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Emails to my Therapist

Getting Old: Full of Little Surprises

Well, it has happened again, Nicholas. More signs of getting old.  Each time I notice some new change, I go through a series of thoughts:

  1. There’s been some mistake. This can’t be right.
  2. How do I fix this?
  3. What did I do wrong to cause this? I promise I’ll never do it again.

This approach has not been successful at slowing the process.

To be sure, I am fortunate. I am healthy.

However, as I write this now, I am not feeling like the Energizer Bunny, more the Tired Turtle, which reminds me of an emerging trend.

Recent Aging Sign # 1:

Getting tired more easily. The last six weeks have been a whirlwind of travel and deadlines, plenty of reason to be tired. However, I’m pretty sure that I’m a bit more fatigued now than I would have been by the same whirlwind at sixty. (Reminder: I’m sixty-nine-and-a-half.)

I first noticed the start of a tendency to tire more easily when I was in my late twenties.  I had an assignment to write an article on hang-gliding lessons on the North Carolina Outer Banks. I drove the three-plus hours, took the class which included my sailing off a sand dune five times and quickly crashing each time, then drove back to Raleigh that night.

The next day I was so tired I could do almost nothing.  I was indignant, because I was certain that in my early twenties a similar adventure wouldn’t have bothered me. That was the beginning.

In recent months I’ve found that I’ve been tired at the end of the two-hour weekly meeting of the writing group I’m in. Doesn’t matter whether I’m reading my work to the group or giving feedback on someone else’s. At the end of the session, I feel wrung out. It feels like emotional fatigue, brain fatigue. I’ve been in this group 35 years and it never used to happen.

Recent Aging Sign #2:

Suddenly my skin is not the neat fit it once was.


What to do? Various experts have made suggestions including: drink more water, build more muscle mass, lay on the moisturizer, eat more healthy fats, resign myself to the situation.

I am burdened by the illusion that most every problem has a solution and it’s my job to find it. In this case, the solution is likely not considering the situation a problem.

Recent Aging Sign #3 

About six months ago, I started forgetting things. Not lots of things, mostly the names of movie stars. Drove myself half crazy trying to think of who played Brody on Homeland. (Damian Lewis, in case you’re starting to wrack your brain.) I’ve also  forgotten for hours the last names of a few people I actually know. This is hardly a major problem, but I don’t like the direction.

Until this year, I’ve had a pathologically good, hyper-vigilant memory. I want that back. Recently I experienced my first difficulty with word-finding of the common noun variety. I couldn’t think of the word suffix. Possibly this is a word I could live without for a few hours, but, again, I don’t like the direction.

More study of foreign languages may help. I hear it keeps the brain nimble. Conveniently, I have a new enthusiasm for learning Spanish, although I’ve never “finished” French and it does bug me to leave a project incomplete.

What’s likely ahead

So, there it is: the batch of sly symptoms.

I remember when I first paid serious attention to the process of getting old, realized the shocking inevitability. I was thirty-eight. Once I’d confronted a few small changes, I thought, Well, good, that’s taken care of.


Foolishly I still imagine I’m going to avoid further aging.

I remember hearing more than once when I was a child my mother saying, “Every age has its compensations.”  Her tone was always slightly weary resignation.

Sixty-nine-and-a-half does have its compensations. For one: I no longer feel I’m trying to prove anything to myself or anybody else.

About these other trends I notice, though– I am not resigned.

Please send solutions.

Your young-ish friend,




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  • kenju
    May 30, 2018 at 12:47 pm Reply

    No solutions here, I’m sorry to say. At the soon to be age of 78, I can only tell you it gets worse. But I have always been painfully aware that I would grow old. My mother-in-law and some other women in my family were under the impression they could stop the process. At last, they understood it cannot be stopped or slowed down – except if you eat properly, stay out of the sun, keep your mind sharp with books and games. I don’ mind growing older – the privilege is denied to many; I’m happy to be here (old or not.)

    • Peggy Payne
      May 30, 2018 at 1:02 pm Reply

      Admirably wise, kenju!

  • Bob Braxton
    May 30, 2018 at 4:16 pm Reply

    age 73 here – my word (took months, literally, to conjure up) “rivet” – all I could think of was “grommet” – certainly NOT the same. It came, eventually – a super-lengthy hard-drive search. my brain.

    • Peggy Payne
      May 30, 2018 at 6:05 pm Reply

      I admire your tenacity, Bob Braxton. Your months of effort were not in vain!

