Feeling nostalgia for the present...
September 7, 2011 7:09 AM   Subscribe

Of course all my hoping didn't work, and I'm ageing. The people I love also are, to my dismay.

This issue may sound a little bit shallow, but it has a deep side, too.

I am 27 and I'm starting to see some signs of age in my body. I would like to know how other people cope with losing atractiveness, and the feeling of being over the hill in life. I also think about how my husband will one day no longer be the crazy good looking person he is now (which of course does not mean I will love him any less, but it feels like something worth grieving over)

More importantly, time is also affecting me when it comes to the people I love. I recognize my parents are closer and closer to be gone, which scares me horribly.

How do you cope with the gloomy future? And if you have already gone trough it, how did you survive?
posted by Tarumba to Human Relations (65 answers total) 74 users marked this as a favorite
At 45 and a half, having just heard that my kid sister has undergone menopause, I would give an ear or half a toe to be 27 again. I was lithe, I tell you, lithe and lissom.

Grieving over one's mortality, imho, seems a bit redundant. Grab life and live it.

This issue may sound a little bit shallow

Maybe not, in the context of full media immersion in the cult of youth.
posted by infini at 7:15 AM on September 7, 2011 [7 favorites]

Perhaps volunteering — at an elder care facility, maybe, or a shelter or food bank — would give you some well-needed perspective. Planning for "gloom" is the only surefire way to achieve it.
posted by thejoshu at 7:17 AM on September 7, 2011 [8 favorites]

Best answer: When I was 27 (in the 70s) I had no idea what my life was all about. Of course, no one could have told me that since I was sure I knew better so I would just humor them. This is why I can't really answer your question in a way that will be meaningful to you.
posted by Obscure Reference at 7:18 AM on September 7, 2011 [15 favorites]

Youth is overrated. I wouldn't exchange what I have now at 40 for what I had at 27. And unless I'm looking in the mirror, I don't feel any different now than I did at 27, or even 16 for that matter.

Fearing the future is almost as bad a habit as regretting the past.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 7:22 AM on September 7, 2011 [17 favorites]

posted by Yoshimi Battles at 7:22 AM on September 7, 2011

Best answer: "There are compensations" would be one of my answers. When I was about your age and going through a rough patch, a friend who was a bit older said, "Don't worry, everything starts to get better and easier once you turn 30." She was right! My 30s were awesome. Meanwhile, my mother told me that her 40s were her favorite decade: she'd gotten over some stuff, she and my dad finally had some extra money. (My own 40s have actually been a little rough, but I guess YMMV.) And I know a bunch of people who make 50 look like an incredibly vibrant age of renewed focus and meaningful activity, which is awesome to see--positive older role models can be a really good thing.

Really, for me, getting older has meant getting mellower about things that used to really bug me, knowing myself better, having that bit of extra money. I have friendships that are older than you are, and that is surprisingly awesome and definitely one of the compensations. A friendship that is 15, 20, 25, 30 years old is a valuable thing and you simply can't have that in your 20s.

I'll be 46 in a few weeks, and am just starting to have to deal with my parents' aging in a seirous way; my mother's health is very poor and she's quite disabled now. I don't feel ready; somehow I thought I'd have more time. But a lot of my friends have already been through it--several have buried their mothers or fathers in the last couple of years, often after years of caregiving--and I see that it is hard but it's only one part of life.
posted by not that girl at 7:23 AM on September 7, 2011 [20 favorites]

How do you cope with the gloomy future?

You don't really have a choice. It just kind of... happens.

And if you have already gone trough it, how did you survive?

My teens were unpleasant. My twenties were much better than my teens. My thirties were downright awesome. Other than the whole being-unemployed thing, my forties (all 9 months of them to date) are looking even better so far. Each decade has been awesomer than the last as I have grown in wisdom, experience, confidence and, most important of all, self-knowledge. I see no reason why that trend shouldn't continue, and I'm looking forward to it.
posted by dersins at 7:25 AM on September 7, 2011 [3 favorites]

How do you cope with the gloomy future?

The future isn't gloomy. If you really think being 27 is "over the hill" and that you have to "cope" with it, go spend some time volunteering. Get out of your head, and do good in the world. There are people with real, tangible problems which you -- fit, young, and energetic -- can help with, and in doing so you'll gain perspective on the idea of being old.

Plus, nobody cares how attractive/unattractive you are when you're helping them.
posted by ellF at 7:25 AM on September 7, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: A few years ago, when I was in my 30s, I was biking up a long grade out of Tomales towards Point Reyes. Most of the group I was riding with was older than me, but there was a twenty-something, and the two of us were huffing and puffing and battling it out in a testosterone charged attack on the crest of the hill.

As I stood to squeeze a little more out of my legs and lungs, I glanced in my mirror and saw that somebody had broken free of the pack a hundred or two yards behind us and was gaining on us. Gasping, I pushed to a hard pant, my legs screaming as the two of us fought for inches of lead on the climb. Meanwhile, the figure behind us kept on coming.

And as the hill started to ease for the crest, he blew by us, with a greeting us in a conversational voice, and hit the peak before we did.

He was, at the time, over 70. And competitive with the twenty somethings on the California time-trial circuit.

Life is assuredly finite, but age is what you make it.
posted by straw at 7:26 AM on September 7, 2011 [40 favorites]

Best answer: I would also add that I had a kind of transition period in my mid-to-late 20s when I had to accept that I wasn't young-young anymore. For me, this was partly made difficult by having been a very precocious child, and having to adjust to being old enough that I would never again be the "youngest" to do anything. But it was partly just this mental adjustment to moving into a new stage of adulthood--a stage that lasts a really long time. Kind of like growing pains. Maybe you're going through something like that. It might help to realize that what you're feeling isn't something you're going to just keep feeling as you get older...and older...and older... but may just be a time of adjustment.
posted by not that girl at 7:26 AM on September 7, 2011 [7 favorites]

How do you cope with the gloomy future?

Oh, it was horrible! I kept growing older and older and feeling more assured and secure and competent, and got the respect of being an adult, and from making my own choices, and testing my limits. And had a ridiculous wealth of experiences!

And if you have already gone trough it, how did you survive?

Mostly by not dying.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 7:28 AM on September 7, 2011 [37 favorites]

Best answer: I use what little remaining youth I have as motivation.

There will come a time when wearing that dress or surfing that wave or taking that hike or dancing that dance will ultimately no longer be feasible (either physically or because of the morass of responsibilities that seem tied to being an adult). This is (a part) of what people mean when they say that youth is wasted on the young.

