The price one pays for living

February 21st, 2013 § 24 comments

sc0098fddc“I look so old in that picture.”

I hear this one a lot now that my friends and I are what they term “middle-aged.” They want to see and choose pictures before they get saved or shared; the confidence and carefree attitude in photos from our youth has slipped away.

It’s not just people my age, though. For example, my father in his 70s comments on how old he appears in photos I take, too. With a full head of white-gray hair, he doesn’t look old, I think… but even if he does? What’s wrong with looking his age? With plastic surgery and Hollywood showing altered appearances all the time it’s almost shocking when we see people who haven’t adjusted their appearance. Maggie Smith (most recently of Downton Abbey fame) has a face as wrinkled as a Shar-Pei, and we love her for it.

Aging isn’t easy. There are cruel sides: bodies that hurt, diseases like Alzheimer’s  that strike mercilessly, loss of independence and body control. For sure, I don’t mean to imply that getting old is pleasant.

Aging is, however, the price one pays for living.

I look at getting old as a positive now. To age means to be alive. For some of us getting old is now a pipe dream. I will miss an entire generation of my life. That is the truth about my stage IV breast cancer.

I face the reality that I am not middle aged. I am living my own old age now, in my 40s.1

  1. the photo above is 4 generations of women in my family, right after Paige was born. My maternal grandmother and my grandfather lived into their 80s, long enough to see two of my children []

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§ 24 Responses to The price one pays for living"

  • mindy says:

    Quite touching, Lisa. You certainly do put it all in perspective. If we realize that today, we are as young as we will ever be again, perhaps we won’t be so depressed about being “middle aged” or “old.” Just live!

  • Poignant post. I have a quote: All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on. – Havelock Ellis

    Beautiful women in your family.

  • Renn says:

    Lisa, as always you hit on an important, timely, poignant topic. I notice this photo phobia in my family too. My mom has been hiding from photos for decades (this behavior started in her 40s, the same time period as you mention it happening to your friends now). My mom turned 80 last year, and we are so fortunate to have her this long, and I take as many photos of her now as I can. She even enjoys being photographed again! (But try and find a photo of her *not* hiding behind sunglasses or someone else from the 80s or 90s or 00s!)

    There is an old saying: “You’ll never be as young as you are right now.” So true.

    To photographers of every level, everywhere… get busy taking pics!


  • marci says:

    When fighting my second battle with breast cancer, at age 47 (first dx at 31)…a “friend” came up to me in a restaurant and said she had been thinking of me and wanted to tell me she thought of 3 really good reasons for me if I were to die at a young age. Her reasons were horrible. Horrible. And she was totally serious. I’ve heard many many “stupid” things said to me during 17.5 yrs with breast cancer, but her trying to explain why it was good to die young was the stupidest. She was in her 60’s. And she was a nurse!

  • Britt says:

    I joined a Bible study group with a handful of sassy women who have 20-25 years on me. For two sessions I sat quietly, listening to them worry (still) about their grown children, their grandchildren, their ever-more-doddering husbands, their unfamiliarity with the wrinkled gal in the mirror. But finally, I couldn’t keep silent: “I want to be YOU!” I want to fuss over fractionally Asian grandchildren someday. There’s so much beauty– luxury– in those wrinkles.

    All of us have “friends” like Marci described. I’ve endured the but-you-could-be-hit-by-a-bus-anytime argument, suppressing the urge to hurl my travel mug at the well meaning offender. So, I love how you put it out there: the uncomfortable uncertainty of it all.

  • Pam says:

    I’ve had countless elderly people tell me: don’t get old. I know, it’s a common joke along the lines of: old age is not for sissies, but I always bridle inwardly when I hear it. The other option, after all, is to die.

    So, in contrast to those elderly folks, let me say– I hope we all get good and old.

  • robin says:

    oh, lisa….you make so much sense. sometimes when i read your posts i wonder if my dear mother had some of these same thoughts -things she was unable to share with us, ,her daughters. we took each day and certainly each birthday as cause for joy -the older, the better….i am sure many people will read your words and think twice before the whining about their age. xo

  • Lisa, you articulated the aging issue as only one with cancer could do, and particularly with mets. While I finished treatment and so far, so good, my last birthday found me crying out of gratitude for growing another year older. Aging is a gift, but we live in a world where most don’t give a thought to their mortality and worship that which is fleeting.

