I am struck lately by something that I have noticed for a while. There seems to be a broad category of “over 50” that now somehow covers everything post 50 and beyond. Although I am glad to see this category and group get the attention that it so deserves, I notice that as I continue my aging process, there are stages to aging. Each decade seems to bring its own unique flavor, with both its own challenges and gifts.
And so I am now in my late 60’s and beginning to see the emerging edge of 70! (I still can become shocked at the number that I don’t seem to identify with inside myself!) In my 50’s, I observed in myself a type of rebellion against the new sense of invisibility that I began to feel….a militancy within to challenge the stereotypes and labels that seemed to come with the “big 5-0”. And I appreciated that militancy and spirit within me.
I arrived at 60…and I noticed a shift. Now I started to become even more aware of the reality of mortality, the idea of age related changes, the swiftness with which time seemed to pass by more and more. I would say that for me it was less of a rebellion at this stage and more of a sense of surprise, some anxiety, some denial, and a beginning awareness of the need to somehow settle into this new phase, make peace with the inevitability of time passing, while still striving to figure out how to thrive as much as possible and be my best and still most passionate self.
And now I am eyeing 70 as it begins to make itself known to me with increasing reminders that is is just around the next corner – less than a few short years away. I have now created a living trust – hello mortality…..and I have begun to de-clutter (oh, so slowly) as I look at all the “things” that I have around me that really serve no purpose. I have boxes in the garage with things that I have not looked at in years. Tell me, how important can they be if I can barely remember what is in there? I go to the gym, but now it is so much more about keeping myself functioning to the best of my ability. I notice how I can wake up more stiff if I don’t keep moving this body of mine.
I notice that I appreciate the “little things ” (and my definition of what that means is evolving as well). I can delight in watching the small bird bath that I have out back …just enjoying the feeling of providing a place where my feathered friends can bathe and frolic. I enjoy a morning cup of coffee just sitting out in my back patio and listening to the birds, watching the antics of the squirrels, feeling a part of this incredible earth.
I am more sensitive these days, feeling more of the pain of others around me. I can barely pass a dead animal on the road without shedding a tear. I hate having to cut down trees, which sometimes becomes necessary for safety purposes. I feel more sensitive to all of life in its various forms. I go to visit the mausoleum where my mother’s remains are….and I find myself so aware of all the departed souls….the sadness of the other families who visit, the new “residents” who have recently passed that I notice each time that I visit. The inevitability of what we all must face when it is our time.
Each decade has its own lessons, its own messages, and needs to be honored for what it brings….pleasant and not so pleasant alike. I think that it may be more difficult for us to look closely at each decade once we are “over 50”. And so we sweep it all under one label. But, really, we can miss a lot that way – a lot of wisdom that comes with the pain, a lot of awareness that can be shared and, yes, even celebrated as a life that continues to be lived. We are still so very much alive. I am so very grateful. And I am grateful that we can now really talk and write and share about this journey more and more openly….to help each other feel less alone, to keep shedding light on the path for others yet to come.