Paul L. Caron

Sunday, November 5, 2023

WaPo Op-Ed: It’s Good to Remember — We Are All On Borrowed Time

Washington Post Op-Ed:  It’s Good to Remember: We Are All on Borrowed Time, by Anne Lamott (Author, Somehow: Thoughts on Love (2024)):

Somehow 2Getting older is almost like changing species, from cute middle-aged, white-tailed deer, to yak. We are both grass eaters, but that’s about the only similarity. At the Safeway sushi bar during lunchtime, I look at the teenage girls in their crop tops with their stupid flat tummies and I feel bad about what lies beneath my big, forgiving shirts but — and this is one of the blessings of aging — not for long. Aging has brought a modicum of self-compassion, and acceptance of what my husband and I call “the Sitch”: the bodily and cognitive decline that we all face sooner or later. Still, at Safeway, I can’t help but avert my eyes. Why push my luck?

So many indignities are involved in aging, and yet so many graces, too. The perfectionism that had run me ragged and has kept me scared and wired my whole life has abated. The idea of perfectionism at 60 is comical when, like me, you’ve worn non-matching black flats out on stage. In my experience, most of us age away from brain and ambition toward heart and soul, and we bathe in relief that things are not worse. When I was younger, I was fixated on looking good and impressing people and being so big in the world. By 60, I didn’t care nearly as much what people thought of me, mostly. ...

[B]y a certain age some people beloved to me had died. And then you seriously get real about how short and precious life is. You have bigger fish to fry than your saggy butt. Also, what more can you lose, and what more can people do to you that age has not already done? You thought you could physically do this or that — i.e., lift the dog into the back seat — but two weeks later your back is still complaining. You thought that your mind was thrilling to others, but it turns out that not everyone noticed, and now they’re just worried because your shoes don’t match. ...

Which brings us to death, deathly old death. At a few months shy of 70, with eyeballs squinting through the folds, I now face the possibility that I might die someday. My dad said after his cancer diagnosis that we are all on borrowed time, and it is good to be reminded of this now and again. It’s a great line, and the third-most-popular conversation we oldies have with each other, after the decline of our bodies and the latest senior moments: how many memorial services we go to these days.

Some weeks, it feels as though there is a sniper in the trees, picking off people we have loved for years. It breaks your heart, but as Carly Simon sang, there is more room in a broken heart. My heart is the roomiest it has ever been. ...

[M]y son ... frequently and jovially brings up He’ll say, “I found you a really nice place nearby, where they’ll let you have a little dog!” Recently, I was graciously driving him and his teenage son somewhere and made a tiny driving mistake hardly worth mentioning — I did not hit anyone, nor did I leave the filling station with the nozzle still in the gas tank — and he said to his boy just loud enough so that I could hear, “I’m glad we live so close to town, so it won’t be as hard for her when we have to take away her keys.”

I roared with laughter, and with love, and with an ache in my heart for something I can’t name.

Other op-ed by Anne Lamott:

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