Now that I’m getting so close to the Big 5-0 articles on aging, growing older, retirement and social security are attracting my attention more often.
Yesterday I was caught by surprise by a New York Times article about Gloria Steinem turning 80. Yes, 80, that is not a typo. I always think of her as my mothers contemporary, but she is 15 years older. In the article, NYT Op-Ed Columnist, Gail Collins wrote “This is What 80 Looks Like” about Ms. Steinem’s decades in the spotlight. Asking Ms. Steinem what she had planned for her 80th birthday.
“She’s planning to celebrate in Botswana. “I thought: ‘What do I really want to do on my birthday?’ First, get out of Dodge. Second, ride elephants.””
Getting out-of-town and riding elephants sounds like a perfect birthday celebration, I’m just not sure I want to wait until I’m 80 to do it.
Another comment from Ms. Steinem struck me:
“Fifty was a shock, because it was the end of the center period of life. But once I got over that, 60 was great. Seventy was great. And I loved, I seriously loved aging. I found myself thinking things like: ‘I don’t want anything I don’t have.’ How great is that?” But, she added, “80 is about mortality, not aging. Or not just aging.”
Fifty does feel like it’s looming to me, like a cliff that I am heading towards and at times I am trying to swim like hell away from and other times I just lazily float down the river enjoying the ride.
A wonderful poem on the blog Ephemeral Memories “The Midlife Moment of Truth“. contained a line;
“Each innocuous day adds up to months, years into decades“
You know the saying “time flies”? I know my grandparents and my parents have said it over the years and you never quite understand that statement until you get there, but time really does fly. And a lot of that time is innocuous. I want less innocuous time and more memorable time filled with fun, people I care about, things I am passionate about doing and more laughter.
As I wrote earlier this month about my husband getting older and his comments about his “F’ing Golden Years” not being very golden, it’s giving me a preview of the trials of aging, but also some of the triumphs of aging. The no longer wasting time on things that are of little importance, the ease of saying “No”, the wisdom to know that a bad day or unhappy event will pass and pleasure and happiness will return.
Anne Karpf of The Guardian wrote an article earlier this year “Ageing is a mixture of gains and losses” that had several parts that resonated with me;
“The denigration of age is built upon the idealisation of youth, and both do violence to reality. Being young is rarely as unconflicted, nor old as wretched, as the stereotypes would have us believe.”
The stereotypes of every age do have truth to them, but they are definitely not the whole story.
And a great quote on the passions that can come with age.
“One of the most delicious accounts of how growing older can mean growing more engaged was written by Florida Scott-Maxwell, the American-born playwright, suffragette and analyst. In 1968, when she was 85, she wrote: “Age puzzles me. I thought it was a quiet time. My 70s were interesting and fairly serene, but my 80s are passionate. I grow more intense as I age. To my own surprise, I burst out with hot conviction … I must calm down. I am far too frail to indulge in moral fervor.””
Though only in my late 40’s I do find myself less willing to sit back and take things as they are or as they are presented; if something is not to my liking I find myself more often than not voicing my dissent, walking away from it or just ignoring it.
How are you aging?