Thoughts on Growing Older

The Petchary has plenty of other things to write about.  But, setting them aside for now, she needs a little introspection on this matter of ageing, on the eve of her sixtieth birthday.

Yes, sixtieth.

I have jotted down just a few reflections here.  Firstly, one has to overcome and endure the exclamations (“But you don’t look it!” and “Age is just a number,” and so on) from kind and well-meaning friends and acquaintances.  Well, physically one looks (and feels) it, but the spirit remains the same.  Why should it – why would it – be any different from the same spirit, the same inward self, that I was at sixteen, or thirty, or forty-five?

William Butler Yeats
WB Yeats, the somewhat disheveled Irish poet

The Petchary is very fond of the Irish poet W.B. Yeats.  Here he is with his poem “When You Are Old,” which has a quiet melancholy to it:

WHEN you are old and gray and full of sleep
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace, 5
And loved your beauty with love false or true;
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face.
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how love fled 10
And paced upon the mountains overhead,
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

Yes – I think of myself as a pilgrim soul.  But so are all the other souls around me; and, especially, my husband and son, stepping along the dusty road that winds round the mountainside with me, and sitting down to rest along the way, arms round each other.  In the past few years, first my father and then my mother have stepped off the road for a while; they are resting together in a quiet grove of trees, and sometimes call out words of encouragement.

On a dusty old road
The dusty old road we pilgrims walk is something like this, I believe

Unlike Mr. Yeats, however, I don’t find that love has fled.  It is actually a more powerful force than when the Petchary was twenty or thirty years younger. Then, she used to wonder whether love was an artful fabrication, a burden to be endured, a ridiculous fantasy, a complete fake (like romantic comedies, and the dreadful movie “Pretty Woman,”) – something you were supposed to “feel,” but didn’t.  No one tells you when you are young that love is a slow burner, it’s not just romance or sex, it’s something much deeper than that, sliding along like a slow river that sometimes skitters over stones and at other times flows dark and strong.  But you keep following that river.

Starlit sky
This is the kind of love I am thinking of, I think (yes, still an old hippy at heart)

So, for the Petchary, growing old goes something like this – here’s my “top ten” – and perhaps #1 ought to be right there but apart from that this is in no particular order.

  1. You feel just the same, inside, and wonder why younger people don’t understand that.
  2. You have veered further and further away from “organized religion.”
  3. On the other hand, you somehow feel a more “spiritual being”, and as time goes by, you start believing there is something to the reincarnation thing after all (I now carefully rescue drowning spiders from the bathwater).
  4. You find that you can actually enjoy doing something that you are good at.
  5. You don’t feel really different physically, but odd unexplained twinges (knees, my left wrist that I broke some eighteen months ago, stomach, toes, whatever) occur regularly.  So what.
  6. You get to love young people, and that light in their eyes.
  7. Babies become slightly odd creatures (they are, aren’t they?)  But I may feel differently if/when I become a grandmother.
  8. You love art, music, books, movies more than ever, and they become your expression too (and in my case, writing in particular).  It all flows beautifully.
  9. You have an increasingly sweet tooth, and don’t always feel as guilty about it as you should.
  10. (This should be the joint #1) you love and appreciate your husband and son, your fellow-pilgrims, more deeply each day.

I know, I am ending on a sentimental note, but I have to say just one more thing.

I am grateful.

The "supermoon" in Kingston 6, March 19, 2011
This is the kind of thing I am grateful for... I took this photo of the "supermoon" or perigee moon near our house on March 19, 2011

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15 thoughts on “Thoughts on Growing Older

  1. It was good, no GREAT seeing you and participating in that afternoons proceeding..I wish you well and I know we will be in-touch..


    1. Tomlin, thanks so much! I wish I had a chance to talk to you properly… I was completely bowled over by your gift! THANK YOU. So beautifully done (I recognized your photo of the glowing embers of the fire) and so personal. Neville loved it too (I am glad you dropped me a note, because I am having trouble finding email addresses at the moment!) Yes, we will meet again…I’m glad you could make it and thanks for your friendship.


