“The great secret that all old people share is that you really haven’t changed in seventy or eighty years. Your body changes, but you don’t change at all. And that, of course, causes great confusion.” – Doris Lessing
This is a truth. I hear it from patients daily. For years I was completely incapable of understanding, much less expressing true empathy, but now I am starting to get an inkling of what they are feeling.
Personally, I find it disorienting to not necessarily recognize the person in the mirror and I am early in this process. I am terrified of the disconnect I will feel when I am seventy. Let’s face it, unlike Joan Rivers I don’t have an army of crazy skilled plastic surgeons that can devote their lives to maintaining my youth.
One thing I do know. As you age, your desires do not change. Even when I am frail, wrinkled, and my hand is unsteady, I will still want to have much of the same things I wanted when I was twenty even if they are no longer possible:
I want to be desired and to feel beautiful with minimal effort. I want to roller blade without worrying about compression fractures. I want to be able to see my daughter’s new freckles without putting on my old lady glasses. I want to be able to stay up all night and still function the next day. I want to eat good pasta by the pot full without having to worry about calories. I want to be able to have a second martini and not suffer from a hang over the next morning.
My list will grow longer. Part of me is sad and waxes nostalgic, but in the end I don’t want to be (that) person.
I have the feeling that aging holds some great truth, a secret knowledge that is the key to the universe and so it draws me forward, on to that light. THE light? Hmmmmm. Aging may not be for the faint of heart, but I can certainly tell you that it is a beautiful thing to understand patients on a whole new level.