This past Sunday, at precisely 5:39 a.m., I turned 75.
There’s a whole existential shtick about getting older, especially as it pertains to older women. We’re invisible, we’re cranky, we’re pushy, and we’re generally boring. Jane Fonda being the exception, women don’t generally talk about our age or about getting older in this society. We lie, act coy, or cough up beaucoup bucks to age cosmetically and then deny, deny, deny. There are those, however, who take pride in surviving the aging process with grace, with gratitude, or with a nonchalance that doesn’t fool anyone but feels good, nonetheless.
And yet time marches on.
When I turned sixty-five, I wrote here:
“. . . it’s important to look to the future, to have fun and to do rewarding things as we age … I’ve got lots of things and people that bring me a satisfying life.”
Pretty cheesy, I know. Taken out of context from the entire blog post it sounds more superficial than it did at the time. The world is a different place to me now than it was ten years ago. It’s definitely a gift in this life that we don’t know what awaits us. Having fun, although still very important to me, is no longer at the top of my wish list. While I’m successful at carving out a sliver of fun every day, my main function at this stage is to survive, preferably with gratitude and grace.
Let’s get real: every day brings us closer to the end of life. Now there’s a cheery bit of birthday trivia for us. But it’s true. The creep, crawl, or rushing headlong toward death is on my mind at some point of every single day. Having that finish line up ahead, its lights glowing brighter all the time, influences my daily actions. How much and what to eat and drink, whether to exercise or not (I aim for daily!), who to hang out with, how to avoid negativity, and how to spend my dwindling resources, which include not only money but energy, eyesight, hearing, and general mobility are routinely under consideration. And that’s just within myself, without consideration for my commitments or obligations to others.
It took real effort to keep world events and horrible megalomaniacs with only their own power and well-being in mind from overshadowing my birthday celebration. It’s as though someone started giving out advanced decrees in being selfish and myopic with a double major in the language of “I’ve got mine, forget about you!” Then there’s the cold hard truth about climate change, which, while providing for spectacular sunsets and rainbows, is destroying our precious planet for our future generations.
All these things can impinge on efforts to age with gratitude.
So, what’s left for us to do?
How can we carve out the happiness and joy and creative satisfaction we desire without sinking under the weight of a world getting ready to implode?
There’s just no way, you say. We buckle up and hang on, and we make sure we have all the fixings for dirty martinis, or chocolate brownies, or potent edibles.
The response I’ve come up with for myself (in addition to the martini mix) is to inventory what I have regardless of who’s in office or how many days we have to spend in a dugout sheltering from a storm. That inventory reminds me of just how abundant my life is now and will be going forward. My list includes
~people I trust and who trust me
~my loving pet and, if she’s gone, someone else’s loving pet I can hang out with
~the ability to read and write
~a lasting appreciation of creativity in lots of subjects at many levels
~loving friends who share my values and keep me centered
~a burning desire to constantly be learning new things
~a nation that, for the most part, values the well-being of its citizens
This is the bounty of turning 75, or 81 or 120.
My elderhood isn’t what I thought it would be. I imagined more carefree days lounging in all that I worked hard for with barely a moment’s consideration for its lasting nature. That’s to be expected from a Baby Boomer.
I’m proud of getting to this milestone birthday. I’m glad I completely get that It’s never going to be about finding my purpose and happiness and wealth “out there.” My joy will always be about acknowledging the truth of my life, coming to terms with my past, and relishing the lasting bounty of grace and gratitude — regardless of how many more years there will be.
Lastly, I love this Jane Fonda quote: “You can be really old at 60, and you can be really young at 85.”