Yesterday marked the beginning of another decade, my 70th birthday. I’m expected to feel old, if not older. So how do I really feel about it?
- I feel the same.
- I’m grateful to have reached this age with my mind and body relatively intact.
- Although I see myself as young, I’m aware of how I am perceived. It may become a struggle to overlook other people’s opinion of me.
But about fifteen years ago my view of myself changed. For just a few seconds I realized that years are not the marker of who I am.
Up until then, I don’t remember having worried much about aging. Perhaps my new feelings of mortality were triggered by the death of my sister. She was just 59 when she died of cancer. By the time her husband and another sister and I took her ashes to Greece where she wanted them spread, I was in my mid-fifties.
The trip was filled with memories; some sad, some poignant and some joyful. We felt her presence. And re-visiting Delphi and Nafplion without her brought the stark reality of death to me in a new way. I was vulnerable. The older I became the closer I was to the end of my life.
My life-changing moment came as we were ferrying back across the Gulf of Corinth. We were all thoughtful on that trip back to Athens. My sister was cold and had gone inside. My brother-in-law was standing on the deck, probably remembering the year he had spent in Greece with his family. I went alone to the front of the top deck. Although the movie, The Titanic, hadn’t been made yet…it was that sort of moment.
I stood at the bow, feeling the wind and sun against my face as we moved through the azure water. Suddenly I was ageless. I was timeless. I was a pure and complete being without concern for or acknowledgement of my body. I simply was.
Yesterday I was looking for that sort of inspiration. I wanted a way to transition into this last third of my life with joy and assurance. And I found the perfect gift for myself. I revisited my past and was given a glimpse of a possible future.
Almost 20 years ago I bought a painting from a local artist. It was displayed in a local gallery and when I learned that she lived in my hometown, I visited her studio in the mountains. I was surprised that she was so old. In those years I was a vibrant businesswoman. (Those wonderful 50’s.) I felt a bit patronizing about her and her cohort of artists who still displayed their work at their age.
This past week I read in the paper that this same artist, now 91 years old, was holding her studio open to the public for the weekend. This coincided with a beautiful day and a perfect opportunity to go mushroom hunting. Since, after all, it WAS my day, my husband, daughter and son-in-law readily agreed to the outing.
In spite of my desire to cast off the preconceived ideas of aging, I think I had this vision of myself walking in and greeting the artist, being respectful to an old lady, and appreciating her work once again. Even though my father had lived to his late nineties and was still writing scholarly books on his computer three months before he died, I hadn’t let go of the memories of singing to elderly people in the nursing homes of my youth. For people still living in their nineties, I imagined their restrictions rather than their opportunities.
Surprise! Surprise! My visit was exhilarating. I was gazing at her new paintings when she strode toward me with her hand extended in greeting. She is young. She is vibrant. Her conversation is current. Her art is relevant. Her life seems rich.
What more could I ask for on my birthday? A glorious view of what is possible in life.
And really, I’m only a day older.
Happy birthday and best wishes for many more.
Thanks, Ramana. It has been a great month and I look forward to a wonderful year.
Happy Bday, again. That is a great gift–to see what is possible. “The older I became the closer I was to the end of my life.” This is how I’ve felt since my dad died 4-1/2 years ago. He would be 71 now. But, thank you for writing a different perspective–your dad and the artist show that life can be productive all the way through. I’ll remember that. 🙂
What a beautiful present you have given to yourself! It’s amazing how some people manage to be vital and creative up to a high age. I love about your post that it tells how life changes us along the way, and that we never stop developing and growing. Happy new decade, Mom! 😀
Thanks, Kath. I guess when we stop learning and growing it will be a sad way to live. Never, never, I say!
Happy, happy, happy birthday. I am so glad you’ve taken the journey that you have (so I can benefit from your lessons!) I’m going to tell Oprah about you when we become best friends. I promise.
Oh, I know that will be soon! And I have plenty of time:) Thanks.
Happy 70th, Mother. The oldest of my tribe just turned 70 in January. My sister will follow suit next year…and then so will I two years later. It IS just another day when it comes…but somehow this new decade feels different from all the others. Congratulations on reaching it…so young. 🙂
Great post and happy belated birthday! It is hard as I get older and older and older to deal with how others perceive me. I see my Mother in her 80s shut away in her home and fearful of everything, contrasted with my 93 year old uncle who still drives and dances and takes any opportunity he gets to gather with people. I think I want to emulate his fearless, vibrant life.
I’m with you Maery Rose.