Happy New Year!