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I don’t like getting older. I even obsessed about it as a child.  When I was around 7, I remember asking my dad if you get to choose your age when you go to heaven, and he said yes. Every year I would choose my current age, because I was sure that the next year would be worse.

I had a plan for what I would do when I got old: I would use Oil of Olay to prevent wrinkles, Clairol to dye my hair, and Coast soap to bring me back to life–because that was their slogan, which I took literally. That shows you the power of advertising.

I didn’t consider myself middle-aged until I turned 43. I’m immature for my age in a lot of ways because I still live the life of a college student–a night owl with no children and no spouse whose work revolves around the academic calendar.

Although my mind is still somewhere in my 20’s, my body has proceeded at a normal developmental pace. Once I hit 43, I became far-sighted. My knees hurt all the time–not just after playing tennis 5-6 times in a row. I started dying my hair.

I don’t want other people to get older, either. Every year I tell my niece that she has to stay the same age. Whenever I leave my parents’ house, I feel anxious at the thought of seeing them sick or debilitated someday. I am terrified of losing them. I got a glimpse of what it would be like when my dad was depressed, and I did not handle it well.

I try to practice gratitude, self-compassion, and mindfulness to accept the aging process. I try to remember what I have to be thankful for in this moment, try to enjoy my blessings while I have them. I tell myself that lots of people have these fears–it doesn’t make me crazy. It doesn’t mean I’m a bad person.

It helps some. But I’m still afraid.

There are only two things that I look forward to about getting older. One is that I will continue to become a better therapist because I will have seen more clients, had more life experience, and will possess more wisdom.

The other thing is that my writing will improve for the same reasons. I have wanted to write a book since high school. In the 10th grade we had a writing assignment where we had to project what we would be doing in the future. I wrote a mock interview where I was 45, answering questions about my book.

So it’s no coincidence that I made my first effort to publish my writing through blogging at the age of 44. I realized that if I wanted to make something happen for myself, I had to start now.

So I guess that’s one good thing about being middle-aged: as you reflect on the first half of your life, you realize what you have to do to make the most out of the second half.

Eye Exams

I love my eye doctor.  He seems to love what he does and enjoys interacting with patients.  The only problem is, every time I have an eye exam I start obsessing about something going wrong with my eyes.

Part of it is definitely me.  I worry about everything, in case you haven’t noticed.  First of all, I get stressed out if I can’t read the lines that I’m supposed to be able to read.  I know it’s not a test but it feels like I’m failing, and I hate failing.  Today I found out that in my left eye I could see far away but not close up, and in my right eye I could see close up but not far away.  I thought, oh no!  My eyes are going in opposite directions!

However, I think part of it is his fault, too, because he gives me way to much information–about eyeball health, glaucoma, retinal tears, detached retinas.  It’s sort of like when someone has a phobia but they’re fascinated by the thing that they fear.  I want to hear the information so I keep asking him all of these questions but then I worry that I’m going to develop whatever it is he’s talking about.

When I turned 40 he told me that at some point in my 40’s I would start to develop farsightedness.  He described how it would feel and what corrections could be made once it happened.  On the one hand, I was reassured that my tennis game would not be compromised once I became farsighted.  However, every day I wondered if this was the day it would happen.  Can I see now?  Is this normal vision?  I was constantly giving myself vision tests.

When I turned 43 it started happening.  I had a hard time going back and forth from looking at something close up to something far away.  I couldn’t read tiny print.  In my mind, it was the telltale sign that I was officially middle-aged.  I was depressed about this but fully prepared to go in today and find out that it was time for trifocals and accept my old-ladyhood like the warrior that I am.  (More on warriors in a future post.)

But it turns out that this skewed left-eye/right-eye development is to my advantage; it actually makes it possible for me to see both close up and far away.  He said he was going to hold out as long as possible before taking any additional corrective measures, so he didn’t make any changes to my prescription.  I passed the test!

After thoroughly examining all other aspects of my eye health, he told me that I have healthy retinas and that most people at my age do not.  So of course I needed to know what distinguished a healthy retina from an unhealthy one and how I would go about rehabilitating my retina if for whatever reason it suddenly became unhealthy.  Because of course now I have to worry that this might happen to me.

By this time he realized that it was not a good idea to give me even positive feedback without some reassurance that I would never experience any deterioration in my eyeball functioning whatsoever.  So he told me that I wouldn’t have to worry about unhealthy retinas for at least another 80 years or so.

I’m not sure this is as scientifically accurate as the other information he has given me, but it made me feel better, anyway.