The + and the – of Aging, One Woman’s List.



Uh oh.

Many of you know that I write stories about the experience of aging (with the garden as a metaphor.) What a great job! Sometimes it is sad. But it is never dull. I look at aging as a kind of pilgrimage into a foreign land with no visa.

Yesterday, I happened upon a list I made last summer; one of those short lists with columns for the pluses and the minuses.  Since it is fall and many of us are feeling a bit reflective, I’m sharing my list. I should put an expiration date on it, because things are constantly changing, but some of it may remain true for a long time.


The “I’m not worried one bit about getting old” list


  • When we have a party outside with barbecued ribs, Patrick’s peach pie and cole slaw with a live jazz combo playing. Around my birthday. When one leaf has turned red.
  • When I dance to Aretha’s RESPECT and Martha & the Vandela’s doing Dancing in the Street and damn, I’m not too bad-:)
  • When I lounge in a bubble bath after working all day in my grungy garden shorts with pockets deep enough for my #2Felco pruners.
  • When I can still knock em’ dead standing up tall, in bright red lipstick with a warm grin and a good haircut.
  • When I still remember how to say: Whaddya want from me already?…, in Italian, with just the right hand gestures.
  • When I flatpick a mean Whiskey Before Breakfast and Red-Haired Boy on my Martin. That I even KNOW that there is a bluegrass song called Racoon Up The Stump Pump. (Bet you didn’t know that. If you did, I bow to you. You are my idol.)
  • When I see my tree rose with flowers in her hair.Pink roses
  • When I see the eyes of a treasured friend.
  • When I see my husband.


Nan and Susie my favorite for email


The “Getting Old Sucks” list


  • When I cry at the evening news because it’s just too much, like The Eagles said: Everything, ALL the time. So I turn it off because the world is nuts.
  • When I feel like I have all the time in the world because I am able to make an appointment for a massage therapist or an acupuncturist and they can patch me up and toss me out the door for another round. (But I know it won’t always be that way.)
  • When I’ve eaten so much freaking kale that it is a wonder my ears aren’t green and crinkled like Lacinato even if I know I can’t always eat my way out of it some unplanned diagnosis.
  • When those cruise brochures come in the mail, and I seriously give them some thought because travel is getting harder, but surely so is putting your bags on the curb at 7:00 a.m. and beginning a forced march with a guide who has a danged microphone on the bus.
  • When I can’t have a cup of coffee after 12:00 noon because of acid reflux.
  • When someone I love dies and I feel I can’t bear to lose another.  Jenny on the coast she loved
  • When I realize my feet are now the size of an ocean liner.
  • When arthritis stops me from playing Racoon Up the Stump Pump and I’ve got more doctor appointments on the calendar than concerts.


So, What is the NET?… I can still Love Everybody I Have Left Like Crazy. Makes sense to me. Makes me feel young. But mostly grateful.


What about you?

Inquiring Minds Want to know… what’s on YOUR list?-:)


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  • I am beyond grateful not to be a teenager any more. Yes my body was better (and better than I knew) but the anxt was horrendous. I suspect it is worse for teenagers now. I am finally (mostly) comfortable in my lumpy skin. Grey hair and all. I have earned my wrinkes and earned my grey.
    It sucks when I march purposefully into a room – and cannot remember why. On the plus side of the equation my failing memory means I can reread books. Even murder mysteries.
    On balance, life is fine. I may be ripe, but I am not ready to fall from the bough just yet.

    • I had to LOL when I read “It sucks when I march purposefully into a room – and cannot remember why.” Oh yeah. I know that one. It was also really interesting to me that you have used an expression I’ve always related to: falling from the bough. That idea always makes me feel emotional, because it is life on earth. You don’t want it yet, but when it happens, it will be a natural part of life. Thanks for visiting Soosie! Great thoughts. Great that we are re-reading books-:))

  • The great haircut and the lipstick are so YOU!! ” I wish I knew the beauty of leaves falling, to whom are we beautiful as we go?” Lines I always think of when on this topic…..But for me it’s the silvery hairs on my chin which I can’t even SEE to pluck out and look respectable!! Haha by the time I get there I should have a full beard……

    • I think it is funny when people ask: who does your color” and I can (at last) say “Mother Nature.” No one EVER asked me that when I was spending a fortune coloring it! By comparison, a tube of red lipstick is pretty inexpensive. Another LOL to your silver chin hairs Catherine! Another friend of mine has the same problem–she tells me that she is training her daughter how to pluck them out so when she can’t see them, her daughter will. And my Aunt, who is almost 80, made me promise that if I visited her in the hospital I would take care of her chinny chin chin. These are the kinds of things that make me howl sometimes…like after chemotherapy (when I had no hair anywhere and the first hairs that grew in WERE ON MY LEGS. You know, you really want to have a chat with whomever is in charge-:)

    • Almost forgot…do you know who wrote: “To whom are we beautiful as we go?…” the line in its entirety. The first time I encountered that line I wept. I’d love to know who said it.