  • May 30, 2018 at 4:47 pm Reply

    I am having a bit of this myself at age 58. I think the thing to remember is that when we can’t think of the name of a film star, or a specific word, the act of looking that up is part of what keeps our brain nimble. I figure my brain is so full at this point it’s purely a search engine overload when I can’t think of something. Dictionaries, google, paging through books – these things are akin to getting a more powerful hard drive. A good friend who is 72 has embraced the art of the nap when tired. I’m not much of a napper but I hope when I get to the point of needing to learn how to do it well, she will be my role model. She naps when she’s tired and writes/reads/etc. when she is awake. Which is sometimes in the wee hours. The first time she told me about it she framed it as being lucky. “I’m lucky to be at the time of life when I can follow my own clock,” she said. “If my door is closed, I’m napping. If it’s open, I’m awake!” I think she has found a wonderful way to view this fatigue thing and to seize the time as her own. From the outside looking in, you seem to be about 45, Peggy. Xoxo

    • Peggy Payne
      May 30, 2018 at 6:04 pm Reply

      Oh, Billie, 45! May the Lord bless you and keep you and make your memory do amazing things for you.

  • Ron Perkinson
    May 30, 2018 at 5:15 pm Reply

    Unless you’re Elijah, and maybe Enoch, you gotta face it. Father Time is undefeated. I wonder if Methesulah thought he was home free when he turned 900. That was probably considered to be the new 700 in his day. I’m not aware of any coping techniques available to an otherwise healthy person fighting the process. I, on the other hand, have found that catastrophic illness and disease may be of some value. After such an experience, and the recovery therefrom, my friends have been effusive in telling me how good I look. They never told me that before. Even if I am benefitting from a comparison of my being on the critical list to my doing a lot better person, this is enough to cause me unrestrained optimism . I am 70(barely). On June 2 I will be doing stand-up comedy in front of a paying audience. I doubt I would have done that at 65.

    • Peggy Payne
      May 30, 2018 at 8:38 pm Reply

      Laughed out loud twice, Ron. You are also good at sitting-down comedy. Thanks for your catastrophic illness suggestion; will keep it in mind.

  • Beverly Tetterton
    May 30, 2018 at 8:27 pm Reply

    I will soon be eight plus sixty and I am headed back to Europe for a month. It was tough 5 years ago when I could feel I was not up to the rigors of flight and sleep deprivation. Ah aging. The encouraging news is I will be staying and traveling with several small children and when they take a nap I do too! If you have the chance, Peggy, take a nap and hopefully you will see, hear and think more clearly.

    • Peggy Payne
      May 30, 2018 at 8:35 pm Reply

      Naps are our friends. And if you can travel for a month with several small children, you are Superwoman.

  • May 31, 2018 at 2:53 am Reply

    I’m glad you and I are stil lalive together, to listen to each other’s reporting our slides back to where we came from – Home – we’re going home.

    • Peggy Payne
      May 31, 2018 at 2:57 am Reply

      I’m glad too, Bob, and much to think about in your thought of going home.

  • Lee Grohse
    May 31, 2018 at 3:40 pm Reply

    I just got back from a small group tour of Morocco. Both my travel buddy and I had birthdays on the trip. I turned 67 and she 70. The other 7 people in the group and the leader were all less than half our age. It was pretty hard to not have the aging process smack you upside the head in this situation. The trip involved camel rides into the desert for camping,, several half day mountain hikes, and in general a lot of physical activity. I am a stroll-in -the-city kind of girl and while I had hit the treadmill more in the month before the trip to prepare, the strenuous up hill hikes were hard. I was proud that I never slowed down the others or exempted myself from an activity (except for one two hour steep, windy uphill hike to our guesthouse when I opted to take a mule instead of my own far from sure-footed feet). But this all made it clear to me that neither I or my friend would likely to be able to do this kind of trip five years from now. Spending so much time with younger people was a lot of fun, but it was clear that we were the old guys in their eyes. My friend seemed more at peace with this than I was. I wanted to be one of the young, pretty women and invited along for the girl stuff they did a few times without us. Like you, I’m healthy and I like many of the privileges of age and I really enjoy the freedom of retirement. But like you I am missing the strength and energy of the past and I resent like hell the same kind of memory slippage you describe. My quick, infallible memory was a huge part of my core identity. And what I really can’t understand is that people don’t see that I am still a pretty 27 year old just with a lot more experience and confidence.

    • Peggy Payne
      May 31, 2018 at 11:11 pm Reply

      Beautifully described, as always, Lee. You could lose a whole lot of brain power and still shine.

      But it sure isn’t fun to lose anything. I’m told by some measurers that I’m three-quarters of an inch shorter than I once was. I’m not willing to accept that as true. It’s faulty measuring.

      Also, please consider that the altitude may have affected your hiking energy. I had that happen to me when I was a lot younger; women older and heavier than me were roaring past me on a high altitude hike. It was humbling. But at least I found a good excuse.

      And maybe you’ll be turn out to be a trekker or a marathoner five years from now. It’s possible.

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