Here I am again.
Writing about ageing and recovery my experience of their intersection.
Ageing well is part of living. Recovery is about learning how to live and can be seen as “a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential .” Not a bad definition as it leaves room for people to define their own recovery. No mention of ‘community’ in there though. I don’t do well in isolation. And I like the word ‘aspire’ rather than ‘strive’. Strive sounds like hard work, and all work and no play makes Suzetta a dull girl.
There is a thought that ‘normal’ life passages and social pressures may be magnified for those of us who spent years in active addiction, due to the self-centeredness and obsession that goes with the territory. Extra awareness and care may be needed. Sitting here, contemplating what it means to live life well at 68 years of age wasn’t something I thought I would ever be doing. Yet here I am, refuting the myth of “that old addict fantasy of dying young and glamorously.” That boat has sailed.
I don’t know what it is like not being in the parallel process of recovery and ageing. Society sees both as a ‘narrowing’ yet that is not my experience. What works for me is regularly meeting with like-minded people of all ages/shapes/sizes, sharing and listening. I get reminded that I don’t have to have all the answers, that it is important to stay teachable.
Ageing and recovery are processes, not events. A pilgrims’ progress perhaps? There is not an end moment whereby I graduate. Except for you know when… This gives me the freedom to grow and change while I am still here.
An area of growth I have been thinking and writing about recently is speaking in public. Being ‘seen.’ There was a time when I could no more speak in public (70’s music reference alert) than fly like an eagle.
I was watching a clip from A Wrinkle in Time. It’s a lovely six part series on podcast on Radio New Zealand about ageing and ultimately, facing into death. Noelle McCarthy has created a wonderfully engaging, tender, loving and informative series about the big taboo topics and (You can get to it easily through this link) I am in some of the episodes. Anyway, I was listening and watching and there I am. I noticed things I missed saying, and some things I could have clarified. Not in an ‘oh I fucked that up’ way. More friendly. I see an attractive 67 (at the time) year old woman, me, talking with Noelle, with a face that reflects the years spent on the planet. It often surprises me, when I see myself, that I am a person of my age. I tell myself it doesn’t feel so on the inside. And yet it does. There is definitely internal changes as I age, because when I was younger I was unable to view myself warmly. There was ALWAYS something wrong. I was not ‘good enough.’
The first time I saw myself on camera, I was training as a social worker. We were being filmed as we practiced counselling. When we sat down to view and critique the work, all I could see was a big arse, mine, and I felt the hot wash of shame that goes with the perception of being ‘wrong’. I could not see the content of the work I had done due to the shame attack, and was unable to hear positive feedback from my fellows. Excruciating!! It’s nearly three decades down the track now and I still recall that discomfort. Thankfully I have moved on and am more able to see myself with a less self-centered and critical eye. I am not completely at ease though.
Lately, I have become aware of living with more anxiety. I think? Or is it that I am more aware of anxiety which has always been there? It latches onto real or imagined health issues, and when I’m not “busying’, there it is. Cancer? Brain tumour? Heart issues? All of the above? Do all people of a certain age experience this? Is it just me? I don’t want to ask out loud in case…? I have asked a couple of people and I’m not alone in this manifestation of anxiety
I understand that anxiety doesn’t give a shit what it’s anxious about as long as it is able to angst. Knowing this doesn’t remove the anxiety, although it is helpful to externalise, so I don’t begin taking myself seriously and begin believing it is unsafe to leave the house. I don’t want to be one of the ‘worried well’ living in fear of a future ‘what if?’ I want to be here now, aspiring to reach my full potential, aches and pains and all, and have fun along the way. I have arrived at that unforeseen place, described in the “Ageing” chapter in the book as ‘when we realise we are too old to die young’. So, learning to live with uncertainty. Learning how to live. And I’m very grateful to be here where life lives.