The Seventh Decade

Kerry in her first decade

If you are 29, reading this and worried about your thirties, fear not – it gets much, much worse!  I suppose I should feel grateful that I have reached the 7th decade (60-69 years old).  Did you know that Greenland sharks may live for up to 500 years – isn’t that amazing?  I am not envious of them, however, as they spend most of their time at the bottom of a frozen sea with long periods of hibernation (similar to living in Scotland).  These last two years have allowed all of us to indulge in pointless navel gazing.  I have peered into my indifferent mirror that doesn’t even bother to tell me that “I am not the Fairest in the Land”.

Kerry in her second decade

As I pondered this subject, I thought about which decade I liked the most.  I loved being a teenager, blossoming at high school and then college.  The puppy fat disappeared and a pretty girl appeared.  One boyfriend commented that I looked much better without clothes on – not sure if that was a reference to my lack of style or a back handed compliment.  My body still looks pretty good if you are a myopic, older man in a room with dim candles.  He should also be a tad inebriated…  It’s funny and yet it’s not. 

Some of my older friends used to tell me to enjoy my 50s because it all changes after 60.  Shorts are not my friends anymore.  More exercise would help but that triggers my osteoarthritis.  I run to hug Teddy, all joints creaking, and then pull something because I moved too fast.  He creaks even more than me – it’s as though we have turned into Sequoias.  My skin tone has changed the most.  Why are my pores so large – aren’t deep wrinkles bad enough?  I was helped by a charming young man at Sephora as I was browsing skin care.  He said I really needed retinol…  At least the Israeli guys who try to sell you Dead Sea stuff at the mall, pretend you are gorgeous. 

Kerry in her third decade

Why am I so vain about ageing?  I come from a long line of relatives who look after themselves at all ages.  My aunt made sure she put on self-tanning lotion before her operation for breast cancer in her late 70s.  Recently, I had a revelatory moment about my age.  For almost 20 years I have had a reciprocal fondness for our gardener.  He always undercharges me and then I pay him more.  We have a small yard but we needed our oak trees trimmed.  If you employ an arborist to trim trees, it costs thousands of dollars.  He went up a ladder with a chain saw – good enough for me.

When he arrived, he caught me off-guard and I answered the door in my ratty old dressing gown, hair tousled unattractively with my glasses on. Even he looked embarrassed, so I ran and put some clothes on.  The job should have cost a few hundred dollars but he asked for $40.  It was a pity invoice.  I could almost hear him say “she used to be so attractive”.  Laughingly, I told one of my friends but inside I felt crushed.  Since then, I have dyed my hair blonde again, had it cut in a cute style and started wearing CLOTHES (sometimes they aren’t leggings). 

Kerry in her fourth decade

My twenties were a mixed bag – marriage to Teddy and moving house 6 times in 8 years.  Exciting and stressful.  My thirties were strange because although I finally achieved some professional plaudits for grant writing and project work, I was palpably anxious.  My forties were adventurous – we moved to two different continents in 2 years and landed in Texas.  By then I finally had my weight under control and had decent medication for my mental health.

Kerry in her fifth decade

My fifties were fantastic!!  I looked the best I had in decades, felt healthy, travelled solo to exotic locations and started a completely new career.  Had the pandemic not happened, I might have slipped into my 60s with little or no impact.  Work came to a standstill, as did the airport so I had no raison d’etre.  My husband was deeply unhappy at work and wanted to retire early which he did.  I thought we would hate each other with enforced cohabitation but we settled into a new rhythm with plenty of humor and silliness.

Kerry in her sixth decade

I should be #grateful or #blessed but I just feel annoyed.  I want to be 51 again but that’s not possible.  There are a couple of nice things about ageing.  Most people are very polite to me and younger ladies ask me for Mommy advice.  I no longer have to worry about sexy lingerie but Teddy will testify that I never did!  My one push up bra will last me forever and I need never buy Spanx or Skims.  I would pull a muscle if I tried to put them on – even Lycra stockings are the work of the devil.

The timbre of this post was intended to be humorous yet poignant.  Many of us feel a bit hopeless in the wake of war and pestilence.  I am certain that we all aged mentally and physically through the pandemic no matter our biological age or infectious status.  As someone who struggles with mental illness, I know that it really is possible to take one day at a time and move forward.  I don’t have as many happy days as I used to but that is improving with increased interaction without masks.  Long may it last.

