Now I find myself doing the same thing at funerals. Did the priest get the deceased’s name right? (that seems like quite a fundamental point). Was the eulogy powerful or boring? At one recent funeral, the starting point in a 22-minute soliloquy was the deceased’s intellectual progress when he was a baby! I immediately took an executive decision; my eulogy will not commence until after my First Holy Communion! So, somewhere along the line the benchmarking ratio changed from four Weddings and a funeral to 26 funerals and 1 wedding.
Ageing sort of creeps up on you. One day you’re playing GAA. Then you gravitate towards golf. Before you know it, you are discussing the price of a pint and the fact that each birthday the candles cost more than the cake. The time slides by quickly. I’m told that when you’re over 80, time goes so fast it feels like you are having breakfast every 15 minutes! Now, we all know the downsides to getting old (it’s a long list). But, are there any upsides to counterbalance this?
Age supposedly brings wisdom. The chance to be yourself. To have authentic conversations. To love yourself, warts ‘n all. If you don’t accept yourself now, when will it happen? Perhaps there is less pressure on men in the ‘getting older’ stakes. No one wants to look old, but there’s a line in the sand when it comes to getting Botoxed to death. When Kim Novak presented an award at the Oscars ceremony last year – this once truly beautiful woman looked like an exhibit in the National Wax Museum. If you look ‘false’ it’s hard for people to take you seriously. Try to maintain eye contact with a man who’s wearing a wig; it’s difficult.
Accepting yourself is absolutely not the same thing as ‘giving up’. It’s not carte blanch for laziness (physical or mental), a license to guard the couch. There are a million activities to keep learning and growing. But grow forwards. Don’t try to recapture how you looked when you were 22, 33 or 44. The real trick is not just to get old, but also to get wise. Madeleine L’Engle said: “The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been”. When you embrace self-acceptance, you have found the source of mental health. And if you are becoming overly concerned about getting old, just think that it’s a privilege denied to many.