How do you feel about aging?

I will be turning forty later this year, and while I don’t think that’s old, I am definitely noticing signs of aging.

I’m already shrinking. I’m under 5’ now. I didn’t know that that can start in your thirties. I was really shocked and blown away when they measured me at the treatment center. My grandma who lived into her 90s was tiny and frail. It’s hard to imagine that might be my future. 

I can see signs of aging when I look in the mirror which is more upsetting than shrinking. My face is dull, dry, and not as firm as it once was. In the last few weeks, I’ve developed rosacea on my cheeks. There are dark circles and creases around my eyes. I’m spending money on skincare products I didn’t even know existed.

Despite noticeably aging, I actually feel pretty good. Since getting treatment for my eating disorder I have more energy. The only physical complaint I have is that I don’t like it when my daughter wants me to sit on the floor with her. Sometimes it’s hard getting back up.

Looking at my face can be a bit troubling, but I’m not as upset about aging as people might think. I think I’ve done a lot for someone my age, and except for a couple of morbid blog posts, thoughts of my own mortality don’t really come up that often. 

We get this one life. That’s it. Since I don’t believe in an afterlife, should aging scare me more? Is it harder to accept aging when you’re an atheist? 

I’d love to hear your thoughts. How do you feel about aging? Does being an atheist affect that at all?


  1. Katydid says

    I think, for me, the hardest thing about aging is realizing I’m not 20 years old anymore and it takes time to recover after a crazy amount of activity. Remember being 20, when all you needed to be back to feeling 100% is a good night’s sleep?

    On the other hand, I’m constantly marvelling about the things I know about, and the things I understand, now that I have life experience behind me. If you think about it, maybe you also realize there are things you’re better at now that you’re no longer 20? You’ve made some astute observations and mentioned things you’ve learned about yourself, and that comes from experience and reflections, which comes from time spent living.

    I don’t know that what I’ve described can be affected by atheism or religion.

  2. says

    On the positive side, I enjoy having and sharing knowledge that other people weren’t alive to know (music, history, politics). It’s important that people know things that came before, because “history” classes and books are at best incomplete. I’m not yet at the “when I was young” stage, but when certain events or people are mentioned, making people think or realize “this happened before” is important.

    The down side? The body starts doing things it never did before. Ear hair in my 40s was bad, but periodic ankle and knee pain interferes with my nightclubbing. And body functions that are doing things they’re not supposed to…?

    On the humourous side: I’m becoming the one who always says, “Did you hear who died this week?” (Judith Durham of The Seekers, “Georgy Girl”)


    Things I learned after 65:
    1. I have knowledge, perspective, and wisdom that I did not have when younger.
    2. Diet matters. You don’t have to log every bite. Just don’t eat crap – which includes most refined carbs – and your body will drop excess weight and heal old hurts.
    3. There is no substitute for strength training. If you have to push off to stand up from a chair, you need more strength.

  4. flexilis says

    @#2 When I was in my late 30s I mentioned to a younger colleague that I had seen Jimi Hendrix perform. He said, “Man, I wish I was an old guy too.”

  5. Katydid says

    Back when the pandemic started, the 4-year-old next door asked me if I knew there had been another pandemic, in 1918. I said yes, I had heard that…and he asked if I was there. LOL I asked him how old he thought I was, and he thought for a minute and said, “30?” LOL again.

  6. pete says

    My take has always been that aging beats the alternative, and when younger people joke about being older, try saying something like “yes, but I have had those years, you might not” – using your best Evil/Adams Family voice.

    And to echo @#3, strength/muscle is important. One good test is that from sitting cross legged on the floor, can you stand up without needing to touch the floor with anything other than your butt and your feet.

    Diet matters, but daily exercise is key, an hour of working up a sweat each day pays dividends long term.

  7. StonedRanger says

    The only way aging is having any effect on my atheism is maybe Im a little less tolerant of the willful ignorance so many religious folks display. But then my tolerance for bullshit has always been on the low side. Im trying to age ‘gracefully’ (whatever that means) but some folks dont seem to want to let me from time to time.

    • says

      I agree with your thinking StoneRanger, please separate Church and State and we could be a little more tolerant
      of your so-called ‘Faith’. Hebrews 11:1 — simply says to us if you can’t see it, it’s probably BS.

  8. Some Old Programmer says

    The milestone birthdays can really visit you with a sense of mortality. I remember contemplating on my 25th, “a quarter of a century”.

