When a friend and I were talking—I’m sure I was whining about my back or the flab on my arms or something my husband said the other night—she looked at me and, not in a patronizing tone but in one of acceptance and understanding, said “My forever self.”
“Write that down! It’s a perfect title for a book—maybe my next one.”
Dutifully, she found a piece of scratch paper and wrote “My Forever Self,” as if it were already a book or magazine article on her shopping list.
Okay, what did those three words really mean? Was it a call to arms of sorts (no, not my flabby ones) to honor our physical, emotional, intellectual selves and to understand that we’d better make the best of things because—at least, in this turn around the block—what you see is what you get?
For many of us, that’s a tall order—at least, when it comes to body image and aging. When I wrote about “age jumps” years ago (and then again more recently), I suggested that we not run from change but mourn a loss and then move on. Feel sorry for yourself for a day or two and then get on with it.
We each have our Achilles’ heel (or heels). Actually, I have no problems with either of my heels. Other parts of my body? Well, you already know about my flabby arms. But, no, my arms and every other body part are mine forever, and I’d be wise to acknowledge their strength and longevity and take good care.
Or did my friend intend to encourage us to recognize our physical/emotional/intellectual pain—real pain— and to own it? To not resist because then the pain persists?
So, I asked her. She’s a 62-year-old woman who was told by a doctor when she was a babe in her twenties that she had physical issues like those of a woman 50 years her senior. She could have done as her mother and sister had: she could have curled up in her misfortune and, in a very real sense, given up. She did not. Instead, she understood that she had limits and worked within the day. She studied and became a professional dancer, a physical trainer, a dance instructor, and a choreo strength trainer.
Most evenings, her restless leg syndrome keeps her up into the middle of the night. Most mornings, she cannot walk. But she takes her time, practices all the stretches she teaches and, by mid-morning, her first client arrives. She moves right along with her. She does not feel sorry for herself—at least, not most of the time. (She is human after all.)
“My Forever Self.”
I have another friend who has MS. Her one leg is particularly weak; she may soon need a cane. In hot weather, the electrical charges in her body go haywire. Not that long ago, she mentioned that it felt as if a body part had disconnected from the rest of her. It was strange, uncomfortable, and worrisome.
“I’m such a wimp,” I told her one day. “I don’t know how I’d handle your diagnosis, limitations, and pain?”
“I was a wimp, too. But when you’re up against it, you have a choice: Accept, do whatever you can to ease the discomfort and live life to the fullest or fold like a wilted leaf and live a life of anger and regret.”
She chose the former.
“My Forever Self.”