The day the employee at Goodwill carded me under the suspicion of using a fraudulent Senior Citizen discount card was one of the happiest days of my life. There I stood at age 61 before an outraged 20-year-old who believed I was trying to pull a fast one and use a card that affords those 55 and over an additional 10% savings (.34 cents) on a $3.49 shirt. Those wily Baby Boomers!
A flash of my drivers license verified that I was well over the 55 speed limit. Her surprise yielded a genuine, “You look remarkable for your age!” and I beamed with gratitude.
That was not always the case. Spanning a decade, I was a three-time caregiver to a daughter, mom and dad with terminal cancer. Sleepless nights and Keebler Cracker crap-o-la eating habits took a toll. While my family is genetically prone to graying with age, the nightmare of learning my daughter had a terminal cancer turned this Rapunzell head of chestnut brown hair [with a few rogue grays] into Snow White in record time. Thank you, L’Oréal of Paris for that fixer-upper in a box, but no amount of Spackle could fill in the signs of exhaustion.
One of many big wake-up calls came right after Mom’s death when Dad and I went on an afternoon outing to buy fresh salmon. As the butcher passed over the brown-wrapped Norwegian fish he asked my 85-year-old dad if I was his wife.
Sweet Jesus…Kill me now.
Was it because I looked so terribly old? Or was it because he thought my dad looked like a swinger who married someone 30 years younger? Both thoughts just made me wanna say, “Ew!” In all respect to my distinguished father who was wearing a button down shirt, cuff links, and perfectly pressed pants…don’t forget the distinguished cane for walking…I must yield to the truth. Caregiving aged me beyond my years.
If you are a follower of my blog you know the rest of the story. Three years ago I hired Life Coach and Trainer Matt Jackson to begin the task of turning back the clock, not for beauty sake, but to ensure that I didn’t join the ranks of caregivers that die because they failed at self-care.
Ironically it was Labor Day weekend in 2015 that I decided to pull that one foot out of the grave and begin the hard work of attaining a higher level of health and wellness. I learned early on that the battle was in my mind more than in my body. My thoughts had to make a conscious decision to not resign myself to old: old meaning belonging only or chiefly to the past; former or previous. Old meaning I stopped living. Old meaning I stopped trying and learning new things. The three ‘olds’ had to go.
Yes, they die hard. For the weight to drop many habits had to go, including my milk obsession – it’s too high in sugar. Once I started reading labels, it made me think, “No wonder I’m freakin’ fat!” I also read “Skinny Bitch,” a short little book that spells it out about humans being the only mammals that drink milk beyond nursing. Exercise became a daily habit, not a once in a blue moon event.
Clothes affect our attitude. Old age can cause us to drift into thinking comfy is also couture. I think a few decades of raising children lull once vibrant women who were trend setters with low-rise bell bottoms into Mom Jeans advocates. With that said, be clear – I dress my age. There are no bell-bottoms in my closet. My point is transformation included re-discovering my own fresh point of view in fashion, even at age 60. (See photos below and tell me which looks younger?)
This is a hard truth. I do have friends that span many decades. But my new lifestyle decisions were not embraced by all, and success in changing your life does depend on being supported by the people who surround you.
Three years later, health is still a daily decision. I have moments where the old wants to make a come-back and whispers “Stay under the covers, Fancy Girl, with that can of Pringles, and binge watch Brave Heart until you’ve memorized ALL the lines…” But instead this week I made the phone call to Ben Grojean at 4 Strength 4 Courage to start training for my first 5K mid-October.
While I am still under the extraordinary care of The Boss, Kendra’s Bootcamp and Brent Dierking at Activ8 Fitness, BFF Kim Schiltz phoned ten days ago to say she had a dream that we ran a 5K. My initial thought was, “You are dreaming!” Nevertheless, I could not discount her commitment to my life and well being, especially as someone 20 years her senior. “You are too old for this,” was not in her vocabulary. Her dream was saying, “You can do it.” Knowing she loves me, my mind said,
“Just go for it, even afraid. If you jump, you just may fly.”
It takes enormous courage to make a “U” turn in life, especially as we age. It took courage at 55 to return to college in a sea of Millennials who considered me senile in the language of electronics. I needed courage last year to begin flipping tires with Kendra in the early evening hours as many my age were lounging in front of Wheel of Fortune. I am now courageously writing more books instead of writing my self off as an old woman who has nothing to offer at the age of 61.
What I have learned the most since Labor Day 2015? You can’t stop aging, but you can stop getting old.
- I appreciate the advice from my beautiful aunt. “Don’t stop taking fashion risks.” I haven’t. And if I fail, my 40-year-old friend Kim is there to say, “What the heck are you thinking?” Well, Kendra is there too…and Judy, and Marin…It’s a big line-up of younger fashion police.
- Younger friends keep you young at heart.
- It seems like hair adultery, but sometimes it is a good thing to switch up hair stylists, especially if yours is not willing to try a new change after many years.
- I have extraordinary trainers who know the balance between making me push myself and keeping me from a sports injury. I’m currently in the best health of my life.
On a Lighter Note:
- It’s a bit scary when someone on FaceBook thinks your new running coach should wear this t-shirt.
- I was wearing Mom Jeans after Megan died…until my younger friend Lisa Albrecht pulled on them and gave me a wedgie and said, “What the heck are you thinking?”
Great article. You continue to inspire me!
I kid you not! Just as my eyes read “Wheel of Fortune” I heard those words shouted from my tv. Providence! Great article.
You made me laugh out loud! 🙂 Thanks for reading!
Another great blog! So good and so happy for you Val!
Love your bravery, your strength and your love for life!! Cheering you on friend???
Mesmerizing as usual!
Beautifully written! You are remarkable! My hero, for sure!
You are so kind!
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