On Wednesday I step away from my 59th year into my 60th, into my Golden Years. I honestly don’t know how I got this far given my many foibles and follies. Given my penchant for climbing aboard skittish animals and airplanes.
Sixty sounds old to me. Oh, it’s just a number, you say in a placating tone with slightly condescending body language. But it still sounds old.
When my friend Shirley turned sixty I asked her she felt about it. She said, “Camille, when you turn fifty everyone tells you how great you look and you don’t feel old. But when you turn sixty, no matter how good you look, you’re still sixty.”
Her words have been ringing in my ears for nineteen years and this year I finally get to test drive them for myself. I expect I may feel the weight of my age for the first time since the trauma of turning a quarter of a century old. Twenty five years on the planet was a sobering concept to me back in 1979 but after that, no birthdays have given me pause. Thirty, forty and fifty didn’t phase me but it doesn’t help that my husband, brothers and most of my friends are all younger than me.
In preparation for turning sixty I’ve done a lot of thinking about the upside of heading into the down side of my life span. I love the image of coasting down the peak of my earlier accomplishments. If you graph a life expectancy of eighty-five, I reached the apex seventeen and a half years ago. Even if you break it into thirds, I’ve already rounded the turn and I’m coming down the backstretch.
And lots of back stretching is required at my age just to keep all parts moving freely. Daily yoga is a must, even if it’s only ten minutes of floor stretching. Little kinks and hitches generally disappear in a day or two as long as I’m faithful about flopping onto the carpet and rolling around a little.
I love what Joseph Campbell says about these later years in a video about Myth as the Mirror for the Ego:
The older person must know – I’m not now participating in the achievement of life, I have achieved it! And I’m looking back.
And I can tell you that there’s a wonderful moment that comes when you realize, ‘I’m not striving for anything and what I’m doing now is not a means to achieving something later.’
Youth has always to think that way. Every decision a young person makes is a commitment to a life course. And if you make a bad decision of that angle, by the time you get out there you’re far off course.
But after a certain age, there’s no future and suddenly the present becomes rich, it becomes that thing in itself which you’re now experiencing and if you’ve been prepared a little bit for that, you’re ready. >snip<
I’ll be seventy-nine next month. I can tell you there came a gradual realization – ‘boy this is it, I’m in that place and every experience is of value in and for itself without any reference to anything that might happen.’
All these years of shrugging off birthdays may be about to catch up with me. Or perhaps I will be just another year closer to mastering the art of living in the now. We’ll just have to see.