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If you must get old, stay positive

A few years ago, I was diagnosed with a disabling terminal disease. I don't remember getting it and don't even remember when I got it, but somehow, somewhere and sometime ago, I got "old age."

Maybe because it develops so slowly and its effects are barely noticeable for a long period of time, I truly didn't know I had the affliction until recently.

Suddenly, one day I happened to touch my face and discovered a 1-inch-long, white hair growing from my chin, and I knew at that moment that I had achieved "old age" status.

It wasn't the hair that convinced me, as chin hairs have plagued me for years. I actually have come to appreciate that something besides my stomach and dark spots grow on this body. No, it wasn't that long, white hair that bothered me and convinced me that I had become of age. It was the fact that, given the size of the hair, it must have been growing for week and I hadn't even seen it or felt it.

Even though I look in the mirror every day, this obnoxious piece of whisker had somehow escaped my knowledge. God knows how long I was walking around with that 1-inch, one-hair mane, as no strand grows that long overnight.

My darling husband didn't tell me, my wonderful friends never mentioned it, and my faithful dog ignored it, leaving me to discover old age on my own. From then on, I knew it had happened. From that moment on, I could no longer escape the fact that my body had turned on me and that the only men who would now whistle at me were vision-impaired 90-year-olds.

With the realization — and acceptance — that I had inherited the same fate as my parents and grandparents now long gone, I decided to look for the positive. Could I find hope, humor and happiness in a body that was way past its prime? Could there be joy in stiffness, satisfaction in bulk and delight in wrinkles? Could I push past the inconveniences and dissatisfactions of this "disease" called old age and emerge happy, content and excited about what comes next on this journey called life, or would this strand of hair lead me to despair?

Deciding to focus on the positive, I determined to see my aging issues as steps toward heaven. As each new aging problem surfaces — and they will — I plan to view them as another stride toward fulfilling my purpose in being on this Earth. Although each year we live depletes our physical strength and beauty, we gain much more than we lose in the process.

I have discovered that as my eyesight has decreased, my vision has become much clearer. I now see and understand what I never did in my youth.

As my hearing has become less acute, I now more clearly hear the true meaning of words.

Going to the bathroom every half-hour gives me the opportunity to appreciate how well a body functions, something in my youth I never really thought about.

Having a few (well, quite a few) extra pounds on my otherwise imperfect body makes me aware of how lucky I have been to have had three squares every day of my life. Even these darn little skin tags that grow everywhere they are not welcome make me aware that growth and development can and do occur in every stage of life.

We all have choices, no matter how old we are or how old we may get. It's up to each of us to decide how we view the gift of years bestowed on us. For me, I plan on enjoying this long-earned gift, this beautiful gift of aging. I also plan on getting a better magnifying mirror so that I never grow another hair from my chin long enough to braid.

Jodi Rupp lives in Medford.