The Old Gray Mare
By Susie Moses
After all these years I am beginning to understand that I have to face the fact that old age is getting a toehold. I am not exempt. I am loathe to use it as an excuse, not wishing to define myself by numbers, but the signs are there, harder and harder to ignore. Harder and harder to resolve or fix. There has been a resetting of the bar. Firm reminders that I cannot slow this process down by sheer will.
I have come to accept certain limitations. It seems I will not be hiking the entire Appalachian Trail after all. It does remain beyond my capabilities, no matter that someone else born in the same year might accomplish that very thing. I face the fact that I have missed my window. Cross that dream off the list. And others, on and on.
Acceptance does not mean capitulation. I continue to fight the good fight, in search of The Answer. Or at least An Answer. Miracle foods, diet plans, sleep improvement strategies, exercise regimens, body work, anti-inflammation protocols. But the bottom line is, no matter how well we treat them, our bodies will not last forever. They will fail us in one way or another. Physical decline, mental struggle – the old gray mare just ain’t what she used to be.
I see it in daily banter, my cohort joking about various calamities of our advancing years. Or commenting to my daughter about my sense of abrupt aging and waiting for reassurance that it is not so. It is not forthcoming. Apparently, she concurs. I might have been willing to be talked out of it, but it seems we are on the same page, acknowledging the limitations of my years. I am caught up short. I had not expected her to agree so readily. I vow to double down and prove us both wrong. Cleaner diet, more yoga, Pilates, massage, and meditation. I will show her! And myself. But the task seems more daunting by the day.
I spent the weekend with dear friends just a few years ahead of me. I am alarmed by what I saw. They have capitulated to failing bodies in many ways and I want them to take action! To be proactive, do things to improve their lives. I watched him put on his hiking socks. Sitting in a rocking chair on the porch, it must have taken him ten minutes to wrangle his feet into the woolen tubes. He could barely reach, trying to move up and over his expansive belly, breathing hard and grunting his way, he cursed as the sock got hung up on curling toenails which he can no longer manage to keep trimmed. It was not a pretty picture. His wife commented that we really were not meant to live this long. Our bodies just wear out. But I stiffened my resolve to work towards staying limber and active, determined to avoid the fate of not being able to reach one’s own toes. I will never let that happen to me!
I reassured myself as I headed out on a brisk morning walk, full of self-righteousness. No need to let oneself succumb to the vicissitudes of aging. Just keep moving I told myself as I strode out, arms pumping. By the time I returned home, my hips had stiffened to the point that I was hobbling up the stairs and wracking my brain to find a remedy for this ridiculous outcome. Tart cherry juice! Good for inflammation! Green tea laced with turkey tail mushrooms. Yoga poses, acupuncture. I may go down, but I will go down fighting, always believing that somewhere in there I will find, if not the fountain of youth, some fix for what ails me. There is an answer somewhere and I am determined to discover it.
I read a book not long ago which describes aging as a spiritual process. At some point I will have to embrace that premise, that aging is a master course in acceptance, of infirmity, of pain, of loss and ultimately of death. It’s not that I am afraid of dying, just getting old and dependent. So I fight the good fight, understanding I may have to hang up my gloves for good one day and focus on the spiritual aspects of the end of life. But not yet! Not just now. New books to order, new podcasts to watch. New hope to be excavated – magical supplements and elixirs, intermittent fasting, cold water plunging, avoidance of alcohol. Maybe it’s all just a distraction, but I’m not ready to throw up my hands and admit defeat. I am determined to keep my toenails cut and the ability to ease my socks on without strain.
We’ll see how it goes.
Susie Moses is a generative writing junkie, enjoying the process and dreaming of actually doing something constructive one day with the piles of papers and notebooks she has accrued, that are spilling out of closets and off shelves and out of drawers. But for now, just getting words down on the page is an accomplishment and a delight. She spends a good part of each year in Marin County to be near her daughters, but always is drawn to return to her beloved Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia for a fix of East Coast flora and fauna.