At the same time, as you age, you realize that in many ways, you really are only as old as you feel. Sure your looks may evolve, but when you have friends of increasingly varying ages, you start to notice that you have some friends in their late 50's who seem young compared to other friends in their early 30's. You are still a long way from being physically limited from living life to the fullest.

This issue may sound a little bit shallow, but it has a deep side, too.

Finally, it's true that your and everyone else's youthful looks may fade. But as they do so, looks also become less and less of a priority in life. You appreciate and perhaps rightfully mourn their passing, but at the same time gain an appreciation for so many life experiences that would be lost on you in your youth. You outgrow a lot of the hangups and insecurities of youth, and start looking back on yourself as a youthful, possibly shallow fool. And that worked for you at the time, but your values change in a way that youthful looks just aren't as important as they are to you now.
posted by drpynchon at 7:28 AM on September 7, 2011 [4 favorites]

I am 27 and I'm starting to see some signs of age in my body. I would like to know how other people cope ... the feeling of being over the hill in life.

Years ago, I worked with two guys in their 70s, and I came in on my 25th birthday and said pretty much the same thing. They laughed in my face. One of them so hard that he doubled over.

It irritated me then, but now I get it - and so will you. In the best case, aging and gaining experience will - if you let them - make you less self-focused and less self-conscious, and teach you (sometimes painfully) to be more viscerally grateful for the good things that you have.

It's impossible to understand in the abstract, though - you just have to live it. I have more aches and pains at age 38, but also much, much more peace of mind than I had at 27.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:29 AM on September 7, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: i am knocking on 30s door. i went through a very similar mindset when i was 27. i can't tell you why it happened then, but i just started noticing how very young 21 year olds were, how i was being called ma'am instead of miss, how when the late teens/early 20s men held the door for me it was much more motherly respect and much less check out my ass.

i still struggle with it some, but the intensity of my fears have absolutely subsided in the last few years. after you get over the shock of it, it's pretty nice to be aged out of some people's passing fantasies. it's nice to go into a store and not be followed by the sales people. it's nice to relax some of your notions about attractiveness and success. i feel settled in a way i never did in my early 20s.

as for my husband aging, i can't help you there - i've always liked the look of older men. i delight in every single one of his gray hairs ("platinum! not white! it sounds cooler!"). i like his every wrinkle. i look forward to us growing old together. i love the age and the history of our relationship.

i feel like much like you probably find it hard to remember just how painful 4th grade was, a lot of 40 year olds might forget what it felt like to see the first glimmer of your youth fade. i think you're feeling something totally normal and you can ignore any undertones of "bah! whippersnapper! you're not old! stop complaining."
posted by nadawi at 7:30 AM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Eat well. Do stretches, especially hamstrings. Moisturize. Wear a hat with a brim when you go outside on sunny days.

And that's it, really. Even if you do all that, someday you will be old. I am older now than I used to be, and I can't wear the same jeans I once could - woe! - but you know what, there are tradeoffs. As I get older, I find I am more able to let things slide. I'm more able to let go of things. I'm more able to just let people be who they are and not weigh them down with my expectations. I don't freak out or start drama, and I am more aware that I'd have said the same thing years ago but now it's actually true.

Some day, I will be a wrinkly old MONSTER. Honestly, I'm looking forward to it. I'm kind of excited to think about what kind of old person I'll be. I hope I'll be cool. I'm going to try to be.

Your youthful looks fade. You know what else fades? The crippling panic at the idea of your youthful looks fading. It's true. Trust me. It's pretty cool.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:34 AM on September 7, 2011 [10 favorites]

Best answer: It's hardly shallow. It is one of the great issues that philosophers have dealt with over the ages.

The consensus seems to be that mortality is life's way of forcing us to make choices that matter. If you had immortality, you could play video games for a thousand years, and then make something of yourself. You don't, so you have to decide what meaning your life will have.

Use your fear of death as motivation. I use my fear of death to make sure I spend time with my kids, and write books and movies and TV shows. I try not to waste the time that I have.

I think that's it: don't waste the time that you have. Don't live each day as if it might be your last, because a lot of life is about building things over time. But do live life knowing that it won't last forever. What do you want to do with it? What do you want to leave behind? Who will mourn you when you're gone? Will you leave the world a better place?

For the physical stuff, feh. Grownups like me have much more fun in bed. And as far as the aches and pains go, you adapt.
posted by musofire at 7:40 AM on September 7, 2011 [9 favorites]

You have to be 27 to think that having wrinkles is something to grieve.

By the time you and your husband have actually aged in any significant way, you'll have matured past the point where you'll realize that a few wrinkles are no big deal.
posted by Kololo at 7:40 AM on September 7, 2011 [3 favorites]

I am in my late forties. I look ahead and am somewhat saddened at times. I really enjoy my life and things are great, but I cannot help but thinking all this fun is more than halfway over. When I turned 45, one 'friend" pointed out that I was now closer to 70 than 20. It is all relative.

Looking back, if I could change anything, I would have only one thing to answer yes to. I was a hard charging partyer in my 20's and enjoyed every moment of it. But I would compensate and work out hard every day. Even after almost all of my 86 Dead shows, I would get up the next day or in some cases go straight to the gym and do cardio for an hour. The only thing I would change is when I stopped being a sot etc., I stopped working out for some reason. I would change that going back and continued to have worked out. The only thing that needs age is your body, you control your mind.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:42 AM on September 7, 2011

Best answer: I feel much more attractive now, in my 40s, than I did when I was in my 20s, because I'm more confident now. I don't worry about most of the stupid shit I did back then. I have a better sense of who I am. I care way, way less about what people think of me. I have a tight circle of friends, most of whom have known me for years and years - I just went to the wedding of someone who has been a friend for 27 years!

Both my parents died in the year I turned 30. That year sucked more than anything can suck. But I survived it. It changed me; it fucked me up in some ways and strengthened me in others.

As for physical attractiveness? Well, Meryl Streep is, what, 60something? And she's more beautiful now than she was decades ago (to my eyes, at least).

You'll be okay. And don't worry so much - you'll get wrinkles.
posted by rtha at 7:47 AM on September 7, 2011 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I also think about how my husband will one day no longer be the crazy good looking person he is now

Not so! You know how you're not attracted to 14-year-old boys any more? But you were when you were 14 yourself? It's like that.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:48 AM on September 7, 2011 [30 favorites]

This is pretty much what kids are good for. Once you've got them, you can clearly delineate yourself from youth; you are well and truly grown up.

There are probably easier, less expensive, and more practical alternatives, of course. A career might be one.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:49 AM on September 7, 2011

Best answer:
How do you cope with the gloomy future? And if you have already gone trough it, how did you survive?
posted by Tarumba to human relations (15 answers total) [add to favorites] 5 users marked this as a favorite [!]

