On the eve of my 70th birthday….WTF???
Here I am, at4am, feeling the weight of this being my last day in my 60s.
How the hell did that happen? Where did all those years go?
Yet, indeed, here I am.
So it’s time to look this in the face, right here and right now,
First of all, I am grateful to still be alive. And functioning pretty well, as far as I can tell. I assume that someone might have noticed by now if that was no longer true.
My neighbor, who recently turned 70 as well, and I, have decided to check on each other regularly to make sure we are still alive. She sees if my bedroom light comes on at the time when it usually does, both at night and in the morning. What once might not have felt so, now feels reassuring and amusing. Laughter is so essential at this time of our lives.
I also make sure that I see her at some point during the day each day.
So far we are both still here, both still kicking (even if not as high).
I remember so many parts of my life, as I reflect on this, the eve of my induction into my 70s.
I remember being the little girl, the only child of immigrants (from Sicily). The first generation American. Often feeling alone and somewhat lost and like I didn’t quite fit in anywhere completely. I’m not sure if I ever outgrew this completely.
I remember entering my adolescence and the roller coaster ride that this was, for both me and my parents. Me struggling to begin to carve out some sense of identity, and them struggling to let go of the child that they so wanted to protect from everything.
I remember finally going to college, something I so very desperately wanted, to begin to feel a sense of independence from my very well meaning, but very restrictive, parents. Freedom, I thought.
I remember finally saying my NO to my father, who had made the decision that we were going to move to Italy and had even begun inquiring into colleges in Italy for me to transfer to.
I remember, after having said that NO to him, having to support myself and put myself through school.
I remember graduating from college with my Master’s degree in Social Work, still feeling completly unprepared for the role, the intensity of the work, and always carrying my companion, self doubt, right along with me.
I remember getting married, also still having no idea what I was doing or who I really was.
And I remember 12 years later, getting divorced, wondering what the hell was happening to me and my life.
I remember moving several times, sometimes to a different state, changing jobs, continually struggling to find that solid sense of myself and my core. Sometimes feeling like I was getting closer to it, only to feel like major life events made me feel lost all over again.
I remember all the romantic relationships that I have been in. I am grateful for them all. I sometimes wonder if being an only child in the particular family that I was in made it difficult for me to stay in any one relationship, feeling easily suffocated at times with intimacy.
Funny, now I am still alone. Intentionally. Maybe I have made some peace with that part of myself. Maybe I did need to be completely out of any primary relationship for a while to finally come face to face with myself. My Self.
Memories abound on this day.
And so does an awareness of some of the other changes that come with aging.
My body, which I have not had the best relationship with over the years, continues to change. Funny how much easier it can be to appreciate a past version (which I did not always appreciate at the time) than to appreciate the current older model that I see reflected in the mirror.
Things that I used to take for granted now come more into my awareness.
I don’t hop out of bed as quickly as I used to, now checking to see what ache or possible muscle stiffness I may need to attend to or stretch first.
I become more intimately acquainted with where the restrooms are located wherever I go. My bladder and I are much more intimate these days. Not quite the intimate relationship that I had envisioned as being my primary one. Again, insert the sense of humor here. As I have stated before, I now realize what the term Golden Years refers to, as in the color of pee and its new major role in the day to day drama of life.
I look in the mirror and see a new and different version of my face, changing ever more quickly. I can still see the younger face (that I remember looking back at me) and I begin to see images of the older face, yet to be, that I am now becoming.
I chuckle at myself when I notice that I don’t like driving at night much anymore. My doctor says that I have baby cataracts (how cute) that are not developed enough to do anything about, but that are present enough to have an effect on my night vision.
I laugh when I look around me when I go out to dinner, realizing that I like the early dinner times, and so do all the other older folks around me. We all leave as the younger crowd come in and as we prepare to go home and go to bed early.
I try and keep laughing at myself when I forget why I walked into a room, or someone’s name, or what I was just about to say. Sometimes I scare myself with worries that it’s a sign of deterioration that will increase quickly. Other times I laugh and keep going. What choice is there?
There are other changes too, that I see on this aging journey.
I am so much more connected to nature and all of its creatures. I can feel the pain of the earth, its trees and creatures, and all the cruelty that we have inflicted upon it.
I can feel the aching beauty of a sunset, feeling my own sunset and its glory as it approaches my own evening and nightime.
I can feel the still present sensuality of this aging body, the desires and exquisiteness of touch. Even a hug or simple touch on the shoulder can bring such delight.
I can feel my skin, see it becoming thinner, more fragile. And how it does its best to protect me still, even as it bruises more easily.
I can feel the need to slow down for caution’s sake. Needing to be careful to not fall.
And I also feel the joy and increasing awareness of everything around me that this slowing down brings that I did not take the time to notice in the fast-paced rushing around of youth.
I can see all the ages of those around me reflected in their faces. I now see the younger faces in my older friends. I now can see who someone is, and who they have been.
I can see the kindness of strangers and feel it so much more deeply. I see those moments of connection that I now realize the significance of. Eternity wrapped in a moment of time.
I cherish the depth of friendships through the decades. Sometimes we keep in touch. Other times we pick up where we left off even if we haven’t been in contact for years.
I love new friendships and the ability to connect. I find that aging helps me connect more deeply more quickly. Perhaps it is the awareness of the shortness of time that may be left and not wanting to waste any more of it.
I am so much more grateful for each and every moment of life. Each of the remaining drops of nectar tasting ever more sweet as I realize that there will be an end to them.
And I am grateful that I now feel more myself, more authentic, more genuine, than ever before.
I let go of those that I do not find nourishing to my soul. Wishing them well, but not wanting to spend precious time carelessly.
I am so grateful to be retired, and for the time to write and paint from my heart. To finally be able to be me, do what I want, spend time as I wish, and put myself at the top of the list of who to please. And that when I do that, I can love more authentically, more deeply, more completely.
So, 70, ready or not, here I come. 70. Still going. Still living. Still breathing. Still loving life in all of its bittersweetness.