Sunday, January 10, 2010

Aging and Learning, but Unable to Defy Gravity

previously published on --

I am about to turn 60 on January 20th. I look in the mirror and just do not understand. To you out there, comfortably ensconced in your 30's, I have one thing to say.

Your Day Will Come.

The day will come, when, like me, you suddenly get that you have more years behind you than in front of you. People will always be calling you "M'am", and the waiter is just hoping you are an eyelash batting biddy when he asks "And what would you girls [or young ladies] like today?"

(There is very little as age-emphasizing as some smiling 20esque year old waiter who thinks he can flirt his way into a larger tip because he is waiting on an older woman. We're not talking cougar-fan here. We are talking "smarmy tip fisherman".)

This is a hurdle year for me. Fifty was nifty. It didn't feel that much older than forty-nine. For that matter, it felt close to forty. But sixty? My grandparents died in the 1918 flu epidemic at an age younger than this. My Dad was contemplating retirement at this age. Wait, am I in those shoes? The sixty year old ones? My Mom, who looks old in the wedding picture, was only fifty-one when I got married.

The point is, at some point, like it or not, the number attached to your age might surprise you. I feel a huge spiritual disconnect. I feel about thirty-eight. But I have a sixty year old butt. And quite honestly, when I survey my body, gravity is not our best friend. Our bodies will age. My skin looks older, more like my Mom's skin at some point. If I didn't color my hair I'd be all gray. I have a favorite arthritis remedy. Can it be true? Is this me?

I don't mind getting older. I am a cancer survivor. I get THRILLED when the numbers go up. Don't get me wrong. I am thankful for having the chance to age.

I just wish I was better prepared for what it felt like. Friends my age and I say the same thing over and over -- "No one told us..."

But had the infamous "they" told us that our bodies would start to creak, maybe even hurt sometimes, and that our stamina would decrease, and that things would just plain change, would we have believed them? I think not. That would happen to someone else, not us!

There are, however, lovely things about aging. The "been there, done that" satisfactions of life are not to be underestimated. It's nice to now that at a certain age one has stopped worrying about the biological clock from a childbirth angle. It is lovely to have accumulated knowledge and skills. There are still tons of things to learn, but the basics are pretty much locked down.

At sixty, I notice that I do look back a bit more. I am not ready for the porch rocking chair, but I am more contemplative. I do notice the "roads not taken".

Fortunately, I notice them without much regret. Oh I wonder what may have happened if I had continue to date Mr X -- or taken that job offer in Chicago -- or moved to Europe when I had the chance -- or gotten a law degree. But largely, I am OK with my decisions.

For the array of years before me I am conscious of wanting to love even better, more visibly. I want to do better in the world. I want to write that damned book finally. I want to lose weight, get fitter. I want to say what I really feel more often.

Every age decade or half-decade seems to come with its learning curve. I remember at twenty-five I suddenly realized that I had lost my innocence. It felt very dramatic at the time. Now I am delighted to have lost it for the most part. It makes me more useful in the world. But it felt awful then.

The thirties brought their own challenges - divorce, cancer, relocation to NYC. That was the decade of life reinvention, or the first reinvention of many, to be more accurate.

Rather than drag you through my decades, just think of your own, and what spiritual growth seemed attached to each one? What life learning colored each decade? Were some harder than others? More joyous than others? What do you imagine for your sixties?

I love birthdays. I have a heck of a time remembering them, however. But I love it, love it, love it when my birthday is remembered. If you bump into me on my birthday, hugs are gladly accepted!

Mary's blog quotes Regina Brett. Regina is a 90 year old writer who listed her top 45 life lessons in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The last five are:

40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.
41. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
42. The best is yet to come.
43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
44. Yield.
45. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift.


Blogger Jayne said...

I love this post! :c) I think it's only a number. I know a lot of young 80 year olds and a BUNCH of old 50 year olds. Attitude. Yep. Grasping life and smiling at the ride. Learning, growing, smiling each and every day. Each year just gets better and better.

6:44 AM  
Anonymous Barbara said...

Great post! I turned 50 last year and it is NOT what I expected when I was in my 20's, that's for sure. I'm mostly loving it, but I know what you mean about looking in the mirror and wondering where the time went!

10:07 AM  
Anonymous Barbara said...

By the way, I just realized it's the 20th, so today is your birthday! Happy birthday!!

10:10 AM  
Anonymous Kate said...

Well, I just discovered you, and I can tell you like stretching out birthdays, too. So a Hey, HAPPY BIRTHDAY! that is 2 days old will most likely work just fine. :)

Lovely post.
I was drawn here by Virginia's talk of you recently. I'll be back.

5:20 PM  
Blogger Mata H said...

Thanks so much everybody!! It turned out to be a delightful day!

6:02 PM  
Blogger Gaea Yudron: said...

hi, tried to leave a comment on this blog at BlogHer but got told it was not going to be accepted. Have no idea why. Anyway, I am gonna be 69 in April and find this part of life to be pretty danged interesting (the gravity part is difficult at times).
I blog on creative aging, wellness and spirit at and have just started to connect on BlogHer. Enjoy your 60th year!

11:22 PM  

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