By chasing goals, I wrap myself up in a narrative of improvement. I convince myself that by learning, and staying fit, and developing new skills, deepning relationships, and defining my place in the world, that although my body might physically decline, I only get better.

Of course that's not entirely realistic, but striving for self improvement certainly can't hurt, and if nothing else it gives you a sense of direction and fulfillment that you might not otherwise have.

As to the inevitability of death and loss... it's pretty scary, in a really profound and significant way. There aren't any easy answers there. If your own quest for religion, philosophy, or personal significance don't help you there, then it's back to staying busy.
A lot of people have found this clip from one of the TEDx conventions to be powerful.

As for physical decline, hell. Stay healthy, stay fit, and age gracefully.
posted by Stagger Lee at 7:50 AM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

There's a weird, unspoken idea floating around in the world that if you get older, past a certain point, it's because you did something wrong.

This sounds ridiculous when you say it in so many words, but you'll hear it time and again behind the words that people use when they talk about age and aging. You hear it when people talk about someone being "some middle-aged bald guy" -- if only he hadn't committed that unnamed sin, he'd still be young with luxurious locks! Poor sap.

Of course, living long enough to become older is evidence of doing something right, if anything.
posted by the jam at 7:50 AM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I don't think I mentioned wrinkles...I was thinking more about the sagging, the loss of agility, the weight gain the white hair, etc. Also, the death of my parents is a much more worrying subject for me than my body. Sorry if I didn't frame it well. English is not my first language.
posted by Tarumba at 7:54 AM on September 7, 2011

Also, I really recommend reading The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are. Spoiler alert: that you feel like an individual person separate from the rest of what exists is largely an illusion.
posted by the jam at 7:56 AM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

Right around when I was your age, I started getting into really good shape, took better care of my skin and diet, and basically started paying attention to all of those things that I didn't really need to pay attention to when I was younger. It doesn't arrest the aging process, but it makes you feel better about it and makes a good, worthwhile way to pass the time as you age.

In a more general sense, everything people say about life getting better after 30 is correct.
posted by deanc at 8:04 AM on September 7, 2011

Best answer: When you are young (as you are, comparatively - I am 50) it's easy to value youth and attractiveness. But they are essentially superficial and temporary. As you grow older, you start to value wisdom and experience, both in yourself and in others.

Your husband may not be "crazy attractive" in the same way when he is older, but he will be more mature and distinguished - qualities that YOU will most likely find "crazy attractive" when you are older too.

No doubt it's easy to get into a fatalistic mode, and ponder your own mortality too much; I do this pretty often myself. But the reality is that life is for the living, and there is plenty of joy and happiness to go around.

Cherish your time with your loved ones and cherish life, whether you are sitting on your couch or on an adventurous vacation.

And I know its a cliche, but when you are my age, you will look back at 27 and wonder why you worried so much.
posted by The Deej at 8:05 AM on September 7, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I was fortunate enough to have a grandmother who was active and mentally sharp well into he 90s, may she rest in peace, and fortunate enough to have volunteered with Elderhostel, thereby meeting a lot of other truly amazing older people. I am not worried about getting old, because having met them, I know that I can be vibrant for s good long time and well...after that, there will be a lot of good stories to remember me by. I am also lucky to have vibrant parents (in their 60s) who act like people 20 years younger in the sense that they are still excited about what each no day will bring.

Beyond that...a school nurse in her 70s I used to work with told me that her secret to looking 30 years younger was that every morning she would look in the mirror and, no matter how she was feeling about herself that day, she would say, aloud, "you look damn good, babe.". I am not joking when I say she is one of the sexiest people I've ever met. Attitude is everything and experience makes having a great attitude easier because you learn what matters and what doesn't.

So I am bit saggier and less agile; as the saying goes youth has nothing on age and cunning. It does get easier as you realize that you are still attractive, you feel better about yourself, and life goes on.

I under stand that prent worry part despite what I have said above, we have had a few recent health scares with my mom and the thought of losing her is hard. For me, spiritually, making Tyne time I have with her as much of a blessing is possible helps. I no longer fight her on silly stuff, I try to create as many happy memories as possible. But if you don't have something like that to help you...it does suck, it is part of growing older, and it isn't supposed to be easy. But the memories make the person immortal, at least in your family, and you are who you are because of them, so there is that form of immortality too.
posted by eleanna at 8:06 AM on September 7, 2011

Best answer: Also, the death of my parents is a much more worrying subject for me than my body.

I am nearly 27 and my parents have already died. All I can say is that you don't have to be afraid. It will hurt you, but it will not destroy you. You probably don't think you have the strength to deal with it, but when the time comes, it will emerge as if out of nowhere and, more importantly, it will never go away.

Burying your parents will be a transformative experience, rather than a demolishing one. It is nothing to hope for, or look forward to -- your worry about it makes me assume you like your parents -- but you shouldn't cower from it. Grief can't kill you and the experience is, you should hope, inevitable. You'll be different coming out the other side -- stronger and more capable.
posted by griphus at 8:09 AM on September 7, 2011 [16 favorites]

I don't know that I can help you all that much, but I'm your age and my dad died when I was very, very young. My mom is in her early 60s and still quite vibrant. She moved on - she had to. You will, too. And, though the idea of my mom dying is currently terrifying to me to the point where I never think about it, I suppose I will, as well.

At any rate, I sometimes get this whole "wow, I REALLY gotta be an adult now" thing, but it's mostly related to things I haven't accomplished and done rather than losing my looks - I'm a dude and pretty average-looking, so I'd guess that's not such a big deal for me. But if I calm down, and think about ways to do the things I want to do, then try to do them, I feel better.

Also, FWIW, I frequently find myself attracted to women in their early 30s. You don't suddenly become physically unappealing the moment you turn 30.
posted by breakin' the law at 8:09 AM on September 7, 2011

At 35 I feel much more in shape and strong than I did in my 20s, and more importantly, I get a lot of satisfaction out of challenging myself physically. Appearances and capacities decline, but you can always challenge yourself.
posted by yarly at 8:19 AM on September 7, 2011

Best answer: I'm 29, and I can empathize with what you're describing.

When I look in the mirror, I can see the crows feet starting. I've taken to wearing sunglasses every day, and finally refilled my relatively-weak contacts prescription, so I will stop squinting all the time. Weirdly, the thing that helps me here is to notice the fine lines on my fiance's face, because I like them. They remind me of him smiling, of us in a sunny patch in the woods on a hike, of all the wonderful things we've done together that helped form those tiny lines. So when I start freaking out about my own wrinkles, I try to think about how much I love his.

