The Privilege of Aging

A comment made by Laura Linney in Frank Bruni’s wonderful profile of her in last week’s New York Times Magazine, stopped me in my tracks.

“The undertow of it deals with all of the stuff I’ve been obsessing about anyway: time. Living. Aging. Mostly, the privilege of aging.”

Those last four words “the privilege of aging” brought me up short, instantly putting my greying hair, creaky joints and and crow’s feet in perspective. Because it is a privilege to age. To wake up each morning, however stiffly, and see my husband asleep beside me. It is a privilege to have passed around the sun enough times to be comfortable in my skin, even if I occasionally bemoan its lost elasticity and those little taggy things that seem to crop up out of nowhere like mushrooms after a summer rain.

It is a privilege to have aged years enough to see my kids graduated from college and leading lives of creativity and promise. It is a privilege to have turned hundreds of calendar pages, aware of the passage of time as I filled them up with notes about PTO  Book Fairs and orthodotist appointments, Bar and Bat Mitzvah lessons, reminders to send in a check for drivers ed lessons and graduation photographs. Now I jot down the homecomings.  The red-eye from LAX and the one from LGA.

I’ve aged so many years that our family room couch is now on its third re-upholstering. Perhaps that says less about the years and more about how tough we are on furniture but still, one of me, three fabric selections. I’ve gone thru so many fashion swings that some of the things I held on to are now back in style. Time is the magic wand that transforms yesterday’s clothes into vintage; but only by virtue of the privilege of aging.

This aging thing is scary. I look in the mirror and worry: is that spot on my cheek age or something the dermatologist should check out? Where did that bruise come from? Why can’t I remember how to spell apocryphal? Changes in our energies can be cause for lamentation or the opportunity for revising and renewing. None of it possible without the privilege of aging.

None of us knows when the privilege will take its leave. So for now, I say, “Thank you.” And also give a nod of thanks to Ms. Linney, a brilliant actress, as wise as she is talented.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

9 thoughts on “The Privilege of Aging

  1. Susan Cole

    As someone who was given a diagnosis of ovarian cancer at age 48, I can tell you that aging gracefully (or not so gracefully) is a blessing that I am thankful for each new day! 50, 60, and the upcoming 70 years of age are a gift that I am so grateful for!!
    Thank you Debra, for sharing this with me!

  2. Kim Hudolin

    Having just celebrated my 50th birthday, the concept of aging is front of mind. However, at the same time, I can also say I’m happier than I’ve ever been. It is a great privilege to look at 3 happy, healthy, well-educated kids, and know that I played a role in their current independence and success. Thanks for the reminder to focus on the joys that come with growing older.

  3. Rebecca

    I just Googled your name after seeing your answer to “Which outfit makes you feel best?” in this month’s Real Simple. You have a way with words. And it’s nice to see a fellow MIchigander as this month’s winner!

  4. Debra

    Thank you all for responding. It’s been a great way to begin the week, having my thoughts echoed with so much gratitude for your own “privileges of aging.” A nod of welcome to Rebecca, a new reader who found me b/c I love cowboy boots…….

  5. Leah Rubin

    I had the same reaction when we were getting ready for my 40th high school reunion three years ago. I heard about yet another of our classmates who had passed away, and while she and I were never close friends, it hit me rather hard. I realized that it IS a privilege to reach this 58, 59, 60, and now 61-year mark. I recently saw a piece on the Newshour where people in a retirement center were being interviewed. They spoke with an 85-year old woman with a face so lined it looked like it was drawn by a cartoonist. My reaction? “I hope I get to look like that one day.” She was playing cards and laughing with her friends. Alivai!

  6. Judi A.

    Aging has never been an issue with me. I’ve always been happy in my skin no matter how old it was, and it was OK to ask and tell my age. Last year, though, gave me reason to pause and think because I faced “the BIG one,” the one that officially makes you a Medicare card carrying “Senior Citizen.” 65! It made me face that options are decreasing, and some of the things I always thought I would do “some day” will never be done (always wanted to hang glide!). I now walk into a library and look sadly at all the books I’ll never read. It has been a year of introspection and evaluation. Result: It made me grateful for all that I’ve accomplished thus far, and returned me to the previous attitude of happiness in aging, recognizing, indeed, it is a privilege and a joy. I recently made an almost 3000 mile road trip – yup, all by myself! – and reveled in the ability and gumption to do so. I am quickly approaching another birthday, moving me more into the realm of “Senior Citizen,” and am smilingly looking forward to seeing where the ??mile trip ahead will take me. 🙂

  7. Lisa Hollis

    Debra, you’ve written yet another exquisite piece, and you make it seem so effortless! Thank you for being so generous to share your beautiful work with us, and congratulations on another publication. Your writing is a rare treat and I look forward to each of your posts. Have a wonderful Labor Day weekend and please keep posting your gems for us to enjoy.

  8. Debra

    Thank you, Lisa! I’ve been a bit amiss about keeping up this summer. You inspire me to keep going!

Comments are closed.