Love, Death and Being Cranky

A few months ago when I turned 71, I found my patience waning.

A few months ago when I turned 71, I found my patience waning. 

First, my cat died.  Ten days later my dear mother-in-law, Dorothy, passed away.  A month after that, my ex-husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. 

Each of these events has been stressful in its own way.  I have grieved, and I have thought a lot about the end of life, theirs and my own.  Yes, it’s a downer to think about death all the time, but as I have pointed out to followers, 71 is not 51.  With 71 comes the realization that I, like my cat, will die.  The difference between her and me is that I know I’m going to go.

This explains some of my impatience.  I don’t have years to fool around.  I can’t indulge people who want me to do endless things for them—from telemarketers with their phone pitch (stop interrupting me, I am not going to buy anything from you) to other people who want something from me.

Even family.  Oh, I’m nice enough to them; I love them.  But I’ve been setting a lot more boundaries of late.  My life ahead seems short compared to the anticipated future of some of my family members.  And, like most women, I’ve already spent years trying to make family and friends happy.  It’s their turn to defer to me.

I admit I’m also a little annoyed by all of this.  I should’ve set more limits years ago.  I should’ve put myself first more often.  I should’ve spoken up.  But I figure, better late than never.

I’m starting to take on the role of a curmudgeon.  And I can see why younger people think older people are cranky.  Well, you would be, too, if your days were winding down.

Another thought has occurred to me.  Maybe my personality is evolving this way because I’m out of estrogen.  I am finally catching up with men, the estrogen-bereft, who have always been comfortable speaking up and haven’t had to worry about making everybody feel good.

Most men I’ve encountered in my professional life have felt it well within their rights to be blunt, to cut the pleasant stuff and say what’s on their minds.  I don’t think in the whole of my career I’ve ever been called blunt.

So, I’m trying out a new persona, lit by a desire not to waste moments.  Armed with less estrogen and the slow fade in front of me, I am impatiently living life in my 70s.   

I’m not sure how I feel about this yet. I don’t know that I’ve completely come to terms with being in my eighth decade and losing those who are close to me in quick succession. 

I’ve learned that growing old is both limiting and liberating.  It’s liberating, in part, because it is limited.  My mother-in-law undoubtedly knew this.  My ex-husband may have some inkling of this even as his appreciation of the world slips away.     

I am leaning heavily on being liberated.  I can see how this quality can expand in me as I age.  It’s a gift from the human cycle of life as I grow old and become more aware of the truth of things.  My dear cat never knew what she was missing.