Physically, the hardest part for me has been the appearance of aches and pains that I didn't have when I was younger. I want to make an effort to stay fit, but it's hard to be motivated when I have to wait for the advil to kick in before I can go jogging. I've found that taking fish oil and stretching a ton after workouts helps. Knowing that my friends of similar age also have these aches and pains helps -- I think part of the fear and dismay is thinking that you're the only one getting old, but I promise you aren't.

The hardest part for me, though, which you mentioned in your question and most people here haven't addressed, is watching my parents age. My dad is starting to walk like my grandpa used to. In my most recent housing move, I took the heavy furniture and left the light-weight stuff for my him, and it made me desperately sad. My mom has lost much of her sense of smell but doesn't realize it, so every time I walk into her house and breathe it reminds me that she's older now. For a long time I kept revising my idea of what was "old," from 55 to 60 to 65, but I'm hitting the point where I can no longer realistically increase that number to keep my parents below it. It's troubling, and I haven't figured out yet how to deal with it.

As a person who plans ahead for everything, there are a few strategies that have helped me at least a bit with all of this. I wear sunscreen. I go overboard to support all my friends who smoke if they show even the slightest hint of wanting to quit. I've had advance care planning discussions with my parents, so that I will understand their healthcare wishes if they decline suddenly. As a nurse I see a lot of patients and families who find themselves second-guessing the things they "could have done differently" to avoid their current health crisis. I'm far from perfect, but I try to learn the lessons they're teaching me and do what I can to stay healthy. Of course none of this will keep me young, but it helps lessen that out-of-control feeling. You know that old saying about controlling what you can change, accepting what you can't, and having the wisdom to know the difference? That's what I'm aiming for.
posted by vytae at 8:20 AM on September 7, 2011 [3 favorites]

Look on the bright side: the alternative to aging is death.
posted by Aizkolari at 8:22 AM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm dealing with the issue of aging, not-very-healthy parents right now (I'm 47), and I guess I would say you deal with it like you would deal with any difficult thing--you seek out support from friends and family, you write AskMe questions about it, you take breaks when you need to, etc. The thing is, as you get older, you learn more ways to cope, you learn how to care for yourself, you learn how to ask for help when you need it, and more. When the time comes, you'll handle it.

And remember that a lot of things we associate with age--loss of strength and agility, wrinkles, weight gain, health problems--have a lot more to do with how you live than with your age. Make exercise a habit now. Make sunscreen a habit now. Make a healthy diet a habit now. Way too many people don't start developing healthy habits until they have a heart attack or other health scare; better to start now and prevent those problems later.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 8:47 AM on September 7, 2011

Best answer: 27 ? SERIOUSLY ??????

I am 54. From 27 to 54 I have been or done the following things....

- a computer programmer
- a nursing assistant
- made over 100k a year for a couple years
- homeless for a couple years
- changed sex
- had one long term wonderful relationship with a wonderful person who I am still friends with
- won a 10 million dollar contract for an army contractor
- bought the best sports car I ever had in my life (so far heh)
- Worked for several fortune 100 companies
- learned 6+ computer languages
- learned how to build computers

That's just off the top of my head there's a load of crap more I'm sure

I'm planning in the next 1 to 6 years to ....
- Get a college degree
- get the the next best sports car I ever had in my life
- reinstate all my pilot's certificates
- probably open a business
- start writing again
- get married

Let me be very direct here. At 27 your life is still just beginning so stop being so emo about your life and just start living it.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 9:16 AM on September 7, 2011 [16 favorites]

I'm 30 next year, and you my friend, you're just a baby.
posted by mippy at 9:21 AM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

I felt the same way on my 29th birthday. All of a sudden, I was practically 30 and I had no idea what to do. So I kept doing what I always do. I took care of my kids, enjoyed time with friends and family, read the types of books I like, watched the movies I like and attempted to bake. I also worried about my weight, my post-baby body and was frustrated with my family and my self-image (but this is normal for me.) I'm getting better, slowly, at some of that, because I try to remember that I don't want to have spent my life feeling fat because I can't fit in those ridiculous skinny jeans. I'll be 31 in November, and I'm happy to say that I spent my 30th birthday laughing at my distress on my 29th.

Regarding your parents, I wish I had an answer besides spending as much quality time with them as you can. I have very young parents, but I see my dad wearing the reading glasses with his gray hair and he tells me he's asleep at 8 every night, and I worry about how long I have left. I've always been a daddy's girl, and I'm really scared about what happens then.

I tend to be overly emotional about lots of things, though, so take that with a grain of salt.
posted by mitzyjalapeno at 9:21 AM on September 7, 2011

I stayed young-feeling in my late 20s and early-mid 30s by having sex with 18- and 19-year-olds. Now that I'm nearing 40, I'm finally feeling the happiness that comes with leaving adolescence behind.

The difference between adults and children is that children get gratification only from serving their own needs, while adults can also get gratification from serving others. So I second the advice of the person above that you start volunteering, even if its just at an animal shelter.

Also, if you don't already work out, do so. You'll feel younger and look better, and there's no better cure for depression (which may be what you're feeling). You'll also keep at bay many of the aches and ailments that afflict the unhealthy 40-year-old. Until you're 50 or so, that is.
posted by coolguymichael at 9:33 AM on September 7, 2011

Back in the late 90's, if I drove past a college campus, I would start sobbing uncontrollably because I was convinced my college years were THE BEST YEARS OF MY LIFE EVER and NOTHING WOULD EVER COME CLOSE IT'S OVER OVER OVER IT'S ALL DOWNHILL FROM HERE.

If I were to talk to that version of me, I'd say "in July 2008 you'll discover roller derby. The best years of your life ARE JUST AROUND THE CORNER."

(In all seriousness, in 2010 I lost my grandmother *and* my mother. All I can say is that it's tough, really tough, but what else can you do but plow through it and get to the other side? Stay close to your family now; that helps.)
posted by Lucinda at 9:49 AM on September 7, 2011

Best answer: 27 is generally a very tough year for people (over and above the rock stars who have left us at that age).

For me, life kicked me in the face around then. . .losing a job, getting dumped hugely, getting kicked out of a living situation (separate from getting dumped) and actually having to move back into my mom's for a time, until I figured out how to finally leave LA.

You and your husband will probably gain bunches of weight and then lose it, several times, and go through a lot of other physical stuff along the way and have to deal with varying levels of libido.

Just do your best to stay in shape, and try to stay connected to your immediate and global world.

(I just turned 61 and can still play hours of sand volleyball, surf, bike long distances and do most of all of the physical stuff, albeit not quite as well or for as long a duration, but it all still works. So there is hope.)
posted by Danf at 9:55 AM on September 7, 2011

Lemme tell you, I hear you; I was fine at 27 but turning 40 kicked my ass.


