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The Thing About Aging That Stresses Me Out

My husband recently turned 57, a cause for celebration. As we sat with Porn Star martinis and gumbo between us—we hadn't been out in a while—I asked him how he felt about getting older.

"I don't worry about it much," he said. "I just think about how much time I have left."

I, at 43, nodded and slurped from my glass. "Me, too. I think about it more and more."

After one or two more exchanges, it became clear that while he was talking about retirement, I was referring to death.

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I don't know if it's entering my forties or motherhood—the two came around the same time for me, so it's hard to distinguish—but I'm a lot more aware of my mortality than I used to be.

Photograph from: Tracy Brown Hamilton

I expected age to bother me in a vanity sense. I thought I'd feel bad about my neck, my knees, my eye lines. I don't love that aspect, but I don't really obsess over it as much as I thought I might.

I feel fit. I bike most places. I do a trampoline workout twice (most) weeks, and tonight I'm going to an introduction lesson at an indoor climbing facility with two friends. I've made a more conscious choice to exercise with friends instead of (just) drink wine and go for dinner.

But my fitness comes with a qualifier these days: I'm alright for a 43-year-old mother of three. Then again, that's not the point.

I feel differently about the idea of aging. Now when I see an elderly woman who can't quite hear or use her legs or chew food effectively, I don't think, as I would have once, "Oh please don't let that happen to me." I think: "Good on you. You're still in it. You're still here."

Time has become my most important resource, whether it's another 15 minutes in bed or a chance for an hour-long walk with a friend.

Children have broadened my desired reach for how long I want to be around. I want to see as much of their lives as I can. I want to know who, or if, they marry, how they find joy in their lives, what professions they seek and what kind of people they are. I want to see for myself what they excel in, what they struggle with, how they deal with who they are.

And—again, I don't know if it's forties or motherhood—I feel like I'm getting better each year, because I'm far more sure of myself and willing to take risks that are meaningful rather than just rebellious or bratty.

Before my first child was born, for example, I was a writer and editor, but I had never written a word from my own point of view, in my own voice. I don't pretend the world of letters has been much changed for this. But I have. I find enormous value in taking time to consider what I really think and in trying to understand the thinking of others. Trying to find the humor if not the logic in things.

My friendships are better as I get older. And I'm calmer. A night in with a good book is a treat rather than a sign that I don't have enough going on in my life. I'm enjoying simpler things while feeling closer to accomplishing bigger ones, or at least being able to imagine doing more than I would have when I was 25 and less secure.

I want to do more. And more. Of whatever.

Time has become my most important resource, whether it's another 15 minutes in bed or a chance for an hour-long walk with a friend. Or 40 more years with my mind and family, to be aware of things and to participate in them.

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Here is where I inevitably mention that my mother died when she was 48. She had a good life, full of friends and family and travel and adventure. And she was funny. She enjoyed herself and had just started taking college classes. She wasn't done doing half of what she was going to do.

Photograph from: Tracy Brown Hamilton

That frustrates me but mostly reminds me not to take time for granted or wish it away. Without being morbid or becoming a hypochondriac or obsessing over death, I'm just finding myself more aware of time and how much more of it I want.

I don't worry about dying, I'm just more aware that I don't want to. Life's too good.

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