Today is my birthday. It’s a big one, and I’m none too pleased. After a certain age, if you complain about your birthday, people always say, “It’s better than the alternative” in a disgustingly cheery voice. They’re right, of course, but that doesn't keep me from wanting to slap them. In honor of entering my seventh decade, I've decided to share a few of my observations on aging. They’re not earth-shattering or original, but they are personal. If you’ve already passed this milestone, see if they resonate with you. If not, just look at what you have to look forward to!
1. Your body will never be the same again. I've always been reasonably energetic and youthful, but things are changing, and I know they won’t go back. I still exercise daily, but I can no longer get up from a squat without using my arms. If I have to pick something up off the floor, I kneel. When OG needs my help carrying something heavy, I no longer assume it’ll be a breeze. It won’t. Menopause has stolen every last speck of collagen in my body. Everything’s starting to sag, and my fat seems to be migrating. Parts that used to be well-padded are now spare; parts that used to be svelte now look like sacks of pudding. On the upside, I can still do everything I want to do, just not as quickly.
2. Anything can happen at any time. After OG’s stroke last spring, we ran smack dab into the reality of mortality—our own and each other’s. He escaped without significant effects, but we recognize the outcome could have been very different. After sixty, you can no longer glibly acknowledge that life might throw you an unexpected curve ball. You have to accept it in the marrow of your bones.
3. Take time to appreciate the small wonders and everyday beauty around you. I find I’m much more interested in nature than when I was younger. I look for beauty in the tiny details as well as the broad vistas. That’s a big part of why Carmel Valley speaks to me. I’ve never been surrounded by such beauty, and it’s more important to me now than ever before.
4. Take the time and effort to truly get to know and understand yourself. When we’re working and raising families, there’s not much time for introspection. Someone always needs something, and we do what we must to get by day to day. When those demands lessen, you owe it to yourself to figure out what makes you tick and what you need to live the rest of your life in the most satisfying way possible.
5. Have good role models. Pay attention to the older people in your life, whether family or friends. Spend time with them. What choices have they made to improve the quality of their lives as they age? My maternal grandmother lived to be ninety-eight, and she was a huge influence on me, especially in the last several decades of her life. I learned what I need to know about being old from Gram.
6. Be kind—to yourself and others. This speaks for itself. There will be those who need your help, and you will need theirs. Accept and rejoice in it.