My friends? Still there. My husband (who's a little younger)? Still finds me sexxay. My life? Not too bad, actually. I've got lots of good stories because I didn't sit around on my ass for the last 20 years. I have many younger friends who, despite expectations, don't find my age a reason to stop liking me because I'm such a hideous uncool hag now.

Secretly, I get a kick of the fact that younger people think I know stuff, because in my head, I mostly feel about as clueless as when I was 17. And yet I say things and people go "Wow." Makes me feel like I've pulled off a giant scam.

My parents have gone, and I miss them, but here's a secret about that: when your parents go, it can give you a little more freedom to be your whole self, because you're not trying to please them anymore. I know that sounds harsh, but it's not; I really do miss them. I'm also glad that neither of them is still suffering from the illnesses that killed them.

Turning older doesn't mean you'll lose all your friends, or stop feeling pleasure, or be constantly haunted by Death's icy breath on your neck. Food tastes just as good, sex may even get better, the sun on your skin and the wind in your face is still just as amazing. You don't lose your capacity for wonder or joy or love.

I mean, I would give a lot for a new set of knees, don't get me wrong. But mostly, I like my life just fine.
posted by emjaybee at 10:14 AM on September 7, 2011 [5 favorites]

You are, today, younger than you will ever be again. So make the most of it.
posted by jrochest at 10:15 AM on September 7, 2011

Best answer: And if you have already gone trough it, how did you survive?

1. Dye your hair
2. Don't buy drugstore make-up
3. Never open AARP mailings
4. Upgrade to better booze
5. Embarrass your children
6. Ignore fashion dictates for "older" women
7. Go out with younger men
8. Don't "peak" with your musical tastes in your 20s
9. Swear frequently
10. Defy the odds and step up the sex drive (yes, there are ways)
posted by thinkpiece at 10:18 AM on September 7, 2011 [4 favorites]

You know, I went to my grandmother's funeral recently and in the bullshitting and milling around afterwards, everyone sort of naturally wound up in two groups. There was one I'd describe as the young and vital telling hilarious and fun stories and having a good time. And there was one with people who'd gotten old and sort of given up and they were a lot less fun and mainly sat there grumbling.

And I don't think it was down to age at all. It's a question of are you still trying to enjoy life or are you content to kick it in neutral and ride on down the hill? Do you still wear the metaphorical clothes that fit or do you throw on the metaphorical sweatpants and call it over? I'm in my early-30s, but I still could hang out with the fun group and tell stories and everyone commented on how young I looked, but I think that's because I go to the gym and keep learning things and trying new things and working interesting jobs and reading interesting books and going interesting places. Because the clock is going to keep on ticking, so you can either spend every night watching TV and wake up in your 60s, or you can go out and do all those things you want to do and enjoy the time you have. If you're like a lot of people, you go "Oh, one day when I have time/energy..." a lot, but lemme tell ya, you never have time or energy, so it's best to make time or energy or you will never do those things.

As for attraction, your standards will adjust over time. I can look at an attractive 21 year old girl and admire the aesthetics, but in the back of my mind, I'll be going "Christ, I bet she's really annoying, 21 year olds are so annoying." (Sorry to anyone 21 reading this, but you are! Don't worry! You'll get better!).

I will say, though, start going to the gym or otherwise getting in shape now. Because you don't bounce back like you used to and it's going to be hellish getting going if you're not in the habit when you're younger
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 10:18 AM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

How did I get through the knowledge that I too will grow old and die? That my loved ones will do the same? By accepting it as a fact of life and moving on. Attractiveness is not a major factor in my life, so I can't help you there, but mortality... yeah, I've had to deal with that issue.
I came to realize that the cost of life is death, and the cost of living is aging. We, all of us, only get so much time in this life, and I wasn't going to sit around and mourn the fact that that "isn't fair." To be cliche, life is too short for all of that. Those "young" old people other posters talk about? They probaby accepted that fact too and that's why they live the way they do. It's one thing to grow older (we all have to) but it's another to grow "old" -- something I refuse to do!
posted by patheral at 10:38 AM on September 7, 2011

Mod note: Also, if you don't already work out, do so. You'll feel younger and look better, and there's no better cure for depression (which may be what you're feeling). You'll also keep at bay many of the aches and ailments that afflict the unhealthy 40-year-old. Until you're 50 or so, that is. emphasis mine

Not even always the case... I actually feel a lot better at 52 than I did in my 30s because I had a high-stress job that resulted in a lot of sometimes debilitating migraines and back pain, and other random muscular pain from all the tension. So... yeah, yuck, now I have to deal with hot flashes, but overall, in comparison, I have far, far less actual physical pain.

Also, my husband was insanely, ridiculously good looking, and he still is, to me (and to a lot of other people), but he's 50 - not 28 as he was when we got together. And I have zero interest in 28-year-olds. I can look at a handsome young guy and appreciate him aesthetically, but I certainly don't wish that I could get him in bed.

Sure, it would be fabulous if we both could look like we did then, and keep growing and experiencing life, but hell, I'll take "keep growing and experiencing life." I feel like I've had so much luck in my life that it's the equivalent of winning several billion-dollar lotteries: even being born at all; being born into an affluent, modern society (I literally and seriously think about the wonder and blessing of indoor plumbing -- simply open a tap and the water flows! -- several times a week); being born to loving parents; having access to books, education and technology; finding a wonderful partner whom I love with all my heart; living in very many amazing places... and so much more -- the books I've read, music I've heard, the art I've seen, the flavors I've tasted, what I've touched, seen and heard... it's all amazing to me.

I'm just going to keep doing all that until it ends for me, and pay more attention to the gains than the losses. Because why not?

I will say one thing as my advice from beyond the abyss: as much as people are telling you to keep your body in shape -- keep your mind in shape. I don't mean by doing whatever brain exercises are supposed to keep you from succumbing to dementia (though I certainly have nothing at all against brain exercise), but by remaining mentally flexible.

Don't stop learning new things, don't negate the joy of age-grown confidence by allowing your opinions and preferences to harden and petrify. Listen to new music, cook new dishes, learn new skills... whenever you get the feeling that X was so much better back when, challenge yourself to learn how you might be wrong. A lively mind is the #1 anti-aging secret! Click here to find out how you can live forever, look like a model, and make big $$$$ at home in your spare time!
posted by taz (staff) at 11:01 AM on September 7, 2011 [12 favorites]

The weight gain is far from inevitable.

