Amy Choate-Nielsen: Growing old might not be such a bad thing after all


I can trick most of my body into thinking it’s still fresh and young, but let’s face it, I’m no spring chicken. One part of myself knows well, and it’s not going to play along with the youthful charade.

I have experienced an interesting phenomenon in the last few years: I am getting older.

It’s been happening for a while, sure. Every day. But this last year, I realized the days of my youth are starting to ebb like the tide on its way to the sea. My children are getting bigger. My joints are getting creakier. The days are going by faster.

I’m still young, but the water on my shore doesn’t seem to rise quite as high as it used to. Before I know it, I sense that I will be wondering why so many more people are calling me “ma’am” and writing poems about how much I miss the fingerprints on the walls.

For the most part, I’m in denial about this process. I ran a half-marathon last weekend with no training just to see if I could do it. Mid-stride, I had a passing thought that maybe I was fooling myself that I am still able to do these things. A couple of years ago I thought I wanted to run a marathon, but when I stumbled across the finish line last week I felt slower, and sorer, and I realized that ship has probably sailed.

I tricked my mind into thinking I could do this race, I pushed my knees and my lungs and my heart, and all the parts of my body got in line and decided we’re still young and full of vitality and we can do whatever we want.

But one part of my body will not be fooled. It knows exactly what is going on.

In Alaska, there is a beautiful plant that covers the ground in a blanket of bright pink blossoms every summer. The flowers begin blooming at the base of a central stalk some time in July, and then head up until finally, the flowers cover the whole stem. Once a fireweed plant has bloomed to the top of its stem, Alaskans say the first…

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