    But I’ll echo pete @7–it beats the alternative. Then again, I had that pretty forcibly brought to my attention. In 1990 my boyfriend and I had a joint party for my 30th and his 26th, as his birthday was within 3 days of mine. It was unacknowledged that it was likely Brian’s last birthday; indeed he died the next month of HIV disease. I’ll happily acknowledge my now-62 years.

  9. mynax says

    I am not fond of more and more things not working as they used to, and the accumulation of small changes. Fortunately nothing catastrophic so far. I have friends from their 30s to 70s who can no longer be who they once were, identity-changing changes. Turning 60 was a wakeup call that I definitely have less time ahead of me than

  10. mynax says

    Being an atheist means I don’t think there’ll be a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow after it’s all done. I think it helps me be more realistic about things. Trouble is, I don’t much like that reality. Oh well. And do I have enough time to fix the things that have held me back in life, to be happier and more fulfilled (and I’m glad to have that possibility at all)? Stop making the same mistakes?

  11. Katydid says

    @Pete; there is a saying that goes, “You can’t outrun your fork”. And yes, and hour a day of exercise that makes you sweaty is excellent advice, along with strength training. Every time you take the stairs instead of using the elevator, you work the muscles in your legs.

    My mom got a stairlift and not long after, lost muscle in her legs that she never regained. The physical therapist who tried to work with her said a stairlift is the worst thing people can do for their health, and practically everyone can find a way to climb stairs for exercise even if they live in a 1-story flat or house.

  12. says

    Personally I would *not* trade my knowledge and experience for being young and stupid again. (Everybody has their own tales of being stupid. 🙂 )

    Even someone without a large innate talent of “people skills” will acquire enough of them to be useful. This also helps you to see through lies and bullshit. Often even a couple of minutes of conversation is enough to tell me if someone is talking out of their hat.

    Injuries tend to take longer to heal when you get older. So listen to your body.

  13. sonofrojblake says

    When I was fifteen, my best friend and I concluded we wouldn’t wish to be younger, or older. We felt we’d been born at exactly the right time. I believed that to be true until about twelve years ago, when the world in general started getting worse rather than better, as it had seemed to do for most of my life.
    For reasons, when I was twenty, I felt I’d be lucky to make it to twenty six. Not good reasons, but still.
    When I was thirty, I was loving life, it was great, and I’d beaten the milestone I thought I might not reach, so fuck that.
    At forty, life was even better, and continued to improve.
    Then I met the woman who would be my wife. In every way but one, this was a positive thing. What could be negative about finding the love of my life, wanting to marry and have children, and getting a “yes” when I asked? One thing: mortality. I’d never cared before about what I’ve got ending. I’m old (53 now) to be having a four year old and a two year old. If they wait, as I hope they do, until they’re SURE they want kids, and have the means and the maturity to support them and raise them, I will likely be dead by the time that happens, if it ever does. Until I met my wife, I cared nothing for my legacy, because I wouldn’t have one. Life consisted of having a good time, and helping others have a good time. Eventually it would stop, but everything stops.
    Now, I’m keenly aware that at some point I’ll die and, crucially, someone will be upset. I’d always figured, until I met my wife, that at some point I’d check out, and my friends would raise a glass, and that would be it. Nobody would cry. They’d say “he had a good life”, scatter my ashes on a mountain top, and move on. Now, I worry that the manner of my passing will mess up my boys’ heads. My uncle died of a heart attack at the age of forty, right in front of his four children, and that did not have a positive effect on their life outcomes. My wife laughed when I told her I worried about our children’s education, their choice of career, where they’d live. She probably laughed because I told her this a matter of days into our engagement, rather than waiting until our children had actually been conceived, much less born.

    How I feel about aging is, therefore, mainly about how it affects others, rather than how it affects me. There seem few good options: do I end up a burden, nibbling away at my kids’ inheritance as I lose my marbles in a nursing home, not recognising them as dementia takes my identity? Or do I go suddenly and unexpectedly, scarring them possibly for life with a sense of abandonment? This was not in the brochure for parenthood.

    I can’t imagine I’d be any happier about any of this if I was religious. I suppose I might comfort myself with the fantasy of an afterlife, and try to convince my kids of this lie too so they’d not feel the loss so keenly. Too late for that. The best I can do is make damn sure they know how much I love them while I’m here, so they can comfort themselves with that when I’m not any more.

    Well that turned out longer than I expected.

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