No Ordinary Princess

...anything but ordinary...

Saturday, October 07, 2006

This Disturbs Me

I've only just gotten to e-mail and such. I toodled around the house a bit when I got home. I heated a bowl of my hamburg-noodle stew, which was yummy. It's funny how much I am a person of rituals. I always eat my HNS in a bowl and with a spoon, not a fork. Not only that but, although I use a teaspoon for everything from cereal to ice cream to tea, I use a tablespoon for soups and stews. Always. Rituals apparently soothe me. I had a great, egg-yolky Italian bread with butter along with the stew. I feel great now.

After I, once again, reset my wireless router, I settled in on the couch with a perfectly filled belly and my laptop and opened up AOL. I know, I know...AOL. But it's where I sprung from and I just can't give it up. I have been the ORIGINAL MadMom there for-fucking-ever. And now it's free. : ) I sometimes read the news on AOL and was naturally intrigued by a teaser like, I paraphrase, "Scientists Open Exclusive Club, see what's special about the 76 members." So I opened the article to find out what it was all about.

A group of researchers in Pittsburgh has determined that there are currently 76 people on earth who can document the fact that they are over 110 years of age. There may be around 300 people over 110 in the world but only these 76 can produce the documentation. I read on about the foundation, the Supercentenarian Research Foundation, expecting to see mention of the University of Pittsburgh or any of the other great colleges and universities in P-bgh, including the one at which my son is a grad student. No mention, all the way through.

I suppose this is a fully private research foundation. What that says to me is this is a money-making proposition. These folks aren't in it so much for the science or the benefit of the elderly or of humanity. They're in it to feed on the fear of death (and, subsequently, aging) our culture foments and cash in on the secrets found in the tissues of the very old. It's sick.

What is this with our obsession with youth and immortality? Why can't we accept death as a natural part of life? It's no different than any other cycle except that we don't have any reference for it. That's all. There's no one who's done it ahead of us to say, "It'll be okay. It's a good thing. It is painless. It is joyful. Don't be afraid." So, because there's no one to bear witness, we shrink in fear of the unknown? What cowards.

Death is nothing more than another passage, another life process. Like menstruation and breast development. Like scrotal and underarm hair growth. Like sex and childbirth. Like wrinkles and sagging skin. Like surviving an illness. There is nothing any more magical about death than there is about going bald. It's only the fear of confronting whatever is beyond that door that leads to so much fear and anxiety about death.

For me, it doesn't matter what lies beyond this life. You might find that strange coming from someone who's talked about having lived the life of a fundamentalist Christian wife and who talks about still carrying God around with her. But as much as I love God, I can't claim to have any verifiable knowledge of precisely what God is. Nobody does. All we have is our belief and faith.

Whatever happens to me after I die, I trust that it will be pleasant or, at least, non-sentient. I will either be in a place where it's still possible for me to sense things around me, understand happenings, take things in and process them or there will be utter non-existence. I cannot say in which direction the God lies. I hope it will be the sentient path I'll someday take because I've come to love my senses and would like nothing more than to spend eternity continuing to appreciate them. But if God is in a silent place of non-existence, well, so be it.

So I don't fear death. And because I don't fear death, I do not fear aging to the same extent. I've written before about becoming middle-aged. I really feel I am middle-aged now because I have a belief, somehow, that I will live into my nineties. My grandfather was 92. My great-grandmother was 97 or 99, I can't remember. I think that, genetically, I am most like them (physique, lack of major health problems, etc.). Unless I get hit by a car crossing the street tomorrow, I think I stand a slightly better than average chance to live to be over 90. I hope so because I think my mother's going to live to be 124 just to torment me.

If I live to be 90 or 100 or 110, I only hope I am able to have some quality to my life...that I can smell aromas, hear music, taste food, feel cool water go down my throat or warm lotion on my skin. I hope that I'm able to read or, at least, to understand when someone reads to me. And I hope that I will always, as graciously as possible, be able to accept the natural changes my body goes through along the way. For me, that's far more important than longevity.

My wish for the world, aside for the peaceful resolution to all conflict, is that we can all learn to love all the stages of life and move gracefully through them with acceptance. I hope we can learn to allow our wonderful bodies to age as they naturally do and recognize the beauty in each and every stage. And that we can learn to cherish and revere the magic of aging and the beauty and wisdom of the elderly, that we could stop being so afraid of death.

Did I learn to be accepting of age and death because of my experiences as a nurse or did I gravitate toward nursing because I have a natural, innate appreciation for all the stages of life? I don't know.

tags: aging / death / life / middle-age


Blogger Sandra said...

beautifully said.

13/10/06 9:52 PM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

Thank you, Sandra. I'm glad someone was able to appreciate that one. I felt a lot while I wrote it.

13/10/06 11:14 PM  

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