There are many losses on the bumpy road to old age. Everyone struggles to avoid, or more realistically, to postpone the loss of youthful beauty and vigor, of fading vision and hearing, and the dreaded loss of memory. Then, there is the tragic loss of cherished family and friends.
In recent years, there have been some contributions that have helped to make some of the bumps less traumatic – medical advances, more knowledge about the role of nutrition and exercise, cosmetic surgery. But this is a piece about loss, not new horizons, for the elderly.
For me, a major loss is the gradual erosion of ambition – that passion to achieve a particular goal and the willingness to work hard to achieve it. It seems to me I’ve always set goals for myself and enjoyed the process of getting there. Like most things in life, getting there is half the fun. That is what I miss. I have to acknowledge that on some level. I feel as ambitious as ever, but the reality is that old age puts a roadblock on getting there.
Many people welcome an end to the “fire in the belly” – that pressure to perform and achieve. They are the ones who look forward to retirement and its freedom from stress. Sometimes, they find even freedom has its own stress and the process of getting old doesn’t stop.
Then there are those, like me, who need to find avenues where that fire brightens their older years, even though its light is not as bright, its heat not as warming; but as Edna St. Vincent Millay once put it in a different context, “but ah my foes, and oh, my friends, it gives a lovely light.”