  • Mary Hill

    – Almost all doctor’s appointments end with “This is related to aging”

    + Maybe I move more slowly now, and now I notice the small, beautiful things, that I was moving too quickly to notice before.
    + My grown son, who is 22 (I am 61), has started writing and emailing me that I did a good job of parenting him, and our relationship is closer than ever, as adults.
    +Being a boomer. The shoe industry is starting to figure out that I need decent looking shoes that fit my big, sore feet 🙂

    • What a lovely thing about your son Mary! I’m not sure it could get much sweeter than that. You must feel very proud and deeply happy, in your quiet gentle way. Shoes. Geez. From one ocean liner to another, I feel your pain. I do exercises to try and ease a bunion I got from wearing panty hose, high heels and business suits for years. What a drag. Now I only wear comfy shoes, and you are right, the industry is paying attention. Thinking about your comment: everything is related to aging, I am reminded of a Mae West quote. She said (adamantly) “I have EVERYTHING now that I had in my twenties. It’s just…..lower.”

  • Marilyn

    “I march into the room and can’t remember why…” oh that’s a familiar one. It’s why my brother says that of course he believes in a hereafter,he often walks into a room and says “what am I here after?” Corny and ungrammatical, but worth a chuckle of recognition. Your lists fit you and many others on this marvelous journey of life.

    • That’s a new one for me Marilyn, the hereafter thing. It is corny and oh-so-spot-on. Thanks for commenting! I knew my list was just one of many we all could write (even depending on the day…), yet it’s helpful to know we aren’t alone on this journey. Oh, I don’t want to forget this: I’m reading a new book JUST out (like last week) called “The Spirituality of Age: A Seeker’s Guide to Growing Older.” The authors are two Ph.D.s , one a former Jesuit, one a founder of the website “Fierce With Age” and an author of 25 books. It’s a little religious for my taste, but a great book in so many ways. It is the first one that asks really hard questions, the really hard ones, and does a pretty darned good job providing food for thought. I highly recommend it.

  • One thing I’ve noticed as I’ve gotten older is that my friendships mean so much more than they did when I was younger and took them for granted. I’ve lost too many people to not value the people I am blessed with now.

    • That is sure what I’ve noticed too Tammy. In fact, that was how this post came about. One day I was thinking about the people who are gone from my life and a voice inside said: Love Everybody You Have Left Like Crazy. So that’s what I’ve been doing as best I can.

  • What a fabulous post, Susie. I loved every word of it!

    Man alive. The pluses and minuses! Leave it to you to think of that. Definitely on the plus side is being retired and not having to get up at a designated time, if I don’t want to (even though Astrid still does). I guess another plus is that I actually LOVE growing older. Weird, I know.

    On the minus side…is there a minus side yet (at age 70)? I’m really going to have to think about that one. I suppose I do have more aches and pains than 20-30 years ago, but then, I had polio at age 9, an almost ruptured appendix at the same time, several knee surgeries since age 24 (following a volleyball accident), and a complete hysterectomy at age 51. I’m almost never sick (knock on wood) so I often say I just have diseases and surgeries. HA!

    • Thank you mucho Ginnie! I knew it was not ever going to be a black & white thing, but it was fun to see what this subject brings out. I think of you as one of the most vital people at 70 that I know, you have tremendous joie d’vivre. You know, I actually love getting older too. I see it as a spiritual journey and this is a natural part of the deepening process. And I completely appreciate the same thing: living life on my own terms at 65. (Lucky I know, it’s not true for everyone.) It’s funny that I’m a little like you in the sickness category, I never catch a cold—knock on wood—but then there is that pesky cancer thing. Twice. Seventeen years apart. But look at us–we’ve bounced back incredibly well! Maybe that resilience is one of the great gifts.

  • I can totally relate to a few of the items on your list…life is a grand adventure, except for those moments when it’s not quite that, right?


  • Hi and welcome Jen! Yes, life is a grand adventure for sure. It is practically impossible to create a list that would relate to all, so it’s great you could relate to some things on my humor list. As a writer I’m sure you know too, how “universal” some things are in the process of change and aging with moxie, joy, and a certain bittersweetness for the loss. (I’ve had a lot of that loss.) Isn’t it great to find things like your bicycle adventure for focusing on the happiness? I’m a gardener and I often find it there-:)Thanks for writing in!

