I'm finding it hard to admit these days, and I know everyone says to do so with grace, but I still feel nineteen in my head. I am old. I am in my own winter of life. It terrifies me and torments me, but I am in my winter. I watched parents and grandparents and celebrities around me grow old and wither away in their wheelchairs and their oatmeal dinners, but just as you don't realise the tide coming in on a beach, it is suddenly upon me now - it's my turn for the overboiled broccoli and the assisted living. My turn for the 'senior moments' and the pity.
Ironically, as I come into my own winter, snow falls outside as the earth comes into another of her's. The coldness creeps slowly, knotting my knuckles and making my knees sore. I used to love the snow; I'd go out and about, playing and laughing - I never spared a thought for the elderly who were afraid to go outside, cautious that they might fall and not get back up. As I look through my window, I see young people walking around in the street, the occasional snowball pelted one way or the other. It's like watching ghosts of myself. Imagine at the end of your life, you were given a big movie of all the moments you went through on your journeys. That's how it feels, in a way. I am a fly on the wall, watching other people grow as I did and seeing myself in them all.
There seems to be a whirlwind of feelings within this feeling of aging. Some days, I look in the mirror and see all of my adventures reflecting in my eyes, the laughter lines framing my face, and I feel proud of the past. But other days, I can't help but notice the paleness in my eyes, the slight yellow tinge. The sagginess of my skin where it was once soft and pert. I feel as though the young me is still in there somewhere, underneath the arthiritis and the wrinkles. Somewhere. I once had a corckscrew of brilliant blonde hair, where now a limp crop of white wisps hangs.
It isn't all doom and gloom, though, to be old. It feels eventual - technically, my whole life has pointed towards this chapter. I have achieved a long life, and although it may no longer be the life I once had and cherished, it has been a life of happiness and warmth. In this, my penultimate stage, I feel a period of reflection is very appropriate. What else is there to do? Like an author, almost, I have written my story and now I can sit back with accomplishment.
I feel a sort of affinity with the winter months now, when the crops and the blooms are gone and the country is left barren and sleepy. I get some visits from my children and their children sometimes, but I'm not overly concerned nor offended when a little more time passes between visits. They are living their lives in the full bloom stage, their children in spring. All of them have work to do and paths to carve out. This is my time now to let the worries of life pass me by, as none of them are applicable to me anymore. My hard work through the years as a barrister has left me a handsome pension, my home of forty years is paid off and left with me, my husband is dead and buried and I, alone, yes, but rather contented, am left to my own devices. I recall my twenties, where I wished for money and love and security, and I feel satisfied that she got her wish. I am reaping the benefits of my spring and summer. It sometimes feels like I have been left the empty carcass of a chicken at a picnic, but rationally I know that all of the succulent tender breast was all mine throughout my life.
I like to write my thoughts down, like this, on days when my hands aren't as sore. It is lovely to be able to write from a reflective point of view. No more do I fantasise about fiction novels, as it came to my attention recently that my memories are far more interesting than any fantasy land. Writing keeps me anchored in the here and now. It is terrifying when the consciousness seems to sap from me, when I am stood not knowing how or when I came to a place. Almost as if I have become another's possession, an autonomy project, moving me about without my knowing. Nothing is an easy task anymore, and I feel my cognitive processes slow with age. The full-on brainwork I undertook in my job would be impossible to me now. Hell, when I make a cup of tea these days I have to stand and wonder what order the components go into the mug, even what the ingredients may be. I have made a few 'senior' mistakes now. My biggest was when I accused my daughter, Harriet, of stealing my inhaler. My, how I screamed and pointed these gnarly fingers. Embarrassingly, I had put it in the freezer a few hours before. It feels very strange to become aware that I had done these kind of things - where was I when they happened? I certainly wasn't present in myself. It makes me wonder what else I could possibly be getting up to when I lose myself. Makes me question myself - even , to the extent, am I here now? Is this me?
With winter, comes death, but after that, new life. I am not afraid to die. A bold statement, I know. When I was full of life, it frightened me, but now that I have lived my life and fulfilled my dreams and pursued my goals, I accept that death is the next metamorphasis for me. Life goes on, with or without me sitting in my armchair. I do hope it will be peaceful, though. I feel a comfort in knowing that the reaper will, relatively soon, set up camp on my doorstep. She will be my final companion, I suppose. If there is nothing, then so be it - at least if there is nothing, I will feel nothing. There won't be pain or fear or coldness, just plain, neverending nothingness. A vacuum. I wish I could write about it as it happens, just to let you know, as a sort of conversation. I think that would be very comforting. I do find the way no one is happy to talk about eventualities rather comical. Euphemisms galore, like "pass away" or "go", bring a crass smirk to my face. When it stares you in the face, it seems bizarre to call death anything but Death.
Anyway, that is my experience of my first winter. Of course, we all get only one winter. I am glad to be experiencing mine in comfort and relative wellness, when so many others wither away in institutions, rather a lot like waiting rooms for their eventual end. I don't want to die, but that doesn't mean I don't welcome it. There is a time for everyone. And now that the snow falls and my branches are bare, I offer no fruit to anyone else. May I quietly slip away into softness of winter.