Most days I feel like I’m seventeen, only without the boyfriend drama and with a credit card that I didn’t “borrow” from my mom. Those are good days. Days where life still feels full of possibilities and bending over to pick up the clothes I’ve strewn about my bedroom doesn’t make me sigh or wince.
Then there are other days where I catch glimpses in a street window or store mirror and I’m so struck by the older version of me that I put my readers on and examine my reflection more carefully. I can’t help feeling betrayed like I just awoke from a sleepover where unbeknownst to me some mean girl drew lines on my face as some cruel practical joke. My eyes are puffier, my face thinner, and I try to reconcile these physical changes with the young, silly girl I still feel like inside.
And while I’m not quite elderly, I’ve aged enough to know that there’s nothing silly in this getting old business. It’s complicated. There are the pesky forms at the doctor’s office where you have to decide whether you want to be resuscitated; who you are giving power of attorney to when you can’t make decisions for yourself anymore; setting up wills and estate planning; who gets what and what the woo-ha do we do with the lifetime of accumulated stuff that the priest warned us we can’t take with us when we go but we bought anyway because it was on sale. Surely, God appreciates a bargain.
I’ve tried to navigate some of this more serious stuff both in my life and with aging parents. Like most overcomplicated, overwhelming work, I think it’s something most of us are tempted to avoid. And, yet, it’s important to ourselves and those we love to give some forethought and planning to the intricacies of our later years. And, truthfully, sometimes our later years start way earlier than we plan.
My friend and talented writer, Susanna Barton, feels so passionately about the importance of being deliberate about normalizing aging through planning and conversation that she wrote, Grand Plans: How to Mitigate Geri-Drama in 20 Easy Steps. What I like best about her work on the subject is she offers an easy-to-follow cheat sheet on how to tackle the most important issues related to aging. Best of all is her unapologetically positive perspective about getting older. (I mean the girl gave me a mu-mu for my birthday. I can’t think of anything more positive and hopeful than that! Here I am, still trying to squeeze myself into my out-of-style skinny jeans and she has wrapped up for me a big billowing dress that I could not only hide my entire family in but that also says relax, you don’t have to suck your tummy in anymore. Let that madness go. How positive is that?)
I don’t write book reviews and I’m sure someone else could do way more justice to the insights that I’m certain readers will benefit from in her book. But I also know that her posts on the merits and joy of aging; the way she inspires readers to plan for the years ahead; and her encouragement to have hard conversations with the people we love; have made me think seriously about how I want to live in the years I have ahead of me.
In truth, I hope I always feel like a seventeen-year-old girl because the best thing about being that girl wasn’t the flat tummy I had. It was how full of wonder I was about all that’s possible in the world. Susanna reminds us that even in our later years, we can still make grand plans. She has me convinced that the years ahead may just be the grandest yet.
Hi all~ Whether you are caring for aging parents or considering how to be deliberate about your own aging, there’s a lot to consider. Besides her book, Susanna also has a free newsletter you can subscribe to. Also, I would love to hear of any grand plans of your own? I’m still working mine out but so far they include God, travel, and hopefully, grandchildren!