So much of what we consider to be the inevitable effects of aging are completely or partially consequences of us being "zoo humans" - living in an environment and eating food to which we are not adapted. Once you realize this, you can fix a lot of these problems.

1. Get your diet in line. The paleo/primal communities have a lot of good ideas here. Avoid vegetable oils, added sugars, and reduce grain and processed food intake. Don't be afraid of animal and tropical plant fats.
2. Exercise. A few hours a week of easy motion, a couple sessions of hard resistance, and occasional all-out sprinting.
3. De-stress. The chronic stresses of modern life are so damaging. Make it a priority to minimize them.

As straw said above, age is what you make it.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 11:02 AM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm 52. All I can say is that about twelve years ago I stopped caring about ageing beyond hoping that I don't lose mobility or my marbles. You just sort of realise the pointlessness of caring about the inevitable and start to enjoy the days as they pass. I think, also, that when you've been through a few things in life - joys and pains - you realise that both of those things benefit from their non-permanent nature, and from that realisation it's a reasonably short step to understanding that the same applies to life itself.

I've probably got about twenty years left. Maybe less, maybe more. It's okay. I did some fun things, some bad stuff happened; I wouldn't want any of it to go on forever.

Keep yourself moderately fit; don't be that sad person who obsesses about health and hair loss, because you might buy yourself a few more years of life but it'll be at the cost of some rare and raw sensual pleasures. Oh, and very probably looking like a bit of a sad berk if you try too hard to avoid looking your age. There's nothing wrong with looking your age. You've earned the scars; wear them with pride.

And for fuck's sake, you're only 27. I didn't reach my peak of fitness, health and gorgeousness (we're speaking very relatively here) until I was about 33. And I had huge fun and excitement in my forties. Really, there are many things to look forward to, for you. Life is a journey, and all that rot. It really is. Youth is just the first stop. The really interesting stuff is miles down the road. Look forward to it.
posted by Decani at 11:07 AM on September 7, 2011

I'm 43. Whenever I start feeling all old & stuff -- although usually it's less about my own aging and more about the aging of other people ("Today is William Shatner's 80th birthday! DUDE.") -- I think of two things. One is kind of depressing, the other is kind of funny.

The Depressing Bit:
I came of age at the tail end of the Cold War. Ronald Reagan was elected to the U.S. Presidency when I was 13, and while he certainly didn't invent the idea of "winnable" nuclear war, all of a sudden I started to hear a lot more pundits on the news talking about winnable nuclear war, how 40 million dead wasn't a deterrent but 80 million was, so the best way to achieve nuclear deterrence was to convince the Soviets that if they tried to hit us, they would lose 80 million of their own people, while we "only" lost 40 million. I was born too late for "duck and cover" exercises in school, but I do remember reading a news article on civil defense, where readers were advised to make sure that, in the event of a nuclear attack, they remembered to file change-of-address cards with the post office.

As a result -- and I am not exaggerating for effect, here -- for ten years I woke up every morning wondering if today would be the day that everything on earth would die horribly. At the end of the day, I would go to bed wondering if it would happen tomorrow, or even overnight. Every holiday, every birthday, every annual event, I wondered if this would be the last one. Every day, from when I was 13 until I was 24 (not so coincidentally, the year the USSR fell), I wondered if I, hell, if *anything*, would still be here at the end of the day. I didn't totally give up on life; I knew I still had to go to school, apply to college, find a job, etc. But I was convinced that worldwide nuclear death was not only imminent, it was inevitable. I thought I would be lucky to reach 21. I was convinced that I'd be dead long before my 30th birthday.

I don't think this way anymore. The end of the Cold War had a lot to do with this, of course, but most of the change came with life, aging and perspective. I had also been living with an undiagnosed anxiety disorder, probably from childhood. Cognitive behavioral therapy, the right medication, and plenty of exercise and good food helped considerably. I'm far from a blind optimist about the world and its dangers, but at least now I can control my own reactions, and work as well and as hard as I can to mitigate those dangers, not just for myself, but for future generations.

I realize I've been going on a bit here, so I'll get to the point. Whenever I find myself slipping into "oh, god, I'm over 40" or "oh, god, my mid 20s were almost 20 years ago," I remember that there was a long stretch of time in my life where I never even considered that I would ever see 40. The very idea seemed like a fairy tale. People say things like "growing old sucks, but consider the alternative." I spent a good quarter of my life considering the worst alternative in the world. So now I say to myself, "dude, remember when you were sure you wouldn't even live to 25? Aging is a walk in the park compared to THAT." And it is, too.

The Funny Bit: Back in 2006 I read an interview with the dancer/choreographer Mark Morris. He turned 50 that year. The interviewer asked how he felt about turning 50, particularly as a person who made a living doing physically demanding work. His answer: "Really, I feel exactly the same at 50 as I did when I was two. I just have more hair."
posted by bakerina at 11:14 AM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

An unexpected way to feel younger and allay some of the concerns about aging parents I discovered, was to come and stay with my parents in their home for a while. They've been spoiling their 'baby' silly and it seems to have done us all a world of good. Their nest isn't empty, there's somebody to nag and feed and parent, if only for a while. In turn, I get to put down the mantle of responsible independent adult for a few weeks.

Spend more time or go and visit them, if you are able. The dynamic, if good, will help dispel some of the gloom.

(note: Only works once you're beyond the need for them to see you as an adult - imminent menopause helps ;p)
posted by infini at 11:50 AM on September 7, 2011

The signs of aging hit me later than most of my peers, and now when I can't get up out of a chair without involuntarily groaning, or have to check the clock to see if it's too close to bedtime to eat spicy food, I feel like I'm being paid back for silently mocking them 10 years ago when we were all turning 40 ("Ha-ha! I don't have to color my hair!) My hair is thinning but it's still naturally blonde with nary a grey hair in sight. But that's about all of my dewy youthful "beauty" I have left. I notice these days that my face is all extremely puffy when I first wake up (never used to happen). Various body parts are sagging. I used to not wear mascara much because my eyelashes were so long the mascara would rub off onto my eyeglass lenses; now I have a very fine stubby fuzz where my luxurious lashes used to be. *sigh* But I get through it all by counting my proverbial blessings.....when I was in my 20s and 30s and thin and lithe and able to wear the latest fashions I was working at an 8 to 5 job I hated and carefully budgeting each paycheck. I was single and disliked the "bar scene" but felt obligated to go out with friends/co-workers. It was a pain to have to primp and then be vivacious for hours after working all day when all I wanted to do was go home and kick off my high heels and pantyhose.

