I’m turning 60 in November. This is a big deal for me. As someone who came of age in the 60s, my hippie mantra dictated not trusting anyone over 30. Longevity was far less important than the flares on our jeans.
I look forward to turning 60 more than most other birthdays because, perhaps for the first time in my life, I see this as a celebration of the day I was born and all the opportunities I've been given, not as a measurement of how far I have come or how much time is left.
Here are some thoughts I've had as I near this milestone:
1. I wouldn’t trade 60 for 30 again for all the money in the world.
My children and their peers can’t understand the peace that comes with aging. They are in a hurry, I am not. No amount of my suggesting that they enjoy each day as it comes, with the bitter and the sweet, really touches them. It’s not a failing on their part, it’s a gift of vision for me.
I see the urgency of their actions, and I understand it. Bills must be paid, the corporate ladder is there to be climbed, and even pre-schools require applications for admission — sometimes before the children are born!
But I have no need for hurrying. I understand, now, that things will happen as they are supposed to, when they are supposed to, and no amount of “get ‘er done” is going to change the outcome. For this understanding, I am extremely grateful. Knowing this allows me to meet a day without expectations or demands. I can simply enjoy it.
2. There is no need for a façade.
I remember my first pair of nylons. You fastened them to a girdle or garter belt. Not in a sexy way, it was your only choice — pantyhose did not yet exist. Each time that I pulled up a girdle came the understanding, implied or otherwise, that I did unseen things that caused me to shape people’s perception of me.
That first impression mattered, and that came from how you looked. I judged myself on that standard. I was never pretty enough, or thin enough, or any of the plethora of other superficial standards that I held myself to.
To be this age and look and feel as I do, without judgment, is emancipating.
Have I given up taking care of myself? Nope, but it doesn’t drive me like it did before. Accepting that I am aging, accepting that my looks at 60 are not as hot as they were at 20 is a fact. But here’s the upside to that: there’s a pretty good chance that at 80, I will wish that I look as good as I do now. That’s huge if you will allow yourself to accept it.
3. I am not all that and a bag of chips.
Once I allowed myself to take an honest look inside, I saw the flaws. There are many. The biggest of all was the false sense of self that I chose to rely upon.
When we are young, we are bulletproof. Headstrong. But never really confident. Or at least I wasn't. And insecurity can color our perception of ourselves and taint our decision-making skills. We can trick ourselves into believing anything we want about ourselves, good or bad, because being honest with yourself is a terribly difficult thing to do.
When we are young, our own parents are old. They are fuddy-duddys who aren’t hip and can’t be trusted. How foolish, and what a waste of precious time it was for me to think this way!
I know that this is not the case for everyone, but in my life, it was not until I was much older that I appreciated the wisdom of my parents. More than that, I recognized that theirs was the unconditional love I sought — not my latest crush whose influence, sadly, often trumped theirs.
When we are trying to grow up, that insight eludes us because most of us can’t recognize the truth. Youth is a struggle to survive. And if we feel weakness, we manufacture our own truth about ourselves for protection. It's only with perseverance and struggle that we see what we are really made of, and that is not for the faint of heart. While it may be unsettling, meeting yourself on your own terms is the best gift you can give yourself.
4. I am always going to be younger today than I will be tomorrow.
Give that some thought. Age is just a measurement. It has nothing whatsoever with what kind of person you are. Each day brings new adventures, and it is in knowing that you have the opportunity to experience, challenge and make decisions that impact your life, and the lives of others, that is so exciting.
I took a chance a couple of months ago. I published a memoir, and it wasn’t pretty. It was heart-wrenching, nerve-wracking, and exposed me to the core. And it wasn’t a bestseller. But I achieved two things: (1) I put some of my own ghosts to bed, and (2) I helped a few people. If even only one had reached out, that would have been enough.
By writing, I was blessed to help others feel less alone. That made the soul-searing honesty totally worth it.
My lesson? Never give up those chances or those choices. Step out on faith and out of the mold. Those choices define you, and, in the end, isn’t that what we all want?
I will soon celebrate my 60th birthday with a happy heart. Looking back at all the near misses in my life, I’m amazed (and more than a bit smug!) to still be standing at this point. AARP membership and senior discounts notwithstanding, I'm actually reveling in my age. It’s a bit like putting on the old comfy pair of jeans with room to spare.
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