  • Jamie Handy says:

    I too have grown so sick of people telling me they hate growing old and I get angry feelings inside towards them. My mom died much too young of cancer and she would have given anything to grow old. I love the quote “Never regret growing older, it is a privilege denied to many.” and now I think I will add your words, “Aging is the price we pay for living.” I try hard to embrace it. I celebrate each birthday with my REAL age. I am proud and grateful for every day I have and I wouldn’t give up a single one willingly.

  • Mary says:

    Again, you put into words my very own thoughts. Thank you, Lisa.

  • MLB says:

    Having seen my mother die when she was 48 of cancer I have felt growing old is a privilege for a long time. It’s all any of us really want and strive towards. Thinking of you

  • Ana says:

    Lisa! You wrote a poignant post today. Maggie Smith was on 60 Minutes on Sunday and discussed getting older. She shrugged at one point and said what can I do about it. I admired her for sitting before the camera without (I’m almost sure) makeup. Her face is a beautiful display of life and character. She was delightful and I was remorseful that our society has gotten so age-phobic. Every where I turn it seems I run into another taunt face causing translucent skin, and woman who can’t smile because of botax.

    When my mother passed away in December, the funeral home suggested we put together a DVD of pictures of her. Somewhere in her 30s, maybe 40s she stopped letting us take photos of her; and she refused to admit that she was over 39. I had so few photos to choose from for the DVD because of her decision. And I had virtually no family photos such as the one you posted today. It made me sad. Because my mother was so adamant about being perpetually 39, for years I did not know her true age. I finally sneaked a peak at her drivers license. I never understood why she didn’t embrace her age. Maybe it was a good lesson for me – I tell everyone I’m 52 when given the opportunity. Why not? Anyway, thank you for writing what you did today. It made me stop and pause.

  • When my husband nearly died from a massive stroke 12 years ago, I realized that getting old is something I wish for. And I wish it for you. xx molly

  • What a wonderful line-“Aging is the price one pays for living.” We were told “act your age” when we were younger. What is wrong with looking our age as we get older? I use this line on my own birthday-“better older than deader.” A bit blunt, but if I believe those words, along with being given the opportunity to keep living, I will continue to appreciate each day, each little blessing that comes my way. Your writing is a blessing to many. Thank you.

  • Kristina Riggle says:

    My mom says, half-joking, “It’s hell getting old.” My reply is, “It’s better than the alternative.”

  • melissa says:

    I spent the day with my sister who is very ill but full of life and we spoke about Thee magic of any ordinary day. that is what we want especially after the fact that I lost my mom when I was 21 and I am 51 now. your writing touches me in such a special way. Thank you so much.

  • I’ve been a nightmare about aging ever since I turned 30. I’d like to say that was last week but NO.

  • When I was a nursing home administrator, I remember how people would comment on how it was too bad that people had to leave their homes, their possessions and, for some, their dignity, and end up living in a nursing home. I reminded those same people that these were the ones fortunate enough to have lived long enough to have reached this point. Hope you find a way to grow old, Lisa ….

  • So true Lisa. My Mom, who is 71 and looks great for her age, is always complaining. People still think we are sisters (I’m 50) That used to drive me crazy when I was younger, but not anymore. I am HAPPY to be aging, believe me. Bring it on. The wrinkles on our face reveal our lives; good and bad.

  • Love the 4 generation pic too. Precious

  • “The alternative” is one line I use too. Short and to the point!

  • Penny the golfer says:

    I turned 60 in January and being diagnosed with bone cancer three years ago and going through treatment like you until September last year being told it is now in the liver and lungs. I have been a very active person playing top grade golf for many years and enjoying my beautiful grandchildren. Now most of this has been taken away from me as I am now trying intravenous chemo once again (last time 11 years ago). I am ready to make a decision to quit and ensure my quality of life is exceptional for the time I am here. All I want to do is go an win a tournament again or take my granddaughter out for a full day’s trip with me.

    I heard about your blog from a Psychologist in Cairns Queensland Australia whom I am in contact with about her book about breast cancer! I live in Sydney and now wish to visit her and talk with her about my future. I have always been a positive and enthusiastic person, my friends always say that about me.

    I know I shall die sooner than later and my father at 92 is still alive and with a wonderful brain! He tells me regularly that he wishes he can just go; he is tired of living as his body is too old! I wish I could swap with him and I know I would appreciate the life to 92. His body is certainly giving him pain at an old age, but to have a wonderful working brain memory and no cancer pain he does not appreciate what he has. He complains when he has to take tablets for arthritis etc. Poor dear he feels sorry for me but does not try to understand what people like you and I are going through.

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