Kerry in her seventh decade

Change is inevitable

Change is inevitable… but it can fill us with trepidation. When I researched this post, I was astonished at how many ‘change is inevitable’ quotations there are from Benjamin Disraeli’s ‘Change is inevitable. Change is constant.’ to more prosaic.  Sometimes people long for change, as we did before we moved to Egypt. That move was less fearful, although more challenging, than the next to Texas. We could not have predicted that the second Gulf war would have started 4 months after our arrival in Cairo nor could we have anticipated so many extreme weather events in Texas. The recent deep freeze was just the ‘icing’ on the cake. Do you see what I did there? Teddy is tired of my silly, pun filled humor after a year sequestered together…

I am leading up to the elephant in the room – the biggest change in modern history and most of us didn’t see it coming. Dare I even mention the pandemic or are we all sick of it? Not only have we dealt with unexpected change personally but also in society. Some cultures and nations have dealt with it more graciously and effectively than others. I am not a fan of Sweden’s current laissez faire approach to Covid-19 but perhaps not unexpected given their history of forced sterilization of mentally disabled/unwell, Roma (and other people deemed anti-social) from 1906 to 1975. Something similar happened in Canada to the indigenous. We all know how despicable the USA can be – need I list our many egregious acts? I dare not cast any stones. None of us truly know what was or is the best course of action for this pandemic, nor will we for years. Life will not go back to what it was but will evolve into something different, perhaps better or worse. This year has given us plenty of time to think and reflect – a scary prospect for many of us. I rarely look in a mirror for long because I don’t like what I see both superficially and behind my eyes.

Since my second vaccination there has been a calming within me. I am fully aware that there could be a Covid mutation lurking but I am less panicked about getting seriously ill. The truth is that I am always unwell and that’s why I take daily medication. I have looked at my behavior and actions this year – my mental illness is real, quantifiable and more debilitating than I thought. Strangely, it is a relief to finally accept the truth. No magic pill or treatment awaits me. It is not normal to go to bed at 6 pm, fall asleep about 9.30 pm and then not rise until 11 am. I am not always fully asleep but I am hiding under the covers or reading. Yesterday I did something I had been putting off for weeks. We called an air conditioning firm, got quotations and we are having a completely new HVAC system installed.

I wanted it done quickly but was totally overwhelmed by the speed and cost although I had thoroughly researched it (for years). I went to bed even earlier, chewed my mouth until it hurt and didn’t get up until midday. After they finish the installation, I will be even more anxious, in physical pain from tensing my body and will probably drink some unnecessary wine. I still haven’t learned to pace myself either because as soon as the charming chatty estimator left, I went to two garden centers to replace the dead plants in our yard. In the last year there has been significant building on the farmland and forest around our township.  Roads that were once quiet are frenetic.  You are either stuck behind a very sporty Audi driven by some old dude at 30 mph or some eejit in a truck who is weaving at high speed. The tension was rising in my addled brain and when I could barely find a parking space at either garden center, I just retreated to the safety of our home. That wiped me out.

I felt so frustrated – where is the person who trekked across Belize, Mexico and Malaysia solo? Perhaps this is how a caged animal feels when you open the door?  Objectively, I know that time is a great healer and practice will make driving feel less frightening.  Much of my working life was spent soothing clients in distress, from mentally ill people and passengers at the airport.  Sometimes they were both!  The inability to interact with people in a meaningful way inevitably leads to self-absorbed thinking.  We are unable to use perspective without seeing normal societal encounters as a gauge.  Therapy is an ideal option for some but not for me.  I hope this is not seen as a negative post as I would prefer it to be revelatory.  Positivity is a wonderful trait if it is genuine but you can’t force it.  Over the last year I have felt ridiculously happy at times, sometimes anguished and now thoughtful.  Then there is all the guilt about the people who are struggling much more but that’s another post.

This is part one of an essay about Change and Evolution.

Rad New Hair

I was in the discount section of the supermarket and I saw reduced hair color.  Although it said it was light neutral blonde, it went Cersei red, previously known as strawberry blonde.  That provoked me to be unfaithful to my current hairdresser and try someone new.  For the husbands – this is an insight into the convoluted thinking of women.

My hair is really difficult to cut but I think she made a good job of my elfin request.  Two days later and it doesn’t really look that good anymore…  It really needs some product to fluff and separate it.  It is rodeo week in Houston so I dressed like a typical Texan cowgirl – the top is covered in sparkles, y’alls!

Happy Spring! 💐💐