George Bernard Shaw deplored that youth was wasted on the young. Unless we appreciate each stage of our lives, it is wasted. Middle age can be wasted, as can old age if the people in their 50s or 80s don’t savor what these years bring to them.
I, for one, would not want to be young again. I was 80 this year and am definitely less silly than in my youth, less concerned with my looks and the way I come across, less scattered, more focused. Yes, I’m really wiser, and I like myself that way - not as hassled by small things, more attuned to others, more compassionate.
Katherine Hepburn once said that “old age is not for sissies.” She was right, of course, because we’re dealing with wrinkles, gray hair, a slower step and a few extra pounds in all the wrong places. We’re pushing ourselves out of arm chairs, forgetting everything that isn’t written down, and then losing the list.
Suddenly everyone has started to mumble. We must deal with falling asleep during meetings, misplacing our eyeglasses - which we need in order to find them - and generally feeling out of step with the people who listen to rap music and go bungee jumping.
I have found myself being the only one not laughing at a comedian’s routine, or the only one crying at a romantic scene. But now I can enjoy a quiet evening at home, dinner with friends, a walk on the beach, a good book, music.
I do the things I had postponed - like taking piano lessons when I have no talent, or attending a class on cartooning when I can’t draw.
Smiling instead of frowning helps to get over small insults - our brains think there is something to smile about and send that message to our bodies. Humor is the best antidote to everything. Norman Cousins cured his illness with laughter; we can help our growing aches and pains with the same.
Laughter is indeed the best medicine, and laughing at ourselves and with each other will make our foibles funny and our lapses amusing. From child-proof medicine bottles that no one can open, to thinking we have Alzheimer’s because we can’t remember someone’s name, growing older can indeed be an adventure not to be missed. Considering the alternative, we have little choice.