      1. You are so welcome, you are the first to receive that idea put into action, I think I will now do some for my home as well…. friends are forever like us


  2. Wow how time flies, almost a year now, my perspectives are a bit altered because I at home recuperating from a minor operation. Sometimes when you get sick and sitting in your own company you often times see things differently, do yo know that song “Differently by RALPF GRAHAM”? anyway at this age I often give thanks a lot while I ask questions at the same time. Michael Jackson (MJ) had so much if compared to me this little boy from Cocking Hill/Benbow (hard to find on the map) in St. Catherine. I give thanks because I am alive, gosh i am in so many ways, in the midst of my friends family and those who don’t care too much for me. I am alive and have accomplished much. I am not comparing myself not really (I hear Desiderata ringing in my head) i just saying, what is life worth if not to be a vessel to somehow be used to carry some thing or worth? Truthfully, I don’t think I have done enough but I will do more. Back to MJ, he brought happiness to many, a real vessel but some times I still ask is it worth it and if it is to who? Is it worth it to please the whole world and loose so much…. I am just asking. Ops its about retirement don’t? Ha… sometimes my wings make me fly away from the patient with me,, the Lord not finished with me and a don’t retire as yet…


    1. Yes, I feel the same way Tomlin. I find myself giving thanks more and more every day. And on the other hand, questions. I think you start to wonder about what your life has been worth – to yourself and to others… and what it could still be. I believe in karma and I think MJ’s karma was just that – to give of himself and almost I think he sacrificed himself… I will be patient with you, Tomlin. You are recovering, and in recovery your mind goes through a series of progressions. I went through something similar when I broke my wrist really badly 2 years ago and had an operation and now have all this metal in my wrist! My ultimate mindset was sheer happiness though. I love my wrist. I love my body, although terribly imperfect as it is!! 🙂


  3. I am afraid to read this post right now, but i will. I want no distraction i need to understand this road ahead experience, this footsteps kind of piece, this door, eye opening, foundation that i may stand on kind of piece, i need to read this sign post kind of piece, i will in the comfort of my peace full kind of time. however, knowing from what i know of you, it will be a pleasure.


    1. Tomlin, thank you. It is footsteps along the road, and I have written about that. So don’t be afraid to read. Walking along a road is always a good thing. You don’t know where it’s going to take you. I look forward to your reading at some point, and your subsequent comment… Today is a very peaceful day, at least in our neck of the woods…


  4. Love the Yeats poem Emma! Always one of my faves. Happy birthday – me, I think it’s cool to be an elder…


    1. Thanks so much, Diana. I’m very fond of him. And I think you are right – it is surprisingly cool! (By the way, on a less happy note, there was another “shark story” on TVJ three nights ago I think. They caught a “young hammerhead” several miles out – pursued it, so they claim. So is it shark-hunting season in Negril now? This has GOT to be my next blog… And why is NEPA so silent?) All the best.


  5. My eighty-something mother liked to say that when she looked in the mirror, and focused only on her eyes, she saw her 18 year old self inside. Yeats is one of my favorite poets, too.


    1. That is interesting. Yes, the eyes are the windows of the soul, as they say. And the soul remains untouched over the years. That is why I believe those who have passed on are really still with us (and I don’t mean that in a creepy way). So glad you love Yeats, too! I am enjoying your book blog and will explore it further… I used to work in the book business!


      1. Happy birthday Emma. Believe me, being 60 is absolutely fine. Personally I feel full of enthusiasm for things I’ve got to accomplish, I’m much more confident than I was and I feel richer within myself than ever before now that I have time for myself again. I feel that it’s taken me 60 years but at last I’m getting there. Of course I’d love to look gorgeous again but,surprisingly, having lines around the eyes and not being as slim as I was isn’t as bad as I expected it to be. I find that I value my friendships more and more. Friends have shared their lives and worries with me and we know each other pretty well. With them age is irrelevant. Family is even more important, and I find that the most important thing within the family is kindness. It’s easy to get into a pattern of pettiness and sniping, but just in little ways being kind and supportive to the people you love changes everything for the better.
        I feel that all this is the same for you, dear Emma and I’m glad. Keep on writing and sharing your thoughts, being the brave, vital person that you are. I hope that when we meet again, all these years later, we’ll feel that spark in each other that we felt as kids, and be just as good friends as before.


      2. Snoo! I only just read your comment and it brought tears to my eyes. It’s funny, the last couple of years I have started feeling the same way too – I don’t feel afraid of anything and as you say, a thousand times more confident and HAPPY with myself. I also treasure the time I spend with family so much. Things kind of flow much better. I also don’t deny myself things. I enjoy reading, WRITING, watching my wild birds messing around in the garden, talking to our silly dogs, watching a not-very-good movie on TV with Sam just to be around him. I KNOW that when we meet again, we will feel the same way about each other. THANKS for being my friend still and for your love! Your old schoolfriend in a gym slip, Emma. xxx PS I am hoping we will meet in 2012 when I will be officially retired!!


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