Doing things differently since 1984
You’re all going to think that I’m crazy. But ever since I was a kid, I’ve been looking forward to being an old lady.
It started out when I noticed that elderly women could get away with the coolest things. They can turn around to the person behind them in line and say something utterly random, like, “Peaches are good for your heart, you know!” They can bring out a tray of lemonade to the roughest looking group of teenagers. They get to take their time doing things. They can mismatch their clothes. They can sing out loud in crowded public places, just because they want to. Who is going to stop them? They get to color outside the lines of unspoken social rules.
As I’ve grown up a bit, I’ve noticed that in so many ways your later years are a multiplication of your earlier ones (with some exceptions, of course). Did you try to be kind to others when you were younger? Then you’ll probably be the absolute nicest person in your older years. Did you complain a lot when you were younger? Nothing will be likely to cheer you up in your older years. Optimists usually become super-optimists; pessimists usually become super-pessimists; and everyone generally becomes increasingly convinced of whatever they were fairly certain of before.
I love this; we are destined be accountable for whomever we have chosen to be. Being in my younger years, this motivates me keep a close eye on the type of person I am becoming! If I’m going to enjoy being an old lady, I’ve got to be an enjoyable woman.
There’s something blissfully natural about getting older. Even the richest person can’t stop it – and in fact many end up worse (in my opinion) by trying. You can only prop up the vitality, outer beauty, and vigor of youth for so long. Some people dread this; I think it’s wonderful. We enter the world as equals, diverge so greatly in our middle years, and at the end once again become more like equals.
It seems to me that in our final years our souls are laid bare as never before. The powerful become frail. The prideful look to the state of their souls. The intelligent face questions they can’t answer. The once-adored receive pity. We like to construct for ourselves a life that feeds our inflated egos and makes us kings and queens of the Moment. Then, when the Moment has passed, and our egos have driven away the ones who stay with us in our fragile state, we are forced to reevaluate our lives with a broader perspective.
I am not trying to deny the suffering that comes with old age. I have the deepest sympathy for those losing the ones they love, and those watching or feeling personally the many tragic conditions that come in a person’s later years. But I think we can all benefit from looking ahead to what will be coming, and making sure that, when that time comes, though our health may fail us, our souls will be singing from a life well lived.
In closing, I bring to you one of my favorite poems:
When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.Jenny Joseph