  • Grinning, grinning. So much grinning over here:)
    I love the way you think. And both your lists are charming.
    (I notice my feet climbing up the shoe size scale, too. What IS the deal?)
    Grateful for the gray that is softening my face and then I play with it
    as if it’s a fresh canvas for color. Lines and streaks and strands.
    Getting old is like that, I guess. I’m grateful but I’m so not ready to leave
    the party yet:) And, like you, I find the goodbyes the hardest.
    Happy pickin’ and grinnin’:)

    • Oh yes, another guitar picker! Your comment set me to grinning too–thank you. So…I asked my dad about the feet thing, because he had a small town shoe store for 25 years when I was growing up. Dad says that all of us get larger feet with age due to “settling.” Settling! Well, dang, another instance of everything going lower. Everyone I know has gone at least one size down since their forties. You are younger than me, so I get leaving the beauty of all those gorgeous streaks. I would too. It was so funny though when I let my hair go “the family color” and only then did people say: “Who does your color?” Funny. *I’m so glad you are here Jennifer.* It’s great when people “get” your humor….

    • I have another list that is pages long from which this is drawn–this is a mini excerpt. The first one I did was “losses and gains”. Very powerful. I could see the authenticity of my life developing from “growing down into myself”. As far as the losses, we can hear it in the comments. I guess there is some comfort in knowing we are not alone, but I don’t know if it ever gets any easier. Love to you Donna-:)

  • I’ve been saving this post up to read when I had a little time, and I’m glad I did! Your list made me giggle and ponder, and I’d love to hear your music… I begin to experience the wandering in to the room and wondering why too, and it bugs the heck out of me that, having finally shed ME, my aging body is still shouting at me when I try and do some of the things I have been missing. On the other hand, I can still (largely) ignore that shouting and go on long walks, garden, even take exercise, which is strangely enjoyable now that I can again. I have long forgotten what my natural hair colour was, I just know that nowadays it is mostly grey, and some day soonish I will probably get bored of playing with hair colouring and let it go “au naturel”. Overall, I see more positives than negatives. I am so much more comfortable in my own skin (when it is not ravaged by hot flushes – thank you menopause). I had a killer body when I was young, and never realised or appreciated it, never allowed it to help my confidence. Now I am just grateful to have a body that will still take me from A to B, even if I have forgotten why I wanted to be at B in the first place! As for “loving those you still have”, yes, that, overall, is the biggest lesson. Live life to the full and love the people you have in your life as hard as you can, and see them, to laugh with and cry with, as often as you can. It is the tears and laughter and shared wonder and adventures – or even just cake – that get you through the darker days, not possessions or worldly achievements.

  • I did the same with your response–knowing it would be juicy reading, I waited! Now I’m just sure I have to travel to Wales and have that cup of tea, (or more than one.) Oh, btw, a friend who just returned from Scotland/Ireland/Wales and I got to enjoy her fabulous photos. I loved the village of Conwy with the sculpture of the mussels! (I’ve never seen such a thing.) Now to your comment—I laughed at your line about your body getting you from A to B even if you have forgotten why you wanted to be at B in the first place-:) And of course, I agree with you 100% that is is the people we love that will get us through the darker days, not a darned thing else. (No, not even cake.) I’m glad you have more positives than negatives, I have a feeling most of us do. I think your statement about “being more comfortable in our skin” than ever before is a big blessing of aging. I too wore a mean bikini “in the day” and never thought a hoot about it–thus comes the expression: “youth is wasted on the young.” But in hindsight, I’m sure it is wasted on them for far more than the physical stuff. We get to know gratitude, deeply and fully. Lucky us. Thanks for being here Janet-:)

  • In my twenties I had (grey in retrospect) highlights.
    Since then I’ve enjoyed – who does your colour – as I let Mother Nature streak my hair with silver. Still working on the great haircut as grey hair has the FRIZZ to adjust to.
    In a between place right now.

    • Hi again Diana, In response to your great note (and question) about whether the Story Circle Book Review was an acknowledgment of me as a writer…I guess it was. Here is the full article and video:

      I’m not yet 100% sure of the video, I guess most of us don’t automatically warm to seeing ourselves on camera), but I’ll get used to it.

      Glad you are “composting life’s coffee grounds and banana peels'”….what a great line from Susan Tweit. (I almost put just Susan T. and then realized I have four Susan T.’s in my life!) Crazy. Mothers in the 1950s must have been enamored of an actress of the period to have so many Susans all of the same age.


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