So now I'm old and married and have a great job that allows me to work from home in my grubby favorite comfy clothes and if I go to a bar it's with my husband at a local watering hole where we can just sit and enjoy cocktails and talk/brainstorm for work. One part of your post that really hit home with me - about parents getting older and closer to....you know.... I've always been very close to my parents, and compared to my friends my folks were much longer-lived, which makes it even more anxiety-inducing as time marches on. (My Dad passed away at age 87 this past May, but Mom is still here and even though I'm approaching menopause it still frightens me to think of a time when she'll no longer be here.) It's very hard, but you'll eventually just have to resolve yourself to the fact that none of us lives forever.

One last point, about your husband and his good looks.....it seems like the Creator has a soft spot for men, because overall they seem to age much more gracefully than women. Mr. Adams began greying in his late 30s, but other than that, he has, darn it all, staved off all the other visible signs of aging. No sagging, no wrinkling, still can wake up in the morning and look like he's just showered and styled his hair. Hmph.
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:58 AM on September 7, 2011

I'm going to say that it is sometimes ok to let yourself feel like shit about the future. However, there is just as much reason, very well articulated here, to feel really good about the future. Both are equally valid and should be looked at as such.
posted by josher71 at 12:08 PM on September 7, 2011

One last point, about your husband and his good looks.....it seems like the Creator has a soft spot for men, because overall they seem to age much more gracefully than women.

I actually don't agree with this, with respect! I'm 55 -- the ladies look waay better than they men at our get-togethers. The guys have all, like, slumped in on themselves -- it's almost a spirit thing (plus, dopey sweaters and light-wash jeans!). The women are standing tall, well pulled together and making the most of what they've got going on. They are owning themselves.
posted by thinkpiece at 12:08 PM on September 7, 2011

I started doing yoga when I hit 28, and I suggest you do the same. That shit works WONDERS! I was starting to feel tight/sore/old in places I hadn't, and now a year later that's pretty much gone, as is the mid-to-late 20s depression that gripped me when I was about 25/26.

So yeah, start exercising, possibly more than you think you need to. My dad is 68 and he hikes 2-4 times per week, and every time I go with him, I can hardly keep up! That shit keeps you young. People looked shocked when they find out how old he is. He's still building houses, teaching college , traveling, and raising garden beds. After living like a broke grad student most of his life, he made more money in his 50s than he did throughout his 20s, 30s and 40s, and now he gets to do whatever the eff he wants.
posted by Rocket26 at 12:26 PM on September 7, 2011

I was thinking more about the sagging, the loss of agility, the weight gain the white hair, etc.

But not all of it is inevitable - it's your choice. Yes, there will be sagging, as you lose collagen and support structures atrophy. You can delay that slightly, but can't stop it. But the rest? It's all about you as an individual - the genetic lottery will determine if you get prematurely white hair, or are struck with early arthritis and the like. BUT. Unless you are genetically unlucky, it is up to you - your choice - to gain weight, lose agility or get white hair. All of it - including white hair - is a choice. The problem is that in order to avoid weight gain or lose agility, you may have to modify your diet and exercise regimen, and you may not be willing to pay the price of that. But it is your choice. White hair is even more extreme - in fact so extreme, that it can barely be called a "choice" - but yes, there are measures you can take to delay white hair by decades ("Calorie-restricted monkeys, for instance, look less wrinkled as they age. They have less gray hair, and look and act younger than their regular-diet counterparts.").

So yes, you can slow down aging. Absolutely. And unless you are genetically unlucky, you never have to gain weight or lose agility - even without the extreme measures, like CR, which slow down the very process of aging. But do you want to pay the price?

That's just addressing the physical. The mental part - so many good responses above, I won't add to it other than to say again - it's all about you as an individual. Once can't generalize. I was always attracted to older women - that's just a psychological quirk, so I don't have the "aging" problem with my wife - but you may be one of those (I have friends like that) who are wired strongly to be attracted to younger people... sucks to be you, in that case. It's luck. Some people age successfully, others don't. Luck of the draw. Yes, there are some things you can do to control that process - exercise mind and body, take up hobbies, undergo psychological self-manipulation - but you must face the fact that some things you cannot control and your genes have determined your fate. That's about the only thing that has not been strongly stressed in the replies so far - it's individual on a case by case basis, particular remedies and particular diagnosis and analysis work only for particular individuals. So as you read the responses to your question here, always remember, you are a unique individual, and what works for some will not work for you - you must chart your own course. It helps to be a bit more tough minded when facing such issues, but again, that may be the luck of the draw.
posted by VikingSword at 12:28 PM on September 7, 2011

I'm right where you are esp. with the parents (that is really painful and I don't have good advice about how to deal woth it honestly yet), but there's an elegance here, at least I think so, with how just when you start losing your surface/facile mainstream attractiveness you start realizing how little a component of the big picture that is anyway. I guess you could argue that's a sour grapes thing but I don't really experience it that way; you really, genuinely start wondering why the hell you were so hung up on that stuff as life grows bigger and more meaningful. Of course I adore the way my husband looks and love the fun we had when we were younger and freer, but there's a lot to be said for how the roots deepen and the bond goes waaay beyond that now. To realize you love each other and would be together even if one wound up wheelchair-bound or with cancer or 89 and incontinent, whatever. It sounds tragic when you're below a certain age and amazing and enduring and strong when you go past it. There have been lots of good comments through the years on Mefi about this sort of thing--can't dig now on a mobile device but sniff around for threads about what people learn as they get older, aging wisdom and all that. I remember one Mefite talking about when he was a young man he'd see older men dressed dorky in sandals and socks and be horrified and shudder hoping he'd never let himself go like that and now he's older and "gets" it, that he doesn't need to impress strangers anymore and all that. It is great being secure in yourself. Personally, for me a big part of that development has had to do with a shift away from obsessing over how I look in a feminized sense to working hard and focusing on what my body can DO for me, what it can achieve activity-wise. I also love that the older you get the less you're obsessed with proving shit to people or competing with others shallowly. You're secure enough you don't need those outer marks of validation.

You might also want to skim Betty Friedan's The Fountain of Age, which is about growing old gracefully and with dignity partly by rejecting and reassessing mainstream culture's phobia and disgust over aging, learning to acknowledge the good parts of growing older.
posted by ifjuly at 12:41 PM on September 7, 2011

I've got 20+ years on you, and I would say one secret to keeping perspective is to remember that the future is always unexpected, and the past is never exactly how you remember it. Your life will be full of revelations, both simple and profound, and it is up to you to make the best of that.

In my personal experience, age has brought tradeoffs. I have lost a lot of family in my parents' generation, and some friends from my own. Meanwhile, I have also gained grandchildren, whose fleeting innocence and purity I mourn even while I treasure their every new discovery and mastered skill and marvel at how quickly they grow into increasingly interesting people. And always there are new friends to meet and new challenges to face.

