When you are young…

When you are young and you’re running to catch a bus, you don’t know that someday you may get ill and not be able to walk. When you are young and you’re singing, you don’t know that you may get ill and not be able to talk.

I never ever considered the possibility of aging. It was something that happened to other people. I also never thought that I would get ill.

I have to admit (quite reluctantly) that I have some friends who used to get mad at me when they were sick because I was not compassionate enough.

Illness, for me – trained so well by my mother, was something you just need to get through.  Anything else was an indulgence.  “If you don’t have temperature you are not sick,” was the household rule.

In my family, you didn’t get sick and you did not get old – and being pretty was very important. For my family in Israel, it still is.

Very recently, I read the book “The Last Picture Show” for my book club.  Club-member, Jay sent an email – an article from the LA Times, reporting on the 40th year reunion and screening of the movie based on the book.  Since I click on everything, I found myself watching the interviews with director, Peter Bogdanovitch, actress Cybill Shepherd and other actors describing their experience filming forty years ago.

Forty years ago…

Bogdanovitch was a brilliant 31 year-old up-and-coming director with a promising career.  Shepherd was very young and pretty… very pretty, that was her claim to fame. He cast her in the role of Jacy, the fantasy of all the high school boys. The girl everyone wanted. Bogdanovitch and Shepherd fell in love making the movie.  He left his wife for her. They stayed together for several years.  He had a penchant for falling in love with very young women… again and again. 

But now?  Oh my, did they look old.  How odd then – looking so old, while being interviewed about how it was THEN; yet each making such an effort to maintain a youthful appearance. Here is Bogdanovitch spraying and combing his sparse hair; tucking his trademark scarf under his shirt -European style. And here too is Shepherd with facelift and who knows what else.  One thing for sure: She’s not Jacy anymore.

How convenient it is to write about others.

I can look at their aging faces and think, “Tsk tsk, what happened to them?”  I don’t have to look at myself with the same critical eye when I can focus my criticality on them. How convenient.  I don’t have to think of the cracking sound of my bones and the aches of my body when I wake up; and the new pain in my shoulder (arthritis?) –  and the fact that I am avoiding my mammogram.

The other day I read it’s been 31 years since the death of John Lennon.  Elvis died 34 years ago.

A lifetime.

In 31 and 34 years so many lives have come and gone; so many stories about birth, youth and hope and about growing old, pain and loss and of course, death.

I think about my parents who had been dead for so many years and a recollection comes to mind:

A couple of years before my mother’s death she was parading around in a new dress.  I poked fun at her about walking like a fashion model – to which she replied, “But inside I always feel like I’m 25 years old”

I understand.


About rachel bar

Psychotherapist and supervisor.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized, Old age, Illness and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to When you are young…

  1. Old age is something I’m not looking forward to, just the thought make my bones ache…as I watch the doughnut holes developed..I can not escape the fact that I am aging…and quickly..and although I know it will mean for me the great sleep that I’m not ready to take now…I must say that I am glad to be blessed to see my offspring develop…to be able to catch my breathe after chasing them, to be able to fuss when the do wrong and provide guidance when they need it makes each day I age worth it…

    • rachel bar says:

      Absolutely! Part of the pleasure of growing old is to be able to witness your children and grandchildren grow. And hopefully, to care less about what other people say:)

  2. Jackie Rosenson says:

    So true. Looking at Cybill affirms my promise to myself; I will never, never have cosmetic surgery.
    We all earned our smile lines, and aging with acceptance and dignity leaves us more time for the internal landscape and for loving out loud.

  3. Sheridan says:

    Rachel –
    I absolutely believe that we are only as old as we feel, think, and act. I also believe the outward signs of aging can be eased a bit with really good and regular exercise, diet and enough sleep (and plenty of sex which is good for everything:))

    • rachel bar says:

      I am not sure that this is the point of my blog, although I am sure that you are right about food, rest and exercise and sex – in that order? I don’t know.
      Actually, my emphasis was on growing old gracefully and not about the fear of growing old, which is the American disease that sends so many of us to plastic remakers.
      I know too many women who are obsessed with NOT looking their chronological age, as if it is a crime against nature.

