We’re All Going to Get Old One Day
We’re all going to get old one day. Has this thought occurred to you? I mean, wrinkled and saggy-skinned, snoring in the chair out in public, long ear hairs and all—old.
I’m really not sure what to do with this. I see these people, sometimes frail, struggling to put on their jacket at the doctor’s office or to navigate the aisles of Target with their carts. And I wonder, what is it like to be them?
My heart aches at what I often think the answer might be: Invisible. Often, I find that no one seems to notice them. It’s as if they aren’t even there. I look at them and I see so much wisdom, so much life lived. I long to know their stories, to talk about the side effects of our meds and how our joints ache, to appraise the youth of this generation and find them wild but brilliant.
It nags at me in airports and restaurants. So often, it is the elderly that stop and greet me and ask me about my day. “How old is your daughter? Oh, she’s lovely but feisty.” Why does no one else see them?
A few days ago I boarded a flight to Maryland to see the new doctor. I was exhausted and attempting to settle in for a nap. Just as I went to close my eyes with arms thrust upon my fluffy pink airplane-only blanket, the man across the aisle smiled at me. Embarrassed to be caught in such a moment, I sheepishly smiled back. Later in the flight, I caught myself watching T.V. on another passenger’s tablet. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the gentlemen across the aisle watching me. As I looked up, again he smiled at me. He went to say something to me but I turned around. I was certain that he was going to tell me that I had something monstrous on my face or I’d forgotten to wear pants to the airport. I attempted to check as nonchalantly as possible. Pants? Check. Clean face? Check. Zipper up? Check. Particle-free teeth? Check. What else could it be, I wondered? Again, the man smiled at me. This time, his gaze lingered. He didn’t turn away. A strange flush washed over me. I began to search the deepest recesses of my mind. Was this man flirting with me? Was that even possible? I remembered a time in my life when I had been young and men who smiled at me approvingly were a regular enough occurrence. But it had been so long, I couldn’t for the life of me remember how it went.
And then it hit me. This must be what it feels like to get old, to become invisible, to no longer be seen by the world that measures worth by physical attractiveness.
How many times have I seen the elderly cast away because they were no longer attractive, no longer great producers at work, and now considered a burden? Now, they are referred to as “some old lady.” More than likely she’s “some old lady” I sit next to at the doctor’s office and wonder why she’s there alone. Why is she having such a major procedure by herself? Isn’t there anyone who could come with her? And I admire her from afar. What strength it must take to face these things on her own and face so much of life on her own. “She’s a beast!” I think.
We’re all going there. Things will sag. Ear hairs will grow. Muscle tone will wane. The world’s standards of beauty will be long gone. We may no longer be the all-stars at work or even work at all.
And we’ll still be people.
Friends, if who we are and how we perceive our worth is all wrapped up in appearance and performance, then we’re in a heap load of trouble. For some of us, sickness may have already changed that. But for all of us, change is coming.
But it doesn’t have to be a change that we fear. Who we are is so much more than how we look and what we do. Our work and our worth are separate.
How do you see people? And who do you see? Who are we taking the time to see?After all, regardless of the length of our nose hair, aren’t we all just people? Click To Tweet
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