The privilege of aging | Lifestyle.INQ

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M y cardiologist, who sees me every six months, sometimes oftener, told me the root of all my problems, from top to bottom, from inside and out, is aging. Now my ophthalmologist, who has just removed cataracts from both eyes, hints at the same thing—although many of my friends had theirs removed when they were younger. A dear aunt had it done at 92, and her recovery was slower.

Indeed, from some point onward, age makes one increasingly vulnerable to just about everything. I won’t even go into possible complications. Anyone in my age group who has been asked to sign a waiver before going into any kind of medical procedure knows what I’m talking about.

So, what can we do—battle aging and go down fighting or surrender and just let it happen? Mercifully, there’s a happy compromise: Win some, lose some. Anyway, whichever attitude one takes won’t change the predictable ending. Such is the cycle of life—and the beauty of it as well. Believe me, nobody wants to live forever, but neither is anybody rarin’ to go just yet.

To look at mortal life as all tragedy because it has to end is to succumb to the pains and setbacks from which one could well rise again to enjoy further joys and triumphs and carry on to earn the privilege of aging.

Up-and-down ride

Life, after all, is an up-and-down ride, regardless of age. But, at this point, the hardships of the past, the so-called tragedies, are to me just as precious as the good times; given the benefit of experience that makes for context, I see them as part of my victories.

A wise priest said, “When I prayed for strength, God gave me difficulties. When I asked for wisdom, He gave me problems to solve.”

Aging progressively, I thought I would need guts more and more just to look at myself in the mirror. But remembering what my dad, who lived to 91, said was a decided lift. He was convinced aging was proof of God’s sense of humor.

We should be grateful for everything that comes. Something good inevitably comes out of every difficulty, even to the very end. I feel more relaxed and less fearful now, and not because I’m more or less financially secure, but because old age has come as a pleasant surprise. Part of that package is the realization of how little one needs to be content and happy, and there, in that divine sense of generosity, lies God’s divine sense of humor.

After aging comes the transition from this life to the next, and for that to happen, human life has to end. Meantime, it increases its value as it is lived, as one negotiates its twists and turns to earn the limitless possibilities that are unique to everyone. All of us of about the same age who are going through this process now are most likely already friends or could easily, and should, become friends. We share the same memories and values.

My best fight

Arguably, we lived in better times, when life was simpler and safer than it is today, when the world community was smaller, the people fewer, when the competition for resources was friendlier. Where we lived, everybody knew everybody. The gap between rich and poor was hardly noticeable; as a nation, we had reason to be proud.

I’m happy enough I’m aging here in my own country. I can’t even imagine aging anywhere else, even if this country is a far cry from what it used to be—or what it could be. Had I aged elsewhere, I probably would not have made it in relatively good condition to 83, which I will be next month. What falls apart next I’ll know soon enough, and I’ll take care of that, too.

Meanwhile, with my husband’s consent, I’ve let my hair turn silver, although I may add some lowlights to cushion the shock to friends and fans. I’ve also gone easy on myself, perhaps a little too much last Christmas, but I’m given three months to bring down my sugar count sans medication, and I’ll give my best fight, for sure.Quality of life is what’s life’s all about, after all, and that means adopting a welcoming attitude, but also dieting, exercising and taking your medications. Having my lab tests and getting my checkups every six months are now routine. My latest results showed some red flags, but my doctor remains reassuring: “That’s part of aging. We are battling viruses and allergies all the time. Through God’s mercy we are still winning.”

In any case, my cholesterol count was normal and my main organs are functioning unremarkably. I don’t need one of my prescribed heart medicines anymore. I’m not exactly on a roll, but I will do what needs to be done.

With my husband setting the alarm, I’m putting two kinds of eye drops, five minutes apart, every four hours on my newly done right eye. Other people have it tougher, but everything evens out in the end. It’s easier to be brave at 83, secure in the thought that God remains as merciful and as considerate as He has always been to this once certified coward. INQ





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