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I always thought ageing brought its own rewards.

I have seen colleagues retire from work over the years and they’ve come back to visit the office looking happier and healthier than they ever did in work.

Although my own ‘career’ took me far from the office and led to premature ‘healthier’ and ‘happier’, nevertheless I still looked forward to ageing bringing the freedom to do the things I really love instead of the ones I get paid to do; being able to spend more time with family and friends; and to the day when I would suddenly realise I had become at one with myself, who I am, and what I look like.

What I’m now learning is that ageing is a yin and yang process and that sometimes, the yin kicks the yang out of the building.

Guanaca, Patagonia, Chile

The yang to ageing

When my occupational pension became payable, I felt as if I had won the lottery. Even more exciting than the lump sum I received, some of which enabled us to go on an incredible trip to Chile (pic), was the slowly dawning realisation that I would get a decent sum of money every month for the rest of my life. I couldn’t believe it. I kept taking the letter out and re-reading it, over and over, to ensure I wasn’t missing something. For the first time in my life, I realised that the expression ‘having a weight lifted from my shoulders’ could be applied almost literally; I felt lighter, like I could float away.

Since then, Jack has got his occupational pension too and I’ve got my retirement pension. We’re better off now than we’ve been since 2003 when we both stepped off the career ladder and moved to Tenerife. And that is a solid gold yang of ageing.

When it comes to spending more time doing what I love instead of doing the things I get paid for, I had already achieved that by our move. Jack and I had made ‘hiking and dining’ our new career, the very things we both loved doing most. And a move to the Canary Islands was one surefire way of ensuring we got to spend quality time with family and friends. I wonder if a move to the Hebrides would have had the same effect.

The yin

I have moles on my back. I hate them. I consider them to be ugly aberrations of my body and I keep them covered up. Their presence depresses the hell out of me, and adding to my body shame, is the shame of being so bothered by something cosmetic.

Yesterday I went to see the skin specialist to check that nothing was untoward with these ‘moles’ only to discover that they’re not moles, they’re something called seborrhoeic keratoses and tend to increase with ageing. So, not only has that blessed enlightenment of not being concerned about how I look failed to appear so far, but its arrival is even being delayed due to the presence of these unwelcome additions. A definite yin in my book.

Of course, the worst yin is the fact that people around you are also ageing, and you begin to experience the pain of illness in your loved ones. I hoped I would be a lot older before I had to go through that pain and suffering but life doesn’t seem to respect the rules I set for it.

If there are any more yangs to ageing out there waiting for me, I look forward to meeting you.


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