  4. Cameron Ashby says:

    After nearly thirty years of working with the elderly I can say a lot about what’s up the trail. There’s really so much good news. Yep, I’m writing about it too. Hang on to your hats, buckle up, it’s the best damn ride in the park. As one eighty-year-old recently declared, “If you can get through your sixties, seventy is almost guaranteed.” Be skeptical of all you’ve heard, even seen, hardly anyone knows about the growth occurring in this area until they are swept into it. The two big hazards, often lethal, are isolation, and of mistaking bodily losses and incapacities for the entire picture. The quest for self-coherence becomes ever more intense, while numerous other dimensions of the self-experience also get stronger, become more discerning, and begin doing jumping jacks like so many athletic angels. And yet, it’s all so incredibly subtle, and further, such a well-kept secret. Finally, seemingly ordinary people have such extraordinary things to say, that is, if you chose to listen… Growing old is quite different from getting old.

  5. Barbara Cooper says:

    The Universe is kind- as we age, our eyesight goes too- maybe to lessen the blow of not quite looking as we did in our 20’s and 30’s. Yet, here I am not quite to the end of yet another decade, still lamenting the few extra pounds that I did not carry around with me in prior decades. And yet…..so what if I’m a size bigger? I’m healthy and plan to remain that way until the day I die. I once heard a great quote that I bring to mind whenever I get aggravated at a vicious scale with an evil sense of humor, (that I now need my glasses on to read- and just exactly how many ounces can I deduct for those glasses?) or the 10X magnifying glass mirror I now need to apply my make up. Unfortunately, I have no idea who said it or when. I do know that it was said at a commencement ceremony- and here it is: “Take a look at of photo of yourself right now and while noticing all the things you so dislike about yourself, think of this – in 10 years, when you look back at that photo, you will wish you still looked like that!”
    Of course, what the writer of that quote did not say was, “In ten years when you look back at that photo, you will need to put on glasses to see it!”

  6. rachel bar says:

    And hopefully, when you look at the photo, you don’t only look at the younger image of you and focus only the looks, which we obviously do, but maybe you can also chuckle and tell your “self” that even though you are not as pretty or youthful looking as you used to be, you are happier now.

    BTW, your “babies” look beautiful on your holiday card:)

    • Barbara Cooper says:

      I prefer to think maybe not pretty in the same way, but still hangin’ in there!
      Thanks for the comment on my “babies”! I know how you adore little dogs!
      I love your blog, Rachel. It always makes me happy when there is a new one- like an unexpected gift. You entertain, inspire and thought provoke. Keep ’em coming!

  7. I don’t understand the comment ‘if you can get through your sixties then 70 is almost guaranteed.’ If you get through your sixties you will be 70!

  8. Nancy says:

    Gee I really can’t fault that photo of Sybil S . I do see a very bad hair day….. but I think her face is just an older version of how she used to look. Certainly I have seen people who really look very stretched and different then they used to look .
    I guess the deal is ” you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t” .

    Yes for many of us aging is a painful process. Me included, however, currently ( 68) I am finding it more painful to looking inward and trying to grapple with how I am perceived by those [ family] I love.

    Rachel , sometimes when you write about your mom ” it feels like we had the same mom 🙂

    I really enjoy your blog.

  9. oren says:

    Thank you Rachel 🙂

  10. Stephanie Kirschner says:

    Here I am, reading your blog in Israel! We had a reunion of friends from the kibbutz yesterday that my husband grew up with and one of them we hadn’t seen in twenty three years. What music to my ears… that I haven’t changed since the last time we met! But maybe he just needs glasses! I do believe that we are as young as we feel (except for the arthritis in my knees….). I love your blog Rachel! Thanks so much for sharing your world.

  11. rachel bar says:

    I know that the last time I visited I had trepidations about meeting some people I have not seen in a long time…

    Thanks for your kind words Stephanie.

  12. Martha says:

    I am healthy, wealthy, and wise (relatively speaking that is), and my body will last me as long as I need it. That has become my mantra at 76! I have no desire for injections in my skinny lips to give me the often described “bee sting look;” I’m comfortable with how I think, feel, and look; also grateful that my curiosity permits me to observe and accept the life changes that inevitably come with aging. There is no age I would return to because the future holds the most surprises, some of which I would probably choose to avoid. Seeing grandkids struggle to find themselves in a world very different than my own is exciting in many ways and reminds me of my limitations physically and mentally. Since this is a new age for me, I’m often surprised being this contented as an old lady,

    I really enjoy your blogging thoughts, Rachel, and the responses.