In some ways, I am healthier now than in my late twenties, yet my body has also betrayed me in ways I could never have predicted. Point is, being prepared for change is a good thing. Because change will come. But excessive worry is its own special prison. No one can truly predict the future, but you can imprint your emotional state onto any proceedings, so if you dwell too long in negativity, negativity will surely always be close at hand. But, if you try to always look forward to the next new discovery, I've found there seems to be an almost limitless number of exciting new things to discover. And this is nowhere more true than in my 26-year marriage.

Save wistful nostalgia for the past, if such a past you can manufacture from bits of flawed memory mixed in with whatever TV and movie fragments you prefer to misremember for the purpose. Save a small amount of fear for the present, to remind you to be mindful. For the future, save your hope. Wallow in it. Collect it. Trade it. Get hooked on it. Manufacture it. Become a hope distributor. Drown in it. That would be the best ending anyone could ask for.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:08 PM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Eat healthy foods. Drink enough water.
Use sunblock.
Don't spend too much time watching TV or dicking around on the Internet.
Serve others, especially those less fortunate than you.
Finish what you start.
Go outside.
See the world.
Write letters.
Learn all you can.
Have people over for dinner. Eat well and laugh heartily.
Smile more.
Keep a journal.
Create beautiful things. Surround yourself with beauty.
Enjoy the changing of the seasons.
Call home.
Drink only good wine, but not too much.
Don't be your own worst enemy.
Celebrate where you are, be in the moment. Antipate the future, do not mourn the past.

(I turned 40 last December, and this is the list I would, if I could, give to my 27 year-old-self who was obsessed too much and tended to focus on the unimportant too often, including worrying about the future).
posted by 4ster at 1:24 PM on September 7, 2011 [7 favorites]

Best answer: There are marvelous treats ahead for you. Really. You can't begin to imagine how freeing it is to have issues of appearance become irrelevant as you age, especially as a woman. As you get older, people treat you a little bit more like a whole person and a little bit less like a decorative object. That feels really good. The people who are interested only in your decorative or sexual value begin to totally ignore you, which is lovely.

The aging and death of people in your life is hard and sad, but it turns out to be OK. The sadness, in a way, is a beautiful thing--it's a tribute to the good feelings and experiences you've had. All my life, I was terrified of the day when my parents would die. Those transitions turned out to be good times--not easy or fun, but deeply good in ways I had not expected. Every time I think about my mother or father now, I feel good--happy and peaceful. I feel an intense warmth in my heart that makes my whole world sparkle. They may be dead now, as individual, physical people, but they are never not with me. That would not be possible. And I'm not a bit religious, nor a believer in any sort of afterlife.

Youth is certainly great in its own ways, but it doesn't represent the peak of life. I'm 59 now, and wouldn't go back to 27 again if I had the choice. Life keeps surprising me by getting better in ways I hadn't been able to imagine when I was younger. Like my mother said a few days before she died, wheelchair-bound and incontinent, "life is sweet." Even the hard, sucky, terrifying parts are sweet.
posted by Corvid at 2:27 PM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

the death of my parents is a much more worrying subject

As a teen, I thought a lot about what would happen if I died right then. (I maintain to this day that I am not morbid. I am merely realistic. Also, extremely practical.) I thought about what music I'd want for my funeral, what method of body disposal would be best, etc. I voiced these thoughts out loud to mom and asked her for her opinion on these matters regularly until one day she said, "Hey, sweetie, could you maybe not talk to me about your own death so much? It hurts me to think of you dying. It hurts a lot. It's not the natural order of things, for a child to die before the parent."

I stopped running my "My Death" trains of thought past her. But It's not the natural order of things stayed with me and helped me come to terms with the idea of her death. The pillar of my world, the person I respected and admired most in the world, whose equal I wish I had a hope of becoming. I was lucky enough to have another ten years after that to spend time with her. To do things for her. To learn from her how to put down a foundation in my own life to try to be as un-complacent, integrity-centred, and self-assured as she was. In my teens I was terrified of the idea of her death. By the time she died, I had recognized and accepted her physical decline -- not without a struggle because of course I raged, raged at the injustices visited upon her -- but yes, it was the natural order of things for my parent to die before me.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 3:50 PM on September 7, 2011

How do you cope with the gloomy future? And if you have already gone trough it, how did you survive?

I've been having panic attacks about my impending death since I was 15. I'm 26 now. I mostly ignore it, or have the mindset that 'nothing I do matters, I'll be dead anyway' and sorta figure that each day I'm alive is either a struggle or a small victory.

Its probably not healthy in somebody so 'young'.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:59 PM on September 7, 2011

Each decade has been much better than the previous. I had a not-so-hot childhood. My 20s weren't much better. In my mid-30s I made a move that got a lot of "OMG! How can you do that?! Are you crazy?!" comments (quit company I was with for 15 years and moved 2200 miles with no job waiting for me). I felt "how could I not?" I was stagnating where I was. And I think stagnating is the worst thing you can do in your life. I'm 44 now and it just keeps getting better.

Also, I find aging, physical aging, fascinating. It was always something I saw in other, older, people and now it's me! I don't have many wrinkles (yay genetics!) but I have mostly white hair, some sags, the back of my hands are beginning to look like my mum's. It's very interesting to watch it happen.
posted by deborah at 6:59 PM on September 7, 2011

Are you familiar with the concept of Saturn Return? I'm not much into astrological woo, but I found reading about it helpful in normalizing what I was feeling and putting words to things. Take what's for you, discard the rest.

Also, seeing my grandparents age, decline, and die and watching their kids deal with it helped me in thinking about how I'll deal with losing my parents.
posted by momus_window at 11:07 PM on September 7, 2011

Best answer: The trick is to enjoy the time you've got now, and either completely ignore and/or completely accept that bit at the end. Cliche or not, everyone dies, but not everyone lives.

If you regret getting old, it (probably) means you missed out on something you can't go back and do. Spend a bit of time regularly thinking about what you're doing, and what you *want* to be doing. If they don't match, change things in a way where they eventually will.

Use your time well, and you've got nothing to regret; there's nothing you could have done better.

Temper that with the knowledge that you can't change the past; focus on now, and focus on the future, but only learn from the past; rarely focus on it.
posted by talldean at 7:14 AM on September 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: "Coming to terms with the frailties of human life" is the central question of Buddhism and the entire reason for its existence. I highly recommend The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts. I also recommend anything by Pema Chodron. Just ignore any references to God or religion if that doesn't appeal to you and treat it as philosophy.
posted by desjardins at 9:58 AM on September 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

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