“To tell you the truth, I didn’t feel any different. I don’t think you ever do. I think one day you just become sixty or seventy, and it must be a shock to be so old because it’s still the same you on the inside; it’s just that all the outside of you has got wrinkled from the weather.” – Martine Murray
Six years ago today, I was five months away from turning sixty. At the time, sixty sounded like the gateway to old age. In my mind, I had reached the top of the ladder and my only choice was to slide down towards eternity. Gloomy right? No wonder I felt a bit wary.
As the big 60th birthday approached, my concerns about becoming invisible, my concerns about no longer having a purpose and my concerns about experiencing loneliness began to sneak into my thoughts. I really did not mind the actual age number going up, but I was having a difficult time wrapping my head around the fact that this decade (and beyond) was going to be all about the unwanted changes I had observed in other people as they aged.
My biggest worry, however, was the thought of slowing down – mentally as well as physically. Being active each and every day was part of my identity. For 40 years or so I had raised a very active family while also pursuing my career as an elementary school teacher – each vocation provided the opportunity for visibility, purpose, and lots of activity.
I have been rereading my posts from those earlier days – I now keep them in a notebook – and I can’t help but notice how naive those concerns were and what a gift I have been given to have lived this long.
Have I actually slowed down mentally and physically? Maybe a little, but I am consciously making an effort to get in some amount of exercise daily and doing my best to stay mentally aware and alert. Yes, I have a few more aches and pains, but I try not to let them be a burden to not only myself but to anyone around me.
I have successfully taught myself to savor every special moment and will often stop while “in the moment” and make a conscious effort to breathe it all in. In reality, not every day is a happy day – some days are sad, some are lonely, and some are just plain hard and leave me feeling a bit empty. That’s just life – we all have those days – no matter how old we are. Some of us choose to deal with these difficult days and keep moving forward and some of us let these days get the better of us.
As far as having a purpose – I am as busy as I choose – exploring new options, nurturing others – all while taking time to relax and enjoy the experience, the people, the blessings. I no longer care if I am invisible or if you like me or not and this is so empowering!
None of us is guaranteed tomorrow nor can we expect that life will never throw us a curve ball. I do know that as I continue to age – I never want to take anything or anyone for granted – I always want to maintain and nurture an appreciation of the gift of life. When and if another curve ball comes my way, I plan to take that swing and deal with the result even if the result leaves me breathless.
To put it all together – In five months when the birthday candles are once again aflame, I will give thanks for the white hair on my head, the wrinkles on my face, the gift of small adventures, meaningful moments and most of all I will give thanks to God for the opportunity to grow old.