Several months ago I met a friend for a cup of tea and as we were paying, I caught sight of a stooped old lady across from me: no eyebrows on a pale face framed by thinning hair. A heartbeat later, the mirror image administered a shock. This crone belies my psychic age; that is, the age matching what I feel to be my authentic core identity. The little old lady looked about 85, whereas my psychic age hovers at a somewhat rebellious 16. My companion in the cafe, who copes with lung cancer, counseled me: “Important never to look in the mirror.”
Don’t get me wrong. I have always admired the spunky old ladies who teeter along upper Broadway with the aid of a companion or a walker. But they had a chance, I hope, to ease into their decrepitude gradually, whereas I seem to have jolted into mine in the prime of life. After three abdominal surgeries and three cycles of chemotherapy, a deeply cut gulf separates my little old lady self from the active 63-year-old before diagnosis. Read more.