Be who you are. That's the eleventh challenge in my boot camp for old age, in which I work on improving my chances in the brain-gain lottery that lies ahead. This particular task is to figure out my changing identity — I'm changing into an old person — and kind of starting to live with it instead of fight it.
Another way of putting this: I would prefer my outside to match my inside, for people to look at me and get an accurate idea of who I am and what I feel like inside. I've been searching for an inherent personal coherence, consonance, or harmony.
But this is not straightforward, because right now life is rapidly changing my outside. Grey hair, wrinkles and all that cranky stuff that shrieks "Old lady! Old lady!" — when inside, I'm still a bit confused. Like you (I presume) I have moments of feeling like a six- or 26- or 36- or 56-year-old, which is a big mis-match with my chronological age.
OK, I've had 12 months to complete the boot camp. Plenty of time, huh? You'd think so. But over the summer I got lazy, wallowing in late mornings and a dormant business and sweet sunshine, socialising and sea-swims.
Today I discover that there are suddenly (?) only four days left before my 76th birthday, my self-imposed deadline. I could extend the deadline, but do I want to? No way.
So. The fruits of procrastination are not regrets but bullet points.
- Right now I sort of match how I feel: a vigorous 76 and I look like a vigorous ... 70, perhaps? Not bad consonance.
- I've always enjoyed choosing what to wear and I still do, it's fun. But nowadays I make more mistakes than previously. I never look like an old fuddy duddy (not in my own eyes, anyway) but I do sometimes look slightly ridiculous. I think that's fine, that's definitely a pass. Because I recognise this combination of sartorial qualities as a good match for how I perceive myself: not young but youthful; vibrant (colours); original to the point of seeming a bit "off" at times. I'm just me.
- A few people "get me", people to whom I never have to explain my jokes or my serious opinions. That's enough. I only need a few people to see right into my real self. Maybe a bit of mystery makes me seem unique, enigmatic ... like most other people seem to me.
- Just as I'm scrutinising my own external appearance and inner self, I'm also scrutinising others. I'm discovering a new delight in seeing friends and strangers anew. Far from thinking, "Why do you always wear that boring old cardigan/jeans/fleece/sneakers?" I find myself thinking, "Look at you! I see you: you are yourself through and through, and you are like nobody else in the entire world — how wonderful is that!"
We are who we are. Was there any need for this challenge at all? For you, probably not. For me, yes. I'm so happy that a little bit of conscious attention to this area has shifted me closer to serenity.