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Women Reveal What Surprises Them Most About Growing Older

Are they thinking what YOU'RE thinking?

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Josie Norton
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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about growing older — I’m 58 — as well as the recent changes I’ve undergone, many of which seem to have caught me by surprise. You would think simply being on this earth and watching others age, I’d have been prepared. Nope. Until you personally experience the manifestations of aging — damn you, gravity! — the changes really catch you off guard. They did for me.

Apparently, I’m not alone.

Recently we posed a question to followers of our new closed Facebook group, "The Ethel Circle," asking “What has surprised you most about growing older?”

Before long, nearly 400 women had replied. The answers were varied and numerous, but not unfamiliar — aches, pains and stubborn pounds, but also the sense of calm and confidence that emerges just as everything else feels like it’s going to hell in a handbasket.

Some respondents lamented how invisible they feel, while others found they finally had the freedom and wisdom to live out loud.

"The one thing I don't like is walking into a restaurant or a store and having no one pay attention to me," said Teresa P. "Ever since I turned 60 I feel as though no one really sees me any more. I have to work harder to get people to listen to me."

A follow-up poll on the page revealed that 56 percent of Ethel Circle voters were surprised by “How young I still feel on the inside.” I wholeheartedly agree! I attended a wedding recently and ran into a former neighbor for whom I babysat in my early 20s. She shared with me that she is 42 now and has been a teacher for more than 20 years. I told her, “How can you be 42? I’m 42.”

Of course I said that in jest, but truly … not only do I feel 42, but I often feel even younger! There are times I still wonder what I want to be when I grow up! Zac Brown Band plays my favorite music, and I think the jokes my middle-school students make are funny. That’s not the profile of a 58-year-old woman. I guess I always thought the age I am would match the age I feel. Am I wrong?

The second biggest thing that surprised folks was “How many aches and pains I have.” If I could vote only for one category, I would definitely check this box. I’ve seen Joe Namath’s TV ads for arthritis cream, and I remember my parents groaning as they rose from their chairs. But I didn’t think my aches and pains would start in my 50s! A few extra pounds — and genetics — have played a role in that, including arthritis in my knees and spinal stenosis. (There’s more, but no one likes to hear old folks complain about their maladies, right?)

Rounding out the rest of the responses are people who were surprised by, “How much more confident and relaxed I feel” and “How hopeful I still am about the future and the coming years.”

I can’t say I’m optimistic about the future, but I am inspired by the positivity of the women who say they are. I’ve dropped a few pounds and am taking measures to address the aches and pains. (So, in fact, some hope does spring eternal.)

As far as feeling confident and relaxed, that’s going to be a tough one. And honestly, that has less to do with getting older and more to do with paying a therapist’s copay.

While it didn’t get the most votes, several women said they were surprised by how lonely they are.

I concede that I am lonely at times, but I can’t really say I’m surprised. I have strategies in place to combat that. Plus, I actually like living alone and value my time by myself. There are occasional empty nest pangs, but I can always turn to The Ethel and The Ethel Circle for support from my online girlfriends!

At a time when many of us feel our loneliest, we are, in fact, most united — by an awareness of how fast time is flying by, our nosediving eyelids, and a desire to be seen and to connect with others. That’s the best surprise: We realize we’re in this together.

So, whether you feel younger on the inside than your chronological age, suffer from occasional stiffness, are hopeful about the future, feel lonely now and again or are celebrating confidence and relaxation, remember there are so many women going through the same thing right now.

What has surprised YOU most about growing older? Let us know in the comments below.

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Follow Article Topics: Lifestyle