(On my approaching 89th birthday)
As a typical teen, I had trouble accepting my body “as is” --or as it was. In my case, I was critical of the “chubby” earth suit I inherited from my Czech ancestors, I compared myself unfavorably with other classmates and wanted to change everything about my appearance.
Now in my summit years I am who I have been becoming for a lifetime. So it is high time to make peace with my mortal body and be content with the common changes that comes to all of us with advancing years. And to accept gratefully the God-ordained body that He chose for me. I am thankful to God that especially as a cancer surgery survivor, the body He blessed me with has lasted so long under His intensive, loving care with minimal maintenance procedures.
I know it will go better for me if I accept with humor my “maturing” bodily changes and their deterioration. Even the apostle Paul admitted that his “earthen vessel” and “outer man was decaying” when he looked at the temporary, visible part of himself. His earthly tent, as he described it, was becoming tattered and ready to be torn down. Notice that he used the personal pronoun in those passages in 2 Corinthians chapters four and five.
Okay, Paul, did you mean that you too noticed that your skin went from smooth to wrinkled and your muscles from firm to flabby with the loss of mass and collagen? (I'm reminded of one of my little granddaughters when she used to sit on my lap playing with the flabby skin which used to be my double chin. Well, I did a similar thing as a toddler playing with the loose skin on my grandmother's underarm below the shoulder! What goes around, comes around!) Paul, did you too begin to experience moving from quick to more slowly, your body changing from slim to bulky, from tall to shorter, your balance from steady to tottering? Did you sometimes go from alert to drowsy, from robust health to ailing, from being sure-footed to stumbling, from a steady hand to tremors? Did your hair turn from dark to gray?
Paul, did you experience the redistribution of your bodily assets to places where you would rather not have them applied? Men do have different appearance problems than women do. Aging men often become thin while their stomachs above their belts begin to balloon. Women seem to be more vulnerable to gravity and shape up (or down) differently as they age. Many women become barrel-like below their belts.
But I'm going to leave the apostle Paul comparison, because he was probably able to disguise any bodily sags and balloonings under the draping of his flowing Eastern robes.
I was determined as a teenager that I would never, ever look like all my stout, full-figured Czech women relatives with their ample tummies which they covered up with large European-style aprons. Guess what? Now my GYN chuckles and recommends that I accept the changes of my aging body and resign myself to “look like you're three months pregnant in your eighties!” Well, thanks. I didn't need that. I'm not Abraham's wife Sarah or Jesus' Aunt Elizabeth either. And aprons are no longer in fashion.
I remember a time in my life when I could eat almost anything and it didn't show up on my body. Now in my advanced calendar years I can just eat modestly and it jumps directly to my waist, thighs, or derriere. Yes, even when I eat only healthful and nutritious foods. I have other aging peer friends who eat sumptuously and are thin as rails. Something is amiss. Seems that I can have skinny arms but a bulky body, albeit wrinkled and saggy.
There are other changes I must accept. Whereas in my former seasons of life I was not only able to care for myself but I cared for others. I realize that a time may come when I myself will need to be cared for. In the past I have been in control of all my affairs and could be depended on to make quick, wise decisions. That may change. In practical matters, sound sleep now gives way to wakefulness. There may be multiple nocturnal bathroom journeys. If not, well, that all “Depends.”
People in summit years may now face weakness and frailty where formerly they had been strong and agile. Upright stature tends to give way to stooping. Those of us who had good "rememberers" may begin to have increasing senior moments.
“All that is within me” used to be running along smoothly and regularly when I was young. Prunes are usually on my shopping list! Now there is much within me that is not even fixable anymore. I must simply try to manage all the breakdowns and whatever doesn't work anymore. I resign myself that in common with the rest of my seasoned peers, quite often now “my get-up-and-go” has “got-up-and-went.” We all have an energy crises. Gravity is having the last word. We more frequently run out of steam in the short term and slump-lump into the nearest sofa chair. And if we remain there very long, we may take a brief and sonorous siesta.
There's more, but enough already! The bottom line is that I need to be philosophical about the unavoidable changes of the human flesh part of me. I gain nothing by fighting against nature.
The Serenity Prayer is even more relevant in my summit years. “God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and Wisdom to know the difference.” If I don't recognize the difference and fail to accept the unchangeable, I will simply complain and make myself miserable and unhappy.
In the first eight verses of the twelfth chapter of Ecclesiastes the writer describes our “earth suit” changes in aging years in detail poetically. He begins and ends with the admonition to "Remember your Creator before “the silver cord is broken,” before the “golden bowl is crushed,” “the pitcher is shattered,” and “the wheel at the cistern is crushed.”
In other words, “Celebrate each day of life as a loving gift from God” while God gives us life and breath!”
(Excerpt from Chapter 8 “My Earth Suit on the Summit” from Leona's soon to be published book STILL MORE! FLOURISHING ON MY SUMMIT.)