There is, for example, that phrase "aging gracefully." I used to think it was about appearances - managing to hold on to a youthful look without letting the seams show. The hair is colored, but subtly. The clothing is fashionable but not trendy, and perhaps a tad looser. Makeup gets a lighter touch to avoid being a mask. And you do whatever it takes to keep in shape, from ab-building to Zumba. Aging gracefully was about being a swan, gliding along serenely for the world to see. It just took a lot of furious paddling beneath the surface.
But even swans will die, and there's more to that ballet than tableaux. That kind of graceful aging leads to a lot of clumsy effort. Witness all our TV ads for drugs that keep a body in motion, control leaking pipes and combat low T. And the grimaces of all those older runners and bikers tell me that the pleasure isn't worth the pain.
What I'm learning now is that getting older isn't battle but adaptation, and the ideal is to not make a big deal out of adapting. OK, so I need reading glasses; if I keep them handy all the time, using them just becomes a normal thing. Foot surgery has made fashionable shoes out of the question? Better to wear something clunkier than to be limping and bleeding.
It's not easy to accept these adaptations. I cried in the shoe store over the "nun shoes" I had to buy, and I keep forgetting that I can't move from sitting to walking without taking a moment to stretch. The learning curve continues. Creaky joints won't allow me to keep up in a yoga class, so I'll buy a DVD, do what I can and stop fussing.
The ugly duckling once became a swan. Great, but the changes didn't stop there. One day the bird woke up and discovered it had become an ostrich. So forget swimming or flying. But let's see what those long legs and neck can do instead.