As another birthday approaches I have basically two choices: to agonize over my advancing age OR to look at the glass as half full and take stock of what is positive about being in my seventies.
While there are unwelcome aspects to aging, like diminished energy and physical agility, sleep problems and occasionally missing a companion, I refuse to succumb to the downside of aging.
My focus on the positives that accompany aging isn’t a cheery exercise in denial. There are aspects of growing old that I really like.
This is the first birthday since I turned 60 that I’m not tearing out my hair over my advancing years. Now that I’m launched into my 70’s it seems absurd to fight aging. I’m grateful for my good health and economic security. From now on I will concentrate on health and spiritual practices that will allow me to live fully in my remaining years.
A big plus aging offers me is a greater peace of mind.
While I get plenty agitated over #45’s cruel politics and over the US war machine, I don’t obsess about them. I try to channel my outrage into political action. I am active in my progressive church, regularly facilitating discussion groups on political issues. I blog about injustice where I see it and do all I can to support young activists.
I don’t feel the need to conform as much as when I was younger.
I’m not nearly as invested in what others think of me. This doesn’t translate into insensitive behavior. I try to remain respectful of those with whom I differ, but if my expressed opinions are upsetting, I don’t agonize over them.
My solitude is richer.
I’m finding my reflective time is purer. I’m not as prone to belabor an upsetting personal exchange. I’m better able to let go of feelings of rejection and related ego wounds. Now my solitude tends to center on the mysteries of life: to sit with the spiritual moments that surface and to treasure them. I’m learning to capture those rare moments of transcendence and to review them in my solitude.
My close friendships and family relationships have deepened. This comes from the realization that my time is running out. I want to make the most of our times together.
While I’ve discovered a positive perspective on aging, I’m still a work in progress.
My advanced care directive needs to be updated. I still haven’t had the Big Conversation with my family about my end of life preferences. We’ve skirted around this conversation because of our mutual discomfort. This year’s Thanksgiving gathering offers another chance for me to initiate this awkward conversation with my family. No time like the present!
I need to readjust my hyper-independent streak.
Two summers ago when I developed pneumonia I was reluctant to phone anyone for help. I became exhausted simply walking the three blocks to my neighborhood market. The next time I get sick I may be unable to leave the house. Clearly it’s in my best interest to draw up a list of helper friends.
My spiritual life could use a little fine-tuning. My meditation practice is too hit-or- miss. I want to meditate on a regular basis. Ditto for my practice of gratitude.
The positive aspects of growing older that I listed require vigilance.
I don’t automatically respond with grace if I’m insulted or hurt. I need to remind myself to pause before reacting and to remember that often the person who’s hurt me is projecting their issues unto me. This doesn’t mean I don’t try to understand my part in a conflict but I try not to overreact either.
Aging has awakened my better self. The writer Anne Lamott has the perfect words for what I’m feeling right now:
“Age has given me what I was looking for my entire life – it has given me me. It has provided time and experience and failures and triumphs and time-tested friends who have helped me step into the shape that was waiting for me. I fit into me now.”