When my mom turned 65, I was 37 and newly married to my second husband (who was 25. See? I was always a trend-setter – or a Dirty Old Lady). And my mom was old. Old, Old, Old. She was saggy, chubby, achey, bumpy, and paring down her life and activities to adjust for her age. Plus her clothing was frumpy and baggy (to hide the fat?).
Enter the new Age of Wisdom (as Mary Catherine Bateson calls it). These days, with our focus on staying fit and healthy, we have a new generation of Wise Ones. At 65, we have about 20 years before we become old – and the money, health, and wisdom to live the lives we hoped we’d live. And the time to follow any dreams we hadn’t gotten around to yet.
By all accounts, and on a good day and in the proper lighting, I look somewhere between 15 and 20 years younger than one would expect a 65-year-old to look. I date younger men, or at least men who look and act as young as I do.
My wardrobe concentrates on jeans and leather jackets, great necklaces and large interesting earrings. I was sad to lose the luxurious, thick red hair of my youth, but with a cool hair cut and great eye makeup I still manage to be noticed in a crowd on a good day. I’m fit – buff, actually – and healthy, and am refusing all but the basic Medicare coverage because there is no need to go to doctors or take meds.
By all accounts, I’ve lived a full life: worked my way through college, been married twice, raised a son (now 38) who has been on the US Disabled Olympic Ski Team for 15 years, spent decades in therapy and coaching learning to overcome the effects of Asperger’s (not diagnosed until I was 61), traveled to 63 countries, lived in Europe, sat on mountain tops in Peru, paddled a canoe down the center of Belize, trekked in the Amazon, rode a camel in Rajhastan, ate sheep’s eyeballs in Greece and live shrimp in Shanghai (I didn’t know ‘drunken shrimp’ were, well, merely drunk), attended a Mafia wedding in Salerno, did ceremony at the Death Stone at Machu Picchu and hiked the Inca Trail, and spent a couple of weeks in Ecuador with a couple of Shamans (I even learned how to shrink heads with the indigenous folks).
I’ve started some companies, written some books, trained a few people, have some decision-making technology patents, started a very successful non-profit that has helped thousands of kids walk again (my proudest achievement), and made a few loud noises in the business world that have potentially changed some thinking. Luckily, my models even teach folks how to serve each other, and a few groups around the world share the knowledge with others. Cool beans, right? If my life ended today, I would die knowing I had made a difference.
But that number. 65. It’s so big. I don’t look, act, feel old. I don’t think old. I have the same energy and stamina I’ve always had with no lag. But that number. Sure – it’s ‘just in the mind’ or ‘just a number.’ But it’s a big number.
As a Buddhist, I aspire to live in the present, so every day is my life. Every day is my journey. Every day is another chance to heal and be healed. Every day is another chance to learn and grow, to live in the present, to be kinder and become the person I’ve always wanted to be.
Someone once said (I believe it was in one of Heinlein’s books) that we all have the same life spans: we live and die in the present – that our yesterdays are merely memories and our tomorrows are dreams.
So. Now. Today. Today I commit to being all I can be. Today I commit to being a healthy person. Today I commit to serving others, and myself. Today I commit to having the humility to allow Creator’s work to pass through me and be the carrier of the gift I’ve been given to offer. Today I commit to doing my small part in making the world a better place.
That’s all I’ve got. And I think I’ll forget the number. It’s far too big.