Arts & Entertainment
Older, Better, Stronger: Living For My Tomorrow
By Michelle E. Brown
Originally printed 10/31/2013 (Issue 2144 - Between The Lines News)
I am getting older. It was not my plan but, as my aunt would say, it beats the heck out of the alternative. But seriously, most of us have not really made plans for our "golden" years and for the most part are playing catch up paying more attention to the details with each birthday.
I always envisioned myself living a full, active life. I would be vibrant, contributing, learning, happy, healthy and fun until I hit 100, then I'd go peacefully in my sleep. Seriously, that was the plan.
Of course as time marched on I began to think about things like pensions, social security and even dying alone, but for the most part I saw myself just "keeping on, keeping on."
I don't think I am immortal or invincible; each birthday has come with lessons to remind me of this. I really got to thinking about this time of my life after a neighbor died alone in my apartment building and wasn't discovered for several days. Tomorrow is indeed promised to no one.
My life is different now. I have fewer friends - in part because I have learned to distinguish friends from acquaintences - and the friends I have are real, true, lasting friends. I consume less and when I do buy I think about my needs, the overall utility and, yes, how my purchase impacts the environment and socio/economic issues. I use more significant, qualitative measurables for determining my wealth. I still try new things and take risks, but overall make much better decisions.
I live healthier, but at the same time I am aware of my frailties and vulnerabilities as an uninsured, self/under-employed American.
There is an upside to the downside. Purchasing fresh fruit and vegetables and preparing meals at home helped me make healthier choices and take a proactive approach to the threats of high blood pressure and diabetes that run in my family.
During the warmer weather, I opted to walk or ride my bike on those shorter trips to the store instead of driving and burning up precious gas. Consequently I lost twenty-five pounds.
I've become a diva at recycling and reusing resources from household goods to clothing. I've learned how to do more with less and redefined my priorities.
Despite it all, I've still encountered some speed bumps along the way which I never anticipated I would have to deal with at this point in my life.
A fall that went untreated for too long because I didn't have medical insurance, continues to haunt me leaving me with a cane and knee brace as daily fashion accessories while I now undergo physical therapy. Fortunately, the diet and exercise regime has kept me otherwise healthy.
I am a vibrant, intelligent woman who, in my humble opinion, still has a lot to contribute to society. In the past, I have never had any problem finding employment. But these days, I find I am amongst many vibrant, intelligent individuals with a great deal to contribute, all vying for a limited pool of employment opportunities.
Although I define wealth as more than dollars and cents, I worry about my financial future. I'd like to live to be 100 (which is a very real possibility as I have had several relatives live into their 90s and a handful made it to triple digits,) but worry about what the quality of that life would look like. Will I be physically and mentally sound? I don't want to be that crazy old lesbian bag lady with far too many cats. Will social security be there when I'm ready to retire and will it provide an adequate income so I can live comfortably? And will I have to work until I'm 80 before I can retire?
I get up a little slower each morning and find myself in bed at the same time most evenings. I go out but you will more likely find me at an exhibit or the theater than at the club, although I still get out and shake "what my mother gave me" from time to time. I am more selective about who I hang out with and date, but have also broadened the search pool (I'm all about the EEOC baby!!!)
To borrow from words of Aaliyah and Jaheim, age "ain't nothing but a number" and "ain't a factor" in my book. I am fortunate to have friends from all generations from 25 - 98 who value, support and inspire me.
I still try new things professionally, most recently storytelling and singing on stage. I recently also went zip lining.
I'll be back riding my bike in the spring and plan on participating in Affirmations' bicycle trek across the state.
I'm working on three books, planning on doing a one-woman performance piece based on my poetry and loving the artist in me.
At her 98 birthday Grace Lee Boggs said "Getting old isn't for sissies." I have to agree getting older definitely isn't for the faint of heart. Had someone told me back in the day that I would still be around fifty some odd years later, I may have planned for these golden years a bit better, but for now I'm following the advice of my grandmother who always said, "There's no sense dying 'til your time comes!"
I may not know what will be over the next hill, around the next corner, where the next speed bump will pop up or when life will throw me the next curveball but it will be tomorrow and I'll be there - another day older, with only a loose plan, just working it out because it beats the heck out of the alternative and I plan on living every moment until my time comes.Michelle E. Brown is a public speaker, activist and author. Read Michelle's blog at http://mychangeiam.com/. Follow Michelle at @MyChangeIAm.