    • rachel bar says:

      Martha, you are such a role model! Being comfortable with who you are, not obsessed with not looking your age, curious as always, and mostly wise.

      Can I be you when I grow up?

  13. Cameron Ashby says:

    HI Howard, good catch, “70” was a typo, it was supposed to read 80.

    Rachel, “self-coherence” in this context is precisely what you’re exploring here in your blog. The conflicts, contradictions, relations, continuing questions and past experiences we all reflect on. Such review appears essential to “growing old.”

    Nick Tosches expresses it lyrically:

    “And, of course, that is what all of this is – all of this: the one song, ever changing, ever reincarnated, that speaks somehow from and to and for that which is ineffable within us and without us, that is both prayer and deliverance, folly and wisdom, that inspires us to dance or smile or simply to go on, senselessly, incomprehensibly, beatifically, in the face of mortality and the truth that our lives are more ill-writ, ill-rhymed and fleeting than any song, except perhaps those songs – that song, endlessly reincarnated – born of that truth, be it the moon and June of that truth, or the wordless blue moan, or the rotgut or the elegant poetry of it. That nameless black-hulled ship of Ulysses, that long black train, that Terraplane, that mystery train, that Rocket ’88’, that Buick 6 – same journey, same miracle, same end and endlessness.”
    — Nick Tosches, Where Dead Voices Gather

  14. Martha says:

    Seems that this poem by Javan could be speaking to this subject too: After all, isn’t aging about loss? 🙂

    I didn’t ask for it to be over
    But then again, I didn’t ask for it to begin.
    For that’s the way it is with Life.
    As some of the most beautiful days come completely by chance.
    But even the most beautiful days
    Eventually have their sunset.

  15. Cameron Ashby says:

    Dear Martha,

    For me, the loves and losses, both inner and outer, seem to contribute to some of the new growth, the fresh green edges as I move forward. Yet, it appears there’s a bunch, a whole lot more contributing to our final ascendance. I relished what you said about facing the unpleasant bumps and surprises down the road, indeed all of what you said. Your acceptance of life and yourself has always been clear to me. Your “wisdom,” (as relative as it may seem to you) has also been, in my view, a broiling span of Georgia asphalt in August, way ahead of most, and further articulated by a unique blend of honor, respect and kindness embedded in a quite formidable humility. I learned so much from you.

    In fact, I learned to “honor” my clients from you. It totally surprised me when you said that about one of your cases, yet within my swirling amazement and cogitations, “honoring” appeared to supersede all else that could be considered psychotherapeutic.

    Happy birthday, once again! And maybe I can find enough courage (no, I will) to send you some of what I’ve been writing, both on aging and growing.


  16. Mo Brock says:

    I really like your writing, your observations. I’m not as new to this blogging business as I used to be when I could more legitimately claim that I didn’t know a tweet from a post; but I’m still not certain when it means to follow a blog. I hope I’ve accomplished that with yours.

    • rachel bar says:

      You are way ahead of me. I don’t know how to tweet, but my son is home so a lesson is in the horizon. Actually, I do know how to follow a blog, and I’m going to follow yours. I should become more involved with the environment.

  17. dlmchale says:

    I don’t so much mind getting old as much as I hate that it happens systematically instead of overnight. Even before one gets old, different aspects of our youthfulness begin a ballet of betrayal: knees start creaking, the back starts screaming, the lines…the fucking lines as the grave starts pulling the face downward one muscle group after the other. The hair, once our glory, now turns into brittle graying straw. Once brilliant white teeth is either hidden behind the casula hand when smiling (if smiling…another betrayal) or start littering the dentists’ floor. And if you get dentures, they are always ten shades whiter than God meant them to be, screaming out to each passerby…this one’s getting fucking old! The nails yellow and the cute freckles of our youth turn into hideous pre-cancerous blotches across the backs of our hands.
    I would rather wake up (or not wake up) at age 85 and have everything go to shit all at once, at the age I no longer even want to use the tools of my youth. Closed casket to spare the grandchildren a glimpse into their futures.

    • rachel bar says:

      Dennis, even your comments are poetic.

      As for me, I’m not sure which way is better. The slow adjustment or the sudden destruction? And… I don’t believe that we ever let go completely of the “tools of youth”. Actually, I’m not sure what those are?

      Keep writing, please. I cherish your poems!

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