Last Friday I turned 60. It didn't feel any different than any other day of the week. I didn't feel older. Each day passes and I never feel older. I ride my horses and lift heavy things and climb up chairs to reach cabinet shelves and laugh and talk and don't feel the years accumulating.
Still, I have an increasing worry.
I recently went through a "thing" with a friend. They were a good friend, and then a few things happened to make me feel awkward and they felt offended and it went downhill from there. We managed to patch things up, in the following way:
1. Everytime I discussed my pain, I was told that my feelings were wrong (or nonexistent), and that this person hurt more.
2. Everytime they discussed their feelings, I tried very hard to acknowledge them without feeling like I was responsible for the way they felt. This is hard for me, since I think I'm supposed to make everyone feel good and be happy and like me.
We agreed to let go of the past, and I will, and I also accept that I'm not going to change this person and I can't be the boss of them.
Here's the thing: I've been noticing that this person has become more self-centered as they grow older and I'm frightened that I will become the same. Our conversations revolve around their news, their activities. They become increasingly irritated over things that don't go their way. I spend more and more time with them being less and less engaged.
There have been a couple of news articles about middle-age and narcissism. I can see how an older person might think, "My time here is winding down. I'm only here for a few more years. I deserve to move to the front of the line."
But I don't want to, at least to demand it. I explained this all to my husband, who said, "Everyone gets to be a cranky old person."
I don't want to be that person. I don't want to give the stink-eye to a young mother with a screaming child because I've forgotten what it's like to be that mom. I don't want to hear other people's woes as a competition to prove my aches and pains are worse than theirs. I don't want to lose my empathy, my humanity.
Can I ask for your help? If I start to become that person, will you tell me? From all indications, I may defend myself. I may fight you. You might have to be braver than you ever thought you could be. But trust me, I want to be saved.
I want my tombstone to say, "She was a real human being," not "She was a pissy old broad." Oh, and "She was really, really old" would be good.