Almost sixty. I said that out loud this morning and had a moment of clarity. For the past decade I’ve battled with the signs: wrinkles, thinning hair, store clerks calling me ma’am, a body that isn’t the same body I swore would last longer, be leaner, stronger, sexier, energized. I woke up and meditated on this for real for real version of me right now and decided to like what I see, to enjoy what I have and how I’ve developed. This body is changed but healthy. My mind is sharp. Age is a thing but it is shifty. It can lift you higher or watch you sink, all depending. Age is a gift not just because you’re not dead, but because you get to really live your life free from the stress of youth.
I recall spending much of my 20s and 30s trying to find success in the form of a job title and income level so when I met people and they asked what I did and who for I’d have a great answer. Identity was forged around a company name, a neighborhood chosen, the make and model of the car. When I became a mom, there was the choice of preschools where waiting lists meant you had to get your child in that place. It meant your identity was not just your own anymore, it was the overhang for a child you wanted to see do better than you ever would even as you struggled to do your best.
The 20s and 30s are rough though you look good. Your teeth and hair and body and energy levels say bring it on, I got you! Let’s do this! You party through the tiredness, laugh and pray and eat and drink and get married and divorced and raise kids who are the brightest, cutest kids because they are yours and you are doing a damn fine job. You juggle like a circus performer’s dream.
By the time the big 4-0 starts looming, you’ve got the swing of things. You’ve been there, done that. Taken some hits and made some home runs. You are accomplished and whatever failures occurred have been swept under rugs that were cheap anyway. You moved to new apartments or houses, upgraded wardrobes, changed your hair, prepared for your kids to go to college. Mid-40s swoop in by the time you blink, things start to change around you, inside you. You start to ask different questions, not about how to get more or rise higher but what are you doing with what you have and what do you see from the higher vantage point? In other words, you start to ask, what’s the cost and what’s the worth of my life effort? Satisfaction rubs against disappointments, lingering hurts try to outfox new goals and persistent dreams. The kids have left for college or moved out or done all manner of things to remind you that your function as a parent no longer includes sole decision-making. You are an adjunct guide. You matter, but you are no longer in charge.
Fifties and there you are. Divorced. House empty. Career is what it is, coasting and growing still perhaps but there’s more road behind you than ahead. Your mind whirls some days with new ideas. Your body craves the gentle mindfulness of yoga instead of sixty bass-thumping minutes of cardio. You can only do so much you tell yourself. There is still so much left to do, you convince yourself. You resolve to figure out what to do with this new self emerging, without the crush of competition in the workforce, without the pressure to hustle and promote the brand, you can leave that to the kids who are now adults. You can take a minute to breathe and know that every act of survival and self care in and of itself is a thing, like age. It exists whether or not you see it coming and once it arrives, you have to embrace it because it’s here to stay, it will march on and take you along so you might as well fall in lock step.
Age. Purposefully and gratefully. Age, wondrously and deliberately. Age, imagining those 60s, 70s, 80s, spent traveling, walking, talking, loving, healing, helping, learning. Busy. Joyful. Ready. Good.